Since my last posting, I have been busy integrating applications of positive psychology into HR consulting. I play the role of PP advocate – auditing work systems, energizing workplaces through culture change, ‘teaching’ positive communication, raising awareness of the impact of management style and habitual thinking on productivity, creativity and effectiveness. Let me share some of my observations and responses.
In many organizations, employees are feeling less than perky. First days for recruits may be fun and exciting but over time, work becomes routine and boring or hectic and stressful or a combination of all. There is so much discontent and the “too tired to work, too broke to quit” thinking seems to prevail.
Perceived helplessness is fueled by negative thinking.
It matters what happens on the floor.Take for instance, the office cleaner who complains sourly that people mess the place up. Hey! if the place never got messed up, maybe cleaners become redundant. The customer service personnel laments that customers are so picky and troublesome – guess what would happen if customers were angels and products and services were perfect? People make choices whether or not to wear their job roles comfortably and cheerfully, or ruefully and miserably. Some work environments are so toxic that the happy bees hum imperceptibly.
Change is a fact of life. In organizations, employees encounter the introduction of new gadgets, corporate takeovers, wireless, eco-friendly innovations, weather change, software upgrades, life events, etc. Sometimes change is welcome, sometimes not – because learning and making personal adjustments might be necessary. What irks people the most is when change is unexpected, unexplained or outside their control. Such change may be perceived as a violation of their right to choice.
When knowledge or understanding about change and its impact is scant, human beings tend to shy away from the unknown – some in less positive ways than others. The vacuum created by uncertainty is quickly filled with thoughts and expectations embellished by individual world view and past experiences, personal or vicarious. Particularly at workplaces where management and leaders are indifferent to the human need for clarity and open communications, much is left to employees’ imagination. Rumors abound and fear, anxiety, discord and suspicion take over.It Matters What Happens at the Top
Some form of pecking order exists in all organizations. Along with hierarchy appears to be a common unwritten ‘truism’ that the air gets rarefied further up the ladder and you need to shout – to get more air into your lungs – so that those below you can hear you. ‘Shouting’ is a metaphor for the times when people throw their weight around, insinuate superiority, assume that their rights and needs are more important than another’s, forget to be grateful and gracious, snatch a subordinate’s glory e.g., when we omit to acknowledge contribution or attribute praise and recognition, and more. We focus on errors and omissions, and overlook the need for recognition, acknowledgment, appreciation and encouragement.
Poor communications cause hurt, anger and anxiety, and hurt people respond in different ways. Some repress their emotive responses – allowing their hurt to fester, tearing at self esteem or stirring a cauldron of seething anger and frustration or anything in between – all self destructive and negative. The unresolved hurt is then passed on to others – whether unintentionally or deliberately – to release their own pain. No? Think of a time when you observed someone snap at another because someone else had just lambasted him/her unfairly. The negative bandwagon of negatives goes on a roll causing corrosive declines in morale and productivity. Yep! Soon the bottomline gets hit because #1 hit the roof.
I could go on and on in this vein. My intention is to pose a reminder that each of us can be a change agent and break the vicious cycle of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Our choices reflect the value we place on each moment in our lives, and those same choices determine the positive or negative consequences and experiences that add up to our life stories.
Among my favorite reads are:
Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. 2nd Edition. New York: Vintage.
Senge, P, Scharmer, CO, Jaworski, J, and Flowers, BS (2004, 2008). Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future. Broadway Books
Arbinger Institute (2000). Leadership and Self Deception: Getting Out of the Box
Hanh, TN ((2001). Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames. Riverhead Trade.
Dutton, J. (2003). Energize Your Workplace: How to Create and Sustain High-Quality Connections at Work. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.