A New Way to Work

Success and change without burnout by Dr. Geri Puleo

Archive for the tag “Stress”

5 Myths About Organizational Change

Myth v fact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Instant De-Stresser You Can Do at Your Desk

Breathe etched on stone heart

Breathing is natural.  It’s part of our autonomic nervous system, so we don’t even have to think about it.  But maybe we should consciously focus on our breathing in order to avoid stress and burnout.

Anxiety and stress have interesting effects on the breath.  Since breathing is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, changes in breath will occur automatically without our control.  For example, do you consciously instruct your body to breathe faster when your “fight or flight” response is triggered?  How about if you’re frightened – do you tell yourself to “hold your breath?”

Stress triggers the release of hundreds of different chemicals to surge through your body.  These chemicals create changes in the way that your body is operating so that you are better able to respond to the stressor.

A few years ago, I was co-presenting a workshop on using yoga to avoid workplace burnout.  One of the exercises that I asked participants to do was to take a deep breath.

Sounds easy, right?  But I was amazed at how many people don’t really know how to breathe.

Deep breathing involves using your diaphragm (a muscle located horizontally between your thoracic and abdominal cavities).  As a result, your waist expands out sideways while your lower pelvic belly moves down and out.  This allows you to support your breath – which is why it is the foundation of good singing.

But in the workshop, many of the participant inhaled loudly, scrunched up their shoulders, puffed out their chests…then held their breath.  This is a classic example of shallow breathing.

The Dangers of Shallow Breathing

While deep diaphragmatic breathing can calm you, shallow breathing tends to increase stress and anxiety on a physical level.  One study even indicated that simply changing to a shallow breathing pattern can actually trigger feelings of stress and anxiety (Plarre, Raij, et cl., 2011).

Shallow breathing (or “overbreathing”) is triggered by the “fight or flight” response to a perceived danger.  Even though you may feel like you’re not getting enough oxygen, these short rapid breaths are actually getting too much oxygen into your system.

Let me explain:  The act of breathing enables you to inhale oxygen (which fills your lungs immediately) and exhale carbon dioxide (which takes more time for your body to develop).  This delicate balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide goes out of whack when you’re stressed.

Overbreathing pushes out large levels of carbon dioxide – more carbon dioxide than your body is actually producing.  Because your levels are now lower than normal, your blood’s pH level is increased – which constricts your blood vessels and reduces blood flow to your brain.  As a result, it’s taking longer to bring oxygen to where it’s needed.

Which leads to feelings of needing more oxygen NOW – even though your oxygen levels are probably normal!  This rapid breathing makes you feel worse.  The cure is to slow down your breathing in order to get back in balance (literally and figuratively).

The effects of shallow breathing include:  chest pains, light-headedness, weakness, tingling in the hands/feet/lips, feeling feint, and a rapid heart beat.  If continued for a prolonged period of time, shallow breathing can also contribute to panic attacks.

If left unchecked, shallow breathing can become your accustomed way to breathe – in extreme cases, your body may eventually forget how to breathe in a healthy way.

Re-Learning How to Breathe

Remember those workshop participants who didn’t know how to breathe deeply?  I used a few very simple techniques to help them reconnect with their breath and reduce their stress levels:

Tip #1:  Focus on feeling your breath fill up your belly.  Many of us tend to keep our abdomens tight.  Maybe it’s a conscious effort to look like we have flatter abs.  But it might also be an unconscious physical response to stress.

Tip #2:  Relax your mouth and tongue.  Seriously.  It’s a simple technique that can automatically relax you.  Stress causes many people to tense their jaws, grit their teeth, or even use their tongues to reduce air flow.  Open your mouth slightly and relax – you’ll quickly learn where you are holding your tension.

Tip #3:  Count while you breathe.  One of the most effective techniques that I’ve used to quiet the mind and trigger a sense of calm is to breathe as follows:

  • Before you begin, commit to simply following the flow of breath – inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.
  • To begin, inhale for 1 count; then exhale for 2 counts.
  • Inhale for 3 counts; then exhale for 4 counts.
  • Inhale for 5 counts; then exhale for 6 counts.
  • Inhale for 7 counts; then exhale for 8 counts.
  • Inhale for 9 counts; then exhale for 10 counts.
  • Repeat.

The speed of your counting doesn’t seem to matter; I’ve done it relatively quickly or quite slowly.  Nor is the number of times that you repeat this process set in stone – it really depends on the sense of calm that you experience; generally, I feel much less stressed after 3 or 4 repetitions.

What’s critical is to let your inhalations fully extend down into your diaphragm so that you are breathing deeply.

Tip #4:  Feel with gratitude the life force inherent in your breath.  No, the chi (or qi) life force is not some “New Age-y” psychobabble – it’s just a simple fact:  breath is life.  Consciously taking a moment of simple gratitude for life itself also helps to keep things in perspective and reduce stress.

Breathing can be an instant de-stresser.  It can be done anywhere – in fact, you will be breathing everywhere!  To de-stress, simply take a few moments to focus on the breath and be grateful for its life-giving force.

For more tips on diaphragmatic breathing, check out this 2-minute YouTube video:   https://youtu.be/6UO4PYZ6G98.

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

 

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

Change Resistence in Business

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

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

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

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

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

The Change Resistance Zoo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ostrich

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

5 Quick Tips to Benefit From
the Insights of Change Resistors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

How to Overcome Job Burnout – NEW Online Course!

BANNER - Final

Is your job burning you out – but you can’t decide whether to “tough it out” in your current job OR take the step to find a new job?

  • Does your current job offer security – but you feel like your burnout is literally killing you?
  • Do you want to explore other employment opportunities – but you’re too burned out to harness the energy to take action?
  • Are you afraid of what might happen if you don’t take action to overcome burnout NOW.

What should you do?

To help you decide, I am proud to announce the first course in my new Online Training Academy:  Job Burnout: When to Stay, When to Go, What to Do.

This totally online course is available ON DEMAND, and will help you finally decide:

  • When you should STAY in your current position
  • When you should LEAVE your current position
  • What you can do NOW to overcome burnout

You’ll have full access to each of the 6 modules PLUS downloadable e-workbooks, audiopodcasts, webinars, short readings, Quick Checks, and a private interactive online discussion board – and, yes, I’ll be on the discussions to answer questions and give you even more tips on how to overcome job burnout.

Job Burnout: When to Stay, When to Go, What to Do is on-demand, so it is accessible 24/7 anywhere around the world.  Complete the lessons at your convenience on your computer, tablet, or smart phone.

BONUS:  You’ll have full access to the course for 1 year – absolutely free!

The price for this course is $149 — but I am offering a special limited time discount through April 30, 2016.  Use discount code 70APR2016 and save $70 off the normal $149 price (only $79).

For More Information:  https://app.ruzuku.com/courses/12975/about.

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

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

Why Do YOU “Go to Work?”

Why Work - Stress Enjoy Boredom

Jobs and work:  mostly everyone wants one.  Mostly everyone needs one.  But not everyone is happy or productive in one.  In fact, job stress can be a leading cause of burnout.

In the graphic accompanying this article, a highly skilled individual who is in an unchallenging environment will be bored.

An employee who is challenged beyond his or her skill set (and, I might add, did not receive appropriate or adequate training) will be stressed.

But the worker who has found the perfect balance between his or her skills and the right degree of challenge on the job will most likely be happy and excel.

While I mostly agree with this somewhat simplistic approach to job satisfaction, there is a key consideration that is overlooked:  why exactly are you working in the first place?

The reasons why we go to work are as diverse as the individuals in the workplace.  While the relationship between our skills and the challenges of the job are important, our own personal reasons to “go to work” can have a powerful impact on not only our commitment and performance on the job, but also on our propensity to burnout.

Consider these reasons to “go to work”:

  • Simply to get a paycheck:  There is a strong likelihood that we will do the bare minimum that is required on the job – and we’ll probably be the first ones out the door at quitting time.
  • We “have to” (even though it bores us):  Boredom can arise because our skills are higher than what is needed on the job OR we view the work as comprised of routine, mind-numbing tasks.  It is almost inevitable that we will display “presenteeism” on the job – we’re at work, but we’re not really “there.”
  • We like our coworkers:  Because we are human beings, it is impossible to separate the relationships that we have with the people in our work environments from our satisfaction or dissatisfaction in the job.  But even though our relationships might be super, if the job itself doesn’t align with our career goals and aspirations, then we will ultimately have a nagging sense that “something is missing.”
  • Our job aligns with our professional goals BUT it is an unethical or poorly led company:  In this situation, we may simply be going to work in order to get the paycheck – but the building stress generally causes us to eventually believe that no amount of money is sufficient to keep us.  But until we find another employer, our stress levels build from the cognitive dissonance between what we believe is right and the environment that thwarts our good intentions.
  • We believe in the purpose and mission of the organization:  There is a greater tendency to commit more of ourselves to the job – in other words, the organizational vision is aligned with our personal values so we believe that our work has a meaning beyond a paycheck.

These are just a few examples of reasons why some of my clients have “gone to work” – as well as some reasons why they left their employers.

Understanding why you, your colleagues, or subordinates come to work each day provides a profound insight into the best ways to motivate and lead them to their fullest potential.  And when employees excel in their jobs, then the company overall reaps the rewards of higher productivity, better customer service, and greater employee commitment and loyalty.

Puleo’s Pointers:  Understanding the Reasons Why We Work 

As a career consultant for many years, I have often been surprised when I’ve asked clients about their career histories:  why they are in their current field, what they want to accomplish, and what they are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve their goals.

Their responses have often surprised me – primarily because many individuals (whether in entry-level or senior positions) often don’t have clear-cut answers to these questions.  They were quite capable of explaining their career history in terms of projects or events.  They could easily express aspirations about their futures in their fields.  But they were often stopped short when trying to identify what they were willing to sacrifice in order to reach those goals.

Once we understand the sacrifices necessary to achieve future goals, we get a better understanding of why we are working in the first place.

For example, let’s say that you aspire to a senior level position entailing extensive travel and long work hours BUT your reason for working is to provide a better life for your family.  The key is to understand specifically what “a better life” means to you:

  • If “a better life” solely means providing material comfort for your family, then you’ll probably do well in this type of position.
  • However, if “a better life” means spending quality time (i.e., fully present and engaged) with your family, then the demands of this job contradict your real reasons for working.
  • When the demands of your job contradict your real reasons for working, then stress and burnout are the likely results.

Finding a job and career that reflect your personal goals and values is critical in creating the life that you want – your job then becomes a powerful reflection of who you really are.  Unfortunately, far too many people are in jobs that frustrate, anger, or even demoralize them.  The only reason that they “go to work” is because they “have to” (usually for financial reasons).

A recent study revealed that 80% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs even though we spend an average of 90,000 hours “at work” during our lifetimes – that’s a lot of hours that cannot be replaced.  To avoid being part of this unhappy 80%, take the time to fully understand what you expect from a job and what you are willing to sacrifice in return:

  • Do the hours you spend at work reflect your own personal goals and ambitions – or is it time spent doing something that you hate in an uncomfortable environment?
  • Is work a “means to an end” – and is it really contributing to your desired end goal?
  • Finally, does your work make you feel good and proud at the end of the day?  If not, maybe it’s time to reflect on why you’re working in this particular job, in this particular company, and in this particular way – know when it’s time to move on.

Understanding and acting upon our answer as to why we go to work is fundamental to avoiding burnout.  Not only are we better able to create a new, more productive, and satisfying way to work, but also a richer, more enjoyable, and more fulfilling life as a whole.

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 #16: Know when to walk away

Paradigm ShiftIn the song The Gambler, Kenny Rogers advised, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.”

If you are a Type A personality, a perfectionist, or a high achiever, heeding this advice can be very difficult.  Instead, we try to “make it happen” – trying to force a “win” out of a losing hand.

I admit that I’ve succumbed to this entirely too often, usually for one of the following reasons:

  • Trying to change people’s minds that our point of view is the “right way”
  • Rationalizing other people’s behaviors as the result of a lack of knowledge, rather than a difference in motivation or ethics
  • Staying in a situation that simply isn’t achieving the necessary results because we’ve already invested so much time and resources

Often we perceive this inability to walk away as tenacity and stick-to-itiveness.  To walk away is the equivalent of being a quitter – something that contradicts the values of Type A’s, perfectionists, and high achievers.

But knowing when to walk away should be equated with the ability to fearlessly assess the ROI (return on investment) of the situation.  This ROI is not necessarily just related to financial considerations, but also to the emotional, physical, and stressful fallout of continuing to stay in a losing situation.

How to Know When to Walk Away:  I am not advocating that we “jump ship” at the first obstacle relating to the situation.  However, I am suggesting that the only way to know when to walk away is to first identify the desired outcomes of the situation.

By understanding what we want to achieve in a given situation, it becomes much easier to determine whether the current strategy or actions are contributing to the desired outcome.  If the intended results are not being achieved, ask yourself two questions:

  1. What am I currently doing that is affecting this outcome?  (Be honest:  it is very easy to feel like a victim.)
  2. What is currently occurring in the environment that is affecting this outcome?  (These factors might be easily seen or might require some “digging” to disclose.)

Once these questions have been answered, then it is time to decide between three options:

  • Option #1:  Should I “tough it out” by continuing on the current course?  This is a viable alternative when an evaluation of external factors reveals a more desirable trend that will affect our desired results.  Some things just take time to achieve.
  • Option #2:  Should I change what I am currently doing so that it is more conducive to achieving the desired results?  While we cannot control external factors, we always have the power to choose the actions that we take.  The key is to critically, objectively, and fearlessly assess whether our current actions are taking advantage of what is going on around us:  if the alignment between our actions and environmental factors is good, then “tough it out” – but if our actions are undermining our results, then it is time to change what we are doing.
  • Option #3:  Should I walk away from the current situation AND move forward to something more positive?  A very good friend of mine once sagely advised that, “Sometimes you just gotta punt.”  Maybe the timing isn’t right for the results that we want.  Maybe the environment just isn’t receptive to what we are trying to achieve.  Or maybe we no longer really want what we previously wanted.  If any of these situations applies, then it’s time to walk away.  Walking away in these situations does not characterize us as quitters, but rather as people who courageously know when to say “no” and move on to a more positive situation.

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

Link Found Between Long Work Hours and Alcohol Use: Result of Burnout’s False Cure?

Alcohol drinks

A new study published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) discovered an association between “risky” drinking behaviors (defined as more than 14 drinks per week for women and more than 21 drinks per week for men) and working over 48 hours per week.

According to this meta-analysis of published and unpublished data on over 430,000 participants across 14 countries, “risky” drinking is 13% more likely to occur in employees who work more than 48 hours per week compared to those who work 35-40 hours per week.

While many of us are not surprised by these findings, scholarly journals such as the BMJ present scientific research to conclusively prove the existence of assumed correlations between events and outcomes.  In other words, statistical proof supports what has been anecdotally observed.

There are two issues arising from the BMJ report:  (1) the ideal number of work hours per week for effective performance and (2) the correlation between work hours above this ideal number and the increased use of alcohol as a stress reliever.

To many of us in the U.S., a 35-40 hour work week is often considered to be insufficient to meet the high demands and workloads associated with our jobs – particularly for salaried exempt workers who are not eligible for overtime under FLSA.  In sharp contrast, the European Union Working Time Directive for 2014 now requires all EU countries to limit workers’ hours to an average of 48 hours per week, including overtime.

Secondly, as in many studies, alcohol use is generally self-reported.  The question, of course, is how many people use alcohol as a coping mechanism and don’t acknowledge it?

I have been commenting for several years about the perceived increased use of alcohol by stressed out, overworked, and burned out workers.  In my own research on burnout during organizational change, women were much more likely than men to talk about their use of alcohol as an attempt to deal with burnout.  Based on follow-up research, I discovered that much of the alcohol use was under-estimated by participants – their actual alcohol consumption was generally much higher.  Using alcohol to cope with stress is a “false cure.”

The “False Cures” of Burnout

When Freudian psychoanalyst Herbert Freudenberger identified the burnout phenomenon in his patients in the 1970s, he also warned of the use of “false cures” to ward off the effects of burnout.  In addition to increased alcohol use, burned out individuals also reported increased use of prescription and nonprescription drugs, smoking, sexual activity, over- or under-eating, and workaholism.

These activities are considered to be “false cures” because they aren’t effective in either avoiding or overcoming burnout.  In fact, these false cures may actually increase the severity of burnout symptoms.

Burnout’s false cures have been correlated with a wide variety of negative health consequences, including coronary heart disease and cancer.  Increased alcohol consumption, in particular, has been linked to liver disease as well as mental disorders.

Although the BMJ study did not specifically look at increased alcohol use in relation to workplace burnout, I see a logical connection between “risky” drinking behavior and burnout resulting from longer work hours, larger workloads, and higher levels of stress in the workplace.   Therefore, could the BMJ study’s correlation between risky alcohol consumption and longer work hours also provide substantial evidence of an increase in workplace burnout?

Puleo’s Pointers:  Swapping Proactive Methods for the False Cures of Burnout

Unfortunately, the excessive use of alcohol as a coping mechanism for stress appears to be gaining acceptance in many workplaces – particularly those that espouse a “work hard, play hard” culture.  But the short- and long-range effects can create devastating consequences for not only the individual worker, but also the company has a whole.

My B-DOC Model provides insights as to how people have emerged from burnout without succumbing to its false cures.  These methods can provide some alternatives to using alcohol as a way to not only combat the debilitating feelings of burnout, but also move forward in a more healthy way.

Since everyone is different, your particular strategy to recover from burnout might include one or more of these options.  Unlike the more reactive and ineffective “false cures” identified by Freudenberger, each of the nine methods in the B-DOC Model represents an effective, proactive technique for recovery.

BDOC - Recovery

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

Why People Leave Their Careers: The Connection Between Career Change, Organizational Change, and Burnout

Figure decidingHave you ever known anyone who “suddenly” quit their jobs and the careers that they spent years developing?  Did they leap into the unknown even though they didn’t really know what they wanted to do next?

Has this ever happened to you?

Many people change jobs due to downsizing, the completion of advanced degrees, or changes in one’s personal life.  It is a natural next step and is cause for celebration.  However, this does not address the millions of workers who “suddenly” quit even if they haven’t planned a logical next step.

Based on my career consulting practice as well as the experiences of my friends and peers, many workers are taking this dramatic step in their careers.  The question is “why?”

  • Are American workers expecting “too much” from their work experiences?
  • Are companies providing insufficient resources and recognition to help employees meet an ever-increasing list of job demands?
  • Is the stress of working in the modern workplace reaching such a critical level that workers must choose between a job’s financial security and their own emotional and physical health?

These “sudden” career changes are often met with shock, fear, and even anger – by both the individual as well as his or her colleagues, peers, family, and friends.  But the “suddenness” of the change is actually the result of a series of events that built up to the proverbial breaking point.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the average U.S. worker will have 7 careers in his or her lifetime.  Not jobs – but careers.  This means that most workers will only be with an employer for approximately 4 to 5 years.  Interestingly, Kotter & Schlessinger (1979) found that companies undergo change initiatives at the same rate.

Is there a connection?

In my research on burnout during organizational change, over 92% of my participants changed jobs as a result of the burnout that they experienced during their employer’s change initiative.  50% changed industries or careers in an attempt to avoid additional burnout.

Even as employers attempt to better “engage” their workers, they continue to downsize, rightsize, outsource, and offshore.  Considering that 70% of change initiatives fail, is it any wonder that employees choose to “jump ship” rather than continue to experience the emotional, psychological, and physical effects of stress and burnout?

Puleo’s Pointers:  Shifts to Help You Better Navigate Constant Change

The lack of corporate stability and employee loyalty is a critical component of the modern workplace – but this reality is often ignored by employers and their workers.  To better navigate this era of constant, unrelenting change requires a shift in our assumptions, perceptions, and expectations.  Here are 3 ideas to help get you started:

  1. Recognize that change is the new status quo.  Don’t expect that either your business or job will remain the same.  Rather than viewing change as something to avoid, re-frame change as something that is an invigorating opportunity to learn something new.  This simple shift will help increase your confidence and feelings of control in response to both small and large changes.
  2. Specifically identify your priorities in terms of work-life commitments.  If you are an individual, understand what you can comfortably give to a job so that you also have time and energy for a personal life.  If you are responsible for business strategy, recognize the effects on the bottom line that are the direct results of employee creativity, enthusiasm, and commitment – are your expectations and performance standards creating an environment that is “employee-friendly?”
  3. Plan for change.  One of the biggest challenges to burned out workers who desperately want to leave their jobs is that they simply don’t have time to launch a job search.  Try spending 10 minutes a day thinking about what you want in terms of job responsibilities and work environment.  Not only will you feel that you have greater control over your professional life, but your energy will increase as you make you a priority in your daily activities.  If you are planning an organizational change, don’t forget to include the “soft metrics” or the human side of your change initiative when calculating the costs, benefits, and probability of success.

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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