Shifting the Paradigm
In organizational consulting circles, one often hears that a consultant must have the leaders ‘on side’ for change to happen. But Mahatma Gandhi didn’t wait for the British to decide to make changes in his country. If you work in an organization where those in charge are not taking steps to create a positive work culture, and even if they are, it can be helpful, work-life-changing and empowering to look at what you can do to make your worklife more positive for you – and possibly even for those around you.
Pro-active Career Happiness
Many people talk about career strategy; but fewer people talk about having a conscious process to improve their happiness in any job. There is lots of support for leaders to improve; but, employees also deserve support for dealing with workplace challenges. There are things employees can do about it, and it’s not always as simple as “just change your attitude” as many suggest. The exercises below are things you can do to actively develop and practice your skills and resilience for going through challenging work situations with more ease, less stress and hopefully greater happiness.
This module is a starting point. Further modules will include more in-depth explorations of your options, and other resources can help you continue to grow these capabilities. Hopefully these exercises will become a valuable part of an ongoing learning process that continues to make your life at work better!
It Starts With You
Where do you start? It’s a powerful, yet sometimes non-intuitive point, that the best place to start is with yourself. It’s easy to dismiss this as a waste of time – seeing the problems instead as outside ourselves. Problems are outside us too, but the most powerful place to start in terms of how you respond to them, is by becoming able to be present and calm in the face of them. One way to call this is to get more connected to your center. Psychology talks about this as having an internal locus of control and we all talk about it when we say things like:
- I’m not myself today
- Feeling certain of oneself
- She is very self-possessed
- He kept his wits about him
Why does this matter? Imagine a ship with a captain that doesn’t pay much attention to where the ship is going. When we aren’t present at our own helm, we are not steering the ship. We are blind to what’s coming at us and are less able to make good decisions about how to respond well.
When we’re centered, we can explore various things we can do to make work better. – And we’ll be better at them too! The first exercise below is one way to practice becoming more centred.
And Others Too
It is a central principle for everything on Employee Point, that it’s helpful to try to shift from an “us/them” perspective to learning to see others’ points of view. This is important for employees both because it helps us communicate more effectively, and because, even more importantly, it’s a more empowered position to start from. Blaming others puts our power outside us. This is easy to say, but not always easy to do. After completing the first module, you will be able to join the online discussion forum, where we can practice the skills below and this inclusive approach.
The second exercise below introduces you to some ways to communicate your needs that are more likely to land well.
Note: You can repeatedly access the interactive exercises below so you can apply them to multiple situations. Your entries will not be saved once you exit. If you wish to save a copy of your entries, slick “Print” and save as a PDF. If you click “Submit…” your entries will help with research to improve and develop further resources. Your submissions will never be linked with your name and no identifiable information will ever be published. If you do submit, thanks for your help!
Learning Exercises – Where to Start
[su_spoiler title=”Section 1. Quick re-connect exercise” style=”fancy”] Here is a quick exercise that can be done any number of times through the day. In fact, the more you practice being centered, the better you get at being able to center quickly, and at staying centered. First thing in the morning is a particularly good time. Just before a meeting is good too. 🙂
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How to Talk So Your Boss Might Listen
You can use the exercises below for communicating with anyone at work (or elsewhere). Many people do struggle with the challenge of communicating and being heard by their managers. In fact, a US poll showed 50% of people leave their jobs because of their bosses.
Some bosses are not really great at listening. They’re busy; they’re under pressures; and they may be confident their way is the best way. (That may be what helped them get promoted, whether that was a good thing or not.) If you have a boss like this, or you just need a confidence boost for how to communicate your point-of-view in a way that’s more likely to be effective, the exercises below will provide some helpful tips.
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Gaining from Challenges
We cannot learn and appear perfect at the same time. – Jason Love
The Chinese symbol for crisis also means opportunity.
Each situation we find ourselves in provides us opportunities to learn. Sometimes a similar situation will keep recurring in life until we learn what we needed to learn from it. Some lessons we need to learn bit by bit. Looking at challenging situations knowing there’s something helpful for us to learn in them, can give us a more constructive and empowered outlook on life. It can make life more interesting. It also means we’re more likely to learn the lessons.
Learning the lessons means we gain something valuable from experiences. Our ability to cope with similar situations in the future is often improved.
Of course there are challenges that are too big to deal with all at once, or on our own. And we can also choose to ‘learn it next time’ if we need to. However, avoiding it, believing we cannot learn, that it is pointless to learn, or that the lessons are all for somebody else to learn, can keep us from gaining what we have the opportunity to learn and benefit from later.
Learning is Empowering
We can often get trapped thinking that it is others who need to fix a situation. Although this is often a valid part of the picture, just focusing on this allows us no room to change what we have the capacity to change in the situation – which is often more than we think! Focusing on what we can learn in a situation can often shift the outward dynamics, even other people’s behaviour towards us, without our even needing to address it with them. They are responding to our approaching the situation from a new perspective. Even if they don’t shift, our broader perspective can often help us handle the situation more effectively.
Even traumatic life experiences can be approached with this perspective. Trying to help victims to choose to own what is their part to heal can sometimes meet with resistance, but this is not about blaming the victim – it’s about empowering them. The bigger the challenges we face, the more we have the opportunity to learn from them and therefore gain from them. People at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings often refer to themselves as “grateful alcoholics” because the challenge has brought them to a path that they’ve gained so much from.
- George repeatedly found himself in work situations where he felt undervalued by his bosses. In his first few jobs, he angrily confronted the offending person, complained to colleagues and even quit on several occasions. He even organized several colleagues to leave with him from one job. After a number of years he started wondering why this situation kept happening to him! He started looking at what he needed to learn from the situation. He began to realize that he was not as truly confident inside as he had thought, that he was too quick to anger, that he wasted a lot of his energy dwelling on situations that too easily got under his skin. He realized that even when situations were unfair, he didn’t have the right to become abusive, and that he got better results if he worked through his own anger himself. These were all things that he hadn’t particularly wanted to see about himself, but that held a potential for him to become a better, more highly functioning person. The more he swallowed his pride and focused on what he needed to learn from each situation, the more his ability to work well with others improved, including sometimes being able to help them see their ares for growth with less judgement.
They say that at the end of our lives, we may be the most grateful to the people who challenged us the most.
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Be the Change Agent
There is a lot of discussion among organizational leaders and consultants about how to motivate employees. Strangely, these conversations rarely take place with employees. Employees today are speaking up more and more about what they need in order to be engaged and thrive in the workplace – and hopefully that will happen more.
As you practice being more centered and communicating well, you may become better at influencing the workplace around you. Don’t be attached to it happening; we can’t make others want to change – but we can get better at encouraging them and helping them change if they do. If you do find an openness to working on change in your workplace, the information below should help you with being a more effective change agent.
Working With All Parties
Gandhi was an incredibly effective change agent, despite having no ‘official’ power. One reason for this was that he was so consistently non-violent.
The most effective approach to catalyzing change at work takes into consideration everyone involved. It can take practice, but striving not to judge and attack your employer, and to speak to them the way you’d want to be spoken to is more likely to get the results you want.
Trusting Gradual Progress
Another reason Gandhi was so successful is that he never gave up. Despite huge challenges, he kept persistently moving towards a better life for the people of India. He didn’t push others to change; he simply demonstrated true self-respect with his people until others could no longer avoid treating him that way. We can’t all be Gandhi, but we can all work at becoming more like this.
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