The stress that comes from hard work has positive benefits. Peak performance experts like Jim Loehr believe there is ample data to support the premise that positive stress is key to personal growth. We may feel tired and anxious but we become more fit mentally. Overall it’s a good thing.
Bad stress, which I believe comes from continual interpersonal conflict and/or being in an environment where our personal sense of power and control is significantly diminished, is literally toxic. There is also undeniable data confirming bad stress as a root cause of physical and psychological damage.
When we find ourselves in a toxic environment we need to make it a priority to change it. If it’s interpersonal we have to constructively address this with the other(s) involved. When the other party is our boss, we have to put the matter on the table regardless of how politically difficult this may seem. If we are unable to resolve this conflict, I believe we need to find another work situation. Too often however, I find that people avoid interpersonal conflict rather than positively confronting it.
When we find ourselves where our personal control is so diminished that we “can’t win,” a new game plan is required where we can realistically expect different results. Too often people do the same things over and over wishing for different results. It is the “buy a lottery ticket and hope” strategy.
Applying the Character Triangle is a framework for confronting toxic stress. Ideally it helps us put an interpersonal fight behind us and others, and puts us in better control for developing a plan to achieve winning results. If not and we’ve given it our best shot, it is likely time to find an environment where we can enjoy good stress and put bad stress in the rear view mirror.
Live healthy; live the triangle.
I really believe in what John Miller, author of QBQ! the Question Behind the Question, calls the “believe or leave” philosophy. If we aren’t engaged and committed to what we’re doing it’s time for a change. Perhaps it involves a change in an approach to a job or career. In more extreme cases it means doing something else altogether. However it is critical to be honest about how much the job and not something else is driving discontent; as the adage goes, “wherever you go you’re still there.”
So here is a framework to make a job believe or leave assessment.
Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell in a great Harvard Business Review article provides some thoughtful guidelines. His view is we should spend most of our career/job time intersecting in three spheres:
- What we LIKE to do best.
- What we do best.
- What adds value to the organization.
There is much research that shows the relationship between job fit and personal contentment. To help us take a deeper dive on this Hallowell provides a self assessment set of questions. Examples include:
- What do others say most often are your strengths? (Read my blog on feedback in today’s workplace.)
- What were you doing when you were the happiest in your work life?
- What sort of organization culture brings out the best in you?
Please give yourself some reflective time on this. But whatever you do please don’t sit in the middle of a misery puddle. Believe, by liking what you do and adding value with purpose, or Leave and contribute elsewhere.
Live the Triangle,
Mother Theresa said that the most terrible poverty was loneliness and feeling unloved. I wonder how lonely and isolated people feel in western culture.
The other day my wife and I dropped in on a hip coffee house in the Eastlake area of Seattle. Eighteen people, most in their 20 and 30s, sat by themselves plugged into laptops (16 Apple, 1 iPad, 1 PC …hmm). There was another couple our age; he was on his Blackberry and she was on her cell phone. Ok it’s just an observation, but I wonder if our work environment is taking on added importance as a place for face to face personal interaction.
So my Thanksgiving (here in the US) message is around the importance of getting to really know about the people we work with. It is so important to care about each other. Yes its work, but work is a huge part of our life.
The other day I learned about the life of one of our tech supervisors. Holy cow – what a story …escaping the Cambodian Killing fields, 3 days and nights at sea crossing as one of the Vietnamese boat people, and more. There is no way I could fully appreciate this man without learning about his life.
Please take the time to unplug once in a while. Learn about the people who work around us. Be thankful for those that care and get to know us.
It is about respect for us and others.
This is a perspective from a CEO who has spent a career thinking about leadership, accountability, and problem solving. Some people in organizations think about problem solving as a pitch and catch process. It is similar to jumping off a 50-story building and feeling like we’re flying for the first 49 floors. Of course the landing changes that perspective. When we participate in an exercise aimed at developing a list of complaints and concerns it might feel really good while we’re doing it …almost like we’re flying. I have been part of these kinds of meetings where list making of problems and concerns has an incredible momentary high. But like the jumping metaphor, the landing is the same. Why?
Complaining and developing lists of concerns, as a unilateral exercise, usually just results in problems being shifted around. Well intended managers often think this is great leadership but unwittingly end up shouldering the list of problems on their own. Of course most often they cannot solve the problems unilaterally. In the same way, well intended employees do a “problem dump” (a.k.a. a bitch session) and feel good until the bloom falls off the cathartic rose. We can become bitterly disappointed when the problem list remains mostly unchanged over a period of time. We hear phrases like, “Why didn’t they….?”
Self accountability always involves bringing a personal contribution to solving problems. Hit and run, or pitch and catch, problem dumping is usually counterproductive. Resist problem identification as a singular activity. It usually promotes organizations to become better at making lists than taking action. If we want to drive a meaningful problem solving process, each of us has to come to a problem or issue with a contribution in hand. The fix is almost always a collective connection of those impacted and involved.
I look for people who are self accountable problem solvers, not problem dumpers or collectors. How would you identify yourself?
Be a solver. Live in the Triangle.