What To Do When Your Boss Is Unethical

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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

Why Burnout Is NOT Inevitable

Burnout Bundle - Logo

Burnout has become rampant in the modern workplace. As the demands on our time, creativity, and problem-solving capabilities increase, this creates a stressor-rich environment that can contribute to burnout.

Even though our professional and personal lives have become increasingly hectic, time-consuming, and stressful, we DON’T have to become victims of this stress by succumbing to burnout.

IMPORTANT: Burning out does NOT mean that you have a maladaptive response to stress! In fact, I’ve found that it is the combination of three factors that create a fertile environment for the onset of burnout. This Burnout Triumvirate is comprised of personality traits, the organizational work environment, and physical symptoms.

Personality Traits. No two people are identical in their response to an external stressor. Therefore, understanding what causes YOU to experience negative stress is the first step in avoiding potential burnout-producing situations.

  • Are you a perfectionist with high standards that exceed what is necessary to get the job done?
  • Are you a people-pleaser who can’t seem to say “no” to the demands and requests of others?

Organizational Environment. Just as no two people are the same, no two work environments will create the same set of stressors that can lead to burnout.

  • How is your relationship with your immediate supervisor or boss? Is it autocratic, laissez-faire, or collegial?
  • What are the unspoken requirements for success in your workplace? Are long hours demanded? Is it necessary to curry political favors in order to get ahead?

Physical Symptoms. Finally, prolonged experiences of negative stress are manifested in a wide variety of physical malaise — both chronic and acute — that contribute to and maintain burnout.

  • Do you have a cold that you just can’t seem to get rid of? Gastrointestinal problems? A general feeling of being unwell?
  • Are you having difficulty getting a good night’s sleep — either failing to fall asleep or continuously waking up during the night?

By understanding your unique burnout triggers, you can not only overcome a current burnout but also take proactive steps to avoid burning out in the future.

Because my mission is to eradicate workplace burnout, I’ve expanded upon my research-based findings in an on-demand eCourse to help stressed out workers achieve greater productivity, work-life balance, and job satisfaction through recognizing, overcoming, and avoiding burnout.  P.S.: You can save $15 by using the coupon code BURNOUT15.

How to Avoid Burnout

Denial is one of the most difficult challenges associated with burnout. This is why it is so important to identify the types of situations or relationships that tend to be most stressful to you AND become crystal clear as to the personality traits that make you more susceptible to burnout.

While it’s always best to prevent burnout from occurring, you also need to have a clear action plan that will enable you to identify your personal warning signs that “routine” stress is moving toward burnout. In addition to sleep problems, you might notice that it is taking you longer to complete projects or that you’ve become cranky with your coworkers and family. You might even notice that you’ve lost your sense of humor!

It’s also important to bring subconscious self-talk to the forefront. In other words, what are you saying to yourself that can increase the likelihood of burnout AND keep you burned out? (HINT: One of the most common self-talk loops that sustains burnout focuses on the belief that “It should have been different.”)

It’s always best to take remedial action before you are in a full-blown burnout — but watch out for burnout’s false cures! These are the tactics used to assuage your stress (such as alcohol consumption or even spending more time at work), but that ultimately end up increasing your stress levels.

When you are on the road to burnout recovery, there is still one additional but powerful obstacle that can undermine your progress: residual burnout. Similar to a boomerang effect, residual burnout can be triggered by any situation that is reminiscent of what contributed to your burnout. While you might not succumb to a full-blown burnout, residual burnout can increase the levels of frustration, anger, and apathy that precipitate burnout.

The good news is that there ARE proven techniques to help you decrease stress and overcome burnout! These include common techniques (such as exercise, therapy, and a support network) to some not-so-common strategies that include embracing the changes that precipitated burnout and shifting your attention (and energy!) to something more positive.

I hope that this article provided you with some ideas to overcome burnout. I’d love to have you join us in my companion eCourse — How to Manage Stress and Avoid Burnout.

This 10-lesson eCourse dives into the personality traits, organizational environment, and physical problems that contribute to and maintain burnout. It is mobile-friendly and includes videos, articles, audiopodcasts, workbooks, quick quizzes, and a private community discussion forum to help you manage stress and avoid burnout. Don’t forget to use the special code BURNOUT15 to save $15 when you register!

eCourse registration is on a rolling basis, so you can begin the training whenever it best fits with your calendar. To learn more, please click here or go to https://app.ruzuku.com/courses/28192/about.

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.  

Knowing Is Not Enough

Burnout Bundle_ Lesson 8 - Knowing is not enough

On some level, we all know what we need to do in order to succeed.  We’ve taken the courses, attended the lectures, listened to the podcasts…but somehow we tend to stay “stuck.”

Creating the necessary changes in our lives requires the decision to make those changes.  That means pushing down our fears and deciding that we will implement what we’ve learned — and learn from what we’ve implemented.

And therein lies the rub:  we know what we need to do…but we don’t always apply what we’ve learned.

Perhaps it is the fear of failure — or even the fear of success.

Perhaps it is that we have a high-level understanding of what to do — but lack the specific tactical steps to transform that knowledge into action.

Success in life comes down to the willingness to take action.

But today’s hyperactive, fast-paced, 24/7 world makes demands on our time and thwarts our best efforts to do what we know needs to be done.

So, we need to develop achievable plans with “wiggle room” embedded within them.  In this way, we avoid the snowball effect of too aggressive planning that leads to a cavalcade of missed deadlines.

We need to develop habits that can carry us through when our willpower might be lacking.

We need to get enough sleep and avoid burnout so that we can not only do what needs to be done, but also enjoy the fruits of our efforts.

And we need to care enough about ourselves to do not only what will make us happy, but also create success on our own terms.

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

Wasting Time on the Urgent…But Forgetting the Important

“Busy-ness” occurs when we react to looming deadlines and crises around us.  The problem is that we often “forget” to take action on the things that are most important to us.  When we procrastinate, important tasks become urgent — leading to unmet goals and burnout.

This 12-minute video explores how procrastination takes us away from our priorities, then provides 4 ways to achieve goals with less stress by focusing on the important and minimizing the urgent.

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

Why It’s Time to Put an End to “Busy-ness”

Pet Hamster Holding A Blank  Sign

Is your business life burning you out – or is it the constant “busy-ness” that’s exhausting you? Is there REALLY a difference?!

Simply stated, YES. There is a critical difference that is based on the priorities that you use to determine your daily activities.

While it is noble, worthwhile, and even essential to actively participate in the strategic planning and daily operations of your professional life, don’t let your attempts to meet the demands of your business fall prey to “busy-ness.”

“Busy-ness” is analogous to a hamster constantly running on a wheel – but ultimately not getting any farther ahead. Still stuck on the wheel in its cage, the hamster nonetheless continues to do the same thing regardless of the result.

While the hamster might be enjoying the run, a business professional rarely sees the lack of movement as a good thing. Put another way, busy-ness is frantically treading water just to stay afloat.  

No One Consciously Strives for a Life of Busy-ness 

People generally like to see progress, results, or achievement. If you’re collapsing from exhaustion at night (but feel like your progress or results don’t match your effort), then you are a candidate for energy sapping “busy-ness.”  But why?

A life of busy-ness often results from a lack of priorities or time management. Let me explain.

While we all have worthwhile goals that we generally want to achieve, it is far too common for days, weeks, months, or even years to pass by with little or no progress toward their attainment. Because our priorities determine our actions, our REAL priorities are found in what we spend the most time doing.

This is closely akin to time management – which requires prioritization as the foundation of how we structure our days and lives.

I know what you’re thinking:

“You don’t understand!
I have work responsibilities AND personal responsibilities.
People depend on me – and I’m only one person trying to do it all!” 

This is the definition of crisis management – and crisis management is a contributing factor to burnout. Think of it this way: if you’re burned out, how are you going to have the energy to help anybody else – not even yourself?

But most of us DO have these competing priorities. The challenge is how to manage them.

The Culprits of Busy-ness

We don’t intentionally over-schedule our lives — that is, leaving NO time out between our actions to take of all these competing demands.  But we do have to recognize the insidious culprits that create a life of busy-ness.

#1 – Meetings. While some might be necessary, the purpose of many is just showing up. Does anybody really know what the meeting’s purpose is? Or what the desired outcomes are? Or why we’ve even been invited to attend in the first place? But standing meetings and ad hoc meetings are often time wasters that drain time away from the more important duties and responsibilities. As a result, the busy-ness leads to constantly playing “catch up.”

#2 – The Rush of Activity. Being busy feels good – but only if we are also being productive. Doing “stuff” that is unimportant or mindless can be a respite from an over-scheduled life. But when we have nothing to show for our effort of constant motion and activity, it’s a short skip over to resentment. The unfocused activities inherent in busy-ness are NOT productive action.

#3 – Perfectionism. Perfectionists are notorious for creating additional “must do’s” on their “to do” lists. Coupled with a belief that “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself,” perfectionists tend to subvert their priorities due to the constant struggle to do it all. Perfectionists fundamentally don’t trust other people to do what they say they are going to do OR do it in a way that meets the perfectionist’s high standards. Perfectionists may feel a sense of omnipotence even though their overscheduled calendars prevent them from meeting their true goals due to busy-ness.

#4 – Avoidance and Procrastination. Be honest: do you really want to clean the garage? Or tackle that monstrous report? Or deal with the communication problems in your team? Probably not. But the pervasive Puritan work ethic compels us to do something because we can’t just do nothing! So, we do the easy stuff. The mindless stuff. The stuff that takes time…but isn’t really that important. Then, when we miss the deadline of the avoided behemoth, we can honestly assert that we simply didn’t have the time – we were “too busy” with the other stuff.

#5 – The Absence of Planning. I once saw a cartoon where an employee was sitting quietly at his desk. When his boss asked him what he was doing, he replied that he was thinking – to which the boss replied, “Well quit thinking and get back to work!” In the cultures of many modern workplaces, thinking and planning are the equivalent of day dreaming – but activity of any kind is considered to be working! Unfocused activity that is done simply for the sake of doing something is busy-ness – and investing time in the unimportant is the result of poor planning.

3 Tips to Replace Busy-ness with Focused Action 

Instead of succumbing to action for its own sake, take a moment to decide what is truly important to YOU. What are the things that you need to do in order to create the legacy that you want to leave?  Remember:  you will leave a legacy even if you aren’t intentionally trying to do so.

Next, take stock of your weekly responsibilities in both your professional and personal lives. Estimate the amount of time that you think you need to complete each project – then be sure to include some “wiggle room” for unanticipated glitches or interruptions!

Finally, decide which projects must be completed by only you versus which can be delegated to others.  When delegating, even if they might not be able to do it as “perfectly” as you would like, you need to determine whether this level of perfection is actually required in order to achieve the goal).

Being busy in activities that bring you joy and lead to your desired goals creates the path toward actualizing your legacy. Plus you’ll be more energized and self-actualizing.

In contrast, permitting yourself to be victimized by a life of busy-ness leads only to exhaustion, regret, and resentment.

You DO have the power to give up busy-ness and get back on the track to the business of your life. All it takes is the courage and commitment to live your life by your priorities.

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

Acceptance Can Overcome Consequences

Burnout Bundle_ Lesson 3 - Acceptance of what has happened

Acceptance is the first step to letting go of the past…and moving forward into the future.

Many of us are resilient enough to accept our contributions to a negative outcome — in fact, we may berate ourselves for our missteps. Such “guilt trips” only keep us rooted in the past and prevent us from harnessing our creativity to try something new in order to create a more happy and fulfilling future.

But even more challenging than these self-imposed “guilt trips,”  I’ve found that it is much more difficult to accept consequences that have befallen upon us when they are the results of other people’s actions OR inaction.

Once again, we stay rooted in the past as we try to understand why they did what they did — we do this in order to identify what happened so that we can avoid it in the future.  The problem is that it can be impossible to truly understand what motivated someone else’s behavior:  there are often contributory factors of which we are and will always be unaware.

To accept what has happened in our lives requires that we accept — without bias, blame, or guilt — where we are RIGHT NOW.  Even if it’s not where we wanted to be.  Acceptance means viewing our present situation without blinders…without anger…without self-guilt.

Acceptance is the seed of hope.

By not accepting what has happened, we give away our power to choose how we will move forward and out of the consequences that we are currently experiencing.  Just like we always have the power to choose, so too do we also always have the power to accept.

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