What do you REALLY need to recover from burnout?

Symptoms of Stress - Ball

COVID-19 is real and has been affecting the way in which we work and live.  WFH (work from home) has changed our routines — and is causing many of us to realize that our previous schedules were highly stressful.

Perhaps during this time of remote working and WFH, we can take stock of how stressed out we have been…and what we need to do now to de-stress and recover from burnout.

The problem is that there is no “silver bullet” to avoid burnout:  it’s the accumulation of personality traits, workplace stressors, and physical health (the Burnout Triumvirate) – and it’s somewhat different for every burned out person.

How did you recover from burnout?   

Burnout recovery takes many forms, so I’m currently conducting research on what people have done to recover from burnout.  These insights will be included in a new course that I’m developing to help people not only recover from burnout, but also move forward to create success on their own terms.

Would you be interested in sharing your thoughts on burnout recovery?

If you’d like to contribute your insights into what you really needed to recover from burnout, please click here to take my 8-question survey — your insights will be part of my research into burnout recovery.

I hope that you and your family are safe and healthy during the pandemic.

© 2020 G. A. Puleo

Burnout Recovery: The Potential Upside of Coronavirus Remote Work?

Reflection writing

The coronavirus pandemic is a global threat to health, safety, and economic stability.  In response, many countries have imposed “stay at home” mandates to enforce social distancing.  Routines have often been smashed as eligible employees struggle with their new remote work arrangements.

Those who are new to a remote work arrangement are often faced with a long day of unstructured hours.  What to do first?  Should I even get dressed if I’m working from home?  Where do I find a quiet place to work that is free from interruptions?  Who can I talk to when none of my coworkers is readily available?

These workers will often experience greater stress as they try to rapidly adjust to this new “normal” – a change that may not have been wanted.  

For those of us who always or at least sometimes work from home, we’re somewhat unfazed by the mandate to stay at home.  We’ve learned how to create routines, self-manage our work days, and balance competing professional and personal responsibilities.  While there are definitely changes in how often we can leave our homes, there has been little impact on our work lives — even though our overall lives may feel uprooted.  

For many workers, remote work has left them feeling socially isolated. 

To combat these feelings of social isolation, employees are relying on video conferencing to stay connected.  Telephone calls might also be replacing texting as a way to communicate:  according to Mehrabian, 38% of a message is transferred via the tone of voice — which isn’t available in a text.  Technology enables us to keep in touch — if only virtually rather than physically.  There is a big difference between being “alone” and feeling “lonely.”  

It’s important to remember that moving to a remote work arrangement constitutes a significant change that impacts what we do, how we do it, and where we do it — and change is initially stressful as we transition from “what was” to “what is.”

But what was it really like for us in the workplace?  Will some of these workplace stressors be alleviated from working remotely?  Will others continue to stress us out even in our new virtual environment?  Is the need to develop a new way to work a source of negative stress — or can it be the catalyst for positive growth?

I believe that there might be a light at the end of this imposed physical removal from the workplace:  the start of the journey toward burnout recovery.

The First Step to Burnout Recovery 

As horrible and frightening as the coronavirus is, the ability for workers to stay at home might provide them with the ideal arrangement to begin recovering from burnout.  Let me explain.  

According to a recent Gallup poll, 67% of full-time workers have experienced job burnout.  A Kronos survey found that up to 50% of employees have quit their jobs because of burnout.

So it follows that many newly remote workers who have been forced to “stay at home” have experienced job burnout.  The question is whether their new remote work arrangement will exacerbate these feelings of high stress or whether working from home will provide them with an opportunity to recover from burnout.

According to my Burnout During Organizational Change Model (B-DOC), the first stage of successfully recovering from burnout is to psychologically or physically remove yourself from the stressor.  Psychological removal results in presenteeism — or being physically on the job…but mentally somewhere else.  In other words, you’re there but detached and disengaged. 

But when it comes to physical removal from the stressor, this has traditionally been accomplished through voluntary (“I quit!”) or involuntary (“You’re fired or downsized”) termination.  In other words, you’re no longer reporting to work.

The coronavirus pandemic and need for social distancing in order to stop the spread of the virus has forced many companies to allow their employees to work remotely from home — perhaps for the first time.  In other words, employees have now physically removed themselves from the workplace while still retaining their employment status.

Working remotely is a physical removal from workplace stressors and is aligned with the first step of burnout recovery.  

The Second Step to Burnout Recovery 

The psychological or physical separation from workplace stressors is only the first step toward recovering from burnout — but simply leaving the workplace is insufficient to fully recover.  

The next step on the recovery journey is critical:  a time for self-reflection.

What was your standard work day like before you began to work remotely?  For many workers, their day was a never-ending race to get here and do that.  Their days were tightly (and often unrealistically) scheduled:  a 10-minute delay could lead to a cascade of missed appointments and deadlines. 

One very common delay is associated with the daily commute.  According to a recent CNBC report, the average round trip commute in the U.S. is approximately 45 minutes — a record high according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  Some states (such as New York, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C.) can have daily commutes as long as 90 minutes — adding nearly an additional 8-hour work day to their weekly schedule.  

As of 2018, 10% of U.S. workers commute 90 minutes or more to work.  In addition to creating work-life balance problems, the decreased amount of time for physical activity can lead to obesity and high blood pressure.

With the move to working remotely, employees are suddenly freeing up anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes per day because they are no longer commuting to work.  

By eliminating the daily commute, workers have been given some ideal time to begin considering the causes of their workplace stress as well as proactive ways to overcome it and move forward.

Here are four questions to consider as you proactively use this extra time to begin your journey to recover from burnout:

  1. What do you believe is the most stressful aspect of your workplace?  Is this still stressful as you work from home?  Consider these 10 workplace stressors that have been linked to job burnout.
  2. Since physical distance from the stressor often provides greater clarity into it, what have been your assumptions as to the reason why this workplace situation has been so stressful for you?  Remember:  Stressors are external and neutral — how you react is based on your assumptions about that stressor.  (Be brave in answering this one — getting to the underlying root assumptions can be challenging because our egos tend to thwart our efforts to see them!)
  3. Now that you have identified the assumptions that have caused you to stress out over this workplace situation, how can you reframe your perspective?  In other words, how can you change your paradigm and see this from a new, less stressful perspective?
  4. Here’s the litmus test:  how much control do you have over this workplace stressor?  The only thing that we can ultimately control is our reaction – and you are ultimately responsible for effectively managing your career.

As you embark on this period of self-discovery (perhaps during the time when you would normally be commuting to work), you will be faced with a decision:  have I found a new way to deal with the stressors of my current job OR should I consider updating my resume, contacting my network, and find a new opportunity?

I believe that many people will begin questioning their current work situations and the high levels of job stress they may have been experiencing as they begin working from home, decreasing their commutes, and (finally) have the time for reflecting on their careers.

Good luck, stay safe, and be healthy!

© 2020 G. A. Puleo 

 

Are You Resilient at Work? [VIDEO]

The dirty little secret in many organizations is burnout — but most companies refuse to admit it.  Instead their managers focus on building the resiliency of their employees.  It’s a positive spin on an ever-growing workplace challenge.  

But the truth is this:

Resiliency cannot exist if you are burned out.  

I focused on this issue in my keynote address for the Pittsburgh Human Resource Associations’ annual conference, where I spoke about How to Stop Workplace Burnout and Build Employee Resiliency.

I also inadvertently presented a real-time case study on “resiliency in action” when the technology CRASHED — about 10 minutes into my hour-long presentation!

Rather than stressing out or waiting for the tech guy to fix the problem, I adapted.  Since I was prepared and passionate about spreading my message on eradicating workplace burnout, I went “old school” without PowerPoints or any other tech.

Being resilient means being prepared AND being conscious that “life happens when you’re planning something else.”  Since part of my business is presenting keynote addresses, I was able to “walk the talk” that being resilient is critical to doing your job well — and enjoying what you’re doing!

In this post-keynote interview, I share some of my insights into the symptoms of burnout, why its victims are often professionally stigmatized, how companies can help build employee resiliency, and how I personally avoid burnout.

P.S.:  This keynote is published on PHRA’s YouTube channel.

©2020 Dr. Geri Puleo

Stress, Fatigue, and Burnout: What to do now to finally get some sleep

ANW2W 2019-08-05 - Tired Workers

If you’re feeling tired, you’re not alone.  According to a recent NSC survey,

  • 73% of Americans reported that they felt too tired to function at work
  • 53% admitted they are less productive
  • 44% had trouble focusing

But is there an underlying cause for our fatigue?  Sleep deprivation may be the underlying factor.

Heavy workloads, extended work hours, and jobs that are cognitively or physically demanding are becoming the norm in the modern workplace.  OSHA has identified 9 risk factors in jobs that can increase a worker’s propensity for fatigue.  These include:

  • Working at night or in the early morning
  • Working long shifts without regular work breaks (either mandated by the employer or self-imposed by the employee)
  • Routinely working over 50 hours per week (NOTE: Japan has identified the 60-hour work week as a contributing factor to kairoshi, or death by overwork)
  • Long daily commutes to and from work

In the previously cited NSC survey, 97% of participants self-reported having at least one of these leading risk factors for fatigue in their jobs.

Are YOU one of the 97% who is at risk for occupational fatigue?

Why We Need Sleep

Unlike machines or robots, human beings have a hard-wired need for daily, restorative sleep.  Sleep is necessary for us to perform at optimal levels.  Unfortunately, ___% of American workers get the recommended 7-8 hours of restful sleep on a nightly basis.

According to NIH, 40 million American workers experience chronic, long-term sleep disorders; an additional 20 million have occasional problems with getting a good night’s sleep.  Insomnia is a clinical term covering a wide range of sleep disturbances, including:

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Waking too early in the morning (anecdotally this seems to be around 3:00 AM)
  • Feeling unrefreshed upon awakening

Prolonged sleep disorders that lead to a sleep deficit
have been linked to lasting physical and mental health problems. 

A sleep disorder is any “abnormal sleep pattern that interferes with physical, mental, or emotional functioning” (Anxiety and Depression Association of America).  One of the primary causes for sleep problems is stress.  According to a recent National Sleep Foundation Study, 43% of 13-64 year olds have lied awake at night due to perceived stress in the past month.

Stress-related sleep disturbances do not discriminate on age or gender, but employees whose jobs require cognitively demanding tasks may be more susceptible to fatigue:

  • Monotonous tasks that are unstimulating (such as jobs with little growth or development opportunities)
  • High alert tasks that require vigilance (such as assembly line work that requires constant monitoring of products for even slight abnormalities)
  • Repetitive tasks that use a limited number of muscles in their performance (such as data entry or other positions that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome)

According to OSHA, jobs that are at high risk for fatigue can be any job that requires sustained attention OR places significant cognitive or physical demands on the worker.

Sounds like just about every job across industries and organizational levels, doesn’t it?

Fatigue and Burnout

Stress and fatigue are closely associated with burnout.  But why?

A stressor is a situation or event, but the stress that we experience is the result of how we interpret and perceive the stressors.  Do our manager’s constant threats of termination threaten our financial well-being?  Challenge our self-confidence?  Undermine our feelings of self-worth?

While often viewed negatively, the human stress response is actually a protective evolutionary response that chemically enables us to effectively deal with important or dangerous situations.  In other words, our perception of the stressful situation triggers the fight or flight response of adrenaline and cortisol surges to support the heightened awareness and vigilance that are necessary to defend ourselves.

But here’s the problem:  our human bodies cannot endure a constant barrage of these hormones surging through our bodies.  In a constant, prolonged, heightened state of hypervigilant awareness, the cortisol and adrenaline trigger “rapid, anxious thoughts to occur at night” (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).

In other words, our survival instincts (when left unchecked), prevents our bodies from succumbing to sleep.

And here’s another problem:  bragging about our ability to function with little to no sleep has become a badge of honor for high-performing professionals.  It’s like your father’s fishing stories where the size of the trout eventually becomes the size of a whale!

But our professed need for less sleep is a delusion that stresses our bodies, decreases our mental energy and acuity, and contributes to the onset and maintenance of burnout.

Tips to Decrease Stress, Avoid Burnout…and Get Some Sleep

The modern workplace rarely offers opportunities to take a break from the demands of our jobs.  Workers are challenged by both the unrelenting organizational pressure to be more productive and our own self-imposed emotional need to prove our worth in and through our jobs.  This combination increases anxiety and limits the innate restorative power inherent in our bodies to reduce stress and avoid burnout.

Here are a few commonly used ways to sleep better (and why they work):

  • Reduce stress levels by meditating on your breath. All you need to do is observe each inhalation and exhalation – just let go and realize you only have to observe without doing   (After all, your breathing is automatic.)
  • Just try to move a little more each day – even If you don’t like to exercise (or believe that you “don’t have the time”). Walk around when you’re on your phone instead of sitting at your desk.  Take the steps instead of the elevator.  Park a little farther away from the front door in the parking lot.
  • Eventually add 10 minutes of exercise to your daily routine – make sure it’s something that you enjoy doing! Yoga is particularly good for relieving stress.  But don’t exercise immediately before going to sleep:  aim for morning or early afternoon exercise sessions.  Remember:  exercise releases mood-enhancing endorphins.
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, quiet, and ONLY for sleeping. If you can’t fall asleep within 15 minutes of lying down, go into another room in order to associate your bedroom only with restful sleep.

Now, here a few other helpful tips to enhance your sleep:

  • Live your life by your priorities – not everything is important. Spend the majority of your time on those tasks that are most important.  Break major projects into small, easily managed chunks.  You don’t have to do it all – so don’t refuse to delegate!
  • Play soothing music that you love – use headphones at work. Not only will this lower your blood pressure, but you’ll also find your mind and body slowly relaxing by releasing any pockets of tension.
  • Focus on others. One leading cause of stress and anxiety is a self-absorption with our problems.  By seeking ways to help others through volunteering, your changed focus can provide new insights into your own stressors – plus you’re better able to recognize and feel gratitude for what is good in your life!  (We often forget the good stuff when we’re stressed and burned out.)

But most importantly, make sleep a priority and recognize that our human need for restorative sleep is non-negotiable.  We need it.  Our bodies crave it.  And without it, we can’t enjoy our lives.

So, don’t overlook our human need for 7-8 hours of restful sleep each night!  Losing just 2 hours of needed sleep results in the same level of physical and cognitive impairment as consuming 3 beers (OSHA).

Learning to create a soothing sleep routine reduces stress and enables our body’s restorative powers to help avoid burnout.  So start making sleep an enjoyable priority!

Copyright 2019 G. A. Puleo

How to Promote a Stress-Free Workplace [INTERVIEW]

Last month I was thrilled to be part of an international online summit focusing on burnout in nurses.  Even if you’re not a nurse, the insights from the summit can help you avoid and overcome burnout.  In this 30-minute interview, I discuss the workplace stressors that can lead to burnout.  

Thanks to the generosity of Ashild Tilrem (the event organizer), who has graciously permitted me to share my video interview with you on my blog.  Enjoy!

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

What To Do When Your Boss Is Unethical

Handcuffs - niu-niu-600592-unsplash

When I was conducting my research that led to the Burnout During Organizational Change Model (B-DOC), I asked my participants to identify what they believed led to their burnout.  I didn’t offer any potential choices relating to what I thought caused burnout.  So, one particular finding left me, well, flabbergasted:

A disturbing 57.1% of my participants believed that their burnout was either caused or exacerbated by their manager’s requests for them to take ILLEGAL OR UNETHICAL ACTIONS.

This was over half of my participants!  An even more disturbing finding was that these requests were more prominent in participants who worked in nonprofit environments (66.7%) compared to those in for-profits (50%).

According to one female non-profit change leader, she felt that she had somehow become involved with “dirty people” because there were multiple requests for her to take illegal or unethical actions.

Another male for-profit change leader was adamant that he would not take the actions requested of him by his manager, stating, “I’m not going to do it.  I won’t.  It goes against everything I believe in.”  His manager’s response was simply, “You have to.”

What do you do when your boss asks – or even demands – that you take actions that you believe are unethical or know are illegal?  Sadly, this appears to be a growing challenge for the modern worker.

Some Reasons for Unethical Requests

Organizations are beginning to demand a higher level of ethics in their employees’ conduct.  Despite demanding that all employees read and sign the organization’s corporate ethics and compliance policy, the projected moral and legal commitments may not materialize.

The sad reality is that corporate ethics have been under increasing scrutiny as a result of a hypercompetitive marketplace.  When the competition is significant (even staggering), company leaders may resort to making business decisions that require employees to take actions that may not necessarily be illegal, but can be perceived as unethical.

While some of these decisions have led to public scandal and disgrace (such as Enron), it appears that far too many companies are “flying under the radar” of conventional ethics, yet still achieving success.  For example, companies may use misleading product information or unfair competition practices in order to gain market share.  Corporate financial reports may be manipulated to cast a better light on their financials.

Any and all of these unethical decisions are made by employees.

In today’s űber competitive marketplace, some managers believe that a strong commitment to ethical behavior unfairly limits their ability to create desired organizational results.  So, they rationalize the underlying ethos of their decisions and demand that their subordinates do the same.

In other words, organizational demands can create a powerful environment in which ethical people behave unethically

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review noted that, although there has been progress in building more ethical enterprises, 41% of surveyed workers reported seeing ethical misconduct in their workplaces within the previous 12 months.

The ways in which unethical behaviors are displayed in the workplace vary.  In my research, participants characterized their managers’ behaviors as unethical when there was constant swearing, inappropriate comments, yelling, screaming, and even harassment.  Such poor communication was a precursor to burnout in 64.3% of cases.  This lack of values-based, ethical management practices led to treatment of employees that bordered on being inhumane.

Put another way, burned out employees were often the victims of unethical bullying by managers.

Bullying is defined as “any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended.”  According to ACAS (a nonprofit in the U.K.), bullying and harassment are similar unethical workplace behaviors which may or may not be readily apparent in the workplace.

Even though they are similar, “harassment” under U.S. law has special meaning and protections that are not afforded to bullying.  According to research conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute, most bullying is not accompanied by illegal harassment – meaning that:

80% of bullying provides NO legal recourse for its victims. 

Although there are currently no laws against bullying in the U.S., it is gratifying that 30 states and 2 territories have introduced anti-bullying legislation in The Healthy Workplace Bill.

The importance of anti-bullying law is reinforced due to the rise in such behavior across organizational hierarchies.  In 2018, Forbes magazine reported that nearly 75% of employees have been affected by workplace bullying.  Whether the bullying is initiated by a supervisor or a coworker, it is always considered to be a type of power struggle between the parties.

NOTE:  Although the participants in my research did not specifically cite “bullying” as a cause of their burnout, bullies tend to be poor leaders and withhold resources.  This combination of poor leadership and a lack of necessary organizational resources to do the job was cited by 92.9% of my participants.  Additionally, the lack of organizational caring (which are often displayed in the tactics by used by bullying managers) contributed to burnout in 85.7% overall.

How to Respond to Unethical Requests

Whether these managerial requests are the result of a culture that tolerates such behavior or reflect a management personality that uses power (or bullying) to pressure workers to behave unethically, the individual must still deal with the effects of these requests.

A recent New York Times article gave the benefit of the doubt to the manager:  perhaps your boss made the unethical request unwittingly.  Similarly, a BusinessInsider.com article warned of the importance in making sure that you fully understand the situation surrounding your boss’s unethical request.

However, once such a request has been made, the quandary for many workers lies in the potential ramifications of complying:

  • Will you be held complicit and liable if the unethical request is discovered?
  • Will you face retaliation if you report the unethical request to your boss’s boss or HR?
  • If you comply, will subsequent requests require even greater ethical challenges?
  • Finally, can you continue to work in an environment in which you must act in a way that undermines your ethics and values – even if you are dependent upon your paycheck?

These fears of potential retaliation, demotion, or job loss may be justified.  In a National Business Ethics survey conducted by the Ethics and Compliance Initiative in 2016, 53% of U.S. workers who reported misconduct were retaliated against!

So, what can you do when your boss asks you to act in a way that you believe is unethical?

  • Ask questions. One of the most simple ways to avoid unethical behaviors is to understand the true nature of the request.  Often times an unethical request may simply be an expedient way of solving a problem (in other words, your boss was “too busy” to consider ethical issues).  Before reacting strongly and emotionally, ask your manager to repeat the request so that you can clarify what he or she is specifically asking you to do – then paraphrase this understanding back to him or her.
  • Trust your gut. If after fully understanding what your manager is requesting and you intuitively know that the act is unethical, explain to your boss why you feel uncomfortable following the directive.
  • Focus on creating a more ethical approach to solve the problem. If “cutting corners” to expedite an activity feels unethical to you, mutually brainstorm other ways that your boss can still achieve the desired outcomes and you can feel comfortable with the desired actions.  If an initial conversation doesn’t work, then put your ideas into an email – you’ll then have a record as to why you are not complying with a request to do something that you believe is unethical.
  • Don’t tolerate being bullied into doing something unethical. If you boss insists that you perform an unethical task, he or she may use pressure, coercion, or intimidation to force you to comply.  DON’T!  Many requests that start out as unethical may ultimately lead to legal consequences.

Some Reasons for Illegal Requests

Quite frankly, there are none.

Managers who knowingly or unwittingly ask their subordinates to engage in activities that are illegal will still be held liable for the consequences – as you will be, too, since you complied with the illegal request.

The challenge is how to protect yourself in the event of a lawsuit stemming from these illegal actions.

How to Respond to Illegal Requests

The good news is that you may have legal claims against your employer if you suffer retaliation for refusing to take an illegal action at work or if you were a whistleblower who reported the illegal activity.  In addition to laws protecting whistleblowers (always check with an attorney!), there may be grounds for wrongful termination pursuant to relevant state laws.

NOTE:  Don’t assume your legal standing –
always check with an attorney experienced in employment law!

If you have been asked to take illegal action, this is a time when you MUST take a stand and refuse.  As previously mentioned, taking the illegal action even if you disagree with it is NOT an adequate defense in a lawsuit.

To protect yourself, consider the following ideas:

  • Escalate your concerns. Talk to your boss’s manager in an effort to resolve the problem.  Speak to someone in your company’s HR department – ideally a manager who has the authority to act upon this information.  Ask your company’s compliance manager for advice as to how to proceed.
  • Be prepared that your boss may retaliate against you. No, it isn’t right.  No, it isn’t ethical.  And, yes, it may be illegal.  But sadly retaliation is all too common.
  • Be prepared that your employer may do nothing in response to your questions or complaints. This is a cultural issue – and an organizational culture that supports unethical or illegal behaviors will do little to assist an employee who refuses to comply.
  • Be prepared to address coworkers’ comments. Although you should ideally keep the confidentiality of your boss’s request to engage in illegal conduct, the office grapevine can still find out.  Once again, this is a cultural issue:  you might be viewed as either a hero for refusing to act illegally or you might be viewed as a “snitch” who doesn’t fit with the corporate culture.
  • Make sure your resume is ready in case you need to find a new job. As previously mentioned, many employees are retaliated against when they fail to comply with a manager’s request – even if it is unethical or illegal.  The question is:  do you want to stay in a culture that advocates unethical or illegal behavior AND are you prepared for the legal consequences of being complicit?

An unethical boss is the bane of an ethical employee’s existence plus it can be an environmental factor that leads to the psychological, emotional, and physical űber stress of burnout.

If you’re currently employed at the company, you have some important decisions to make:  Is the unethical or illegal request a one-time issue OR is it an indication of the corporate culture?  If you stay with your employer, can you handle the emotional strain of staying in an organization whose values do not align with your own?  And, finally, is the risk of potential civil or criminal charges against you due to your complicity worth it?

Remember:  Unethical or illegal management requests can not only place you into potential legal jeopardy, but can also cause you to burn out!

To thank you for reading my blog and to help you in deciding if you should stay or leave a stressful employment situation, please check out my newly updated eCourse, Job Burnout:  When to Stay, When to Go, What to Do.  In this on-demand eCourse, you’ll discover three critical questions to help you decide.  (NOTE:  Although this is an intensive 6 module course, it is available on-demand so that you can work on it at your own pace – plus you have LIFETIME access!)

SPECIAL GIFT:  If you use discount code ANW2W15, you can save $15.00 off this course.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

So, What Do You REALLY Want to Do?

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Have you ever asked a child what he or she wants to be when they grow up?  Usually they have a long, extensive list of all the professional possibilities just waiting for them when they grow up.

But ask an adult what he or she really wants to do professionally?  Well, that’s usually a completely different situation.

Have We Settled for “Boring” in Our Jobs? 

In the 25+ years that I’ve worked with clients to help them direct their careers, one of the most challenging issues has been getting them to tell me what they really want to do:

  • Some tell me what they’re currently doing – but don’t say it with any type of emotional connection or enthusiasm for the work.
  • Some tell me about the desired outcomes of doing “something else” – but never talk about what they’re willing to give in return for those outcomes.
  • And some look at me blankly, but honestly say that they just don’t know.

It seems like we’ve forgotten how to dream about a desirable future because of our self-limiting beliefs on what is “possible.”

Yes, I said SELF-LIMITING beliefs.  We confuse what is “possible” (which is anything) with what is “probable” (which restricts imagination based on what we believe).

While it is true that our dreams of being a musical prodigy or sports superstar may be improbable, our underlying  passion for music or sports remains very real – but often hidden by layers of “real-life” pragmatism.

But being “pragmatic” is often an excuse for denying our dreams.  For denying our passions.  For denying our potential.  And even denying our personal blend of knowledge, skills, abilities, and talents that makes us unique.

Instead of basking in our uniqueness at work, we instead wallow in jobs that neither inspire us nor appeal to our higher level passion and goals.  In other words, we settle for jobs that are boring.

And we spend too much time at work to be bored!

Assuming that we average around 40 hours per week in paid employment and have 2 weeks of unpaid vacation time per year, we’ve committed ourselves to working 2,000 hours per year.  Let’s also assume that we ideally sleep 8 hours per night; this means that we are awake 5,840 hours each year.

These basic calculations lead to the following conclusions:

On average, we will spend @35% of our waking hours at work —  over a 40-year career, that’s 80,000 hours spent on work that doesn’t excite us! 

These are conservative calculations.  In reality, many of us spend many more hours working at our jobs.  This doesn’t include overtime (paid or unpaid, of exempt salaried under FLSA).  Nor does it include all those paid vacations that we “never got around to taking.”  Nor does it consider that many Baby Boomers’ careers are longer than 40 years (because they want to or need to).

Do you really want to spend this much of your live…being BORED?!

The Dangers of Boredom at Work

Boredom occurs when an activity feels unsatisfying or when some mandatory task does not ignite your interest.  It’s not necessarily the result of a bored mindset.  Even highly energized workers can become bored when they are not given opportunities to focus that energy on something that is meaningful to them.

Some recent research suggests that boredom can lead to physical ailments:

  • Weight gain (eating because we’re bored – and generally food that is not necessarily healthy for us)
  • Poor emotional health and depression
  • Persistent back pain or a higher level of pain in general (in other words, unhappy emotions increase feelings of physical pain)

Other research has found that a lack of neurological excitement coupled with a subjective psychological state of dissatisfaction is the basis for feelings of boredom.  In other words, we are uninspired and dissatisfied with our work.

Boredom makes us feel “stuck” – we’re weary and restless with no direction.  It also prevents us from engaging in our innate curiosity by placing boundaries on what we believe is possible.  It tells us that “nothing will change…so why bother trying something new?”

Boredom makes us believe that “success” is impossible.

By affecting the individual worker,
boredom can also jeopardize the company’s very survival! 

Moving Out of a Boring Job

It is not helpful to believe that every task in a job should be full of excitement.  A certain level of mundane tasks can be found in any job.  But we don’t have to let the tedium take over our work experience.

If your job has become boring and tedious, you have arrived at an important crossroad:  are you going to accept that you have no choice to change a job that is boring OR do are you going to muster the courage to take action toward finding something new, different, and better aligned with your life goals?

My hope is that you take the time to assess your career to date in order to determine if it’s time to make changes in your life.

The first step to moving out of a boring job is to identify what you want.  Don’t limit yourself to probabilities at this stage!  Instead think back to what gives you enjoyment.  Identify those activities in which you are so thoroughly engaged that “time seems to fly by.”

Once you’ve identified these activities, it’s time to search for common themes.  Even though you might enjoy what initially seem to be very diverse activities, there is always some underlying action or outcome.  By identifying this thread, you have the foundation for creating a career that contains this important element.

For example, I was originally a conservatory voice major.  This required me to be comfortable on a stage, able to communicate and engage the audience, and be prepared to do what was necessary in order to be ready to do perform my best onstage – regardless of the amount of time involved.  I also liked the creativity blended with a thorough understanding of different musical genres.  While much of the background work was autonomous, there was also camaraderie with other musicians as we prepared for a performance.

But above all, I wanted to make people feel something as a result of my performance.

While I no longer have ambitions of being a professional singer, I still have a deep desire to make my clients, students, and keynote attendees feel something by being challenged with new ideas that can improve their lives.

While the “stage” of my career is quite different, the elements that gave me joy as a singer are still present in my role as a leading advocate for the eradication of workplace burnout.

What’s your “common thread” in what gives YOU joy?

To thank you for reading my blog and to help you on your journey to finding a satisfying career that you love, please check out my newly updated eCourse, A User’s Guide to Managing Your Career:  You’ll learn how to identify what you really want in and expect from your career, plus develop 3 levels of goals to propel you toward a career that you will love.  (NOTE:  Although this is an intensive 7 module course, it is available on-demand so that you can work on it at your own pace – plus you have LIFETIME access!)

SPECIAL GIFT:  If you use discount code ANW2W10P, you can save 10% off this course.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com