April 2012 Reflections




Over the last few weeks I have been saddened by the number of people I have seen who have come to me describing how their work experiences are making them stressed and physically and emotionally unwell.  This is happening to people from a wide range of occupations including health and welfare professionals, administration, education, academia and small business.  Stories of being bullied by supervisors or colleagues, being treated unfairly when it comes to promotion or discrimination because of gender, age or part time status are all too common.  Some of these workers are employed in emotionally demanding positions which have the potential to put them at risk of physical attack or verbal abuse by the people they care for.

However, workplace stress is not confined to those workers who are treated badly or are exposed to challenging situations.  Recent articles in leading international newspapers and business publications, point to the rise of anxiety and depression in younger workers - particularly Gen Y women (born after 1982) as they struggle to create some semblance of work-life balance.  These young women are said to be less likely than men to take breaks during work hours and are more prone to stress as they attempt to compete for recognition and promotion, at the same time as forming relationships and making choices and decisions about having a family.

When thinking about what elements make for wellbeing at work, Martin Seligman PhD in his recent book "Flourish:  A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Wellbeing", asks what does it mean to flourish at work?  Seligman talks about 5 Elements of Wellbeing.  These include Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment.

When people lack a sense of wellbeing at work they will not thrive or flourish.  Like plants they will become stressed and if not provided with what they need, they will eventually wither and die (burn out) and be forced to take sick leave and sometimes eventually resign.  Workplaces can be sources of energy, pride, co-operation and provide a sense of satisfaction and belonging, or they can become places of dread, where there is a culture of blame and fear which can sap our energy and leave us feeling worn out and undervalued.

What can we do to help us thrive and flourish at work?


1.  The first thing is to know what you are good at and what you really love doing and find a job which meets thse two requirements.  For some people, this may mean that they have two jobs - one they love and another which brings in money.  Many artistic and creative types find this is the only way they can combine their passion with a steady income.

2.   Choose a job in a company which is aligned with your personal values, ethics and beliefs.  If you find yourself in a workplace which is opposed to these, you will struggle to find satisfaction and wellbeing so once you discover this, then start searching for something else ASAP.

3.   Know your personality and what you need in order to feel safe and comfortable in the workplace.  If you are an extrovert don't stay in a job which requires you to spend a lot of time alone without the opportunity to interact with others.  If you are more introverted, you will be stressed by jobs which have open plan and leave you without quiet time or the opportunity to work independently on tasks.

4.   Know your own personal stressors.  This is different for everyone.  For some it may be unclear expectations, high workload, unrealistic deadlines, poor teamwork, difficult personalities, poor leadership or inadequate supervision.  For others it may be a lack of resources, being micro-managed or unpredictable behaviour of others.  Work out a self care plan to help you manage these stressors eg. exercise regularly, take adequate breaks, address any problems or communication difficulties quickly and do not allow them to build up.  Have fun and relax outside of work.

5.   Set yourself goals to keep your work interesting.  No matter how much you enjoy your job it can become routine and boring if you keep doing the same things every day.  Look for novel ways to tackle tasks and vary your routine.

6.   Look for opportunities to develop your skills and keep learning.  Take advantage of training offered in your workplace and seek out external sources of training and development in your field.

7.   Learn how to accept legitimate criticism or negative feedback without becoming upset and defensive.  Learning from our mistakes is important for our growth and development and if you can accept this when fair, you will show your employer and colleagues that you are committed to self improvement and benefit from taking corrective action on your own performance.

8.   Seek regular feedback from supervisors and support from colleagues if unsure about your role and direction of any changes and debrief any issues with trusted team members.

9.   See change as your friend, not your enemy.  It is natural and normal to fear the unknown and to want to stay with the familiar, but change often can be an opportunity for growth.  It all depends on your attitude.  If you search for the possibilities change brings rather than what you may be losing, it will help you to make an informed decision as to whether the change is one you wish to embrace or if it is time for you to move on to another role or even a different workplace.

10.   Establish and maintain a healthy work/life balance.  Keep to regular work hours and avoid excessive overtime or taking work home except in exceptional circumstances.  Limit the time you talk about work at home and make it a rule to do something to mark the end of the working day eg. go for a walk or do some short meditation exercise when you arrive home to clear your head.   If you are worried about a work issue, set aside 15 minutes to think about it, write down any actions you need to take and then forget about it until the next day. 


If you would like help with any work related issues or finding ways to help you thrive and flourish at work, I would be happy to assist you.  Please contact me on 0438 855328.


Upcoming Event - Parent Effectiveness Training (PET) Course

With school holidays just started, it is timely to mention this 4 week course which is being run by my colleague Janet Powell from Mentor Maestro.

This course is designed to help parents learn communication techniques to reduce stress, resolve conflict and develop more satisfying relationships with their children and make parenting easier.

Date:  Sat. 21st April, 2012 - 9.30 am - 4.00 pm - ran over 4 weeks

Venue:  Camberwell

To register or make enquiries:  Call Janet on 9889 3991 or email janet@mentormaestro.com.


As it is not long before the Easter break I wish you all a relaxing time over that period.