A New Way to Work

Success and change without burnout by Dr. Geri Puleo

Archive for the category “Change”

5 Myths About Organizational Change

Myth v fact

There are few words that are as dreaded by employees as “organizational change.”  But is the fear justified – or is it the result of some all too common misperceptions by change leaders?

Based on my research and practice, I’ve identified five common myths about organizational change:  what it is, why it often fails, and what to do instead.

Myth #1:  Change resistors must be silenced.  According to many change leaders, organizational change will only succeed IF you have “the right people on the bus.”  In other words, any employees – regardless of their positions on their organizational hierarchy or tenure with the company – must “get on board” or risk being removed from the organization.

Why This Is a Myth:  For the most part, change resistors usually have some very good reasons to support their reluctance to fully embrace the proposed changes.  Why would any change leader ignore their experience and insights?

What to Think Instead:  Change resistors’ ideas should be considered because they can forewarn of potential obstacles that can sabotage the change initiative.  Plus these resistors can potentially become some of the company’s best change advocates IF the change leaders address their fears and concerns.  Click here for more information on what I call the “Change Resistance Zoo.”

Myth #2:  If you present a logical argument, then people will change.  Business tends to be driven by quantitative metrics focused on achieving tangible results – which tend to be the primary focus of any change initiative.

Why This Is a Myth:  If only human beings would consistently behave in a “rational” or “logical” way – but it’s not in our DNA.  While human beings are logical and capable of rational decision-making, we are emotional beings as well.  Our behaviors are ruled by our beliefs, values, and the all-important WIIFM:  “what’s in it for me.”

What to Think Instead:  Effective change leaders focus on both the tangible and intangible aspects of a change initiative.  Employees’ fears stemming around potential job loss, demotion, or even closing of their office location must not only be addressed, but also incorporated within the strategic action plan.  You can’t ask workers to embrace the destabilization of their work environment without addressing the question of what’s in it for them as a result.

Myth #3:  Change occurs in isolation.  Organizational change can be compartmentalized, which makes it much easier to forecast any potential effects on other areas of the business.

Why This Is a Myth:  Organizations are constantly evolving, cross-functional, intradependent entities.  As a result, changes in one part of the organization can (and will) have effects on seemingly unrelated aspects of the business.

What to Think Instead:  Organizational changes affect the company’s lifeblood on strategic, operational, and tactical levels.  A “tweak” in a company’s product can (and will) affect not only the manufacturing process, but also the sales, human resources, customer service, and marketing functions.  A seemingly “little” change that can wreak havoc in a company’s short- and long-term functioning.  Think outside the box of compartmentalized change and consider the obvious and not-so-obvious consequences.

Myth #4:  To create transformational change, you must bring in outsiders to lead it.  Because the company’s culture is often the target of transformational change, the only way to get a “fresh perspective” is to bring in change leaders from outside the organization – maybe from the same industry, but maybe not.

Why This Is a Myth:  This is probably the most pervasive myth in transformational organizational change – and perhaps the reason why over 70% of change initiatives fail.  Outsiders may have new ideas BUT they also are not intimately aware with how things currently work in the organization and why they are being done in this particular manner.  As a result, there is often a lack of appreciation for the company’s history and an ignorance of the power of the company’s formal and informal network leaders.

What to Think Instead:  Consider tapping your current workforce for ideas on how to transform the organization – rather than thinking of them as change resistors.  Current employees have a great deal of intangible but persuasive capital within the company:  not only do they understand what is currently happening (which means that they are uniquely qualified to highlight the underlying problems), but they usually have some great (but often untapped) ideas on how to improve things.

Myth #5:  You can create change by sheer force of will.  If you really want to change, then you will be able to change – it’s all about willpower.

Why This Is a Myth:  If only change could be accomplished simply by willing it to happen.  It can’t.  Successful changes take place by moving through the transition period connecting the past to the desired future – no one navigates this “no man’s land” without a clear road map and the necessary resources to reach the destination.

What to Think Instead:  Change leaders need to provide the Four R’s throughout the planning and implementation process in order to ensure that successful movement through the transition period.  A Road map that outlines the desired path to achieve the goal, the potential effects throughout the organization, and built-in flexibility to stay on-track when obstacles emerge.  A compelling Reason for the change initiative that addresses tangible financial needs as well as the intangible emotional needs of employees.  Sufficient Resources to support employees as they move through the transition period – including manpower, relevant technology, sufficient financial resources, and emotional support.  Rewards that celebrate the short-term wins along the way to transformation; this can be financial or (perhaps even more important) time off or public recognition for employees’ often Herculean efforts.

Organizational change is not for the feint of heart.  It can be confusing, confounding, frustrating, and terrifying.  The first step is to debunk these five prevalent myths about the process of change.  By replacing them with more proactive beliefs, both change leaders and change targets will be more likely to listen to the arguments as to why they must temporarily destabilize their current work environment in order to create one that is better for both the organization and them.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

 

 

Is Your Resume Scan-Friendly? 12 Things You SHOULDN’T Do

Resume w Magnifying Glass

OUCH:  75% of online job applicants are rejected by the employer’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS)!  

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) have revolutionized the hiring process.  Because they can check for person-job fit much more quickly than a human scan, ATS are used by over 90% of large companies and 50% of mid-sized companies.

So, just about any time you apply online for a job, your resume will be scanned by the company’s ATS before it is even seen by a human being.  This makes passing the ATS resume screen one of the biggest obstacles that you will face in your job search because:

  • An ATS doesn’t “read” your resume in the same way that a human does — instead of reading left to right, ATS scans resumes up and down.
  • Plus an ATS removes all formatting in your resume — since an ATS uses OCR (optical character recognition) to scan resumes, it becomes very “confused” by unusual formats — or even font styles!
  • Plus an ATS is programmed to search for key words that are relevant to the job for which you are applying — many are not able to “figure out” that an MBA is the same thing as a Master of Business Administration…or a Masters in Business Administration…or even an M.B.A.
  • Plus an ATS “sorts” all the information on your resume into predetermined categories — if it is “confused” by your formatting, it assumes that the information is missing in that category.
  • Plus an ATS scores your resume – and only the highest scored resumes move forward.

Even though most job candidates hate ATS, a growing majority of employers will continue to use ATS to help their recruiters and hiring managers sort through the huge number of online applications for a single job.

The following is a quick checklist of tips for creating a scannable resume:

  1. DON’T upload a pdf of your resume when applying online.  ATS interpret a pdf as a picture — so it can’t sort your information (aka “the words”) into the predetermined categories.
    INSTEAD upload your resume as a text (.txt) file — it’s not pretty, but not only is it much easier for the ATS to scan and interpret, the system will automatically convert your uploaded document into a .txt file for scanning.  (You can always bring your “pretty” version of the resume to the job interview OR email it to your contact within the company.)
  2. DON’T use borders or horizontal lines that go across the page.  This only confuses the ATS — and a confused ATS will automatically reject your resume.
    INSTEAD use dashes (–) OR equal signs (==), if you must have a horizontal line — this is particularly helpful before and after subheadings.
  3. DON’T add your picture or format your resume by using graphics or tables — the ATS can’t read them!
    INSTEAD provide your LinkedIn address if you want to provide a picture – but most employers will Google you before inviting you to an interview.
  4. DON’T worry about the length of your resume — it should be as long as you need to tell your story.
    INSTEAD focus on the content and key words in your resume, rather than the length.
  5. DON’T use hanging paragraphs so that the most important information is indented from the left side.
    INSTEAD bring all your information to the left margin and use 1″ margins — ATS can generally read only 60 characters in a line (a very small amount), so the rest will be ignored.  Again, this might not be “pretty” to human eyes, but it helps the ATS correctly read, categorize, and score your resume.
  6. DON’T use “fancy,” unusual, or script fonts (e.g., Comic, Chiller, Brush Script, Freestyle Script).  This also confuses the ATS — and it will reject your resume.
    INSTEAD use “classic” or standard fonts, such as Arial, Times, Tahoma, or Calibri (the default font in MS-Word).  Quick note:  some ATS can’t “read” a serif font (that is, a font that has a little line at the edge of a letter), so it’s best to use sans serif fonts such as Arial or Calibri.  HINT:  This page is in a serif font.
  7. DON’T use small fonts in order to “fit” more information on a page — remember that the ATS doesn’t calculate page length.
    INSTEAD be sure that your font is at least 10 or 11 point.  It’s easier to read and reduces the probability that important achievements falling at the end of a line won’t be overlooked by the ATS.
  8. DON’T be creative with your wording.  ATS scan resumes for specific key words that the employer has programmed into it — and it can usually not “read” variations of a word.
    INSTEAD use key words that are identical to those found in the job description.  ATS often don’t know that “successful” is a derivative of “success” — so if the ATS is programmed to search for “success,” it will not count and give you points if you use the word “successful.”  (I know, it’s a pain!)
  9. DON’T try to outsmart the system by using “white font gimmicks” — in other words, adding key words in a white font in the borders of your resume.  The logic is that even though a human can’t see the words, the ATS can — but most ATS are too sophisticated to be “tricked” by this ploy.
    INSTEAD use key words throughout your resume to provide context.  Not only will the ATS pick up and count these key words to give you points, but it will also contextualize the key words by showing that you’ve actually used these skills in other jobs over time — which leads to a higher score for your resume.
  10. DON’T use acronyms even if they are well known in your industry.
    INSTEAD add the full spelled out name that the acronym represents; in other words, format it like this:  Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
  11. DON’T use specialized names for section headings — once again, this can confuse the ATS and it will determine that these sections are missing from your resume.
    INSTEAD use standard section headings only.  Use “Work Experience” not “Professional Credentials.”  Use “Education” not “Academic Background.”  Hint:  Don’t combine two categories within one heading, such as “Training and Credentials” — use each as a separate section.
  12. DON’T be surprised if only the first page of your resume is scanned — employers may program the ATS in order to save time and scan more resumes.
    INSTEAD front-load your resume with relevant key words and experience –while not all ATS will scan just the first page, it’s a good idea not only to raise your ATS ranking but also pass the quick skim that a human will eventually give your resume.

Remember!  A “confused” ATS will default to eliminating your resume from consideration.  By following these rules, your resume will be more likely to pass the first hurdle in finding a new employer.  GOOD LUCK!

NOTE:  If you need help developing a powerful resume, click here for information about my resume writing services.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

 

 

 

Listen to the Naysayers: How Resistors Can Actually HELP During Organizational Change

Change Resistence in Business

Change resistance.   It’s the bane of change leaders’ existence…but should it be?  Could change resistance actually be a BLESSING?!  And if you are the target of an organizational change initiative, should you keep your doubts and concerns to yourself?

These are some of the fundamental challenges facing change leaders and change targets when an organization is attempting massive change.

In talking to change leaders over the years, one of the biggest challenges that I’ve seen is the anger that change leaders feel toward any employee who resists or even questions the veracity of the need for change OR the method of changing OR even the potential outcomes of that change.

A common refrain by change leaders is, “Get the right people on the bus!  We only want employees who embrace change – anybody else is a change resistor and we need to get them OFF the bus!”

I remain shocked that a change leader would discount the insights and concerns of employees when you are asking them to fundamentally shift their work processes, assumptions, and routines.  As the photo above says, “I don’t think so!”

The Change Resistance Zoo

Change resistance is defined as efforts focused on impeding, redirecting, rejecting, or stopping the change (Coetsee, 1999).  It is often thought as being overt…but it can also be very effectively done through covert actions.

Although change resistance is viewed as a “bad thing” that needs to be eliminated from the workplace, employee resistance to proposed organizational changes can also be a very GOOD thing because:

 “When resistance does appear,…it should not be thought of as something to overcome…Instead, it can best be thought of as a useful red flag – a signal that something is going wrong.”   (Lawrence, 1954)

In general, a certain amount of resistance should be anticipated when an organization demands that its workers change their working behaviors, processes, or even attitudes.  But these responses will vary based on their view of the changes being asked of them.

Therefore there is no ONE change resistant response or behavior.  What employees will exhibit as resistance will vary greatly.  For change leaders and change targets, it’s important to understand these differences.

Based on my research, I’ve developed six attitudes toward change in what I call “The Change Resistance Zoo.”  Each type views change somewhat differently, which consequently leads to distinctly different behaviors and responses throughout a change initiative.

Ostrich

The Ostrich.  The employee who avoids change at all costs is like the ostrich sticking its head in the sand.  Ostriches staunchly deny what is going on in the organization and may even view the current status quo as being “not that bad…really.”  Rather than change, Ostriches will often resign from an organization – either when changes are anticipated OR after the change initiative is lost.

What’s Bad About Ostriches:  These are the die hard change resistors who dislike any degree of change to the status quo.  They are in denial and will do anything to avoid making the change.  This is particularly bad for the organization if one of your key employees is an Ostrich.

What’s Good About Ostriches:  Even though they dislike changes to their status quo, Ostriches are also smart enough to realize that the changes are going to happen – so it’s better for them (and the company) if they find a more suitable work environment with another employer.

 

MoleThe Mole.  The Mole is sneaky about refusing to go along with the changes.  Rather than being upfront about their doubts, the Mole goes underground and covertly sabotages the changes.  This could be through missed deadlines or by spreading negative gossip about how the change is progressing or what it really means for employees.

What’s Bad About Moles:  Moles can sow seeds of discord and fear among not only their immediate coworkers, but throughout the organization.  Because their resistant tactics are covert, Moles can be difficult to spot:  there’s always a “logical” excuse for a missed deadline and it’s rare to catch them as the source of misinformed or outright malicious gossip.

What’s Good About Moles:  Consider the option that the Mole has a good reason for refusing to change.  Even though they can be toxic in the workplace, Moles serve as an indication that something has not been considered when planning and implementing the change initiative.

 

TigerThe Tiger.  Unlike the covert activities of the Mole, the Tiger is vocal and aggressive in resisting the changes.  Tigers will argue with change leaders by challenging their ideas and assumptions about the changes.  Their goal is to attack everything related to the change initiative so that it will not proceed.

What’s Bad About Tigers:  They are disruptive and combative, which can make other employees uncomfortable – regardless of whether those employees support or disagree with the changes.  Unlike Moles, it is easy to spot a Tiger – but it’s harder to deal with them in a rational, calm way.

What’s Good About Tigers:  The Tiger will let you know what is a contentious aspect of the change initiative – there’s no guesswork involved.  Try to discuss the Tiger’s concerns in private (so that they don’t damage employee morale) and remain calm.  There is a good chance that the area of disagreement might be eligible for some sort of compromise that creates a win-win outcome in the proposed changes.

 

DogThe Dog.  The Dog will never directly challenge the activities or expectations in the change initiative – that is, unless they’re part of a group of more vocal employees.  Believing that there is “power in the pack,” Dogs resist the change initiative through a group effort – and they’re not afraid to “fight dirty.”

What’s Bad About Dogs:  Dogs may be man’s best friend, but they can also be terrifying in an angry pack – particularly a pack that is united in staunchly fighting the change initiative, in whole or in part.  Because change is frightening, some employees may go along with the “pack” because they fear being ostracized by their peers or coworkers.

What’s Good About Dogs:  Because Dogs are part of a pack, swaying the opinion of one Dog toward the change initiative can lead to the entire group becoming more receptive to the changes.  Also, if there is a group of employees who have banded together to fight some aspect of the change initiative, this is a clear indication that the change initiative most likely has unintentional deleterious effects for a subset of the workforce.

 

OwlThe Owl.  The Owl is usually an experienced employee – someone who has been with the company for a long time or is recognized as an expert in their field.  Because they are wise and knowledgeable, they will point out minute flaws in any aspect of the change initiative.  The challenge is that Owls believe that, although it is their duty to identify problems, they consider that any active involvement in remedying those problems is “beneath” them.

What’s Bad About Owls:  Owls can appear to be condescending, “know-it-alls” who focus too much on the details – but miss the big picture.  By overlooking the broader outcomes associated with the change initiative, Owls can develop tunnel vision that obscures any information that is not within their area of expertise or interest.  This can be particularly damaging if an Owl is selected to lead a change initiative.

What’s Good About Owls:  Subject matter expertise and knowledge are essential criteria for an employee to be considered an Owl.  As a result, they have a breadth and depth of knowledge about how the changes will affect their department, unit, or location.  Listen to them!  But also encourage them to take the lead in improving the steps in the change initiative, so that they can mentor others to create the necessary changes.

 

SnailThe Snail.  The Snail just…kind of…creeps along…with their tasks.  Their goal is to avoid making any waves.  This reaction to change is usually based on fear about the potential consequences, so they will make every effort to avoid detection.

What’s Bad About Snails:  It’s difficult to understand how a Snail feels about a change initiative; because they tend to “fly under the radar,” they are often overlooked or tend to avoid discussing their opinions in meetings.  They do their jobs in a way that makes their performance less likely to stand out from the crowd – for either good or bad results.

What’s Good About Snails:  Snails will continue to get their work done – but don’t expect them to wholeheartedly embrace the changes.  Because the work is still getting done, this can be a good thing for consistency during a change initiative.  Also, snails won’t “make a scene” or add to the disruption in a workplace undergoing change.

Identifying an employee as one of these “zoo animals” does not mean that change leaders should attempt to squash their responses.  Quite the opposite:  change leaders should view their reactions to the proposed changes as red flags or beacons warning about aspects of the change initiative that may have been overlooked.

Change resistors can actually prevent a change initiative from derailing – IF they are respected and listened to.

5 Quick Tips to Benefit From
the Insights of Change Resistors

Change leaders can only observe the behaviors of these animals in the change resistance zoo in response to their requests to change – but it takes a little more digging to unmask the why behind these perspectives.

The following five tips will help you better understand the reasons behind change resistant employees’ behaviors and then adapt your management style to help guide them toward acceptance of the desired changes.

Tip #1:  Communicate the practical economic reasons for the change, but don’t forget to include emotional appeals to employees’ values.  This transforms the change initiative from a cold, quantitative rationale to one that is inspirational and motivating.

Tip #2:  Always listen to employees’ concerns before, during, and after a change initiative.  Resistant behaviors and words that are not acknowledged can potentially undermine the desired changes.

Tip #3:  Respect employees’ fears about the changes by taking an evolutionary approach to change.  Rather than focusing on what will change, also highlight what will remain the same.  This provides a sense of security for workers.

Tip #4:  Include employee input throughout the change initiative.  Don’t just “spring” changes on employees!  Instead, frame the problem that needs to be addressed and ask key employees and network leaders for their opinions on how to remedy the problem.  In nearly all cases, this will involve a change of some kind – but it will be embraced because the employees had input into how this will be achieved.

Tip #5:  Focus on the resistance as a potential treasure trove of new ideas.  Tap down any feelings of anger and resentment that your workers are not immediately embracing the changes.  Remember that it is impossible to predict every possible outcome or effect of a change initiative – so, listen to your change resistors for insights that you might have overlooked (and which could potentially sabotage the changes).

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

 

Is Burnout a Form of PTSD? How These Similarities Can Affect Business

When I presented my TEDx Talk on Burnout vs. PTSD:  More similar than you think… in 2014, I never expected the incredible response that I would receive.  People from around the world have reached out to me to share their own burnout experiences as well as their recovery.

So, a huge “thank you” to all of you who have watched my TEDx Talk on YouTube – we just passed 174,000 views!  Woo hoo!

If you haven’t yet watched the video, this blog post will discuss why I believe that burnout is a form of PTSD – and what that may mean to businesses.

The Similarities Between Burnout and PTSD

My Burnout During Organizational Change Model (B-DOC) is based on my participants’ experiences of burnout resulting from transformational organizational change.  Six characteristics emerged that were identical to those associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):

Burnout v PTSD

While workplace burnout might not be identical to PTSD resulting from the ravages of military conflict, many people emotionally and psychologically experience their workplaces as modern day battle zones.  Even though the dangers are NOT immediately life-threatening in workplace burnout, the feelings of hopelessness and abuse that my research participants experienced was nonetheless traumatic for them.

What’s important to remember is that the feelings of stress are not necessarily universal.  Each person reacts to a stressor in his or her own unique way – and this response can change over time.  Your perception is your reality:  if you perceive that the effects and impacts that the stressor is placing on you are negative, then you will be more likely to be fearful, angry, stressed out, and burned out.

In other words, the stressor is not inherently the cause of burnout – it is the individual’s perception and reaction to the stressor that can trigger the burnout cycle.

So, how did my participants experience the above characteristics of PTSD in their job-related burnout?

  • Exposure to a traumatic event or extreme stressor. Although many were mentioned, their burnout was often triggered by an abusive boss, unrealistic (and unachievable) deadlines, change that is constant and unrelenting, or a culture of sabotage and mistrust.
  • Response with fear, hopelessness, or horror. This was particularly evident when the worker’s expectations about the work environment were not met – leading to a belief that their workplace was unstable, aggressively combative, or lacking in moral integrity.  The reality was so different from their expectations that it fundamentally challenged their basic beliefs, work ethic, or confidence in their professional ability.  These workers lived in a negative state of apathy, hopelessness, and unrelenting fear about their ability to adequately perform their jobs.
  • Sleep disturbances, nightmares. Stress and fear trigger the adrenal glands to release cortisol to prepare the body for fight-or-flight – your body is mobilized to take action!  But highly stressful environments or situation that do not offer workers any reprieve also do not offer any time for the body to recover to its pre-stress levels.  This constant state of hyper-alertness leads to persistent sleep disturbances.  Over time, the lack of restful sleep significantly impairs workers’ ability to solve problems, make decisions, and develop creative solutions.
  • Depression, withdrawal. Findings in a recent study published in the International Journal of Stress Management indicated that 90% of participants who identified as “burned out” also met the diagnostic criteria for depression.  Additionally, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that anxiety disorders affect 40 million Americans (that’s 18% of the population over the age of 18).  In addition to feeling depressed (which may or may not have been clinically diagnosed), the vast majority of my participants only started to recover from burnout when they psychologically or physically withdrew from their stressful work situations.  Can a business really afford rampant burnout-related presenteeism or turnover?
  • Frequent mood changes, generalized irritability. Mercurial mood changes, generalized crankiness, and even “forgetting” how to laugh drastically changes how burned out workers interact with their coworkers, friends, and families.  With such negativity and pessimism, it’s no wonder that their productivity and performance deteriorate.
  • Avoid activities that promote recall of the traumatic event. Perhaps the most surprising finding that led to my Burnout During Organizational Change Model (B-DOC) was the tendency to “boomerang” back into burnout’s downward spiral if subjected to a similar stress-producing event (such as an abusive manager or mismanaged change initiative) even if it was at a different workplace.  This “residual burnout” quickly brought my participants back into their previous burnout.  By creating a new psychological contract with their work, they could move forward because they had determined clear boundaries relating to not only what they would give to an employer, but also what they expected (demanded?) in return.

Could the ADAAA Require a Reasonable Accommodation for Burnout? 

The original Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) did not consider PTSD to be a disability because the disability could not be separated from its symptoms.  Because medications mitigated the symptoms of PTSD, employers were not required to make reasonable accommodations.

However, that all changed with the 2010 amendments to the ADA (ADAAA).  PTSD is now considered to be a de facto physical disability and the mitigating factor of medications to treat PTSD is no longer considered to be sufficient to absolve employers from reasonably accommodating workers suffering from it.

Some potential reasonable accommodations for PTSD include granting employees additional time to complete projects and acknowledging that behavioral outbursts are part of the disability (usually responding by removing the worker from the stress-producing situation).

Here’s my question:  if the symptoms of burnout and PTSD are so similar, could burnout be a subcategory of PTSD?  While current psychiatrists do not make this correlation, it is interesting to speculate on how the workplace would change if employers would be legally required to reasonably accommodate burned out workers.

The result would be a fundamental shift in company policies and practices:

  • Employees would be actively encouraged to take vacation time – even to the extent of not “checking in” while away from the office.
  • Leaders and managers would be expected to recognize and appreciate the efforts of their subordinates – perhaps even being evaluated on their level of support on annual performance reviews.
  • Dedicated efforts would be focused on modifying (or even abandoning) policies, procedures, rules, and regulations that increase stress levels in the workplace.
  • Mental and emotional space would be given so that employees could engage in serendipity – releasing their creativity (without fear of reprisal) and fostering greater innovation.
  • Such an enlightened company would return humanism and humanistic ideals into the workplace.

The result is not only an enlightened corporate culture that emphasizes humanism and humanistic ideals in the workplace, but also an organization that experiences bottom line results due to enhanced productivity, performance, and overall employee job satisfaction.

Viewing burnout as the “new norm” in the American workplace is misleading and dangerous.  Not only are the workers’ psychological and physical health threatened by burnout, but so is the company’s brand and financial strength.  A burned out workforce will never be psychologically or physically able to produce the innovation, quality, and customer responsiveness that are demanded in today’s hypercompetitive market.

Burnout is real and is estimated to affect over 50% of U.S. employees (Families and Work Institute, 2017).  It’s time to identify and treat the warning signs of burnout before they lead to PTSD-type symptoms – and before they challenge the foundation of a high performing organization.

To learn more about my B-DOC Model, please click here to download my free white paper.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com.  

Paradigm Shifter #1 – Trust your gut

Paradigm Shift

I’ve observed that many of us rely almost exclusively on quantitative evidence, while ignoring or even disparaging our more subjective qualitative insights.

Is this indulgence in data-driven, linear analysis due to our fear of the unknown?

Are we so driven by “hard” data that we are blocking the “soft” insights available only through our gut feelings?

But, are our data-driven and intuitive minds really so diametrically different?  In other words, why is it so common to believe that a linear way of looking at a problem is the only way to look at that problem?

Anyone who has truly mastered a skill has what seems to be an uncanny ability to “see” things that others who are less skilled simply overlook. In fact, someone who has mastered a skill or craft often does not engage in the machinations of “hard” data analysis, but can “see” the solution to the problem or potential outcome quickly.

Should this master’s insights or suggestions be ignored? Hardly, because it often is the result of experience and a finely honed ability to recognize patterns or trends that lead to those insights.

Is our gut instinct based on this same foundation?

Gut instincts nag us to do something – even if it’s not necessarily what we had planned to do.  Often these gut feelings contradict our more linear perception of reality and we don’t heed the advice:

  • Remember that “funny feeling” you had when you accepted a job offer that sounded so good – even though “something” was telling you not to accept it? You only discovered (after much angst) that what the employer told you about the job wasn’t the reality of the job.
  • Or what about the time that “something” told you to get off the plane in which you were traveling? More than likely, you ignored your gut – but then gave yourself a head slap when the plane had to make an emergency landing down a runway filled with firetrucks and responders in hazmat suits. (This actually happened to me!)

In both of these situations, did you question why you didn’t listen to your gut?

So what leads to these gut feelings?

While the specific mechanism of what creates a gut feeling may not be fully understood, it seems that we humans are wired to have them.

In fact, I haven’t met anyone yet who does not acknowledge that they have experienced a gut feeling about a person or situation at least once in their lives.  Although the feeling may have defied logical analysis, the insight ultimately came true.

The sad reality is that gut feelings are often only acknowledged after the fact.  In other words, we recognize or admit to having that gut feeling only in hindsight.

Given the ubiquitous nature of gut feelings, the number of people who actually listen to their gut (anecdotally based upon my observations) is substantially smaller.

The question, of course, is why are we so afraid of acting upon our gut instincts or using them in our decision making? Why is it so challenging to accept these gut feelings before we act – rather than recognizing their wisdom afterward?

Perhaps it is the fear of being wrong or failing that prevents us from accepting the spontaneous insights of our guts. But what if our gut instincts are simply the result of processing information at a much higher speed than our more linear thought processes?

The Brain and the Mind

For lack of a better location, our gut instincts emanate from our brains – and the full capacity and capabilities of this amazing organ have not yet been fully mapped.

I’m sure that you’ve heard the recurring myth that people use only 10% of the total capacity of their brains. However, this assumption from the early 1900s has been debunked by current research.  The reality is that nearly every part of our brain is constantly active:  although only 3% of total body weight, the brain uses 20% of the body’s total energy.

In other words, the brain is constantly active processing, organizing, and storing external and internal information.

Maybe our gut instincts are the result of our brain sensing patterns or similarities with information that it had previously stored – information that would take longer to detect using purely linear thought processes.

So, why not become a little more receptive and accepting of the quicker insights of our gut feelings?

I’m not suggesting that quantitative data be ignored in decision making. Instead, I am suggesting that data be viewed as a tool that needs to be analyzed and interpreted by using both parts of our brains:  the linear quantitative and the creative qualitative.

Our experiences have shown that hindsight is always 20/20. But imagine how our lives would be enhanced if we finally learned to trust those gut feelings when they happen!

Trusting your gut is essentially a commitment to trusting yourself.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is a change management/HR expert and passionate advocate for eradicating burnout in the workplace. An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, university professor, and researcher, she is the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc. as well as a popular keynote speaker and corporate trainer. To see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI. She can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.

 

 

 

Paradigm Shifter #8 – Every day can be a new beginning IF you want it

Paradigm ShiftMany people view the New Year as a time for new (or renewed) commitments. I have also found that just as many view the changing of the calendar as just another day.  Is one view better than the other?

What if there was a third way to view the start of a new year? What if we could look at every day as a new beginning – regardless of the date on the calendar?

As anyone who has ever been a member of a health club will tell you, the first few weeks of January are filled with people who have “finally” decided to get in shape. Unfortunately, this causes only a temporary problem with delays and waiting for machines because all of these new year’s athletes’ staunch resolutions to “finally” do it have…well, vanished by February.

I also know clients, colleagues, and friends who believe that the New Year is really just another day. “Nothing new to look forward to – just the same old, same old.”  Unlike the New Year’s athletes, their resolve to do something new often vanished long before January 1st.

Very different perspectives yet, in both of these cases, there is a common theme: a nagging unhappiness.  Maybe it is the belief that something in our lives is wrong.  Maybe it is a fear that we have no control over our lives.  Maybe it is an anger that our current lives are not what we had anticipated or hoped for.

Henry David Thoreau’s observation that most of us “live lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in [us]” is uncomfortably familiar.

But what if we instead recognized that every day (and every individual moment within each day) is brand new? That every day has never happened before…and will never happen again?  How would this paradigm shift change life as we know it?

While I agree that the New Year can be a “good” time to “finally” take action on that which we want to achieve, why limit ourselves to only one day in the year? For both the New Year’s athlete whose resolution starts out strong then fades away and the person whose life is one of monotony without change, it may mean the beginning of the end to the unhappiness and dissatisfaction that we feel.

We can (and, I believe, should) embrace the challenge to view each day as a new beginning:

  • Let go of the past. Easier said than done, but all of those “wouldas,” “couldas,” and “shouldas” are powerful “guilty glues” that feed our fears of wanting and doing something more.
  • To let go of the past, we need to remind ourselves that we are NOT our pasts. The amazing thing about humans is that we have an innate capacity to change and adapt. The paradox is that we are often afraid of those changes due to an unending litany of “what ifs” that prevents us from moving forward.
  • Learn from the past – but remember that this is valuable hindsight and not necessarily inescapable foresight. Just because it happened before doesn’t necessarily mean that it is inevitable now. This is true for both victories and failures. The consistent practice of self-reflection helps us to recognize patterns so that we can avoid repeating past mistakes or proactively replicate the factors that contributed to past successes.
  • Don’t be afraid to open up to the road ahead. To do that, we need to stop looking backward in the rearview mirrors of our lives. What lies ahead? Where do you want to go? What do you want to be? How can you use your God-given talents to get there? (Surprisingly, many people with whom I’ve spoken to have absolutely no idea what their ideal life would look like – without a destination, it’s nearly impossible to map out the best route to get there.)
  • Take three deep breaths and just do it! Nike was on to something when they branded themselves with those three little words. Yes, we’re all afraid of what might happen! Yes, it is inevitable that there will be surprises along the road! And, yes, we might even decide to change our destination! But not doing something empowers our minds to weave powerful, self-righteous “what if” fictions that rationalize and reinforce the “guilty glues” that are keeping us stuck and unhappy.
  • So what if we fail? Most failures are NOT – I repeat, NOT! – the end of the world. Failures lie on a continuum from minor upsets to life-threatening catastrophes. What’s fascinating is that the same “failure” can be viewed as earth-shattering by one person, but only a minor pain to another. Our perceptions create our realities.

Success has never been and will never be a linear path. Many people who ultimately succeed often admit that they have “failed” their way to success.  They learn from the past.  They don’t let their pasts define their futures.  And they don’t wait to make the necessary changes in their lives based on a date on the calendar.

I hope that every day in this New Year can be a new start and an awakening for you. Happy New Year!

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert whose goal is to eradicate burnout from the workplace. She is the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc. as well as a popular keynote speaker and trainer. To see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI. She can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com

Lemons, Lemonade, and Lemon Drops: The 3 Possible Responses to Any Challenge

Lemons

It has been said that “life is what happens when you’re planning something else.”  Our responses to these unwanted, unexpected, or “unfair” situations are the determining factors of how our lives will continue after these situations eventually end.

These responses are more profound than the simple choice between optimism and pessimism. Instead, our responses to any situation reveal our “go to” reaction to the inevitable challenges that life throws in our paths.  Do we persevere, seek revenge, or retreat from the situation?

Whenever life throws a curve ball, we are blessed with the innate power to control how we perceive it and respond to it.  Really.

Over the past 6 weeks, I was deep in the demands of being the executrix of my father’s estate. For what appears to be unfathomable reasons to “everyone,” selling his house (the primary asset of his estate) was fraught with difficulties, lies, and unethical treatment by the professionals with whom I entrusted the marketing of this property.

But, more importantly, these challenges caused me to scrutinize my reactions to this enormous and prolonged challenge (he passed in May 2014) that life had thrown in my path. My responses ranged from high hopes and confidence in the predictions that it would be a very quick sale to frustration, anger, and (ultimately) apathy toward the entire process.

The problem was that I couldn’t simply walk away from it. The house had to be sold in order to get out from under the surprisingly high costs of maintaining it.

I am a firm believer that there is a higher truth attached to everything that happens to us.  Each person and event in our lives ultimately provides us with opportunities to learn the lessons that we need in order to move beyond them and go forward toward our destinies.

Since my descending emotions mirrored those that lead to burnout (see my Burnout During Organizational Change [or B-DOC] Model), I was well aware that I had to develop a proactive response to these challenges.

In order to avoid a full-blown, long-lasting, emotionally and physically debilitating burnout, I had to take stock of not only what was happening but also how I was interpreting it.

What I discovered is that when life throws the inevitable lemons onto our paths, we have the choice to respond with lemons, lemonade, or lemon drops.

The Lemon Attitude: Lemons are valuable ingredients to bring acid and brightness to a recipe. The lemons that life tosses onto our paths have the potential to do the same:  to bring brightness and clarity from a tart and challenging situation.

But responding to life’s challenges with a lemon-based attitude throws additional acid onto the situation. It simply sours the entire experience by responding with pessimism and negativity.

A lemon-based response keeps us focused on the tart acidity of the challenge. Lemons blind us to the complete circumstances of the problem by reinforcing our frustration and anger.  Lemons focus on devising diabolical ways to “get back” at that which is causing our distress.

Just like too many lemons in a recipe can cause the dish to be inedible, responding to life’s challenges with a “lemon attitude” overshadows all the other aspects or “ingredients” of the problem — aspects that can be transformed into a more positive outcome.

The Lemon Drop Attitude:  Lemon drops are a very popular alcoholic drink – since they taste good, we might end up drinking a little (or a lot) more than we should. The result is that we escape and “forget” for at least a little while.

Responding to challenges with lemon drops is akin to being ostriches with our heads firmly buried in the sand. Instead of responding in a forthright manner to the obstacle that life has presented to us, we ignore the problem.  Or we refuse to take responsibility for our potential role in solving the problem.  Or we adopt the role of a victim by blaming the whole thing on someone else.  Or we put on a “happy face” and just “hope for the best.”

The result, however, is the same: we do nothing.

But we erroneously rationalize our lack of action as evidence of our “patience” — when, in fact, it is the result of fear or exhaustion. And, despite our attempts to “escape” the problem, it gnaws away at us in both our waking and sleeping hours.

While there is a time in every prolonged challenge to take some “time off,” I personally believe that the amount of time has to be limited. Otherwise, it can easily become a self-defeating habit:  ignoring a problem will never lead to the results that we desire.

The Lemonade Attitude:  We’ve all heard the old adage of turning lemons into lemonade when life throws challenges at you. It’s a lot easier to do when the problem isn’t big, prolonged, and financially or emotionally destabilizing.

But this change in our perception of the problem is the only way to proactively address it. We summon the courage to face our own fears that caused us to perceive the situation as a challenge in the first place.

After all, our perception is our reality.

The lemonade attitude is not a vacant affirmation that “everything is going to be all right.” The lemonade attitude requires courage, self-understanding, and a belief that there IS a way out of this debacle (but we just haven’t discovered it yet).

The recipe for lemonade is quite simple: lemons, water, and sugar – but they have to be in the right balance.  Adding the right amount of sweetness or positivity to our perception of the situation is what transforms the tartness of the challenge into something that is not only drinkable, but can also be enjoyable.

Yes, I am saying that any challenge life throws at us has the potential to be enjoyable. (And, no, I haven’t drunk too many lemon drops in order to believe this.)

The foundation of my personal belief system is based on life-long learning – not just in the “book” sense, but also in the more esoteric realm of self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and self-growth. It is not an empty “feel good” affirmation, but an energizing “live good” journey.

At no time in my life was this belief system more challenged than in the past 18 months following my father’s death. I am glad to say that the house sold at the end of October and I am in the last steps before closing the estate.  It was a difficult, challenging experience but one for which I will be eternally grateful.  It challenged my beliefs and I came out stronger than I was before.

Life’s lemons are inevitable. Will you respond with more lemons, mind-numbing lemon drops, or a revitalizing lemonade?

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

Paradigm Shifter #5: You’re only as good as your last gig

Paradigm ShiftAndy Warhol stated that everyone will experience at least 15 minutes of fame.  The scope and reach of that fame might be different, but everyone will be in the limelight at least once in their lives.

The problem occurs when we cling tightly to our previous “moment in the sun” – and forget that yesterday is NOT today.

Couple this human tendency to dwell on our previous “glory days” with the enormous amount of information available to us and you have a society in which people’s focus is constantly being redirected to whatever is new or “trending.”

According to one blogger,

“one bit of information leads to five facts, which leads to three articles, which leads to an interesting interview you must listen to right now, which leads to 10 pages in your browser.”

Whew – no wonder we feel overwhelmed by the information overload in our lives! And no wonder many of us don’t even remember a lot of what we see, read, or even do.

The old cliché of “time marches on” has never been more apparent than today. Instead of marching, time seems to be running a never-ending sprint, constantly moving faster as we leave things behind.

So, even though we may remember the exact details of our past victories and successes, others will generally remember (at the most) just the highlights of our successes – and vice versa.

We have become a society that forgets.

While this might be depressing to some, I believe that this creates an opportunity for us to continuously re-invent ourselves. Instead of resting on our past laurels, we are presented with unlimited possibilities to create something new in our lives.

Dwelling in the “glory days” of our past prevents us from moving forward. As we learn more, grow more, and experience more, the types of successes that we can create ultimately expand well beyond what we were capable of in the past.

If we’re dwelling in the past, we can’t be fully present in the now.

Artists and musicians have always been aware of this fact. The curse of the “one hit wonder” is something that successful artists often use to fuel their creative drive so that they will be the ones who beat the curse and have a lasting body of work.

Why don’t more people in business embrace this perspective? Is business really so different from the arts?

Throughout my years in business and working with clients, I have found that it is all too easy to get “stuck” in one’s past triumphs. Change resistance is rampant. Just like the old joke about the size of the fish that keeps growing when compared with others, many business successes are glorified – even though important details and preliminary sequences are lost in the re-telling.

For example, I knew a financial planner who boasted that he held the record for the highest one day sale in the company’s history. Pretty impressive. However, he conveniently omitted that he had worked on closing that sale for a solid year before the deal was signed. He didn’t do it one day.

And he never again met (let alone exceeded) that triumph.

By looking at each day as a new opportunity to grow and learn, we can appreciate our past successes as the fuel that helps us move forward to something even better. It might not exceed the previous dollar amount or be completed as fast or even achieve the same level of notoriety and awe. But it can be something new that we have never before achieved – and that is personal growth and success.

Due to the revolving door found in many corporations, our professional lives are really comprised of a series of gigs that create not only our careers, but also our professional legacies. Gone are the days when we are hired right out of college, receive consistent promotions, a corner office, and a fully funded pension when we retire.

Just like the actor will play many different roles in many different venues, we, too, will have different jobs with different employers that are often in different industries. And, just like the actor, we will have both triumphs and failures.

But the successful move forward and move on.

What about you? Are you dwelling in your past successes – or looking forward to how you can excel based on what you have learned and who you are right now? After all, to others, you are only as good as your last gig.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc. A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com. You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.

Why I Hate Labels: Are We “Should-ing” Ourselves Into Burnout?

Trapped in a box - RidiculeLabels.  They’re great for organizing things in our homes and offices.  They’re even great refrigerator reminders to jog our memories.

But when labels are used as boundaries that keep us within prescribed limitations, they’re lethal to our ability to move forward. These labels tell us what we “should” do based on preconceived notions of what others think about who we are and what we can become.

When we buy into these limiting labels, we relinquish our sense of self. Labels – particularly when they have been placed upon us by people whom we love or respect – can become so embedded in our brains and psyches that we feel guilty if we try to step outside of them.

While many labels that define prejudice and discrimination have been discouraged through laws and regulations, the most dangerous labels to our ability to succeed are those which we place upon ourselves.

The Stickiness of Labels

When we have a strong sense of self and a true understanding of who we are and what we stand for, we are much better able to remove the “glue” from the labels that others try to stick on us. But it’s not easy.

The problem is that many of the labels that we use to define ourselves (consciously or unconsciously) are not the result of recent experiences – or even our interpretations of those experiences. Instead, they are the result of what other people have told us about who they think that we are and, as a result, what we can become. For example, how many of these labels have crossed your mind in response to different challenges?

  • “I’m a control freak.”
  • “I don’t like change.”
  • “I guess I’m just too sensitive.”
  • “I can never overcome what happened to me in the past.”
  • “I can never be a/an [fill in the blank].”

Just like pulling off a bandage, pulling off a label can be just as painful. By saying that the label no longer applies to us, we automatically have to say that what other people told us is wrong. If the label came from our parents, family, friends, or even an admired boss or co-worker, the act of removing the label from our psyches actually changes our relationship with that person.

Consider the labels that society and families placed on women in the Baby Boomer generation. An “acceptable” job (which you only kept until you were married) was generally a teacher, nurse, or secretary/administrative assistant. Anything else was “shocking.” Although other women were in different careers, they were the exception and not the norm – and you were told that you weren’t one of them.

Although Boomers pushed back and opened the doors for women to enter any career, it was not without a great deal of anxiety and second-guessing.

  • Working women were directly or indirectly criticized for either not having children or for “deserting” their children when they were at work.
  • The “glass ceiling” surreptitiously appeared in corporations – although women could see the higher level jobs within the organization, they were effectively barred from moving into them.
  • Pregnant women were often forced to quit their jobs due to their “unseemly” situation – a practice which led to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
  • But even today, there are countless cases of sexual harassment against women when they enter into fields that have been traditionally male dominated – and often times the women never file complaints against their harassers.

While these pioneering Boomer women pushed through these doors, many privately expressed doubts and concerns as to the “wisdom” of their decisions. Although they loved their jobs and excelled in them, a nagging voice inside their heads often made them question their choices – particularly when others were nonsupportive or blatantly accusatory.

With doubt often comes guilt and, with guilt, comes anxiety. When anxiety couples with unmet expectations of what “should” have been the result of a decision, the result is burnout.

Puleo’s Pointers:  How to Pull Off Unproductive Sticky Labels

Labels only appear to be permanent but, in reality, the glue that sticks them to our consciousness is only temporary. Instead of affixed with super glue, we have the power to change that adhesive to one that is used on the little yellow stickies of Post-It™ notes.

When we permit ourselves to continue to hold on to the label that someone else gave us, we essentially relinquish our control to someone else’s judgments of who we are and what we can become.

To move forward, we have to let go.

If we believe that the glue of a negative or unproductive label is permanent, then it will be permanent. Why? Because we become who we believe we are.

Here are some tips to help you finally remove the caustic labels that are preventing you from achieving the success that you want on your own terms:

  • Try to discover the source of the label.  Was it something that your parents told you growing up? Was it the opinion of a manager who didn’t really understand you? Or was it a general consensus within society at a specific period of time? (It may take some time, but be patient.)
  • Determine what was going on when they affixed this label to you.  Did you make a mistake, but were then unilaterally labeled as a “failure?” What was going on in the labeler’s life at the time – could it be that the boss was belittling you with this label because he or she was afraid that you would take their job? (Remember: the label was placed on you by someone else’s reaction to you – so taking account of what was going on in their lives at the time helps you see the bigger picture.)
  • Consider when you used this label as a “safety net” to NOT take action.  One of the biggest problems with labels is the attached “should” that prevents you from taking a desired action – because the label says that “you’re not that kind of person.” Be very clear and detailed about the opportunities you’ve missed because you bought into someone else’s label of who you are. (The more you personally buy into this label, the more you increase the super glue-iness of its adhesive.)
  • Identify who (if anyone) would be “hurt” if you relinquished this label.  Many times we believe that if we change, we’re going to upset others. However, in the end, only you are in charge of your own life. Besides, the people who really care about you will adjust – and, if not, then they aren’t the type of people who are conducive to your success, so limit your interactions with them. (This is the first step in destabilizing the super glue.)
  • Imagine all the positive things that could happen in your life if you let go of this label.  Instead of dwelling on who might be upset or the even more scary unknown future, vividly visualize how much more free you can be once the label has been ripped off. Life is full of boundless opportunities – but you need to be free of the unproductive labels in order to take advantage of this abundance. (At this point, the super glue will effectively change to a temporary glue.)
  • Finally, start acting in a way that is the opposite of the previous unproductive label.  Yes, it’s going to be scary at first. Habitual actions can be difficult to overcome – but you can do it by replacing the negative actions resulting from the previous label into positive actions that reflect the antithesis of that label. Just like Post-It™ notes can be placed and removed repeatedly, it will take some time until you truly believe that the label no longer defines who you are. (When that time comes, celebrate and congratulate yourself for the courage you exhibited in overcoming the boundaries that have limited you in the past. Woo hoo!!!!)

I hope that these tips help you to stop “should-ing” yourself into the über stress of burnout. Let me know if these ideas worked for you!

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

“Should do” vs. “Want to do”: Why Both Are Needed to Sustain Change

Change Button - BlueChange is a natural part of life.  In fact, many believe that change has become the new status quo.

But changing is rarely easy for the people who have to modify – sometimes radically – the way that they do things, their self-image, or even their goals.

In organizational change, the underlying reason is usually in response to shifts in the external environment.  The examples are seemingly endless:  A new competitor has entered the marketplace and “stolen” some of your customers.  Or perhaps a new law has drastically challenged your current payroll strategy.

Organizational change can also be in response to internal shifts, such as a new vision, business model, or target market.

But, whether the reason for the change is external or internal, the arguments made in support of the change are usually based on what the company “should” do – whether they want to or not.

And therein lies the rub:  organizations can only change when its people change.

When demands are made for people to change their normal behaviors or habits, there is an understandable pushback.  What is often overlooked is that this so-called “change resistance” can provide valuable insights into the nature of the change initiative.

But these insights can only occur if we actively solicit employee feedback before, during, and after the change.

Unfortunately, in most change initiatives, many of these change resistors are ostracized or transitioned out of the organization.

As human beings, initial resistance is somewhat of a hardwired response to change.  Just like the 3-year-old who crosses his arms and shouts “No!” when it’s time to go to bed, the logical arguments (or why sleep is necessary in order to avoid crankiness and unhappiness) usually fall on deaf ears.

In other words, although we know that the child should go to bed, he doesn’t want to go to bed.  Even though he might be forced to go to bed, it is a time-consuming, emotionally draining ordeal for both parent and child.

The same can be true of employees who are told what they should do as a part of the change initiative…but really don’t want to do.

Addressing what we should do as well as what we want to do should be an important consideration in any change initiative.

Addressing the “Should Do” of Change

Corporate leaders often have very logical, reasonable, and comprehensive reasons to change the long-term strategy or daily operations of their organizations.  They often argue their case via spreadsheets, pie charts, bar graphs, trend charts, and any other data-driven tool that can support the rational reasons underlying the need to change.

While analysis is a critical part of the planning stage of any change initiative, the role of the change manager cannot rely on pure analysis to motivate workers to change.  Organizational change is a major undertaking that can take years to fully incorporate into the existing culture – and can be emotionally draining for the entire workforce.

Although threats of what could happen if the organization doesn’t change can initially inspire fear-based change, people don’t like to live their lives in fear.  The “doom and gloom” prophecies that threaten workers’ sense of security—either now or in the future – will often result in key employees and high achievers “jumping ship” to an employment situation that is less frightening.

To sustain the long-term motivation necessary to change an organization, the focus needs to shift from managing employees to change by telling them what they must do.  Instead, change leaders need to inspire employees and seek their participation in determining the best way to create the change as painlessly and effectively as possible.

The logical “should” of a change initiative is only one part of the change equation because intellectual arguments are insufficient to inspire workers to put forth the additional effort needed to transform the workplace.

Addressing the “Want to Do” of Change

People need to be motivated to change – and motivation is not only inherently internal, it is also emotional.

Addressing this “want to do” part of the change equation requires tapping into WIIFM:  “What’s In It For Me?”  Unless employees are confident that there will be a benefit to them as a result of the change, it is doubtful that they will commit wholeheartedly to the necessary actions that will radically transform the organization.

In contrast, employees will often “go the extra mile” when they understand the value of the change initiative AND they have participated in the planning and implementation activities related to that initiative.

When people participate in identifying what needs to change, they are more likely to embrace the necessary activities that will create that change.  After all, if it’s something that I recommended, then I have a vested interest in ensuring that it will lead to the desired outcome.

Puleo’s Pointers:  3 Ways to Inspire Employees to Change

  1. Take the time to involve employees in the planning stages of the change initiative.  Be sure that they represent the various functional areas of the organization and come from different levels within the organizational hierarchy.  Not only will this assist with employee buy-in, but it will also generate some insights into the implementation plan that can easily be overlooked by senior leaders who are not intimately involved with daily operations.
  2. Treat employees like adults, not children.  Relying solely on the “shoulds” of a change initiative is the equivalent of a parent dictating actions “because they said so.”  Pushback is inevitable.  Instead, recognize that your employees are your only non-duplicatable competitive advantage and they were hired because they have expertise to perform their jobs well.  Tap into that knowledge by respecting their input and concerns.
  3. Schedule two-way conversations that address employee needs and fears associated with the change.   Announcing the change via a lecture by the CEO or an article in the newsletter typify one-way communication.  Such messages to change can easily be interpreted as being talked at rather than talking with.  But two-way conversations in live town hall meetings or even discussion boards in a special change-related online chat room enable better identification of the workforce’s WIIFM’s – which can then be used to modify, expand, remove, or add programs to the change initiative that will better encourage workers to want to do what is necessary to create the necessary changes.

Although these three suggestions take time, they can create the foundation for tremendous future benefits in efficiency and effectiveness during the implementation phase.  Employee pushback and resistance may still occur, but, through the use of participative management in the planning phase, it tends to be much less intense.

While the decision to change might be logical, the act of changing can be highly emotional.  Some changes we should do, but we won’t actually do what is necessary unless we want to do it.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert and the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc.  A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, she can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.  You can watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI

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