I wanted to share my thoughts on #Resilience – I’ve heard the word mentioned a lot and it’s taken me a while to get my head around what I feel resilience means – if you are interested in my thoughts – read on:
The Oxford Dictionary describes resilience as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness”.
Many of us have grown up witnessing first-hand the very British trait of having a stiff upper lip! Often being told to ‘Not let things to get us down’, ‘pull ourselves together’ and to ‘just get on with things’! You might assume that these skills might help a person recover and get over problems quickly. However, the opposite is true for many of us.
I’ve learnt that resilience most definitely isn’t being told or telling yourself to “Man Up” – my experience has shown me it is more about habit. Habits take on average 66 days to form and this is why it can be difficult to change your ways. Some people are lucky in that they don’t form these bad habits and have something I would term “natural resilience”.
I have so far successfully used Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)to reduce my stress level/s and it has shown me that my mind had formed bad habits in the past – basically shortcuts to thinking such as “Something bad is about to happen”, “Fearing the worst” etc – if you do this a heck of a lot through the day, it is very tiring!
By writing down my stresses and working them out I am gradually re-training my mind to practise some better habits – so rather than instantly thinking negative, I am able to think about the stress and then break it down to various elements that CBT teaches you. I am not yet at the stage that this is a habit (Only about 40 days in) but the affects I have felt are fantastic. If you don’t feel yourself, feel stressed and aren’t sure what is wrong, do get some professional advice and if you try CBT or Mindfulness – remember to consciously work on it for at least 66 days – this is what resilience feels like!
I have also used Strengthscope (https://redtigerconsulting.co.uk/significant-seven-strengths/) to understand my strengths to try and work out what stresses me – this has also been very useful. One example is that because I have strong Empathy and Compassion and I am Results Focussed I can feel real emotion and understanding for people who are struggling with stress (Hence this post). What I need to do is not take too much responsibility on – just start to signpost people to the professional help they need.
Do you think you’re resilient? Or do you have some negative thinking patterns that you could do with addressing? I really can highly recommend CBT as it has already really helped me.
Finally, it’s not a quick fix, it’s something you need to work at and probably revisit throughout your life. We should all invest more time into our health and wellbeing and I’m definitely seeing the benefits in doing so. Contact me today to discuss our coaching options on firstname.lastname@example.org
Eight months ago (at the time of writing this) we were at the very beginning of the pandemic and the widespread disruption that COVID-19 brought with it. This blog looks at the differences between Lockdown 1.0 and Lockdown 2.0 and what you can do to build resilience. Back in Lockdown 1.0 (LD1) we had hope, we had the summer ahead and personally I had miles of cycling in my legs. Cycling was great, no cars on the roads, fantastic weather, and a Mallorca triathlon in October for me to train for (I still had hope back then that the triathlon would take place).
We had the Houseparty App novelty, the summers evenings, people were on Furlough and getting paid to do nothing (Some with salaries topped back up by the company so they were effectively on fully-paid holiday). Some had the challenge of working whilst managing home schooling, cancellations of various holidays, and business really struggling due to the uncertainty of the pandemic. That was Lockdown 1.0, bad for some, not for others, the novelty did wear off and rules were then relaxed for the summer.
Roll forward eight months and we are just coming out of Lockdown 2.0 (LD2). “Lockdown Fatigue” is now mentioned a lot, we are social creatures, and I for one crave heading down my local bar on a Friday evening; how one can take life’s simple pleasures for granted! I think we can mostly agree that Lockdown 2.0 is what one could mildly describe as a “struggle”. Winter is here now so the nights are darker, all the news we see (apart from advances on vaccinations) seems to be constantly negative. School “bubbles” keep isolating and causing disruption, the government seems to flip-flop on rules, and quite frankly everyone is getting fed up with COVID. For many (myself included) it is/can be a mental struggle. There is now a very different spiritual environment in LD2, and as social animals we are all getting very tired of social restrictions.
How do we manage our way through this? At Red Tiger Coaching there are many ways we can help you, so do get in touch if you would like to explore the careers coaching options we offer. Here are five tips that I suggest to help you (and our coaching can expand on this) towards what I am calling “The Spring of Hope” (When a Vaccine should be rolling out and restriction measures should be lifting)!
Get in the Right Mindset – Some people naturally have this, others do not. If you don’t, then here is your priority area to work on. Techniques to improve your mindset are wide and varied but things I have found work are:
Mindfulness – just 10 minutes meditation a day over a sustained (say 8 weeks) period really does work at helping to quieten the mind and help you to relax (and sleep) and also to think clearer
Try to focus on the positives – this is hard with all the negative news but if this affects you then start to limit your news exposure, try to think of one positive thing each day no matter how small We all know there will be an end to this situation so think forwards to that point if you can.
Give yourself something to look forward to – this again is a challenge as holidays, eating at a restaurant or meeting your mates aren’t possible at the moment. But think and grasp hold of what is possible – order a nice takeaway, plan some exercise (more on this below).
Exercise This is very much linked to point 1 but as we know exercise has many benefits, I for one really feel the endorphins after a good evening run. If you are not into exercise this can be a difficult hurdle but one that with resolve can reap many benefits. I suggest giving yourself an exercise goal – for example couch to 5km run may be a good start?
I’d also suggest booking yourself on a summer 5 or 10k race – once committed this can make you focus and you can do you training now (weather is a negative but it will help force you out). It can take an average of 66 days to form a habit so try and focus on a few months of running 3 days a week to begin with and don’t increase your distance by any more than 10% per week. You will then find that you realise the benefits of running not only from the health side and endorphins but also the sense of achievement. If you really can’t see yourself running, there are loads of other forms of exercise; a daily walk for instance can be really beneficial to mood. Yoga and other less weight bearing activities can also help.
Use time and space to think about your career This is especially important if you are on Furlough (Hence you will have more time). Even if you are not on Furlough you will probably also have more time (There’s not a lot else we can all do). Time is the golden ticket so you need to try and think more about what you enjoy at work, what are the prospects in your current role, what can you do differently at work in certain situations? At Red Tiger Coaching we can help with the whole process of working out your strengths. Analyse your strengths and development systems to give you your significant 7 strengths, and then activate a few 1:1 sessions to review the results and start to explore and discuss areas for development or change.
Plan With all the uncertainty still out there, this can be very difficult and most of us have got out of the planning mindset. We are creatures of habit and in an unstable world planning can help to give some normality back to our lives. We often have and feel like there is too much to do, and do not know where to start. This is where a coach can help as not only a sounding board but also a “monkey on your shoulder” to keep you in line with any actions you agree to and then eventually to help you make progress in your life. We can all get into a habit of running on autopilot, accepting everything as it is, and not challenging ourselves. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Which I have referred to in a few blogs prior to this one) shows that the top 2 segments (Esteem and Self Actualisation) can often be neglected in our lives as they naturally slip down our priority order. Having a career coach will make sure that these needs are supplemented and will help you to plan how to make sure you improve your Esteem and also will help you to strive towards maximising your full potential. Click here to read ‘Getting out of your Comfort Zone’ which examines our basic needs as humans and how we can really push ourselves to higher levels by challenging ourselves to get out of that comfort zone!
Learn something new I have seen many examples of when people have been furloughed, felt comfortable with the time off and not thought about the fact that their role is at risk, only to have been made redundant. All I would say to people now (and I said it through LD1 and LD2) is that you should use the time to try and learn a new skill. I learnt Alteryx during LD1 and devised a training course on it for beginners. If I hadn’t done this, looking back I would definitely feel disappointed that I hadn’t achieved something. I also managed to cycle 70 miles in one go which is the longest cycle I have ever done. Having a careers coach can help you to think around areas for development and then also make sure you implement a plan to cover those areas, making sure it happens. In an uncertain economy, having additional skills will make you naturally more of an asset either to your existing employer or to a future employer. Use your time well and prioritise what you should learn and then plan how you should learn that skill.
In conclusion, most of society is naturally hitting lockdown fatigue and until we reach more normality (most likely Summer 2021), we all need to try and do things to build up resilience. Start with the five areas that I suggest above and see how you get on. If even just one area of this blog resonates with you, why not get in touch with Red Tiger Coaching and book a free initial chat to see what coaching can do for you? If you take that leap of faith, I guarantee you will not regret it.
I started this blog pre-lockdown and since then both Steve’s Kilimanjaro and my Mallorca triathlon have been cancelled due to COVID-19. I thought it was still worth publishing anyway (As both Steve and I hope to do these events in 2021).
Recruiters are bound to say that moving roles and “getting out of your comfort zone” is a good thing to do as we would love people to move roles. More frequent job changes obviously means more money for recruiters, but I am honestly writing this without my recruiter hat on and backing this theory up with evidence as you will read below.
The idea of the ‘comfort zone’ goes back to a classic experiment in psychology. Back in 1908, psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson explained that a state of ‘relative comfort’ created a steady level of performance. In order to maximise performance we need a state of relative anxiety—a space where our stress levels are slightly higher than normal. This space is called “Optimal Anxiety”, and it’s just outside our comfort zone. Too much anxiety and we’re too stressed to be productive, and our performance drops off sharply.
I have also referred to this in other blogs but Maslow’s hierarchy of needs also helps to show how we as humans benefit from getting out of our comfort zone and the top two elements of the hierarchy are covered by this.
Esteem – proving (to yourself) that you can do something that you may not have done before can give you a real feeling of achievement. If you surround yourself with good friends and family, the status and recognition that comes with it is also very rewarding.
Self-actualisation – if you have an element of desire to be the most that one can be then you will also find a challenge helps towards this and find it very rewarding.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of basic needs!
For this blog I will take my recruiter hat off and cover some personal experiences of getting out of your comfort zone (Some career and some non-career examples).
I could write a separate blog on this but here is my summary. Having worked at GMAP and then GeoBusiness Solutions I then spent 14 years at BT. I did change roles “fairly often” at BT but in hindsight I should have moved more often (and possibly earlier out of BT). Don’t get me wrong, my time at BT was great (until a few of the later years where I took the wrong career move) but now having been four years out of BT I do not look back.
When I left BT in July 2016, it was a big leap of faith. I was moving from a role that I could almost have had for life (nothing is certain, but BT was pretty much as safe as they come in terms of jobs) to starting a new business in a new area for me. Looking back at my experience, initially I leapt beyond “Optimal Anxiety” due to other pressures. Starting a new career and business and also trying to help care for my mother who had a rapid form of Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and sadly passed away in February 2019.
Coronavirus aside, and with Steve helping me full time on the recruitment for the last year, I feel I am now in the “Optimal Anxiety” space, and this feels great. It’s hard to get that balance and it doesn’t always mean moving roles, but I can really feel a shift in my happiness and work satisfaction within this phase!
In September 2020 Steve will be embarking on a 8-day trip up Mount Kilimanjaro. Cartilage and ACL injuries from football have taken their toll on Steve’s knees (they hurt more when he walks down-hill) but Steve is now pushing ahead with building up to this challenge.
From my point of view on this trip, the challenge is 2-fold. Firstly, it is about getting the fitness to be able to walk for several hours up-hill (This will involve some challenging climbs in the UK with Snowdon, Scafell, Helvellyn etc lined up). Secondly, and perhaps most challenging and one you cannot fully prepare for, is that of coping with the altitude. Kilimanjaro is 6,000 metres high and at that level your blood saturation (Oxygen content in your blood) decreases to nearly 80%. The plan on this trip is to gradually increase the altitude to allow for the climbers to acclimatise to that level.
The reasons Steve is doing this are 5-fold
Heading towards the big 5-0 and needing to set a big goal for himself.
Wanting a physical challenge (that can accommodate his dodgy knees).
Wanting to test his mental strength – as it’s certainly a case of mind over matter.
Raising some money for causes that are close to him
Mindfulness – Spending 8 days away from the usual stresses of life and not being in a digitally connected world (bit back to nature really)
Even though the Kilimanjaro trip is postponed, Steve is still focused on training and has set a September 2020 date of walking some of the Lake Districts highest hills in mountains to keep focus so he is ready for 2021.
Finally, on to my challenge this year – in October 2021 I will be competing in the Peguera (Mallorca) Triathlon. This will be a 1.9km open-water Swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run (In that order). To date I have done the last of these three disciplines/distances in isolation, but have never done the first two (The most I have swam in one go is 600m and the most I have cycled is 65km), let alone two or three of these one after the other.
I have run three marathons to date and I remember thinking after doing my first 10km race, that I could never ever run a marathon. I then entered a half marathon and started the training by increasing my distance each week by no more than 10%. I got up to 11 miles in training and then did my first half marathon in 1hr 42 minutes. That step up gave me the confidence to try a marathon and so I embarked on training and again increments of 10% each week up to 20 mile training runs. I find with running once you get to a certain level and go through the training it then becomes a habit. I ran my first marathon in 4hrs 20 mins. Gutted that I didn’t get under four hours, I tried again and came in at 3hrs 58 minutes – what a relief! My third marathon I finished in 3hrs 50 minutes and have felt a great sense of achievement at pushing myself, and have also given myself confidence and belief in my ability and potential fitness levels.
Back to the triathlon and my biggest challenge to begin with is the swim – currently two lengths of front crawl and I am done! So I have been taking swimming lessons and 16 weeks in, I can now swim about 15 lengths without stopping. It’s been a real slog as some weeks I feel like I have made progress, and then other weeks I feel like I have taken a step backwards. What I have felt in this process is a real sense of achievement. I do feel as we get older we do like our comfort zones, but rising to a challenge like this has helped give me a real sense of accomplishment with even more to come. I know I have the ability to further improve all three disciplines and viewing and reviewing my Strava from time to time helps to back this up.
Getting out of your comfort zone isn’t just about changing jobs! It is all about trying to find the right balance in your life and a level of stress in your work and non-work elements that keep you motivated and give you higher self-esteem.
Rather than change jobs, it can also be taking on more responsibility or learning new skills. Rather than work related it can be learning a new skill or increasing your exercise for example. We all need an element of self-esteem so anything that can help towards that will help keep your life well balanced and help you maintain that happiness!
I’d love to hear your views on this concept of pushing your boundaries. Do you do this in your work and personal life? What are you doing this year to get our of your comfort zone?
This second part to the ‘New Normal’ blog summarises my reflections from hundreds of conversations had in lockdown with friends, family, clients, candidates, strangers, basically anyone who will speak to me. It has been really interesting to hear how businesses, and individuals, have been coping with the challenges that currently present themselves in these strange times.
Most of us are in some sort of survival mode (perhaps this is where the ‘Stay Alert’ moniker comes from) – living day to day without much in the way of medium to long term future planning. This applies to businesses as well as individuals. This section will cover off staff related initiatives that businesses are doing in order to survive.
The first thing we saw as recruitment consultants is the dreaded recruitment freeze. This happens at other times, but it is usually limited to one or two engagements. It reminded me of the lights going out on the dating game show ‘Take me Out’ (with the accompanying noise) as all our engagements shut down within a very short space of time. At this stage most businesses are looking at cost control (and cost reduction) in order to preserve their cash reserves. It is likely that these recruitment freezes will remain for the foreseeable future, particularly until furlough is finished. It may not be good to have new people starting whilst some of the existing team are furloughed and confidence (and revenue) is moving in the right direction.
That said, we have had several successful starters during lockdown. We had one candidate who managed to get 4 days of face-to-face time with their new team before lockdown. We have had a number of others that have successfully started in new roles while in lockdown and whilst there have been some minor technical issues these have all been overcome. Some employers may be considering new ways to assess candidates, one client offered a candidate a one month contract with a view to a permanent role. This wouldn’t work for all candidates but in this particular case it worked for all parties – it is effectively a month long final interview, for which the candidate is getting paid.
There is a lot to be said about furlough. The Job Retention Scheme seems like a good idea – helping businesses to support their workforce when business is struggling or unable to operate. Some businesses have embraced this help, others have felt politically unable to use the scheme, and other businesses have used it to public outrage as their actions are seen as going against the spirit of who it was intended to help.
Furlough itself, for such a simple word, does carry a myriad of complexity. I have spoken to some who are delighted to have been placed on furlough – getting paid to not work and use the time to get other jobs done or just laze around and watch Netflix! It is a great time to invest in your personal development, I know of a few people who are doing online courses to help their career (technical or softer skills) or learning new skills (guitar playing or photography). Some who have been furloughed are experiencing negative feelings, they feel less valued by their employers and have concerns about if, and when, they will return.
Those who are still working, particularly if their colleagues have been furloughed, can also experience mixed emotions. There are some that are feeling particularly stretched, having to pick up on responsibilities usually covered off by furloughed colleagues or fielding additional requests on the back of planning for the recovery. There is unlikely to be additional funds available to reward this effort. In addition, they may be seeing their furloughed colleagues who are not financially disadvantaged having a pretty good time of it (an advantage of not following work colleagues on social media!). Some who are working may be pleased that they are seen to be of value to the business and happy that they are not ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
Who to furlough is also a challenge – the scheme is covering 80% of monthly salary, up to a maximum value of £2,500, so it may steer the selection away from experienced staff towards more junior recruits. Some businesses are deliberately being equitable with who to furlough in order to address some of the issues already outlined. This could mean furloughing half the team for 4 weeks and the other half for 4 weeks to ensure that everyone has been furloughed, regardless of grade and function. That could work well if workload typically involves relatively short-term projects and you have cover for niche roles.
Some businesses who are having to furlough staff earning over the £2,500 threshold have a challenge around maintaining salaries. It is typically the case that people adjust their lifestyle to work within their financial means and there may be significant mortgage costs that a number of staff over the threshold may have to meet before they think about other household bills. Some companies are topping up salary to ensure that their staff are not out of pocket, but this is a cost that the business must meet against a backdrop of reduced revenue. Such businesses will typically have strong cash reserves, ongoing income that has been resilient to the crisis, or a confidence in business picking up pretty quickly after lockdown rules are relaxed.
Other businesses I have spoken to have asked their staff to take a cut in salary for a period of time – this could be a flat percentage, or it could be a stepped reduction, depending on current salary and grade. It is not just the short-term impact on people’s earning potential as it could also be how this pandemic impacts wages growth in the future. Another option has been to encourage people to drop the number of days they do, from 5 a week to 4, for example.
Many people will have given up their planned holidays at Easter, May half term and the summer break, which means that there will be significant amounts of unused holiday. I speculate that there will be a general reluctance for people to use holiday up when in lock down. Businesses are encouraging working staff to use up holiday for a number of reasons. Firstly, having a break from work is necessary, although I am sure front-line workers are not able to take holiday at the moment. Secondly, businesses cannot recover if large swathes of their workforce are on holiday. Finally, some businesses operate holiday carry over and the ability to exchange any unused holiday for cash. This is clearly a liability that most businesses would wish to to avoid, reducing valuable cash reserves in order to service.
Triumph (and failure) in times of adversity
Advanced planning for mitigating impact of a catastrophic episode such as Covid-19 on business is an impossible challenge, but it has been really interesting to see how businesses react in times of adversity. Of course, most businesses have a disaster recovery plan in case of a significant event that was to impact their business. But it usually focuses on IT infrastructure and assumes there are no impacts on external factors such as other businesses or consumers. Inevitably this Corona-jolt to the economy will have repercussions in terms of the future viability of a number of businesses. This will accelerate the pace of change and potentially compress 5 years’ worth of change into a few months.
In the retail sector, businesses already struggling with an outdated offer, a bloated store footprint more aligned to consumer demands of days gone by, in a market better served by more agile, online players, will no longer find relevance, post-Covid-19. This will be a case of ‘survival of the fittest’ where very few consumer facing businesses will be immune.
Business leaders now, more than ever, need to find clarity in their communication, not only to customers but to their workforce. Clarity is needed on the vision and strategy required to return to former glories (which in uncertain times is easier said than done). There will inevitably be some bumps along the road, but this clarity and confidence will engage and motivate the workforce. I recall my time at CACI, when we lost a colleague in extremely tragic circumstances and this loss resonated throughout the office. The leadership team engaged immediately and it was their actions throughout that ensured the impact was minimised. Whilst nothing could replace the loss of a beloved colleague, such a tragic event galvanised the team and brought us closer together, a real triumph in the face of adversity.
This crisis has enabled competitive collaboration between businesses in a range of sectors. In the early days of the pandemic the Grocers were sharing resources between each other and collaborating to ensure that the nations shelves remained stocked. The highly competitive gym industry, with a range of different players, were sharing information in their support of each other and providing, where appropriate, resources to a combined lobby group where there was a collective interest.
I have spoken to a number of employees who have been working closely with colleagues in other departments, often with people they haven’t really had prior dealings with before. I have also learnt of redeployments (or secondments) from one department to another. These types of initiative will certainly help employees gain a deeper understanding of different functions and allow new internal relationships to be formed.
So in conclusion, the resilient, forward thinking businesses who can act fast to challenges, should survive but it will undoubtedly be a difficult time to all businesses across all industries.
If your team is struggling and you need short term or long term support, please speak to us. We are well placed to suggest suitable candidates and acting fast to get extra resource could be vital to your success.
Male pattern baldness came knocking early for me. I can most likely thank my Dad’s genes for that. When I was 19 years old my boss at the restaurant where I worked was walking down some stairs, with me walking in front, and he asked the question “Steve are you going bald?”. Fast forward a few hours and I was at home trying to view my crown with various mirrors in order to confirm my fears.
Throughout my early teenage years I always had problems with my fine hair – I envied all of my friends who always seemed to have cooler hair styles than me. Products such as spray, gel, moose and brylcreem (!) never seemed to enable me to get the style I craved. My early hair loss was to hit me during my time at University and it knocked my confidence for six. In these formative adult years I was very self-conscious of my condition and it would take me at least a decade longer to be comfortable with the way I looked.
Managing through my hair crisis was a challenge – there were various ways I learnt to cover up thinning areas to try and avoid being called out. My receding hairline went through various stages, from rapidly diminishing hair at the temples through to full on landing strip at the front (which can be seen on the photo below) always trying to disguise the barren areas with strategic hair placement. I never needed to opt for a full-on Bobby Charlton comb over but I did give up trying to hold on to my wisps in my late 20s when I finally decided to go for the complete shaved look. Of course, there were comments at work but I found that if I didn’t rise to any of the nastiness or insults then these would soon go after everyone has got used to my new hair style.
The (Hair) Transporter
Fortunately for me there are some people out there that don’t mind men who are bald and some have a real thing for bald men. I was trying to think about famous bald male sex symbols and I could think up a few: Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Pep Guardiola, Thierry Henry, to name a few! There seems to be a higher level of stickiness in me remembering bald men who play villains, Voldemort in Harry Potter, Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon, Walter White in Breaking Bad (who had hair when he was good), Dr Evil in Austin Powers, Lex Luthor in Superman Returns, and Blofeld in James Bond. There are certainly some celebrities who spring to mind with more hair to share: David Ginola, Russell Brand, Harry Styles, Brad Pitt, Jason Momoa.
I recall a failed first date with a Liverpool make-up artist who proceeded to tell me about all her famous bald men fantasies. This included Simon Rimmer (celebrity chef), who she seemed to be regularly messaging on Twitter, and Peter Cox, the lead singer of 80s band Go West, who this particular lady had managed to track down and date for a while. I didn’t see her again.
My ‘likeness’ to a handful of bald celebrities has been noted over the years: way back it was Duncan Goodhew (the Olympic swimmer), then it was PJ (from the 3rd series of Big Brother, famous for his under the sheets altercation with Jade Goody and looking like me). At the 2012 FA Cup Semi at Wembley an Everton fan called me Jonjo Shelvey (former Red, now playing at Newcastle), which was to be the first and last time that particular reference was made.
More recently it has been a likeness to Greg Wallace. Despite the fact that he has nearly 10 years on me and doesn’t have a bushy beard it has certainly caused confusion with the public on a couple of occasions. Firstly, after exiting arrivals at a UK airport I was greeted by a gathering at the barriers who were clearly there to see the Greg Wallace. There was a mild buzz as the doors to ‘nothing to declare’ fizzed open, but this was followed by the realisation at close quarters that I was never their beloved Greg. Secondly, a photo was posted on Facebook by a friend (thanks Ruth) with the caption ‘Burns Night with Greg Wallace‘ which caused quite a stir as one friend in particular was very impressed! Finally, a barista at the Euston Pret swore blind I was the man himself, and this is the one and only time I have profiteered from my ‘likeness’ by getting a free coffee!
So bald can be sexy (although I’ve never been likened to the traditional sexy bald men) and there are loads of advantages to having a partner that is bald – they are not going to clog up the shower or hoover with stray hair and they certainly won’t be stealing the last of your shampoo and conditioner.
Follically challenged, baldy, slap-head, bald as a coot, chrome dome, cue ball, skullet (new one to me) are some of the phrases used to describe people like me who have lost their hair. These are used behind our backs and to our faces. I recall as a 14 year old getting a tour round a prospective High School with my parents and the headmaster (who along with my Dad, was bald). After exiting one classroom I remember the door opening after we had left and a pupil shouted ‘slap-head’ down the corridor at us. I didn’t know whether it was directed at my dad or headmaster. Needless to say I didn’t go to that school.
I didn’t choose to be bald, nature did, and of course there is always fun to be had at another person’s expense. There is always someone who feels it appropriate to point out that you are bald (no sh** Sherlock!) or mock your lack of hair. This is typically done in a group to try and be funny and in doing so belittle you. I am sure these things were said in jest with little malice intended but it does, even now, make me uncomfortable on the inside as I remember how I used to feel.
If someone was to make fun of a person because of their race, sexuality, gender, handicap, other visible condition, whatever – they would be rightly pilloried. In mental health awareness week I was saddened to learn about the mental health issues of Luke Chadwick, the former Man United footballer who was publicly ridiculed because of his physical appearance. It seems like teasing someone because of their appearance is deemed more socially acceptable, but to me it is not. It still carries on now, with my beard growth I now get comments like it ‘looks like your head is upside down’. Yawn. Perhaps it says more about the insecurities of the individual who is making the ‘fun’, feeling the need to belittle someone to their own benefit.
Lean on me
Research suggests that ‘male pattern baldness‘ is likely to affect half of all men by the age of 50. This means that as I rapidly approach that age there is one thing I don’t need to worry about, but I do have a number of pals who are going that way. To them, I feel your pain, and have been there, got the t-shirt, albeit nearly 30 years earlier. If you need any advice then you know where I am – if anyone has made you feel uncomfortable with reference to your baldness make it known to them that it is unacceptable or just send them a link to this blog.
The idea for this blog came about when I was shaving my head during lockdown. I have seen a number of people complaining about the state of their hair and missing their hairdresser/barber. My wife spent around 2 hours cutting her sons hair the other day – it looked like a science experiment with clippers and string. There have been quite a few newsworthy home haircut fails and my friends often preface any photos of themselves on social media with some sort of apology about their ‘lockdown hair’. For those with hair I would imagine getting it cut will be one of the main luxuries you crave once lockdown is over?
I see lockdown as a great opportunity to ‘test the water’ with a new style. You can’t really mess up a buzz cut (or a razor shave – although if you nick your scalp, particularly in the shower it does feel like you are going to bleed to death!) and you can do it in the comfort that it will grow back before anyone sees you. If you want to you can also make an event of it (like a couple of my friends have done) in order to raise some much needed money for a chosen charity.
That said, once you go for a short cut you do need to keep on top of it. I keep on top of mine at least every week – any longer and I start to look like Riff Raff out of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
I don’t think many of my friends will remember me with hair – in fact, if I was suddenly to gain a full head of hair (like Wayne Rooney, or more recently, Xherdan Shaqiri) I think it would freak most of my friends out!
There are a number of other benefits to being bald:
I am used to it and had to deal with it early – so it’s one less thing I have to worry about in middle age
I have saved a shed load of money on shampoo, conditioner and trips to the barbers
It is one less thing that I have to worry about fixing when I’m going out (or on a zoom call!), or get caught in a sudden downpour
Baldies of the World Unite
I am not sure what this has to do with recruitment or location planning – there has certainly been an explosion in Barber Shops since male pampering has become an acceptable social norm. Unfortunately, bald men will always be subject to teasing and name calling – this is a form of bullying and some will inevitably happen in the workplace. I also think the topic is related to the mental health and wellbeing themes that we write about as it is certainly something that affects people in different ways. I just hope that members of the bald fraternity empathise with some of the observations I have made in this blog, and those who choose to make fun think twice.
I have now lived more years on this planet without hair than with. Never one to reveal our secrets to ‘muggles’ there is an undocumented code amongst fellow baldies – we certainly never reference our baldness in front of non baldies. I just wish that non baldies would do the same. One thing that’s guaranteed is that at least some of my friends will be joining me over the next few years; welcome to this exclusive club!
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