Monthly Archives: June 2014

Your Well-being at Work Model

Image of a typical office in the 1970s.

This statement is as true today as it was Turkel wrote it in 1972 and like your parents and grandparents, you are searching for daily meaning, recognition and having a life.” Finding success in that search is about building your well-being on the job. We define well-being as “a state in which you can cope effectively with the events of your work and personal life; do work you find fulfilling and meaningful; have a sense of belonging and respect; and attend to your physical health. It is a choice and a dynamic process that requires your attention and action to support it in a balanced way.” Your  well-being at work model is based on this definition and has six key elements.

Mindfulness (or awareness)
Mindfulness is the foundation of well-being. You must look at yourself, your attitudes and emotions objectively, because they define your actions. You cannot enhance your well-being without being aware of your surroundings, and how your actions and attitudes affect those around you.

realization (self-fulfillment or self-actualization)
realization is about reaching your full potential – being all that you can be, as a person and an employee. At work, self-fulfillment is driven by your values; a sense of meaning or purpose in your work; continuous learning; a sense of empowerment; and accountability.

Belonging and Connectedness
A feeling of belonging is an essential human need, and it does not happen by accident. Just because you work with someone, it does not automatically follow that you have a connection with that person. Belonging and connections must be nurtured so that there is shared understanding, purpose and respect.

Esteem and Recognition
It takes time and practice to develop esteem and recognition, and they can be ruined quickly. Esteem (both self- and the esteem of others) and recognition are based on your values, the way you live them; the choices you make; and your interactions with others.

Health and Physical Well-being
Being healthy or in a state of physical well-being is not just about the absence of illness or injury. It is about having the energy, stamina and resilience, both physically and emotionally, to do what you need to do at work and at home; and to pursue family, community and personal interests.

Courage
Courage is about heart, and it is essential to well-being. You show courage every day – it’s called daily living. It takes courage to get up and go to work; to stand by your values; and to find meaning in your work, even when it is boring. Courage is not about the absence of uncertainty. It is about the choices you make and the actions you take to support your well-being in an environment that seems to promote uncertainty and change.

Think of intentional well-being as your personal space, mindfulness is the foundation and courage is the roof. The walls are self-realization, belonging, esteem and health. You get to create that space to be whatever you want it to be. You can work on one wall or even a part of one wall. You can work on two walls or all the walls at once because they are connected and support your personal space. Remember, you will be working in the context of mindfulness and courage.

 Guiding Principles of Well-being
Keep the following principles in mind as you learn about well-being; explore your options; and take steps to enhance and sustain your well-being at work.

You are responsible for your well-being. Your manager and co-workers can be helpful and supportive; however, you have overall responsibility for your well-being. No one, no matter how caring and close they are to you, can fix your well-being for you.

Well-being is a choice. You get to decide whether you will be a victim of your work or the creator of your well-being. You may not have the power to influence the decisions your employer makes; even so, you have the power to choose how you will respond to those decisions.

Well-being is not about ego. It is not about “me first.” It is about being authentic, contributing and caring. It is about finding balance in your life and meaning in your work.

Well-being is a dynamic, continuous process. You make it happen. Your well-being can flourish even in a harsh environment, if you nurture it.

Ponder This… Re-read Studs Turkel’s quote above. When was the last time you were astonished at work? What happened and what can you do to generate a sense of astonishment in your work today or this week?

Next: What my employer’s role in my well-being at work?

Reference: Turkel, Studs, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, New York, NY: New York times Company, 1972.

 

 

Problem-solving with Perspective

Quote: A penny will hide the biggest star in the Universe if you hold it close enough to your eye.~Samuel Grafton and image of the north star partly covered by a penny

When a problem comes up in the course of the workday, what is our typical reaction? Is it, I don’t know what to do, or I know what is wrong, or I’ll just fix it? Many times, we know exactly how to fix a problem, but what if the problem is new, complex or one, we haven’t seen before?  We tend to function in a context of: We know what’s wrong. Let’s just fix it.But, do we really know what’s wrong or is it just our personal perception of the problem? Understanding other people’s perspectives and the reasoning behind it can help us define the situation and see the problem clearly.

Need for Perspective
Each of our co-workers, customers and managers has their own view or perspective of the world that is filtered by the their life experiences. Even identical twins look at the world from different perspectives. Finding out what other people think about a situation is an essential part of effective problem-solving, particularly with new, complex or highly visible problems.  When deciding what input you need about a problem, consider the following:

  • Who might be able to contribute to my thinking?
  • Who might be seeing something that I do not?
  • Who will need to implement the decision that is made and how might their view affect the planned solution?
  • What functions are not represented in my thinking?
  • Who is new on our team and what is that person’s point of view? Sometimes, that person may see things we miss or take for granted.

Ask Questions
What is the best way to learn the perspective of others? Ask questions! Not only will it give you a different perspective on the problem; it will build stronger relationship with those you ask. Remember, as much as we like to think, “I know it all,” we really don’t. Our co-workers may have additional insight about the problem and clients.

When seeking a person’s perspective, remember that there are not right or wrong answers. Even the “facts” of a situation depend on their knowledge and experience. Here are some tips for asking questions to elicit the perspective of others.

  • Ask different types of questions: factual, interpretation (how or why), and evaluation (opinion, belief or point of view).
  • Ask open-ended, rather than yes/no questions.
  • Check your assumptions and those of the person with whom you are speaking.
  • Listen carefully and ask clarifying questions.

Remember to ask the Five W and One H questions reporters use for basic information gathering:

  1. What happened?
  2. Who was involved?
  3. Where did it take place?
  4. When did it take place?
  5. Why did it happen?
  6. How did it happen?

A Final Thought

Asking the right questions (and listening carefully to the answers) can help you think more clearly, take   accountability for your actions, and accomplish your goals more easily…”

Merilee Goldberg, Ph.D

References

Goldberg, M., (1997) The Art of the Question: A Guide to Short Term Question-centered Therapy, New York: Wiley

This article was originally published on Linked In Pulse June 10, 2014.

Well-being at Work is About You

Photo of two people frolickin on the beach in the sun to show that well0being is an active process Well-being is not a new concept. It has been around for millennia. Philosophers like Confucius (551–479 BC) and Aristotle (386 – 322 BC) discussed it at length. However, scholars and philosophers have been unable to agree on its definition. Each field studying it – philosophy, psychology, sociology, theology, economics, health care, human resources – has its own definition of well-being.

The Oxford English Dictionary offers a simple definition: Well-being is “the state of being or doing well in life.” Notice the action verbs being and doing. According to Nic Marks of the New Economy Foundation, in a radio interview on BBC 4, “Well-being is not a beach you go and lie on. It’s a sort of dynamic dance and there’s movement in it, and that movement is the true level of well-being” (January 7, 2012). Intentional well-being is your thoughtful, deliberate effort to address the demands of daily life using your knowledge, experience, spiritual, social, physical and psychological skills. Simply stated, well-being is a choice. You must choose to attend to your well-being.

The Importance of Choice
No matter what type of work you do, there is one thing that can never be taken away from you without your permission – the power of choice.  You get to choose whether you will work on your well-being and how you will go about it. Although you cannot control everything that happens on the job, there are things you can control, and you need to focus your attention on those things to support your well-being.

Viktor E. Frankl, Author, Psychologist, Neurologist, Holocaust Survivor,  Hero

Viktor E. Frankl, Author, Psychologist, Neurologist, Holocaust Survivor, Hero

A Lesson on Choice
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist, neurologist and Holocaust survivor. He was imprisoned in Auschwitz and Dachau for nearly four years. He never knew, from moment to moment, if he would live to see another day. One day, alone and naked in a small room he became aware of what he later called “the last of human freedoms.” This was the one thing the Nazis could not take away – his power to choose how he would respond.
His captors controlled his every movement every day; even so, they could not control his self-awareness. He decided how all the pain and deprivation would affect him. Rather than reacting, rebelling or giving up, Frankl responded to the horrors of life in the camps by relying on what he called his “inner hold” – his beliefs, one of which was being able to cope with the challenges of the moment while looking to the future.

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning (1959), he wrote: “Almost in tears from pain (I had terrible sores on my feet from wearing torn shoes); I limped a few kilometers with our long column of men from the camp to our work site. Very cold, bitter winds struck us. I kept thinking of the endless little problems of our miserable life… I became disgusted with the state of affairs which compelled me, daily and hourly, to think of only such trivial things. I forced my thoughts to turn to another subject. Suddenly, I saw myself standing on the platform of a well-lit, warm and pleasant lecture room. In front of me sat an attentive audience on comfortable upholstered seats. I was giving a lecture on the psychology of the concentration camp! All that oppressed me at that moment became objective, seen and described from the remote viewpoint of science. By this method, I succeeded somehow in rising above the situation, above the sufferings of the moment.”

Stephen Covey, in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1989), calls this response-ability. You get to choose how you will respond to a specific situation. You can choose to respond in a way that supports your well-being, or you can react, allowing yourself to be influenced by your surroundings, people, and feelings. Simply stated, your well-being depends on how you choose to respond to any situation.

Well-being is about you. You get to choose what you will do and how you will do it.

Ponder this…
Think about your work situation and identify one thing that affects your well-being, over which you have control. What choice will you make to improve your well-being in that situation?  

Next: Your Well-being at Work Model

Introduction to Your Well-being at Work

 Image of pink wild flowers growing in socky soil

If you are reading this blog, you work for a living as most of us do. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 247.4 million people in the United States were working in April, 2014, 79 percent of whom were employed by service/information businesses, non-profit organizations, local, state and federal agencies.(1) If you are like the typical services/information worker, your average workday is 8.8 hours, your productivity increased by 27.3 percent between January 1, 2000 and February 28, 2013 while your wages for the same period remained flat.(2) You sometimes take work home, and you rarely take a break during the workday. 

Now, pause for a moment, read and quickly answer the following questions:

  • How many hours do you work in an average day?
  • How many hours do you spend thinking about work when you are not at work?
  • How do you feel physically, emotionally and mentally about your work?

If the above information or your answers to the questions left you feeling depressed, it is not surprising. Depending on which employee satisfaction survey you read, anywhere from 52 to 79 percent of employees are unhappy or very unhappy with their jobs.(3) While employers have a “duty of care” (that is the legal term) for their employees; that duty is limited and must focus on well-being as it affects productivity and profitability.

Well-being at Work Is About You
This blog is about you because, ultimately, worker well-being is personal and private, and it is up to you to choose how you will respond to the many demands of work. Almost every day you struggle with many problems, such as managing your workload; adapting to constant workplace changes ; dealing with customers, co-workers and managers; and struggling to reach some degree of work-life balance.

Well-being at Work is for you – for the workers “in the trenches” who do the work,  serve the client, write the code, make the product and keep the business running. It draws on the “real work life experiences,” both successes and failures, of Your Humble Scribe, her co-workers, friends, and others who agreed to be interviewed and to share their experiences. The well-being model and suggested tools uses published research in psychology, sociology, and employee training and development.

This blog is not about climbing the ladder of success nor is it about thinking happy thoughts to get through the day, although success and joy are side effects of enhanced well-being. It is about enhancing and sustaining your personal well-being in situations where you may have limited discretion or autonomy but where you can choose how to respond. It is about finding peace and meaning at work; about making the most of the time you spend at work to help yourself, your family, co-workers, friends, and yes, your employer and community.

Samuel Smiles was a Scottish writer, reformer and one of the first self-help authors. In his book Self-Help: With Illustrations of Character and Conduct,published in 1859, he wrote: “Men must necessarily be the active agents of their own well-being and well-doing; they themselves must in the very nature of things be their own best helpers.”

Ponder this…

  • What aspects of your well-being at work would you like to improve?
  • How can you be your “own best helper” at work?

Next: Well-being at Work is About You

Footnotes

  1.  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Employment Situation – April, 2014 (Farm workers and military services members are not included in this number.)
  2. Mishel, L., and Shieholz, H., A Decade of Flat Wages: The Key Barrier to Shared Prosperity and a Rising Middle Class, Economic Policym Institute, August 21, 2013, http://www.epi.org/publication/a-decade-of-flat-wages-the-key-barrier-to-shared-prosperity-and-a-rising-middle-class/
  3. Gallup, 2013 State of the American Workforce Report,  http://media2.kjrh.com/html/pdfs/unhappyemployees_gallup.pdf