And this week, you are still there and your colleagues wish you had left!
That’s right. Last week, I wrote a blog called “Why Are You Still There”. When I wrote the article, my intention was that readers would think about all the reasons their work was fulfilling and their workplace was positive. Fortunately, I heard from a number of my readers about the rewards they find in their work and from their colleagues.
I would have been thrilled, but I heard about a few cases where recipients of the blog added a caustic note, “Yeah, why are YOU still here?” and sent it to colleagues. If it had happened once, I would have been bummed, but I am aware that it happened in several different organizations.
What I know about that behavior is that the sender:
- didn’t have the courage to talk to the person directly
- didn’t have the skills to talk to the person directly
- hides behind email rather than talking face-to-face
- felt superior to his or her colleague
- didn’t see that one’s behavior influences (in this case negatively) the behavior of peers
Only workplace bullies would send a hurtful message like that to a peer, a manager, or a subordinate. Our role as colleagues is to make the workplace positive and productive for all. We must support one another and bring out the best in one another. We should act as though our work depends on the success of others. In organizations where employees are accountable, their work does depend on the success of others.
I do hope you will forward these blogs to your colleagues and your associates. And when you do choose to forward them, send them as a way to build another person’s confidence, to show your admiration for them, and to appreciate them.
Isn’t it interesting that the same article can be used to empower or to hurt?
I was facilitating a retreat last week and Nida, a participant, told me that her manager makes her absolutely crazy. As Nida described her manager, Adam, he did indeed sound like a jerk.
Adam sent directions for all of Nida’s tasks via email. Even when starting a new project that would last for months, Nida learned about the project via email. This would have been understandable if the two were across continents or time zones; in actuality, they sat across the hall from one another.
But that’s not all. Adam never recognized Nida; he didn’t tell her thank you for her work. As I questioned this, Nida twisted her computer screen so I could see it. Just as Nida said, there were a slew of messages from Adam, yet none of the completed tasks received a thank you…not even a “thx.”
Nida shared all the injustices with me. Adam piled on the work. He didn’t care about her as a person. He never offered appreciation. He didn’t recognize all the work Nida was performing. He didn’t want the office coverage to suffer so he never allowed Nida to take a Monday or Friday off; those were the days Adam saved for himself.
After listening and verifying Nida’s impressions with others in the organization, I learned that what Nida was alleging was true, or at least nearly true.
Nida said to me, “Can you fix Adam? After all, that is what you do, right?” She continued, “Can’t you write him up? Can’t you get him fired?”
Actually, I had to tell her, “No, I cannot.” One of my coaching colleagues says often, “There’s no law that says managers need to be considerate or kind. While it is the best practice, what’s acceptable in one organization may not be tolerated in the next.”
While I do try to help every level of employee to be more relational, more appreciative, and more collaborative, unless the organizational culture supports and sometimes demands a collaborative work environment, little if any change will occur.
When we stay in toxic environments, most of us become toxic ourselves. I know that has become true for Nida. She complained a lot, moved from task to task slowly, and completed her work always doing the minimum.
How about you? If you are so miserable, why are you still there?
While we can’t manage anyone else’s stress, only our own, there is a lot we can do to make sure we don’t “contaminate” our workplaces by spreading stress. I think that stress is more contagious than a virus. I refer to some people in workplaces as Henny Penny in the old fable, sighing heavily and mumbling the work equivalent of, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”
So here are some things that YOU can do to manage stress in your workplace (and maybe even in your household!):
Show more gratitude. Colleagues feel so much better when their work is noticed and appreciated. Remember to thank the colleagues you meet, to begin and end emails with appreciation, and to demonstrate thanks. Make sure your body language matches your appreciation, which is a sign that you can be trusted. What more can you do to show gratitude?
The more specific, the more terrific. Work on telling a peer, “I really think you captured the essence of our message here.” Or, “When you cut off the dominating voice in the meeting, and asked to hear from others, you had full control of the room and you gained respect. Well done.” The reason we all like specific gratitude is because it tells the recipient, “I am truly paying attention to the great work you are doing.” And no one can feel stress at the same time they are feeling appreciated.
You encourage others to show appreciation when you are a role model of specific gratitude.
Model reframing. Remind colleagues to seek out things to be grateful for, such as their job, its benefits, its environment, coworkers, etc., and to focus on what is right, not just what needs attention.
Be aware that this attitude will sometimes be met with eye rolls and sighs. No one likes to hear these things, but we know from research that no one can feel stress at the exact same time as appreciation, and those who feel less stress are terrific at reframing situations.
Add phrases such as these to your lexicon to model reframing challenges into a more positive light:
“I understand that person is challenging. When I work with her, it helps me to think that she is bringing up the issues others are thinking, but just too polite to mention.”
“This is a good problem to have.”
“All we can do is one thing at a time.”
“What can realistically be done with our existing resources, since they aren’t likely to change?”
“How can you pace yourself?”
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
“All I ask is for you to do what you can do with the time you have.”
Notice that some of your peers may wear stress as a badge of honor. “I have so much to do. I worked all weekend.” If the work can wait, maybe it should.
Don’t respond to emails at night or on weekends. When a workmate receives an email at night or on a weekend, their thoughts shift back to work. He or she may have been emptying the trash (mindless activities allow our brains to rest), or watching a great game on TV (distracting activities allow us to disengage), or having a quiet moment with a loved one (connecting with a loved one is the best stress antidote on the planet).
If you want to write emails at night or on weekends, that’s fine, but consider holding off sending them until work hours. Most email programs have a delay feature that is easy to use.
When you receive a work email at night or on the weekend, evaluate whether the message could have waited. If it could have waited, definitely don’t respond until work hours. If this is a trend from a few employees, encourage them to respect others’ down time.
If you are a leader in your organization, role model going home on time and taking vacations. Your employees are watching you. If you don’t take vacations, they won’t. And, in the long run, resentment will lead to a loss of productivity.
Laugh. Encourage laughter. Work is a social situation. Small talk a bit. Laugh a lot. When someone cracks a joke, be the first to laugh, and on occasion say, “Thanks for setting the tone,” or “Thanks for reminding us all to laugh.”
And most of all, manage your own stress. Practices such as meditation, prayer, yoga, Tai Chi, exercise, and healthy eating can all help alleviate stress in the office and at home.
Please share with me, how do you manage stress?