A New Way to Work

Success and change without burnout by Dr. Geri Puleo

Archive for the tag “work-life balance”

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

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

Spiraling Downward: The Path to Burnout During Organizational Change

As I mentioned last week, I inadvertently became a case study over the last year in my on-going research into what causes and maintains employee burnout during organizational change.  Even though I had worked as an adjunct prior to accepting a full-time faculty position at this university, I was unprepared for the radical difference in expectations required to teach there.  Coupled with constantly changing requirements and standards set by the university, I felt like I had absolutely no control over what I taught, how I taught, or even where I taught.

As a high achiever, I consequently have high standards – but these standards could not be met even by working 7 days a week, 50-60 hours per week, and constantly thinking about what still had to be done even when I wasn’t working.  Is it any surprise that I felt burned out?

In 2011, based on extensive research and interviews with burned out workers, I created the Burnout During Organizational Change Model (B-DOC ,for short) to help understand what causes and maintains employee burnout during organizational change.  This is what burnout “looks like” – and I proved it in my own experience:

BDOC Model

© 2011 G. A. Puleo, all rights reserved

As you can see from this model, the path to burnout tends to be much steeper and quicker than the journey to overcome it.  Although nobody takes a job with the intention of burning out, workers who burn out during organizational change initiatives tend to follow this same pattern.

  • Ironically, burnout begins with hope.  It’s a new job, a new adventure, and a chance to learn new things.  But, probably more than anything else, the job is often seen as a chance to make a difference.
  • I found both in my research and my own experience that a variety of organizational factors leads to frustration in what were originally hopeful and committed workers.  (More about these specific organizational factors in a later post.)
  • As the environment continues to undermine or thwart the employee’s actions to do their jobs well, it’s not surprising that anger (either expressed or internalized) emerges.
  • Since being angry is not a good way to live your life, my participants and I both eventually quit caring – but apathy is the immediate predecessor to burnout.  In many ways, no longer caring was literally the only way to survive the stress.
  • The culmination of this downward spiral is burnout.  No matter how burnout was defined by those who experienced it, the results were the same:  the initial hope was extinguished and all that was left were the burnt embers of what was once a committed employee.

How long did this descent take?  About 6 months for change targets like me.  (Since I was a new full-time faculty member, I was not part of the leadership that was planning and directing the continuous changes.)

To overcome the burnout and arise from its smoldering ashes, the #1 strategy used by my participants as well as me was to psychologically remove ourselves from the stressful environment.  We still came to work, we still did our jobs, but we no longer cared passionately about meeting the unreasonable expectations or going the extra mile (because our efforts were not appreciated).

For most of, psychological removal was followed by attempts to physically remove themselves from the workplace.  In my case, a reduction in force changed my status to adjunct – a lot less classes, but a lot less pay.  According to my research, nearly all of my participants (over 90%) eventually left their employers as a result of their burnout (either voluntarily or involuntarily).

These psychological and physical removals represent the darkness before the dawn.  Many burned out workers acknowledged that once they had removed themselves (either psychologically or physically) from their stressful work situations, self-knowledge and acceptance were the unanticipated “gifts” of their burnout.

CAUTION:  The burnout cycle doesn’t end there.  To fully recover from the effects of burnout requires the creation of a personal revised psychological contract with work.  After burning out, people who have taken the time to acknowledge and accept what happened will draw distinct lines in the sand as to what they will and will not do for an employer.  There is a better understanding of what is essential for one’s success on the job.  Perhaps most importantly, the “deal breakers” have become visceral and this emotional context provides a stalwart determination to never tolerate such treatment in future work situations.

I proved my B-DOC theory in my experience as a full-time faculty member at this university.  However, neither I nor any other worker recovering from burnout is “out of the woods” yet:  any situation can trigger residual burnout in which we can rapidly move back into any of the previous stages of descent (frustration, anger, apathy, and even a new round of burnout).

My goal for this year is to move forward and, by sharing my experiences of burnout during transformational organizational change with you, I hope to give you some ideas to move beyond burnout, too.

Working Wisdom: Every Minute Has the Power of Choice

Between stimulus and response, there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
– Stephen Covey

Life should not be a series of knee jerk reactions to the stuff that happens to us.  When things become chaotic, when we have too many responsibilities and deadlines, we can turn into robots that simply bounce around like bumper cars — with no direction, no balance, no satisfaction.  I’ve found that by focusing on that miraculous moment between an exhalation and an inhalation I can regain my ability to choose.  It’s a way of reconnecting with what really matters.  And when we consistently focus on what really matters, then we create for ourselves the opportunity for not only growth, but ultimately freedom.  We don’t have to bounce around aimlessly.  Within every breath, there’s the chance to choose our response to any given stimulus.  What a relief!

Working Wisdom uses my favorite quotes to think about work in a new way.

Working Wisdom: Life Is One Indivisible Whole

One man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department.  Life is one indivisible whole. 
– Gandhi

Balance and authenticity: it’s what I strive for every waking moment.  Unfortunately, the politics of “business as usual” often challenge these virtues.  The pragmatism of the ends justifying the means seems to be replacing ethical integrity.  The financial bottom line dominates and destroys the morale and creativity of the workforce.  Technology’s e-leash controls workers – instead of the other way around.  I agree with Gandhi that segregating your values into different, discrete environments is impossible.  If you act ruthlessly in business, I don’t believe that you can act compassionately at home.  We can’t turn it on and turn it off.  Perhaps the foundation of a new way to work is to realize that work life, home life and spiritual life are irrevocably intertwined.  All these lives create the one indivisible whole of who you are.

Working Wisdom uses my favorite quotes to think about work in a new way.

Working Wisdom: Are You Focusing on the Things That Matter Most?

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least
– Goethe

At the end of the day, how much time and energy have you spent on the things that are really important to you?  If you’re like most of us, the pressing urgency of unimportant distractions often interrupts our best intentions to focus on the important.  Life is too short.  Taking time for those people and activities that are important to us is not being selfish – it is a necessary practice that leads to greater joy arising from helping others.  Think about it:  at the end of our lives, what’s really important is the time and attention that we’ve spent the majority of our time focusing on the things that matter most, rather than those that matter least.

Working Wisdom uses my favorite quotes to think about work in a new way.

Working Wisdom: Is Apathy the Worst of All Evils?

Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all – the apathy of human beings.  
– Helen Keller (1880-1968), from her book “My Religion” (1927).  

Apathy precedes burnout.  As workers descend the burnout spiral, their original hope deteriorates into frustration, anger and apathy before burning out.  Why does someone no longer care?  Change is a double-edged sword:  the paradox of the excitement in the challenge and the fear of the unknown.  When company leaders ignore the emotionally draining challenges that accompany their workers’ attempts to embrace and implement the changes, once-committed workers feel devalued and depersonalized.  Overwhelmed, they retreat into apathy as a defense against the increasing stress.  All change is emotionally charged.  The stress can only be alleviated by actively embracing the humanity of those asked to change.  Science will not find the cure for apathy – but humanism can.

Working Wisdom uses my favorite quotes to think about work in a new way.

Working Wisdom: Your Response to Stress Determines Your Outcome

It is how people respond to stress that determines whether they will profit from misfortune or be miserable. 

– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990)

A stressor doesn’t necessarily lead to stress.  Surprised?  It’s because a stressor is simply an external condition or event – while stress is an internal reaction that may or may not occur in response to a stressor.  Our perception, therefore, becomes our reality.  The likelihood that a stressor will lead to feelings of unease is determined by our interpretation, perception and reaction to it.  A stressor in and of itself is not predictive of the outcome.  When something ‘stressful’ happens, do you characterize it as a catastrophe or a failure?  What about redefining it as an opportunity to learn or as an exciting possibility?  Our attitudes toward a stressful situation will determine the emotions and behaviors of our response – which, in turn, will set the stage for the ultimate outcome.  Will you be miserable – or make lemonade out of lemons?  The choice is yours.

Working Wisdom uses my favorite quotes to think about work in a new way.

Working Wisdom: The Heart of Business

Only do what your heart tells you. – Princess Diana 

Mankind is a thinking species, but also an emotional one.  This fact is often overlooked in today’s hyperactive, quantitative business environment.  Critical analysis, measurement and judgment are necessary “hard skills” of business – but they are insufficient.  “Hard skills” don’t lend themselves to innovation nor do they provide the fertile ground for insights and gut feelings that may defy linear logic.  To break out of the box requires vision, courage and emotional commitment.  Creativity and inspiration are the cornerstones of innovation and innovation requires passion arising from the hearts of workers.  Only a head tempered with an emotionally centered heart can fearlessly ask “why” and “why not.”

Working Wisdom uses my favorite quotes to think about work in a new way.

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