Your Workplace Emotions Matter

Many workers are downright grumpy– companies have cut back on resources all while asking workers to “do more with less.” As a result, nerves get frayed and tempers can flare.

Tempers flare when the amygdala part of our brain gets triggered and sets off an alarm, firing powerful adrenaline stress hormones in response to perceived threats (like fear of losing your job). There are many ways we can perceive “danger” in our workplaces. For example, believing a co-worker is trying to make us look bad to the boss can be seen as a threat to our livelihood (and therefore our survival). Hearing a co-worker say something that we perceive is insulting or demeaning can be seen as a threat to our self-esteem. Scenarios where we perceive threats put us at risk for losing control of our emotions — otherwise known as an amygdala hijack.

Losing one’s temper or composure in the workplace puts jobs and careers at risk. Most companies won’t put up with it. Workers with anger management issues are seen as a serious risk.

Feeling angry isn’t the problem; the problem is inappropriate behavior. You may not be able to choose how you feel, but you can choose how you respond. Here are tips for responding appropriately:

  • If you feel out of control, take a timeout and remove yourself from the situation. Walk around the block or leave for the rest of the day (infinitely better than losing it in front of your boss or colleagues).
  • Calm down your body’s natural adrenaline response. Try deep breathing from the belly, visualizing your “happy place” or silently repeating a calming word. This will help decrease blood pressure and heart rate, which naturally increase with feeling angry.
  • Identify and acknowledge your emotion. Just naming it can be helpful. Take responsibility for your own feelings and share them directly to clear the air by using an “I” statement. (“I feel angry when …”) Unexpressed anger can result in passive-aggressive behavior (like getting back at someone indirectly with cynical or critical comments vs. confronting issues head on), which can harm relationships.
  • Identify what triggers your anger. Self-awareness is key to controlling how you respond. Working with a coach or therapist can help. A professional can help you connect the dots, increase your self-awareness and learn new behaviors — work you can do to hugely benefit your career.
  • Find a release for your emotions outside work: exercise, kickboxing, chopping wood, etc. Exercise is a powerful release for pent-up emotions.
  • Check your assumptions and perceptions. It’s our appraisal of the behaviors of others that often cause us to react with anger. Humans often jump to inaccurate conclusions. We often guess at the motives or intentions of our co-workers. Electronic communication is particularly fraught with danger for misinterpretation. Check in with the “offending” person to see if your perceptions are accurate. Ask clarifying questions. Be open to the idea that you might have it wrong.
  • Slow it down. Think before you speak. Saying the first thing that pops into your head is rarely a good thing when you’re upset. Rapid-fire responses are what get people escorted out of buildings. Before you speak or hit “send” on an e-mail, check in with yourself and ask: How could this be misunderstood? What is my intention here? Do I want to vent, blame or resolve this? When you speak, use “I” statements and avoid blaming; if you respond with “You …,” odds are you will trigger a defensive response from the other person.
  • Take time off over the holidays to rejuvenate and recharge your batteries. Spend time “disconnected” from the office (that means no compulsive checking of the BlackBerry or other work-connected devices!). Give yourself a break — you deserve it.

Inappropriate outbursts can define how you are viewed in the workplace. Many people are unaware of how poorly their behavior reflects on them (or affects co-workers). There is help available for those with challenges in this area of emotional intelligence.

Workplaces are filled with frustrations. You won’t succeed trying to eliminate feelings of anger. You are still human. What you can change is how you react and respond.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach leaders all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Change is coming — you need to change with it

How do you react to change? Your answer may affect your career — more than you might believe.

“Resilient” individuals are recognized for their ability to absorb change more effectively than their less resilient counterparts; they adapt to change positively, keeping their composure, without the change negatively affecting their emotional, mental or physical well-being — or of those around them. Less resilient individuals tend to react with fight (emotional outbursts, passive/aggressive behavior or sabotaging the change effort) or flight (“I hit the job boards the day I heard the news.”).

Ambiguity is everywhere. The workplace today is full of changes, uncertainty and complexity from changing work flow, processes and overlapping roles to reporting structures and new information/technology systems. The rules of how to succeed in the workplace are changing. Companies place a high value on employees who can adapt to all this change successfully. The winners will be those who are identifiable for their adaptability and resiliency — those seen as effective, optimistic, supportive and proactively seeking solutions. The losers will be those seen as being overwhelmed, putting up roadblocks to success, paralyzed, “stuck” and resentful.

Dr. Spencer Johnson illustrates the importance of anticipating and adapting to change in his simplistic parable “Who Moved My Cheese?” The book is full of cheese (change) nuggets:

  • “If you do not change, you can become extinct.”
  • “Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old.”
  • “Movement in a new direction helps you find new cheese.”

The cheese story reminds us to embrace change vs. becoming immobilized or traumatized by it. Simply put, change is coming — so get over and on with it!

Adaptability has become a workplace buzzword — and a key hiring standard. Staffing for all this change has become important. I counsel job candidates to prepare a story that demonstrates their “adaptability” for interviews. Employers equate the ability to deal with uncertain and unfamiliar situations as key to potential success in positions. Being seen as the one who “makes it work” may be the difference in getting the job or promotion.

While easier said than done, here are a few ways that employees and managers can increase the odds of adaptability and resiliency:

  • Self-awareness is essential. Be aware of your emotion to the change but “choose” your behavior in how you react to it. Extreme negative reactivity can — and will — hurt your career.
  • Communicate to management your desire to learn new coping and adaptability skills. Demonstrate you are willing to improve and change. Ask what training or coaching is available to you to become more valuable to the company.
  • Develop an open mind. Be curious — ask questions. Explore and consider vs. deciding quickly or rigidly planting your stake in the ground. Change often opens up better and new opportunities.
  • Be proactive. Take action given calculated risks and have a plan for problems. Remember — it’s not IF problems will come up — it’s how you deal with them that makes all the difference.
  • Remember Ben Franklin’s wisdom: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Be identified as one who challenges the status quo and provides solutions (you will stand out from those who hide behind, “It’s always been done that way.”).
  • Identify the positive opportunities and keep a big-picture perspective. Just because your company just got taken over doesn’t mean disaster — it may mean good riddance to processes that have been getting in your way of success.
  • Attitude is everything, and humor helps. Scream in your car (not your cubicle) and try viewing the change as another *#@*! growth opportunity!
  • Be compassionate. Empathy and understanding that change can be “scary” and uncomfortable can go a long way toward soothing ruffled employees. Back those willing to challenge the status quo (good leaders pave the way for their people to be successful).
  • Be “coachable” — professional coaches or supportive mentors can help.
  • Be a lifetime learner — stay current. Keep adding to your knowledge and skill base. Those that stagnate will not thrive in the new order of the workplace.
  • Accept it and embrace it. Change is coming — it’s inevitable.

Adaptability also means being creative to find solutions that work. Most organizations can’t afford to carry those who fight them tooth and nail over changes to improve the business. If you aren’t moving forward, someone else is passing you by.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach leaders all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Career Development Goals

Do you have clear goals written down?  If not, start by identifying key insights and lessons by looking backwards.   How can you build more opportunity for “flow” (aka your mojo workplace zone) in your work life?

If you are unsatisfied in your career, you likely need a new career plan. It happens. As we age and grow professionally, our ideal job criteria can change dramatically. The same position or industry that excited us 10 years ago may look very different today. Our needs change, as do the skills required to be successful in the marketplace.

It’s important to get clear about what’s important to you in a dream job — consider your own skills, strengths, interests and needs, as well as things such as company or team size, growth opportunities, geographic location, job function and lifestyle considerations.

Though it’s easy to imagine, many people get stuck taking their dream past this point, as it often requires sacrifice, discipline, work and commitment. Reality can be sobering, but identifying the gap between where you are today and where you want to be is vital for developing a successful plan.

A career self-assessment is important, and many people will want to invest in outside expertise for this important step. Consider your experience, strengths and challenges. How do these match with those required to be successful in your dream job?

Your plan to address any identified deficiencies is frequently the difference (and key) between a dream and true professional achievement.

This year create goals that can help you prioritize your time and efforts. Research shows that goal setting can lead to improved performance. (In a famous Ivy League study of students, the 3 percent of those with written goals earned 10 times as much as the other 97 percent of classmates put together!) Choose carefully. A long list of goals can overwhelm, and having 10 priorities is like having none.

The “SMART” acronym can be useful for effective goal setting. Though there are many variations of the SMART goal setting process, these cover the basics:

  • Specific — What does success look like with this goal?
  • Measurable — How will I track my performance?
  • Achievable — Is this goal reasonable and realistic vs. “pie in the sky”?
  • Relevant — Would achieving this goal make a true difference? The goal should matter to you.
  • Time bound — What is your “by when” or time in the future by which you want to accomplish this goal?

I would add a “C” to the end of the “SMART” acronym to provide motivation and leverage; it can be powerful to imagine what it will be like to achieve your goal (or not!).

  • Consequence — What does achieving (or not achieving) your goal look like? Is it building your dream home, sending your kids to college or using your creative talents to better others’ lives? Whatever yours are — you need to get clear about them.

Consider, for example, the difference between a goal of “to be successful” and one of, “I will be in a director role of our company by June 2009, which will increase my salary by 25 percent and allow me to build our retirement home on Orcas Island.” The second goal is much more powerful, compelling and focused.

The difference between “pie in the sky” and achievement of goals is coming up with the specific action plan. Your action plan is your personal road map to success. What are the daily or weekly steps you need to take this year to meet your goal? For some it will include new job tasks to gain experience. For others it may be taking the necessary steps to achieve an advanced degree or conducting informational interviews with professionals in the targeted field. Be honest with yourself about what you can realistically accomplish in the coming year. Identify the “must dos” vs. the “would like to do” to achieve your goal. Remember to anticipate obstacles to success and build in your plan how you will overcome them!

The hard part comes next — actually doing the action steps required and staying on your path. To help, write down your goals, share them with others and use visual triggers that represent attainment of your goals that you can see every day (some use vision boards or screen-saver reminders). Remember to celebrate small successes as you go along, and to use temporary setbacks as learning opportunities vs. reasons to give up.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper was quoted (while covering the aftermath of hurricane Katrina) saying, “Hope is not a plan.” Successful plans require considerable thought process, commitment and effort — as well as having champions, coaches and allies that will help keep you on path and accountable.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Finding The Job That Fits You

If you are frequently bored, anxious or apathetic in your job, there is a high probability that your current job simply isn’t a good fit with your talents and skills. Success in your career is up to you. Finding a job that matches your interests, skills and talents is key to success and job satisfaction.

We all have unique experience and talents and it can often be challenging finding a job that fits our capabilities, potential and strengths.

A “right fit” job can look like different things to different people but here are the areas most people find important:

  • Having some degree of challenge.
  • Being recognized and appreciated by peers and supervisors for contributions.
  • An opportunity for advancement or development.
  • Being able to work with others we respect, like and/or can learn from.
  • Fair compensation for contributions (yes, money matters).
  • Enjoyment doing daily work tasks.
  • The opportunity to use core talents and strengths.

There are others, of course, but the list goes a long way toward increasing the potential for workplace happiness.

Marcus Buckingham, author of “First, Break All the Rules”, “Now Discover Your Strengths” and “Go Put Your Strengths to Work,” has spent his career researching and linking high performance to an individual’s core talents or strengths. His Gallup survey of nearly 2 million employees launched his “strength-based” revolution. Buckingham defines a strength as not merely something you are good at but also something you find so satisfying that you look forward to doing it again and again. Those in jobs that allow ample opportunity to do what they do best are more satisfied and more productive.

Sadly, Buckingham’s research suggests that only 17 percent of the work force believe they use all of their strengths on the job. Part of the problem is they settle for jobs that aren’t the right fit.

Management is the other part of the problem. Too often managers don’t focus enough on identifying their workers’ strengths and providing opportunities for them to leverage these strengths in their jobs.

What can managers do? Buckingham recommends managers focus on the following areas:

  • Establish a process to identify individual strengths. Ask the employee to identify their best day at work in the past three months (what were they doing and why did they enjoy it so much).
  • Determine what triggers and best supports these strengths (e.g., time of the day, audience, reward, recognition, goals, specific tasks etc).
  • Determine the employee’s preferred learning style. Buckingham identifies three primary styles: analyzing (these people need time and information); doing (trial and error) and watching (they like to study the complete picture).

The best leaders do not use a “one size fits all” approach with their people.

Workplace satisfaction is important to our personal well being — given that we spend about one-third of our lives at work. As a career coach, I encourage those seeking a new job to first identify their strengths and what workplace situations or experiences result in their being in “flow.” Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi identifies “flow” as a human “peak” experience of supercharged productivity, engagement and happiness. It happens when we bring our strengths and talents to bear on a challenging goal or task. Athletes often refer to this condition as being “in the zone.” If you have ever been doing something at work that you were so engaged that you lost track of time, you were probably in your “workplace zone.”

Frequently cited components resulting in achieving flow:

  • Immediate feedback, response or reward.
  • Highly challenging tasks met with high skills/talent/ strength.
  • Fully focused concentration.
  • Clear goals.
  • Feeling of “being in control.”
  • Loss of self-consciousness.
  • Altered sense of time.

The greatest leaders bring out the best in others. They know their people’s strengths and support an environment that eliminates distractions and impediments to performance and job satisfaction.

Leaders who help their people find work “flow” can expect exceptional creativity, productivity and job satisfaction.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Embrace Change

Times have changed, and today’s career path is not what it used to be. Consider:

  • The average American changes jobs every three years.
  • Today’s elementary/high school student likely will have 15 different jobs by age 38.
  • One out of every four workers today is working at a company where they’ve been less than one year.

Taking charge of your career is more important today than ever. A critical element for success in today’s job market is the ability (and willingness) to continue to expand our skills, knowledge and capabilities. The days of going to college and earning a four-year degree that will carry you through a professional lifetime are most likely over.

To secure the best jobs in a constantly changing marketplace requires a lifetime learning ethic. Those who demonstrate flexibility and adaptability and learn new skills will be the winners with today’s career challenges.

If career success matters to you, here are a few steps to consider:

Ask yourself: What career path is right for me? Evaluation of your “dream career” requires an honest self-inventory around purpose, values, interests and skills. Professional career coaches provide assessment, structure, support, challenge and strategic help for this process. Many advocate some type of “soul searching” to help you align your gifts, values and talents with your vision or purpose for your work life. The goal: to identify how you will increase the likelihood of “flow” — the state of satisfaction one gets when challenge and clear goals are aligned with talents and skills.

Exploration: Most career development involves some level of exploration. Job shadowing, exploring career trends, job availability and information interviews can be helpful strategies.

Identify career goals: Stephen Covey advises us to “begin with the end in mind.” Understanding where you are going is important. You can’t hit what you aren’t aiming at. One study of Yale seniors in 1973 revealed that the 3 percent who had written goals accomplished more (financially) in their careers than the rest of their class combined. Yet studies indicate that few of us have written down our goals. Career goals provide both focus and energy.

Assessment: Taking an accurate assessment of your core strengths and identifying skill “gaps” is vital to realistic career planning. There are a number of assessment tools available, with “360” evaluations (feedback surveys from multiple raters associated with you) being one way to help identify both strengths and developmental needs.

Getting honest feedback from your superiors and peers on the areas you need to change — and then honestly and genuinely addressing them — can be the difference between a mediocre and a highly successful career.

New job assignments: Career development requires getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things. Most successful leaders report that they learned their greatest leadership lessons through difficult work assignments and accepting new job/task challenges. A few new job tasks for you to consider:

  • Manage something new and/or unfamiliar (a product, team, technology, etc.).
  • Coach an employee with a performance challenge.
  • Work with a dissatisfied or challenging customer.
  • Manage an intern.

Continued academics: Consider new technical training, certifications and/or going back to school for your advanced degree. Imagine that interview where your potential new boss states, “Hmm, I am sorry you have a master’s degree; we were looking for someone who has demonstrated less commitment to self-advancement.” Being competitive in today’s job market requires continual learning and updated skills.

Professional career development: Many of today’s most successful professionals have used career or leadership development coaches to help them advance. Hiring a career coach is an investment in you. For some, it can be the difference between going to work every day to a job they dread or one that is satisfying and rewarding.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com