Working Human: Happiness, Satisfaction and Engagement in the Workplace

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.40.13 PMWhere do you stand when it comes to thinking about the impact of happiness in the workplace?  Do you fall in the camp that believes that employers can make employees happy?  If so, what specific actions can they take to make the employee happier?  If not, do you think that employees are the only ones who can make themselves happy?  That leads to examining the idea that maybe it’s not about happiness at all.  What if it’s more about satisfaction or engagement?

These are the types of questions that HR practitioners and other business leaders are wrestling with in the workplace every day.  Enter the Globoforce WorkHuman conference to help us have a better understanding of the impacts of happiness, recognition, and giving thanks to our workforce.  I’m here in lovely Oralndo, Florida to participate in the 2nd annual WorkHuman event.  I have to tell you that as an invited guest, I would still tell you if I didn’t believe in the event.  In fact, I wouldn’t come.  This is one of those events where I can find lots to learn and many new business people to engage in discussion with on some fairly challenging topics.

We kicked off today with several general sessions that covered many of the questions in my opening paragraph.  Derek Irvine shared some statistics about companies who approach work from incorporating a more human experience.  According to Derek, “Companies that have succeeded with environment saw a 31% increase in productivity and their employees take 10x less sick leave.”  In addition, he challenged the audience members not to underestimate the power of a simple “thanks”, as that act can have a positive impact on engagement and discretionary effort.

The next session focused more on happiness and how it can impact our employees.  Harvard professor Shawn Achor shared research about the potential for person / employee to impact people around them.  Let me start by telling you that Shawn’s energy and passion for his topic is contagious.  I am always a little cynical, but he really spoke to the optimist buried inside me.  His research is showing that true happiness is not coming just by equating it with success because our brains are constantly redefining success.  He said that happiness comes when you are moving toward your potential and by helping others reach theirs.  It made me wonder if people can truly be happy if they aren’t moving toward potential? Can there be a stopping point?  I’m wondering if the phase of life you’re in can have an impact on this.  So many good questions arising from these sessions.

Obviously, events like this really make you think beyond the every day approach to work.  Stay tuned for more information from WorkHuman and be sure to weigh in with a comment if you have any ideas or opinions on happiness, engagement, impact or any ideas from the post.

 

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

*from the dusty archives, but still relevant today…

Growing up, did you imagine yourself as a professional baseball player or firefighter?  Maybe you wanted to be a ballerina, movie star or princess.  As children, we all have dreams and fantasies of what we’ll be like as adults.  As we approach our teen years, we tend to start giving it more thought and consider being doctors, veterinarians, or other jobs we hear about.

When did you know what you wanted to be?

I heard a 23 year old young lady tell the story of how she went off to college completely unsure of what she wanted to do.  She couldn’t decide.  Now, at 23, she had dropped out to figure it out.  She was frustrated it didn’t just come to her.

Some people have a calling, some of us are told what our parents think we should become, and some just have to figure it out.  I am quite certain I had no idea what human resources was as I was growing up so it would not have been a career to consider.  It wasn’t until half way through college that I figured it out.

On the flip side

The other side of the coin is that maybe it’s better to never get settled into something to the point you get stagnant.  In the HR industry, there are so many options of how to use your skills that you can start out working in recruiting, move to compensation analysis, choose another job in benefits and wind up leading HR for a company.

So, how would you advise that 23 year old?  I’d tell her to:

  • Ask herself what she really loves doing, not for money.  Then, try to find a job that incorporates that, or skills like that, into a job.
  • Finish her education.  If nothing else, make sure to get a good general education.  It’s not so much about learning the subjects, it’s learning how to think and process information.  It’s learning how to organize and plan.  All good skills for many careers.
  • Job Shadow.  When in doubt, find several jobs that seem interesting and ask to shadow someone who does that job.

What advice would you give?  Share in the comments….

Do You, or Your Company, Screw Up Meetings?

no_meetings_funny_office_saying_sticker-r8f98b046a5c14c4eb859a1553d1b3360_v9waf_8byvr_512A friend recently shared a funny video about conference calls and what they would look like if they were in person.  It’s made the social media rounds, but was still good for a laugh one more time.  It got me thinking about meetings… specificaly conference calls, since I work from home.  I pulled up my calendar and just looking at 2015, it appears I spend anywhere between 10- 50% of my week sitting in some type of meeting.

Like many jobs, the meeting has turned into the commonly accepted way of disemminating information as well as a way to bring people together.  The issue is that it has become the most irrelevant mode of communication for many reasons.  Here are just a few:

  • Employees don’t have time to get their other work done.  I don’t know about you, but when I am stilling in a meeting or on a call, there is no way I can do anything else.  I sit there the whole time thinking about all the other work I need to be doing, especially if I’m one of the people in the meeting who doesn’t really need to be there.  This leads me to…
  • The wrong people are invited.  How many meetings are you asked to attend and when you walk out (or hang up) you’re thinking “Why was I just in that for an hour?”  All the time!  Meeting organizers need to think long and hard about who is invited.  As a rule of thumb, if you don’t plan on the person making a verbal contribution to a decision, don’t invite them to the call.  Find another routine way to send information for those who need to know, but don’t need to make the decision.
  • The meeting takes too long.  I was listening to a show about the TED talk recently and they said that TED landed on the 18 minute presentation because it’s about how long an adult can remain focused without drifting to thoughts of something else.  Seems about right when I think of my own attention span at a meeting.  Try this….make your next meeting 18 minutes.  Your colleagues will thank you and be much happier to attend any future meetings you organize.
  • Speaking of time….it doesn’t end when it’s over.  One of my biggest pet peeves in work life is that meetings are scheduled for an hour.  Often, even if the agenda has been gone through, people still hang in there and add more.  We’re all adults here.  If you tell me we’re going to talk about these four things and we finish, end the meeting.  Employees have 20 other things on their plate they can go back and work on.  Don’t drag out what isn’t necessary.  If this means that one meeting is 18 minutes and the next is 31, great.  At least you won’t be keeping everyone the full hour.  I used to have a boss that would say he was “gifting” the time back to us.  I love that and always walked out with a smile on my face.
  • Distractors ruin the moment.  This is a BIG no-no in my book.  If you’re leading the meeting and a person (or two) derail the meeting with nonsense, stop them.  It’s disrespectful to everyone to let that happen.  We’re not all here for fun and chit-chat, it’s work.
  • Late people interrupt the flow.  This is a related cousin of the last one.  If you’re arriving within 2 minutes of the start time, ok.  Anything after that, just don’t come.  You disturb the flow of the conversation and distract everyone.  ESPECIALLY on conference calls…”DING!” Trish has now entered the call.

When I worked at PwC, I had a good policy that if I attended a meeting and I was clearly not needed, I’d discretely get up and leave.  After making it known to colleagues not to invite me if I wasn’t needed, I had fewer meetings to attend.  The ones I attended, I was able to weigh in and add my ideas.  The rest….well, somehow the company still ran without me in them.  It all worked out.

What are your tactics for managing through the meeting madness?  Share them in the comments.

Anagnorisis & Peripeteia: What In the World Did I Sign Up For?

I stumbled upon a TEDx talk by Mike Rowe where he told a story of how he had to castrate lambs as part of his Dirty Jobs television series.  While he makes no preparation for the jobs he agrees to take on, in this instance, he said he had to do a bit of research to determine how this would work.  He learned that castration is done (typically and according to the Humane Society) using a rubber band.  It apparently takes about a week for them to drop off.  What they didn’t tell him is that it is an excruciating process for the lamb and that it is a week of pain.  I recommend watching his talk to learn what he had to do instead…

At any rate, the point of his talk turned into a discussion of anagnorisis and peripeteia.  Anagnorisis is the transition from ignorance to knowledge and peripeteia is a sudden turn of events where you often realize that everything you thought was right is suddenly reversed.  It was about learning what you’ve gotten wrong in your perception about work, how to recognize this and then change.

 

Food For Thought

What are the misconceptions of work that we all have that we continue to perpetuate based on our own ignorance?  Is it the idea that following our passion is the only way to go?  We all think we want that.  What if our passion doesn’t pay?  What if we are so ignorant in our current state of following the herd or even a bad leader that we are completely missing out on anagnorisis?  What if ALL the constructs of business and HR and technology are getting it wrong and we’re all just following along?

It’s a lot to think about and I don’t claim to have all the right answers.  What I DO know for sure is that if we stop questioning the status quo, we deserve what we get.  The only way to make progress~ real progress~ is to question what other people believe as truth.

  • We have to do what is necessary in order not to become complacent
  • We have to stop relying on organization or bosses to take care of us
  • We have to step up and be accountable and operate on principle
  • We have to keep questioning and changing processes
  • We have to examine and re-examine our technology choices so that we have the right solutions in place
  • We have to push the gas instead of continuing to coast

In closing, I share a quote that Mike Rowe said.  “The jobs we hope to make and the jobs we hope to create aren’t going to stick unless they are jobs people want.”  Think about that as you examine your own work and as you think about the positions you create in your organization.

I welcome your comments.

How Sleep Deprivation Impacts Your Work

*From the dusty archives…

A little over a week ago, I was starting to get sick.  With springtime comes allergies so, like most people, I attributed my early symptoms to that.  By day two though, I knew I really had something brewing.  My main signal was sitting at my desk at work and suddenly feeling like I could fall asleep.  I felt like George from Seinfeld when he decided he needed a nap at work and created a spot under his desk where he could sleep.  I contemplated asking someone to come pick me up and drive me home, but instead, I drank a Coke and felt energized enough to drive myself.

Looking back, I know that day at work was not my most productive.  I was trying my best to stay completely focused but the illness and drowsiness impacted my ability to stay focused and accomplish all I needed to do.  Now, we all know that this happens to everyone.  We get sick.  What I am thinking about today is how many people who have long-term sleep issues come to work drowsy every day?  What impact does that have on their productivity?  Are they in positions that put others at risk? 

In a recent article highlighting the National Sleep Foundation’s 2012 Sleep In America poll, “about one-fourth of train operators (26%) and pilots (23%) admit that sleepiness has affected their job performance at least once a week, compared to about one in six non-transportation workers (17%).

Perhaps more disturbingly, a significant number say that sleepiness has caused safety problems on the job. One in five pilots (20%) admit that they have made a serious error and one in six train operators (18%) and truck drivers (14%) say that they have had a “near miss” due to sleepiness.  Sleepiness has also played a role in car accidents commuting to and from work. Pilots and train operators are significantly more likely than non-transportation workers (6% each, compared to 1%) to say that they have been involved in a car accident due to sleepiness while commuting.”

Statistics like these are somewhat jarring but honestly, not completely surprising.  While many of us do not have transportation related jobs, drowsiness can still have a significant negative impact on work productivity and our results.

As a leader, have you noticed that drowsiness has had an impact on your performance or the performance of your team?  What signs have you seen that drowsy workers in a corporate setting are impacting productivity?  Share in the comments.

People Are Not Functions

If you go to a convention and don’t break through the impersonal function, can you really work with someone successfully or are you limiting your success?
functionI recently purchased an Amazon Fire TV stick and was having quite a bit of fun finding old movies to watch.  You see, my kids are still young so there was a ten year stretch where all I did was watch Disney movies.  Now, I’m catching up on that time I missed.  I am a huge Kevin Spacey fan, so I started with The Big Kahuna near the top of my list.  First, if you haven’t watched it, I can share that I only made it through the first 18 minutes, give or take, of the movie.  Even with Spacey anchoring the line up, it was not something I could sit through.  There were a few good nuggets though and one I’d like to share with you.
The movie starts in a motel where Spacey and two other men are preparing for a convention/ meeting/ event in their “suite” that really is not all that sweet.  Spacey’s character makes a comment about the impersonality of conventions and says, “People are functions, not individuals.”
Really.  What?
It hit me like lightning that this is mostly true.  It’s true at work and it’s true in the extended workplaces of conventions and conferences.  But not for me.  All the events I’ve been to I make a point to be myself.  It’s the only way to really connect with fellow attendees and build relationships that go beyond the superficial.  I don’t want to be known as a function.  But, what if you are known as a function?  “Oh, that’s Jane.  She’s just the 2nd shift manager of the  packaging department.”  Sounds pretty cold if you ask me.
What do you do if you’re in that predicament?
There are a few ways to set yourself apart and it all revolves around actively branding yourself.  My friend Jason Seiden said it best years ago when he coined the term “profersonal”….there is no personal brand and professional brand.  It’s all blended together now and the faster your recognize this and promote this, the better off you’ll be.  Steps to take are:
  • Don’t fall into the jargon trap. Don’t use the terms personal brand and professional brand.  If you are, stop.
  • Be yourself.  Be professional.  Be approachable.  Be trustworthy.  If you do those four things consistently, everything else falls into place.
  • Be someone that people want to work with at all costs.  Be the person that everyone speaks highly of and recommends you as someone that all their connections must connect with.
  • Never define yourself by a job title.  Do what you do best and a good employer will design the job around you and value your contribution.  A great example of this was one I learned at PricewaterhouseCoopers early in my career.  Like all employers, there were job titles and openings for specific positions.  However, once in awhile we came across a person who was so special that we had to have them even though we didn’t have a job open. We hired those people anyway and most were successful.
So, if you’ve learned nothing else today, don’t let anyone else define you.  Oh, and don’t watch The Big Kahuna.  You’re welcome.

What’s the Difference: Do You Have a Job or a Career?

www.flazingo.comI was thinking today about the difference between my job and my career.  Many people use these terms interchangably.  I don’t.  I believe my job is the employer that I chose, who chose me, to come provide a service and be paid for that service.  I think that is only one part of my career though.  Additionally, a career is not just a series of jobs.  Although for many people who do differentiate, that is the distinction they make.

I believe your career is a compiliation of all the work you do.  Your career is the totality of how you use all the skills you acquire to bring value to your job as well as the other organizations you participate in.  That includes your paid and unpaid work.

The list is long…

  • Volunteering at an organization
  • Working on PTA or PTO
  • Being a scout leader
  • Being a coach for children
  • Leading efforts for your church
  • Writing
  • Speaking

We choose who we work with.

There are many times I meet someone and think of numerous ways we can work together.  Take HRevolution for example.  This is an effort I embark on with three other people in the industry.   I admire  them (Ben EubanksSteve Boese, and Matt Stollak) more than any people I’ve met.  We CHOOSE to work together. We do it because we have a shared mission, a shared passion, and a shared devotion to each other.  Then, we weave many other people into the fabric and work with them to make the event possible.  It may not be a paid job, but it is a skill building effort and helps my career.

I also co-host HR Happy Hour with Steve Boese, helped write a book with my HRevolutionize team (not published yet but awaiting finishing touches), partner with smart women like Jenny Payne on Women of HR, and constantly come up with new ideas with the likes of Bill Boorman, Paul Hebert, Victorio Milian, Lisa Rosendahl, Robin Schooling and Mike Vandervort.  To me, it’s experiences like these that make my career so much richer.  It’s these experiences that make me better at my J-O-B.

So, am I crazy?  Is there a difference?  Tell me what you think in the comments….

Stop Playing the Blame Game at Work

the-blame-gameSanders!  Where is that presentation I told you I needed by noon today?

Uh, sir…..I was going to have that ready for you but Bob Smith over in marketing didn’t get me the images I needed yet.

Sanders, I told YOU to have it ready!!

Um, but sir, I was trying my hardest.  I also had some issues with our connectivity and couldn’t get PowerPoint to load properly on my pc.

Sanders, you always blame others for your deficiencies.  YOU’RE FIRED!

Who’s to blame?

All too often, something goes wrong at work and the finger-pointing begins.  It doesn’t really matter what the circumstances are.  It doesn’t even really matter who the players are.  What matters is that once a problem arises, everyone falls into the CYA mode.  This reaction is quite natural and is detailed in attribution theory, a social psychology theory developed by Heider, Kelley, Jones, Ross, and Weiner.  When we are successful, we attribute those results to ourselves and a very positive, internal locus of control.  When we fail or a situation fails, we attribute those results to others and external factors.

How to stop blaming others

Show some empathy. We are not perfect and should not expect perfection from others.   In fact, we know deep down that blaming someone who we think “did it” does not help correct the situation.  Think about that horrible feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you realize you screw up.  Now, imagine you’re the other person.  Offer to help him/ her out of the hole they just dug.

What if you really are the culprit

Own up. It’s always better to own up to a mistake before your boss or someone else notices.  Once you realize you could have done something better or differently, let your boss know.  Explain that you realize you made the mistake and that you should have done xyz instead.  Then, have a proposed solution ready.  If you are in over your head, admit it and ask for their advice on correcting the situation.

Start a tradition to head off the need for blame

Take the lead. We all know that having a strong offense is the best defense.  With that in mind, start a department tradition where everyone knows that the blame game is not allowed.  When someone new joins the department, make sure they are told.  Once you have your team on the same page that everyone deserves support, you’ll find that you spend much less time dealing with the bickering among employees and much more time coming up with solid solutions when problems arise.
By actively working to change the tendency to blame, we’ll be part of a more productive workplace.  What do you think?  Do you see blame and finger pointing at work?  How do you address it as a leader?