"It’s no great stretch to suggest that the past six months have been traumatic for millions of Americans. A trauma is a painful emotional experience of shock, usually resulting from an extremely stressful or life-threatening situation. Sound familiar?"
Sounds kind of how you feel after experiencing a layoff, doesn't it? Schwartz warns that it can be very tempting to go into "survival mode" after experiencing a stressful situation, but that this would be counter-productive to our long-term health and happiness:
"Symptoms of survival mode include an inability to think clearly or creatively, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, irritability and anger – all of which make a bad situation worse. Over time, those symptoms can turn into exhaustion, numbness, depression and hopelessness, which take an even deeper toll."
He offers some 3 keys for dealing with trauma productively:
Read more about each of these three keys here.
Over the past 2 years I have been working on a research project where we are conducting focus groups with mothers who have professional careers. We have been asking the mothers how they combine a career and a family, what resources they rely on, how the "changing landscape" in America is impacting them, and whether/how they experience flourishing. It has been such a privilege to hear their stories - I am impressed and inspired every time I listen to a group.
We conclude each session by asking the women what advice they would give to young women who expect to become working mothers one day. Recently, one of our participants (we'll call her Alice) offered the two pieces of advice . Alice is the mother of three children under 5, and a Director of Organizational Change at a Fortune 500 company. He husband is building a business. He is having success and his income is consistent, but Alice provides the health benefits for the family.
I was intrigued by how clear and passionate Alice was in offering the following advice (paraphrased):
First, no matter what you want or hope your life will be like when you're a mom, plan on having to work. It's just unrealistic to think "Oh, I'm going to marry a man who can make enough for the whole family I'll stay home with kids." You can end up in a great marriage to a great guy, and still have to go to work to pay the bills. That's just the reality for most of us. So plan on having to work, and build your career accordingly when you are young.
Second, get a career with a name. This is just my perspective maybe, but it seems to me that if you ever want to be able to scale back to part-time it's just easier if you have a career with a name on it. I am a Director of Organizational Change - what does that mean? How can I do it part time? My dentist just went down to part-time and she's so happy. It just seems that it's easier for her because everyone knows what a dentist does, so it's easier to plan on how she can help her practice by doing it part-time.
Alice's advice made perfect sense to me. I always planned on being a stay-home mom, and it just didn't work out for us. So I feel I have scrambled more in my career that I would have if I had planned all along to be a working mom. Also, as an independent HR consultant, I have been very blessed with part-time work that has allowed me to schedule around my family priorities and school commitments. But I must admit that I do feel a wee bit of stress at times when people ask me what I do. It feels a little ambiguous because I do what my clients need to have done, and I cannot always predict what that will be. I've often thought that it would be nice to have a clear name for what I do that was immediately understandable to others - something like a "dentist" maybe?
What do you think of Alice's advice?
Part I of this posting discussed 3 ways to receive feedback. As you grow in your career due to all that great feedback that you are able to receive so gracefully, you'll likely have the opportunity to give feedback to others as well. Here are some ideas to consider:
Here's how to give feedback as a gift and profit from it:
1 - Always start with what's working. Your main job, whether you're giving feedback to your kids, the guy who's painting your living room or somebody who works for you, is to motivate them. People can't hear your suggestion for how to improve if they don't think you already appreciate the good stuff they're doing.
2 - State clearly what's not working. Once you've positively reinforced the person, explain in detail the area you'd like to see improved. Be sure to give them the impression that you're confident that they can make the changes you're recommending.
3 - Determine what's missing that can be supplied. If a different approach to the project, the client or even the homework is needed, brainstorm how you can put your heads together to make that happen. Come up with a solution you can be enthusiastic about. Commit to providing all the support you can.
Here's the bottom line: Feedback is a gift. Treat it that way. When you're getting it, remember that you don't have to be perfect. You do have to be willing to change. When you're giving it, remember to be a motivator and a coach, not a disciplinarian or a critic. You'll be amazed at the results you produce.
A trusted mentor recently forwarded to me a terrific e-mail about how to receive and give feedback. It was a timely and positive message for me. Today I'll post the part about receiving feedback. Look for Part II about giving feedback in a day or so!
So here's how to take feedback as a gift and profit from it: 1 - Listen! Don't argue, don't say, "Yes, but..." and don't explain why you acted the way you did. Instead, say, "I had no idea that I created that impression, it's not what I intended. I'm so glad you're telling me." Of course, you're not always going to agree with the criticism or feel it's fair, but listen anyway. Take what's useful and leave the rest behind. 2 - Don't make the person giving the feedback wrong! Don't run out and find a bunch of people who will agree that you're perfect the way you are and don't need to make any changes whatsoever! And you'll definitely be able to find those people. Don't look for them. Keep your own counsel and decide what makes sense to you. 3 - Be open to making significant changes. Hey, you're always going to be a work in progress. Imagine that you're marketing a product - and the product is you. Naturally, there will be times when you want to change the "label" or the "copy" or even the "ingredients" to serve your targeted customers better. Don't take it personally, just make the changes and move on.
So here's how to take feedback as a gift and profit from it:
1 - Listen! Don't argue, don't say, "Yes, but..." and don't explain why you acted the way you did. Instead, say, "I had no idea that I created that impression, it's not what I intended. I'm so glad you're telling me." Of course, you're not always going to agree with the criticism or feel it's fair, but listen anyway. Take what's useful and leave the rest behind.
2 - Don't make the person giving the feedback wrong! Don't run out and find a bunch of people who will agree that you're perfect the way you are and don't need to make any changes whatsoever! And you'll definitely be able to find those people. Don't look for them. Keep your own counsel and decide what makes sense to you.
3 - Be open to making significant changes. Hey, you're always going to be a work in progress. Imagine that you're marketing a product - and the product is you. Naturally, there will be times when you want to change the "label" or the "copy" or even the "ingredients" to serve your targeted customers better. Don't take it personally, just make the changes and move on.
[Note - I did a search to see if I could find a source for the information and had no luck - so my apologies in advance to the original writer. If you know who the author is, please let me know!]
"Amid all the difficulties and hardship that we are about to undergo, I see one silver lining. This crisis has—dramatically, vengefully—forced the United States to confront the bad habits it has developed over the past few decades. If we can kick those habits, today's pain will translate into gains in the long run."
This makes sense to me. Year ago my husband and I enjoyed reading "Your Money or Your Life." I particularly liked how the authors steered clear of the "frugality" mindset (which unfortunately comes across as cheap and stingy all too often) and instead presented a philosophy of "enoughness" as a saner practice for individuals, communities and nations. It's a recipe for living a sound, peaceful life based on a strong foundation.
The Newsweek article goes on to talk about how much of the United States' economic "growth" in past years has been on paper only - a house of cards that was waiting to fall. While some of the financial practices embedded in our economic structures were ethically sound and sustainable, mixed in were practices driven by rampant greed and dishonesty. It is unfortunate that when the negative practices ran their course and reached their predictable end - destruction - that the good practices have to suffer also.
However, I am a firm believer that good always triumphs over evil (and some of what occurred on Wall Street over the past decades has indeed been patently evil) and that sometimes scrubbing out the evil requires a strong disinfectant that stings the rest of us a bit. The Newsweek article concludes:
"We cannot keep preaching to the world about democracy and capitalism while our own house is so wildly out of order. It's a fundamental American belief that competition is good—in business, athletics and life. Checks and balances are James Madison's crucial mechanisms, exposing and countering abuse and arrogance and forcing discipline on people. This discipline will be painful for a country that has gotten used to having it all. But it will make us much stronger in the long run."
Here's hoping that the current economic crisis causes us all to think about what is "enoughness" in our lives - both individually and collectively - and together to resist building our nation's economy on air and image. This time, let's get it right!
Many of us (myself included!) miss out on great opportunities in our work because we are scared of something. What are we scared of? That varies for each of us. But I truly believe that for most of us, when we are in a quiet room by ourselves, and we are assured of complete privacy, could softly whisper what it is that holds us back.
My colleague Nancy is a life coach. She says one of the most telling questions she asks her clients (who are usually working with her because they are confused or broken in some way) is, "What is your dirty little secret?" The answers vary. Sometimes, the secret is, "I hate working and really wish I could stay home with my kids but I'm afraid to throw it all away." Sometimes the answer is, "I know titles don't matter, but I will never feel successful until I become a VP."
Her solution for these "dirty little secrets"? Examine them in the light of day, decide if they are at all realistic, and if so, go for it. Conquer and accomplish your goal so that you can release yourself to enjoy life! If they are not realistic, then figure out what the essence of the secret is, and find another way to accomplish it. Obviously, this is not an easy thing to do, but by getting the secrets out in the open, it's easy to take logical, realistic steps towards creating a life that will bring you satisfaction and peace.
As Joseph Campbell said:
"This I believe, is the great Western truth: that each of us is a completely unique creature and that, if we are ever to give any gift to the world, it will have to come our of our own experience and fulfillment of our own potentialities, not someone else's."
Go on say it - what are you afraid of?
Happiness is a big topic of interest to researchers these days. People - Americans in particular - what to know what makes us happy and what can we do to increase our happiness? The ISQOLS listserve is an electronic bulletin board established to help quality-of-life (QOL) researchers post messages and announcements that may be of interest to QOL researchers. This recent posting my Michael Frisch, PhD at Baylor University is interesting.
Dr. Frisch reports on a new study that was released: Life Goals Matter to Happiness: A Revision of Set-Point Theory Bruce Headey; Social Indicators Research, April , 2008, vol. 86(2), pp213-231. He discussed how the study indicates that having life goals is a critical component of our happiness - in particular, having non zero-sum (i.e., altruistic) goals makes a difference. Frisch writes:
"Over a 15-20 year period, conscious life goals matter both to overall happiness and to accomplishing goals. It is not all genetic. Having life goals can change your happiness set-point and your overall happiness at any point in your life. The Set-Point theory of happiness needs to be revised to account for the effects of life goals on happiness and important changes in happiness...Non-zero sum goals, which include commitment to family, friends and social and political involvement, promote life satisfaction.
Zero sum goals, including commitment to career success and material gains, appear detrimental to life satisfaction. One speculation is that gains in zero sum domains are not satisfying because of the competition involved; all you have got to look forward to after one set of goals is achieved is renewed competition. By contrast, an improving family life or satisfying social activities may be found
intrinsically satisfying. Further, one is likely to receive positive feedback from family members and other people closely affected.
What makes for a happy person? Part of the answer seems to be a desire to pursue non-zero sum family related and altruistic goals."
If you find this article interesting and want to get regular postings on the topic of quality of life, you can subscribe to ISQOLS Listserve by sending a message to email@example.com and indicate in the body of the message: SUBSCRIBE ISQOLS-LISTSERV.
I recently filled a position for a company. It came down to two finalists - let's call them Dierdre and Fred. Both had strong backgrounds and references, but Dierdre consistently outshone Fred through out the interview process that included meetings with the Hiring Manager, a panel of peers, and the Owner of the company. She was more prepared for the interviews, more articulate, more assertive about her ideas for how she could contribute, and generally more fun to interview.
As I conversed with the hiring manager about which candidate to make an offer to, we agreed that we would make the offer to Dierdre. We also agreed that Fred was a strong player but just not right for this role. We discussed another position that we expected to come open within the next couple of months that might be a good match for him. I sent Fred a personalized letter thanking him for the time and interest he had invested in the company, acknowledging his considerable skills, and suggesting that we would save his resume and perhaps talk again in the future. To my dismay I received this e-mail in response:
"Thank you for your response. Obviously, I had wished that it had been a more positive message. Personally, I thought my skill set and those required for the position were a reasonably good match."
Fred's passive-aggressive e-mail demonstrates both poor judgment and poor communication skills and confirms our choice of Deidre for the position. It also ensures that we won't be contacting him if and when the other position opens up.
The moral of the story is: whether you win the job or not, be gracious. You never know what other opportunities may be available for you, and being petty will never get you anywhere worthwhile.
Recent research out of Germany suggests that employees who are forced to smile and take insults from customers at work are more likely to suffer from stress and poor health. That seems like common sense to me. People who are "forced" to do anything typically experience stress, and certainly it's stressful to be insulted by anyone - customer or otherwise.
What surprised me was the proposed solution:
"[The Researcher] found that those able to answer back had a brief increase in heart rate. Those who could not had stress symptoms that lasted much longer....[and] suggested that people who must keep smiling on the job should get regular breaks to let it out."
I'd like to know what the researchers mean by "answering back." According to dictionary.com (see #23) it means:
"answer back, to reply impertinently or rudely."
Maybe I am a dinosaur, but I am from the school of "the customer is always right." When I first entered the workforce some 20 years ago I was taught that while there are plenty of times that the customer is not necessarily "right" in a literal sense, any customer who was prepared to spend money on a product or service offered by my employer deserved to be treated with respect which included listening to him, and working to create a mutually satisfying solution. I would never have dreamed of "answering back." Besides the potential for harming my career, I wouldn't have been proud of myself for sinking to the level of an insulting customer.
Fortunately for me, I had bosses and co-workers who taught me to take pride in being creative in finding ways for both the customer and my company to "win." It became something of a game and was actually rather fun to have a challenging situation come up where I could transform an unhappy customer into a happy one. Often it forged stronger customer relationships in the process. Along the way, I developed communication and business skills that have served me well over the course of my career.
Obviously, the research situation was not real. No matter how bad some workplaces can be, I suspect there are very few where workers are routinely subjected to insults and "forced" to smile. So if you are in a situation where you sometimes are faced with difficult customers, go ahead and smile. Treat it as a chance to use your creativity and innovation to solve a business problem and take pride in producing great results. I guarantee you the high you get from that type of success will far exceed any temporally relief you feel from "answering back."