How many times have you thought in the mornings – I wish I didn’t have to go to work today? And not just on Mondays either… This question could be a symptom of quite a common malignancy – boredom at work or tiredness of a toxic workplace that drains you of all your energy. And you are not alone – Only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work, according to Gallup’s new 142-country study on the State of the Global Workplace. In other words, only about one in eight workers — roughly 180 million employees in the countries studied — are psychologically committed to their jobs and likely to be making positive contributions to their organizations.
CEOs and management of companies are struggling to figure out how to more effectively understand and use their people’s talents, skills, and energy (Per PWC, 77% of CEOs say they’ll change their strategy for managing talent in 2013. But CEOs have told us the same thing for the past six years. This suggests either that the changes they’ve made aren’t working, or that their plans have never been put into practice. Clearly, a fundamental rethink of the established approach to talent strategy is needed.)
Now unless you are the CEO of the company or it’s your own business, you might say – oh well, I can’t do anything about this. I just need to drag myself to work every day till my leadership team waves a magic wand at the workplace or till I can jump to the next job or launch my startup (Yay! for you). Actually not – as the CEO of YOU, Inc there is a lot that YOU can do to make your work fun and your workplace enjoyable. I have written about the toxic attitudes to avoid at the workplace earlier. If you want to enjoy yourself at work and make work enjoyable for others around you, here are my five favourite workplace attitudes that I have seen work:
Work-Place Attitude #1: Help Others Succeed - This beautiful Zulu proverb says it all: “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”- A human is only a human because of other humans. We’re all interconnected! Your Success is assured and becomes more meaningful when you help others succeed. Make work personal – be of help and ASK for help. Personal relationships are the fertile soil from which all advancement, all success, all achievement in real life grows. The more you give of yourself in anything, the more you get in return – especially when you give with no expectation of return. Too often, we build islands of ourselves cutting ourselves off from people who we can learn from, grow with and share life’s experiences. Do what you can for other people, give respect, work hard at building relationships and open yourself up to great experiences at work. And don’t hesitate to ask for help – Not only do you get help but in this way let the other person know that you recognizes their skills and value. Saying, “Can you help me?” is the same as saying, “I know you are great at that.” And then – don’t forget to say the two most powerful words – Thank You.
Work-Place Attitude #2: Ask and Listen, Like you mean it – This is the best strategy to make meetings (one of the biggest fun-killers at work) much more interesting and much less Yawn-inducing. And if you have got a big case of “Love-your-own-voice-it is”, save it for the karaoke nights after work please. Shut up and listen sometimes so that you can have fun and let others have fun too. As Kevin Cashman points out from his book, The Pause Principle here : “How often do we pause to be genuinely present with someone? How often do we really hear what the other person is saying and feeling versus filtering it heavily through our own immediate concerns and time pressures? Authentic listening is not easy. We hear the words, but rarely do we really slow down to listen and squint with our ears to hear the emotions, fears, and underlying concerns…. Try practicing authentic listening. Be with people and have the goal to fully understand the thoughts and feelings they are trying to express. Use your questions and comments to draw them out, to open them up, and to clarify what is said rather than expressing your view, closing them down, and saying only what you want. Not only will this help you to understand the value and contribution the other person brings, it will create a new openness in the relationship that will allow you to express yourself and be heard more authentically as well.”
Work-Place Attitude #3: Be Calm and Spread Calm – This one works well to counter one of the biggest energy drainers – office politics. You have to know this game but not be an active player in this game. It sucks you in till one day you wake up and realize you have become one of “them” (you know who I mean). So when tensions escalate, dramas and conspiracy theories abound, take a deep breath and stay calm. Be the Zen-master if you will. As Tony Schwartz says – When in doubt, ask yourself, “How would I behave here at my best?” We know instinctively what it means to do the right thing, even when we’re inclined to do the opposite. If you find it impossible, in a challenging moment, to envision how you’d behave at your best, try imagining how someone you admire would respond. I have a good collection of experiences and articles on dealing with office politics if you need some help.
Work-Place Attitude #4: Be a Customer Advocate not a Company Advocate – Never ever say “that’s how we do things here” when someone asks you why something (process, task, tool) is done the way it is done now and never accept that answer. This is a real innovation and idea killer. It makes you a zombie at work doing things just because… and not to mention the possible impact that this could be having on the customers. Every task, every action that you take at work has to be related back to how it ultimately helps the customer. Companies exist for customers and not the other way around. Use the Five Whys technique if you get stuck figuring out the how. By being a customer advocate, you stretch your mind, you force yourself the look at processes the way your customer does. It is THIS that triggers changes that improve the company’s bottom line. And is an avenue for creativity for you in your current job making it more fun.
Work-Place Attitude #5: Do something that you have Never done before – Lifelong learning is not just a catch word, it is a saviour for boredom and weariness and leads you to a successful career. I know. I have tried it out on myself and it really works. It is the best way to move forward and regain your career momentum when you feel you are stuck. You never know what skill could help you where and it is so much fun stretching ourselves to learning something new. Keep a journal and list what you have learnt for the first time in the day, week, and month. What did you enjoy learning the most – you can get a lot of valuable answers about yourself and your work from there. And at the workplace, teach to learn. Teaching is maybe the most amazing learning tool. Teach and learn as a mentor or as a peer. Two brains are better than one and its lots of fun too.
And how does this all relate to success? There is quite a lot of science behind this (and the study of happiness at work is a rapidly growing trend as it should be) – if you are having fun at work, you are happier. If you are happier, you’ll solve problems faster, be more creative, adapt fastest to change, get appreciated, receive better feedback, get promoted quicker and earn more over the long-term. Have ten minutes and not sure of your happiness quotient at work? Take this survey from iOpener Institute which gives you a personalized and confidential assessment of how happy and fulfilled you are at work: http://blogs.wsj.com/source/2011/09/18/how-happy-are-you-at-work-complete-our-survey/
So what did I miss? What attitudes do you take with yourself to work? What attitudes do you admire in your colleagues? Add to the list – I would love to hear back and learn from you (help me fill my learning journal).
Pic Courtesy – My favourite marketoonist - http://tomfishburne.com/2008/12/silo-day-care.html