A New Way to Work

Success and change without burnout by Dr. Geri Puleo

Archive for the tag “balance”

Give Thanks at Work, Too

2017-11-22 - Gratitude - not expressing is gift not given

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

Will Flexible Work Schedules Benefit Your Organization? 10 Factors to Consider

Flexibility - 2 pulling 1

Workplace flexibility.  All employees want it…most employers say they provide it…but few fully harness its benefits.  Whether you’re seeking work-life balance, trying to reduce employee burnout, or responding to new paradigms at how work is done, you need to consider 10 critical factors before introducing flexible work arrangements in the workplace.

10 Factors to Consider BEFORE Introducing Flexible Work Arrangements

  1. Do you want to be known as a “family friendly” workplace that is committed to work-life balance? According to a 2014 report by The Council of Economic Advisers, 33% of employees overall – and 50% of working parents – have declined a job offer due to potential conflicts with family responsibilities.  As a result, corporations may lose considerable workforce talent if flexible work arrangements are not offered.  
  2. Is it getting increasingly more difficult to find qualified job candidates? In today’ global marketplace, flexible work arrangements allow employers to hire the most qualified candidates regardless of their geographic location.  This can also expand a company’s market by hiring sales representatives in locations outside of the company’s primary headquarters.
  3. Is employee absenteeism or turnover a problem? Time-based work-life conflicts (such as trying to be in two places at the same time!) increase tardiness and absenteeism – which can ultimately contribute to increased levels of voluntary or involuntary turnover.  Flexible work arrangements provide a win-win in overcoming these staffing challenges.
  4. Are overtime payments decreasing corporate profits? Mandatory overtime is a precursor to poor productivity, decreased quality, and increased levels of burnout.  Through the use of flex-time or shift work, employers can extend their hours of operation without incurring costly overtime payments to nonexempt workers.
  5. Are fixed operational costs skyrocketing? Office space and supplies are expensive.  Through location-based flexible work arrangements, organizations no longer need to provide office space for every employee – which can result in a significant decrease in overhead expenses.
  6. Are you searching for ways to increase revenue and/or profitability? Studies have shown that flexibility enhances employees’ feelings of control because their work arrangement aligns with their hours of peak productivity (the early bird and the night owl).  This greater efficiency and effectiveness can directly influence revenue and profitability.
  7. Is worker productivity hampering efforts to meet market demand? Studies have repeatedly shown that employees who work in a flexible work arrangement tend to be more efficient and productive.  Because workers choose the time and/or location when they work on projects, they can take advantage of the hours in which they are most productive – rather than being constricted to work during standard onsite office hours. Additionally, flexibility changes the way in which employees are managed, from a “face time” to an outcome basis; as a result, workers proactively improve their work habits in order to meet deadlines.
  8. Are your health care costs escalating? Over 90% of patient visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related illnesses or disease.  Flexible work arrangements can mitigate the stressors of fighting rush hour traffic or scrambling to balance work and family obligations.  When stress is decreased, there can be a corresponding decrease in physical ailments (e.g., headaches, compromised immune systems, heart disease, and gastrointestinal problems).
  9. Is compliance with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) an issue? Telework can be a viable reasonable accommodation under the ADA.  NOTE:  Employers will be required to cover any work-related expenses that can result in the employee earning less than minimum wage (and overtime).
  10. Do you want to build employee commitment and loyalty? Even if an employee does not take advantage of a flexible work arrangement, the mere presence of this option has been correlated with higher levels of commitment and loyalty.  This may be due to the belief that the employer genuinely cares about the well-being of their workforce and trusts them to get the job done even if they’re not being “seen” doing their work.

Advantages and Disadvantages of 7 Flexible Work Arrangements

Once you’ve determined that flexible work arrangements can address challenges facing your organization, the next decision is to identify the type(s) of scheduling that will cost effectively achieve your objectives.

In general, workplace flexibility falls into two broad categories:  time-based and location-based.

Time-based flexibility focuses on choosing when you will be working.

  • For full-timers, flex-time gives employees flexibility in terms of their arrival and departure times – usually with a core period in which all employees must be on-site.
  • Compressed work weeks enable workers to complete a standard 40-hour work week in less than the standard 5 days.
  • For part-timers, reduced hour professionals can continue to grow in their careers but permanently reduce their weekly work hours – a distinct difference between temporary or seasonable work options.
  • A hybrid is job sharing, in which two employees divide the duties, responsibilities, and benefits of a single full-time position.

Location-based flexibility allows workers to choose where they will be working.

  • Telework (or telecommuting) is the most common option, allowing employees to work offsite through the use of computers and telecommunications technology. Not only does this expand the candidate pool for certain jobs, but it also allows employees to spend additional hours on time-intensive projects.  NOTE:  There are many legal requirements related to compensation and expense reimbursement for teleworkers, most notably under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – so be sure to review your plan with an employment lawyer.
  • For road warriors, hoteling enables organizations to contract with vendors to provide locations in which their employees can meet with customers and/or conduct any other business function.
  • One of the newest location flexibility options is snowbirding. Given the harshness of many winters in the northern part of the U.S., some organizations (such as CVS Caremark) offer employees the option to temporarily relocate to a company location that is in a warmer region during the winter months.

For more information, download my free chart, FREE CHART: 7 Flexible Work Arrangements:  Advantages and Disadvantages — you’ll also receive access to my weekly eNewsletter, Success @ Work.  

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

 

Efficiency vs. Effectiveness: How Leaders Balance Both (NEW Video)

Efficiency vs. effectiveness:  why is it so hard to have BOTH in today’s hypercompetitive world?

When a company relies exclusively on being efficient, it can result in a culture that is change resistant and focused on maintaining the status quo.  Conversely, focusing exclusively on being effective can lead to constant “tweaking,” missed deadlines, and a tendency to veer off course.

The goal, of course, is to know when to focus on being efficient…and when on being effective.

In this free mini-webinar, I’ll discuss the crucial skills that differentiate efficiency from effectiveness as well as provide tips on the situations that most benefit from each.

The difference between efficiency and effectiveness coincides with the different skill sets of successful managers and leaders.  By developing a balance between these two skill sets, organizations can better innovate and compete in a hypercompetitive world.

FREE COMPANION RESOURCES!  

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 #48 – Identify your life’s purpose

Paradigm Shift

You will always leave a legacy – whether you intend to or not. To intentionally leave a legacy, you must identify and act boldly based on your life’s PURPOSE.

This advice is perennial: success requires that you understand why you are here…at this time…in this place…with these specific talents.  Your legacy is, therefore, the result of the interplay between your internal talents and the external circumstances that create the fabric of your life.

It doesn’t matter whether you believe that this unique amalgamation is random or dictated by a higher power. What matters is that you identify for yourself the “why’s” of your life.

But it is often much easier said than done.

Boldly asserting your life’s “purpose” can be frightening:

  • Will I become so focused on a single goal that I miss out on all the other things that life has to offer?
  • Is it egotistical to believe that I am here for an important reason that can impact society – or even a small portion of it?
  • What if I want to achieve this purpose so badly and commit so many resources to it…then don’t achieve it?

Whether expressed out loud or just simmering in our subconscious, these fears powerfully sabotage our ability to really achieve success on our own terms.

The fear of “missing out”

I am adamantly against the idea that anyone can “have it all” – but I just as adamantly support that you can have what you want.

Several years ago, I was the keynote speaker at a university’s conference on women. My topic focused on transcending the guilt-inducing societal edict that we can – and should! – “have it all.”  Instead, I recommended that we focus on our personal priorities in order to achieve what’s most important to us.

While many of the women agreed with me, I was astounded at the anger and vehemence of a few of the women. In fact, one attendee said that the topic should have been that “Geri Puleo has it all.”

Why did this well-meant advice create such astonishingly diverse reactions?

Having the courage – and, yes, it takes courage – to proclaim what we want and then act accordingly holds a mirror up to our lives. Our actions reflect our priorities even if we profess something entirely different.

Realizing that we can’t “have it all” but that we can “have what we want” is profoundly life-changing.  It takes away the guilt if we don’t try to do everything…for everybody…but often not for ourselves.

This insight also might lead us to take actions that will upset or hurt other people because we may need to say “no” to their requests in order to say “yes” to what we need to do in order to achieve our life’s purpose.

But when we live our lives based on what we believe is our guiding PURPOSE to be here at this time, in this place, and with our unique talents, then saying “no” becomes much easier.

And the people who truly support us – our “tribe” – will embrace us along our journey.

The so-called “egotism” of a higher calling

When we finally muster the courage to define what we want (our life’s purpose) and decide to go for it, we must also let go of that which does not support that purpose.

And when that involves letting go of (or at least distancing ourselves from) certain people, it is far too common for them to demean us in order to assuage their feelings of rejection.

So they call us egotistical. A dreamer.  Unrealistic.  Even a braggart.

Striving for a higher goal, a noble purpose, is life-affirming – even if those who are currently around us try to belittle our ambitions.

Again, it takes courage to live based on a rock solid belief in the PURPOSE of our lives.  This has the effect of propelling us toward people who also live their lives based on a higher calling.

We generally are not “discarding” the people who are currently in our lives (but don’t necessarily support us). Instead we are shifting our relationships with them on a continuum traversing friends who have moved to the periphery of our relationships to those who are toxic and thus no longer a part of our lives.

But, even more importantly, living our lives based on PURPOSE makes us much more compassionate and empathetic toward others. In fact, we tend to be more open and give more of ourselves to those who also want to make a difference – and the probability of supportive reciprocation is vastly increased.

Defining the difference that we want to make – whether it is on a small familial level or on the greater world stage of society – is the essence of identifying the unique purpose of our individual lives.

And there is no egotism in wanting to achieve something that ultimately helps others.

The fear of failure

I really don’t believe that there is an objective difference between a “winner” and a “loser.” The truth as to who “wins” and who “loses” rests solely in the eye of the beholder.

Life is a journey. Anyone who has achieved greatness has also had the gnawing fear of “what’s next” and “how do I top this?”  You still have a life to live after you achieve the goal that you defined as identifying you as a “winner.”

Because life is a journey, living with PURPOSE creates a better sense of balance. Goals become benchmarks on the path to creating an intentional legacy.  If a particular tactic doesn’t achieve a goal related to the overall purpose of your life, then it is much easier to adapt and shift.

The biggest fear comes from not achieving the scope of your life’s purpose.  Maybe you won’t save the world, but your daily actions aligned with your purpose will undoubtedly create small successes and even joy.

There will be challenges, but your journey toward actualizing your PURPOSE will also be energizing and enjoyable – something that you don’t want to “miss out” on. When your purpose is based on a higher noble goal, it is the antithesis of egotism.  And, finally, recognizing that “failure” is really an opportunity to learn creates curiosity and commitment.

Living in alignment with the PURPOSE of your life transcends the siren call of society’s more mundane definition of “success.” Rather than living with fear and second-guessing, a life lived with purpose is a life well lived and produces a sustainable, intentional legacy.

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.

Woo Hoo: My TEDx Talk Passes 62,000 Views on YouTube!

A huge “thank you” to all of you who have watched my TEDx Talk (Burnout v. PTSD:  More Similar Than You Think…) on YouTube – over 62,000 views and 455 likes so far!  Woo hoo!

I have been humbled by the number of emails and comments that I have received as a result of this video.  You have proven to me that I am not alone in my passion to finally eradicate burnout in the workplace.

If you’re experiencing job burnout, please consider participating in the first course in my Online Training Academy:  Job Burnout:  When to Stay, When to Go, What to Do.  This virtual, online workshop will be launching on February 29th.  Please subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss more detailed information and a special one-time discount link for this important workshop.

Once again, thank you for making my TEDx Talk a success!

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a passionate advocate for eradicating burnout in the workplace.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, she is the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc. as well as an author, researcher, and 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 geri@gapuleo.com

Worked to Death: The Physical Consequences of Extreme Burnout

work-til-death-1024x768Karoshi (or “death by overwork”) is real.  It is not some exaggerated description of the exhaustion of burnout, but is a documented, very serious condition that has dire consequences for its victims.

In my training and consulting practice, I’ve heard many people emphatically state that their work is “killing” them. Fortunately, I have not had a client die at his or her desk as a result of severe work overload — even though many experienced chronic or acute physical disease.

But death by overwork is a very real phenomenon.

The term used to describe this condition is “karoshi.”  It is the business counterpart of the Japanese form of suicide called hari-kiri. In fact, karoshi has been recognized as a cause of death in Japan since the 1980s.

This obsessive attitude toward work has been hailed by some critics as the reason for Japan’s high levels of productivity.

Recently in May 2015, the Japanese Prime Minister’s cabinet approved a bill exempting the option of overtime payments to workers who earn more than 10.75 million yen ($88,000 USD) annually. This so-called “no overtime pay bill” focuses more on productivity (rather than work hours) and presumably offers greater flexibility to workers.

But the proposed bill has been met with opposition by critics who argue that the number of overwork-related health problems and deaths could potentially increase if the bill is put into law.

What Does Karoshi Have to Do With American Workers?

Japan’s proposed “no overtime pay bill” is similar to the exempt status of certain workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act – those workers who are paid a salary, meet minimum compensation thresholds, and have duties that fall within the FLSA’s requirements for exemption.

Like exempt employees under FLSA, many Japanese workers perform duties and responsibilities of their jobs via “free overtime.” In other words, they are completing important elements of their jobs but not being compensated for the corresponding hours.

Some studies suggest that Japanese workers tend to work much longer than those in other countries. While 11.3% of U.S. employees work over 50 hours per week, this is only half of the 22.3% of Japanese who log in these long hours. Although official Japanese figures show that there are an average of 400 overwork-related deaths per year, some researchers suggest that the actual numbers could easily approach 20,000.

Read that number again: 20,000 hard working, dedicated, high achieving Japanese employees die from overworking.

Are American workers just as susceptible to death by overwork – or is this exclusively a Japanese phenomenon?

While I wasn’t able to find any research on karoshi per se in U.S. workers, there is some staggering evidence that the typical American “workaholic” is on the path to not only burnout, but also karoshi. (FYI: The term “workaholism” was coined in 1980 – way before the advent of the 24/7 e-leash of emails, texts, and smart phones.)

  • The refrain in many organizations is “time is money.” To stay ahead, employees attempt to work more hours with less sleep, relying on caffeine to overcome the effects of sleep deprivation.
  • There is mounting evidence that information overload, work overload, impossible deadlines, and limited resources have surpassed our human ability to process all this information – we are simply not hardwired to work such long hours without respite.
  • “Vacationitis” is growing as fewer and fewer workers take the vacation days that are owed to them each year. According to the March 2015 Project: Time Off report, over $224 billion of unused vacation time sits on corporate balance sheets. The result? Employee health, happiness, productivity, and performance decline – which leads to lowered overall organizational performance.
  • And for the record, a Japanese worker found slumped over his desk in the morning will trigger a karoshi investigation – yet, if the same situation occurs in the U.S., the cause would be considered to be “heart failure.”

Puleo’s Pointers:  Are You at Risk for Karoshi?

Although my primary area of expertise is workplace burnout, I can’t help but be concerned that a burned out worker can succumb to death by overwork if remedial action is not taken immediately.

If chronic distress precipitates burnout, then a full-blown burnout might easily contribute to karoshi.

Some of the warning signs of burnout are also indicative of karoshi. To avoid both, take corrective action if you experience any or all of the following symptoms:

  • You routinely work more than 60 hours per week.
  • You can’t remember the last time you took a real vacation day that did NOT tether you to the office via an e-leash.
  • You obsessively talk about work – and have trouble discussing or focusing on anything else.
  • You take technology to bed with you.
  • You have trouble sleeping, eating, or communicating.
  • You feel out of control…instead of being the master of your destiny, your work has become an unforgiving master of your time, energy, and resources.

I urge you to take action if you relate to any of these symptoms. Feel free to explore this blog for other articles and mini-webinars on burnout. Also, I will be launching a new series of on-demand workshops focusing on how to overcome and recover from burnout. (For more information, please contact me at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.)

Workaholism, burnout, and karoshi are NOT inescapable byproducts of today’s fast-paced work environment. Actively seek the help that is available so that you can reclaim your energy, creativity, and uniqueness. There will never be another you – don’t let burnout or karoshi shorten your life. Isn’t it time for you to enjoy ALL aspects of your life?

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

Is the 40-Hour Work Week a Distant Memory?

Cats before + after work - CartoonA full-time job in the U.S. traditionally consisted of a 40-hour work week and (with the exception of certain industries) working 9-to-5, Monday through Friday.  Weekends were then free for us to do whatever we wanted – generally things that were not work-related.

As we all know, things have changed…drastically.

According to a Gallup report released in Fall 2014, the average number of hours worked by full-time employees in the U.S. is now 47 hours.  In essence, we’ve expanded our 5-day work week into the equivalent of a 6-day week.

According to Gallup:

  • Only 8% of full-time employees work less than 40 hours
  • 42% work the traditional 40-hour work week
  • 11% work 41 to 49 hours
  • 21% work 50 to 59 hours
  • 18% work a whopping 60+ hours per week – that’s 1 out of every 5 employees!

Half of all full-time employees work over 40 hours each and every week.  Could this be a contributing factor to the high rate of burnout in the workplace?

Is There a Link Between Long Work Hours and Burnout?

Abraham Maslow explored the relationship between long work hours and the individual’s ability to self-actualize (or become the best that he or she could possibly be).  Although we traditionally think that the longer we work, the more likely we are to experience burnout, Maslow argued that this is not always the case.

Maslow found that our level of work-related enjoyment or job satisfaction is significantly related to feelings of happiness, esteem, and the ability to self-actualize.  In other words, if we love what we’re doing, then we don’t mind – and actually enjoy! – the number of hours that we spend doing that job.

Don’t believe me?  Think back to a time when you were fully engaged in an activity and time seemed to “fly by.”  It’s the same experience for people who love their work.

Although the 60-hour work week has long been correlated with a higher propensity to burnout, a new breed of professional seems to dispute this.  This “extreme job holder” is a high achieving, Type A personality who works outrageously long hours and is highly compensated – receiving “over the top” rewards for his or her efforts.  These workers are found in the top 6% of earners.

According to studies by the Center for Work-Life Policy and the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force, 56% of “extreme job holders” work 70 or more hours per week and 9% routinely work over 100 hours per week.

To be considered “extreme,” the job must require working more than 60 hours per week and also meet at least 5 of the following 10 criteria:

  1. Unpredictable flow of work
  2. Fast-paced work under tight deadlines
  3. Inordinate scope of responsibility that amounts to more than one job
  4. Work-related events outside regular work hours
  5. Availability to clients 24/7
  6. Responsibility for profit and loss
  7. Responsibility for mentoring and recruiting
  8. Large amount of travel
  9. Large number of direct reports
  10. Physical presence at workplace at least 10 hours per day

An interesting fact about “extreme job holders” is that they are not forced to work these outrageous hours.  In fact, 66% in the U.S. and 76% internationally work these long hours because they love what they are doing.

But this is definitely not the norm for most workers.  According to Gallup, only 13% of U.S. employees actually enjoys their work!

When you combine long hours spent on duties and responsibilities that you don’t enjoy, then this is a de facto recipe for burnout.

Should U.S. Companies Limit Employee Work Hours (or at Least Give More Paid Time Off)? 

Although extreme job holders seem to reflect Maslow’s concept of self-actualization, many workers are unwilling to sacrifice all other aspects of their lives to a job – especially if it’s a job that they don’t enjoy or one in which they are disrespected, demeaned, or demoralized.

Particularly for these individuals, a cap on the maximum number of hours that their employer can require them to work might be a way to help them avoid burnout.

As many as 134 countries currently have laws stipulating statutory maximum work weeks.  For example, the European Union recommends a 48-hour maximum work week and a minimum daily rest period of 11 hours.  France, Greece, Italy, U.K., the Netherlands, and others subscribe to this 48-hour maximum.

Some countries decreased this maximum even more.  The maximum work week statutes in Austria, Finland, Norway, Poland, and Portugal reduced the week to just 40 hours, while Belgium reduced its maximum work week to just 38 hours.

In marked contrast, the 40-hour work week typical in the U.S. relates only to the number of hours worked before overtime payments kick in for non-exempt workers.  However, there is no federal maximum on the number of hours that a company can require its employees to work.  In many cases, overtime is no longer optional, but mandatory.

In addition, the U.S. is the only developed nation that does not federally mandate paid vacations or even holidays for its workers.  While the average paid time off is only 2 weeks (or 10 work days) in the U.S., this number skyrockets to 20 to 30 days for most other countries.

Paid Vacation Bar Chart - International

Puleo’s Pointers:  Give Employees Time to Re-Energize

With burnout in epidemic proportions, it might be time for companies to take a hard look at the workloads that they are heaping on their employees.

Try putting a cap on the permitted number of hours that an employee (particularly those in the exempt salaried category) can work.  Also, require workers to take the paid time off that is due to them each year.  These can be valuable first steps to overcoming and eventually eradicating burnout in the workplace.

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 #55: Life is about impermanence

Paradigm ShiftNothing is permanent.  But even though we recognize this fundamental truth, we nonetheless are often surprised when things come to an end – or anxious when they don’t come to an end soon enough.

Impermanence is a concept that can be disturbing or even depressing to many people.  After all, we want the good things to continue as long as possible (if not forever).

  • We love the newness and emotional high of a new relationship – yet we are dissatisfied when the newness fades into a predictable routine.
  • We relish the feelings of calm relaxation while on vacation – yet we replace these feelings with anger when we must deal with the backlog of work when we return.
  • We are exhilarated when we are recognized for our professional success – yet we are offended when the people around us forget what we accomplished.

More than anything, we want to be happy in our lives – for as long as possible.  And, for some strange reason, we think (or hope) that bad things won’t happen to us.

Even though we regret the impermanence of the good things in our lives, in the height of a particularly challenging “bad” experience, we forget that “this too shall pass.”  In fact, when it comes to the bad things in our lives, we want them to end – sooner rather than later!

If nothing else, we humans are paradoxical creatures.

When faced with these inevitable challenges, we tend to revert back to the previous good times and then ask ourselves why these “bad” things are happening to us.

But bad things are just as fundamental to life.  In fact, we can’t really cherish the good things in our lives without the counterbalance of the bad.

The good news is that both the good and the bad don’t last forever.  By internalizing this basic truth, Buddhists say that we have the key to happiness, mindfulness, and balance.

When we recognize that life is impermanent, it changes our daily decisions and consequent behaviors.  When we know that nothing is forever, we are not only better able to weather life’s inevitable challenges, but also cherish every moment that we are alive – because we realize that we, too, will come to an end (hopefully later rather than sooner!).

The practice of mindfulness – the act of being present every minute of our lives – dramatically changes the way we live, work, and love:

  • When we recognize that our new relationship will change as time goes on, we better appreciate and are fully present during the good times – we can also bask in the newfound security of growing more comfortable with that person over time.
  • When we acknowledge that our calm feelings on vacation will be challenged when we get back to work, we can make the choice to not get angry about the workload that accumulated during our absence – we can even use our emotional memories of that calm relaxation to take us back into that state even if we are bombarded when we return.
  • When we are humble in addition to being exhilarated when people recognize our professional success, we also acknowledge that memories are short, life goes on, and we need to continue to move forward toward new goals.

Instead of dwelling in the past or dreaming of the future, realizing that life is impermanent helps us to concentrate our minds on the present moment.  Because, after all, the past is but a dream and the future is just an idea, but the present is all that we really have to live our lives to the fullest.

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

Can We Be Happy at Work?

Happiness CartoonThe goal of “being happy” is an ingrained human desire – I’d even call it a hard-wired need.  Not only do we want to be happy in our lives, but we also need to be happy.

Yet happiness seems to elude many of us – even if we have the trappings of what others believe create happiness:  a nice home, a nice car, money in the bank, a good job, and (of course) love.

But as we all know, sometimes what we think will create happiness doesn’t necessarily reflect what actually makes us happy.

Even though we all want to be happy, many of us haven’t truly figured out what “happiness” means to us or the best path to achieve our definition of what it means to “be happy.”

Marketing professionals constantly bombard us with the outer, external, and “tangible” products that they promise will make us “happy.”  Whether it is the latest iPhone or the fanciest pair of shoes, the message is that if we buy these items, then we will finally “be happy.”

But it’s not just “stuff” that we’re told will make us happy.

I’ve recently discovered a fascinating phenomenon in companies that provide services to business owners.  Most of them promise that their product or service – no one else’s! – will finally help us to achieve the success (aka “happiness”) that we want – and deserve! – from our businesses.  What they offer is often a turnkey, “one size fits all” model that may actually conflict with what the business owner actually needs to be “happy” in their business.

I’ve never been a fan of such “cookie cutter” approaches.

Why?  Because I firmly believe that each of us is unique.  Even though we are all humans, our backgrounds, experiences, values, and preferences create very different expectations of what it means when we really are “happy.”

When it comes to happiness, one size doesn’t fit all.

In my research on burnout, I’ve discovered (not surprisingly) that burned out workers are also very unhappy workers.  In fact, burnout tends to turn off our sense of humor – nothing is funny any more and everything is frustrating.

According to George Sand (as quoted in the cartoon above), “There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.”  While we can understand and appreciate this in our personal lives, why does this fundamental insight fly out the window when we go to work?

In other words, why do we tend to manage others in a way that doesn’t address our human need to love and be loved?

Obviously I’m not recommending anything that even hints of sexual love in the workplace.  Sexual harassment and discrimination are not only illegal, but they also reflect anger, resentment, and degradation rather than love.

But healthy, nonsexual expressions of “love” can be shown in numerous ways in the workplace:

  • A simple “thank you” or “great job” for others’ efforts.  Genuine expressions and acts of appreciation are closely related to the positive feeling of love, which is closely associated with feelings of happiness.
  • Empathy and understanding for employees’ competing work-life demands.  The ability to understand and empathize with another’s struggles and joys not only creates positive bonds between people, but we also tend to be happier when we believe that we are understood.
  • Asking for someone’s expertise and input during the planning and implementation phases of a project.  Love and happiness cannot exist in a healthy way unless there is respect between the parties.

We spend the vast majority of our time at work, thinking about work, and actually working.  As a result, our work environment and on-the-job experiences play a huge role in our feelings of overall happiness.

Happy people are rarely burned out.  Perhaps this is because they enjoy the work that they do and they do the work in an environment in which they are appreciated, respected, and valued.

Happiness also rarely exists in a vacuum.  Toxic work situations characterized by politicking, mistrust, disrespect, and behaviors that don’t address the very real emotional needs of the workforce are rarely “happy” places to work.  As a result, those unhappy workers won’t be fully engaged and committed in helping the company achieve its goals.

When a star performer is also an unhappy and burned out worker, you can bet that he or she will soon leave the organization.  When they don’t “feel the love,” they’re destined to find it somewhere else – usually with your competitor.

Maybe it’s time that managers and human resources professionals begin to focus on employee happiness rather than on the nebulous and esoteric concept of “job satisfaction.”  After all, you can be technically “satisfied” at work, but still not really be happy to be there.

Happiness at work creates that added “oomph” that transforms and enhances the way in which we do our jobs.

If you want outstanding performance from your workers, then you need to provide a work environment and culture that constantly reinforce that they are appreciated, respected, and valued.  In this way, you can “show the love” for your workers – which is one step closer to helping them achieve the happiness that they want and need at work.

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 #32: When you say “yes” to one thing, you have to say “no” to something else

Paradigm ShiftOne of the most important paradigm shifts that I have ever made is related to the idea that we can “have it all.”  What I’ve discovered is…we can’t.

Whenever we say “yes” to one thing, we simply have to say “no” to something else.

If we don’t, we are over-extending our resources – physically, emotionally, mentally, and even financially.  As a result, we are much more likely to be unhappy and burned out.

This idea of saying “no” to something because we have already said “yes” to something else is nothing new.  There are many things in life that inherently require us to say “no” to people, activities, or belief systems that are not aligned with what we want.  For example:

  • When we say “yes” to getting married, we (hopefully) say “no” to dating other people.
  • When we say “yes” to losing weight, we say “no” to decadent desserts.
  • When we say “yes” to going back to school, we will find many times when we have to say “no” to going out with friends or having our weekends “free.”
  • When we say “yes” to purchasing a large ticket item, we usually also need to say “no” to spending money on unnecessary “splurges.”
  • When we say “yes” to living a well-balanced life, we have to say “no” to anyone or anything that contributes to a sense of imbalance or dissatisfaction.

It’s all about our priorities.  There are only a limited number of hours in each day.  Each of us has different biorhythms that reflect our “peak” times for getting work done.  We also have a very real, unconditional need for restful sleep so that we can recharge for the coming day.

This balance of work and rest has to be completed every 24 hours each and every day.

In other words, we can’t (and shouldn’t) over-extend ourselves by trying to “do it all.”

By living our priorities, it is much easier to say “yes” to the things that really matter to us – those things that reflect what we want, who we are, and what we believe in.

Saying “Yes” to Everything Actually Means Saying “Maybe” to Most Things

The realization that we can’t “do it all” often invokes fear in many of us.  But fear is not the problem that prevents us from “doing it all.”  The real problem lies in our unrealistic expectations of what we are humanly capable of doing.

High standards are great.  But we can’t – and shouldn’t – try to be superhumans by saying “yes” to everything that comes our way in our personal and professional lives.

By saying “yes” to everything, we are unable to commit fully to any of the things that we said “yes” to.  When we are over-extended, it is highly unlikely that we will sufficiently follow through with any of these commitments.

Life is full of trade-offs.  Living a more well-balanced life is a choice.  It requires us to recognize, respect, and adapt to the fact that we can’t “do it all” and (probably more importantly) don’t try to “do it all.”  Although we can do a lot of things well – we can’t (and shouldn’t) strive for “perfection” in every aspect of our lives.

By saying “yes” to everything, we are actually saying “maybe” to most things.  Instead of being able to commit to excellence in the things that we choose to say “yes” to, we actually commit to mediocrity because our energy and resources are stretched to their limits.  Instead of creating excellence, we succumb to mediocrity by our inability to say “no” to the things that conflict with our priorities.

The power and courage necessary to determine what we choose to say “yes” to comes from identifying and committing to the priorities that are important to us.  It then becomes much easier to say “no” to anything that conflicts with our self-identified priorities.

Saying “no” doesn’t mean that we are “missing out” or short-changing ourselves.  Paradoxically, the more comfortable we are in saying “no” to things, ideas, and people that do not reflect our priorities, the richer, fuller, and more satisfying our lives ultimately become.

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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