Word-Of-the-Week #680: Choosing

August 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Choosing – deciding what you want.

Are you clear about what you want out of your life? Under pressure is your first instinct fight or flight? Can you see the positive even in a potential negative situation?

This week features 5 more tips from Doug Williams San Diego UT article, “How to stay afloat when your workplace is toxic.” He wrote “The first thing to remember, you can only manage yourself. You can’t control other people, especially if it’s a manager being the toxic factor. And in terms of managing yourself, really, that’s where mindfulness comes in very powerfully, to help the employee realize what they can control and to let go of what they can’t. Sometimes that letting go of what you can’t control is a huge relief for people.”

  1. Be present. Even in a stressful situation — say, being criticized by a boss — don’t disconnect. Listen and engage without judgment.

“Right now my manager is giving me grief, and there’s nothing I can do about this,” says Cassisa. “Just that bit of acceptance can relieve a lot of stress. There’s an equation we use and talk about in our classes, and that is pain times resistance equals suffering. So pain is going to happen. Your manager is being a jerk. But the resistance you add on top of that is what causes more suffering.”

That’s not to say you shouldn’t go to HR later if it’s justified, she says. But in the moment, accept it. That will counter the fight-flight-freeze reaction we’re all wired for in an emotional situation and help stop the flow of adrenaline and cortisol that shut down your ability to think clearly — or say something to make the situation worse. 

  1. Meditate. Take a class and practice meditation to keep yourself calm.
  1. Focus on the positive. By nature, says Cassisa, we’re in tune with the negative as a survival instinct. It was more important for people to notice “the bad stuff like snakes and poisonous berries than it was to remember beautiful sunsets,” she says. But look for the good work of others and the positives in your life. Keeping a gratitude journal has been shown to increase levels of happiness, she says.
  1. Have compassion for yourself. Don’t beat yourself up about mistakes. “Research is showing that people who are more self-compassionate are more likely to bounce back from failures,” says Cassisa.
  1. Seek choices

In the programs she teaches, Cassisa often talks about an odd but useful tool to use in the midst of a stressful situation. Think, “Where are my feet?”

Even if your boss is dressing you down, consciously thinking about your feet — their position, how they feel — helps short circuit the fight-or-flight switch and allows you to stay calm.

“It can help you to remember to pause and be able to respond with intention instead of reaction,” she says.

Finally, both Mattice Zundel and Cassisa counsel to seek a way out. It may not be possible, but it’s important to consider options.

“We always have choices, but sometimes we don’t see choices as choices,” says Cassisa. “It may be that instead of driving a Lexus and keeping this job, we downgrade to a Toyota and find a job where we’re happier.”

This week is all about choosing. Are you able to stay calm in stressful situations?  How easy is it for you to respond versus reacting? Can you see more than one option in any given situation?

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Word-Of-the-Week #679: Coping

August 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Coping – dealing with difficulties and acting to overcome them.

Do you work in a toxic environment? Are you involved in any toxic relationships? Are you dealing with difficulties in any areas of your life?

This is part 2 of Doug Williams San Diego UT article, “How to stay afloat when your workplace is toxic.” We left off with “The first thing to remember, you can only manage yourself. You can’t control other people, especially if it’s a manager being the toxic factor. And in terms of managing yourself, really, that’s where mindfulness comes in very powerfully, to help the employee realize what they can control and to let go of what they can’t. Sometimes that letting go of what you can’t control is a huge relief for people.”

This week features 5 tips on…

How to cope

Among the strategies Mattice Zundel and Cassisa suggest to mitigate the negative impacts of a toxic work environment:

  1. Don’t be helpless. Change how you react or work to change the environment. That may mean setting up a discussion with HR, a boss or developing an exit strategy. “Creating a strategy to solve your problem tells your brain you’re resilient and it gives you something to focus on,” says Mattice Zundel.
  1. Set boundaries. Put limits on how late you’ll stay, what you’ll accept and what kind of office politics or gossip you’ll allow yourself to get pulled into. Leave work at work. Tell the boss what is and isn’t OK for you.
  1. Engage more. If you see something wrong at work, try to fix it. If you see harassment, don’t let it go. Be an agent of change. It will make you feel positive.

“When you see uncivility or unprofessionalism occur and you don’t step in and put a stop to them immediately, they are allowed to flourish,” says Mattice Zundel. “Then people will continue to push the boundaries until you eventually have a toxic work environment.” 

  1. Do things to de-stress. Exercise releases endorphins that make us feel better. Spend time with friends or groups away from work. Avoid co-workers who drag you down with complaining.
  1. Find self-esteem elsewhere. If you’re not getting the rewards at work you need, spend time doing something you love — and are good at — such as sports, the arts or hobbies.”

This week is about coping. How comfortable are you at setting boundaries? Are you willing to speak up to stop bad behavior? What activity helps reduce your stress?

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Word-Of-the-Week #678: Satisfaction

August 3, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Satisfaction – the feeling of contentment and fulfillment.

How would you rate your work satisfaction? Do you like your supervisors? Do you feel like a valued member of the team?

This week Doug Williams San Diego UT article offers tips on, “How to stay afloat when your workplace is toxic.” He writes, “Every day, you walk into work expecting the worst. Your once-dream job is a nightmare.

Maybe it’s because your boss is a jerk, incompetent (or both). Or the company keeps downsizing but demands more and more. Maybe that work-life balance human resources once stressed in orientation is as dead as the dodo. Perhaps it’s all of the above, and more.

Dissatisfaction at work is common in the U.S. A Gallup study earlier this year indicated 51 percent of U.S. employees don’t feel connected to their jobs. But for some, dissatisfaction is too mild a term. The same study reports 16 percent of employees are “actively disengaged,” meaning they’re tuned out and miserable. For these people, their workplace is toxic. That stress can impact their physical and mental health, resulting in anxiety, loss of sleep, anger or depression.

Among the signs of a toxic workplace: constant turnover, high absenteeism, lack of positive feedback and growth opportunities, bullying, increased demands and incompetent or abusive leadership.

Catherine Mattice Zundel, a human resources consultant and expert on workplace bullying for Civility Partners in La Mesa, says much of that toxicity comes from employees feeling under duress. She gets emails that say, “I’m in a terrible situation at work. Can you help me?”

“Thirty-five percent of the workforce feels bullied on any given day,” she says, citing two studies. Bullying can be in the form of constant, unjust criticism, being yelled at in front of co-workers, becoming the subject of gossip or feeling shunned or insulted by co-workers.

“Workplace bullying runs the gamut from aggressive communication that we can all see and point to and say it’s aggressive, down to passive-aggressive, under-the-radar behaviors that are hard to pinpoint,” says Mattice Zundel.

Mattice Zundel works with companies on culture change. She listens to what employees say while also discussing with executives what they want from their workers. Her goal is to propose changes that transform a toxic work environment to a positive, thriving one. Sometimes that means a complete overhaul, including redefining core values and emphasizing respect while training for better communication and conflict resolution.

But how does an employee cope if the workplace environment doesn’t change? The obvious cure is to leave and find another job, but that’s not always possible. What then?

“If you choose to stay in the workplace, you have to choose to manage the way you think about your workplace,” says Mattice Zundel.

Christy Cassisa, director of WorkLife Integration at UC San Diego’s Center for Mindfulness, says there are strategies for coping, starting with knowing what you can and can’t control. Practicing mindfulness — focusing on being fully aware in the moment without checking out or being reactive or judgmental — can help.

“The first thing to remember, you can only manage yourself,” she says. “You can’t control other people, especially if it’s a manager being the toxic factor. And in terms of managing yourself, really, that’s where mindfulness comes in very powerfully, to help the employee realize what they can control and to let go of what they can’t. Sometimes that letting go of what you can’t control is a huge relief for people.”

This week is all about work/life satisfaction. Do you feel fulfilled and content? Do you have any toxic relationships? Are you trying to control other people?

Stay Tuned! Next week Williams tips on coping.

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Word-Of-the-Week #677: Escape

July 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Escape – break free and get away!

Are you tired of your (lady, man, job, etc) because you’ve been together to long, like a worn our recording of a favorite song? Do you like Pina Colada’s and getting caught in the rain? Sorry but I just couldn’t resist! Rupert Holmes song just kept popping into my head when I was writing this.

This is part 2 of Minda Zetlin’s Chicago Tribune article, Take Your Vacation and Everyone Benefits.  We left off with her saying, “You’ll be better off if you just take all your vacation time, and so will everyone who works or lives with you. Here are some ways to make vacations work:

  • Don’t give in to vacation shaming

Nearly half of Americans in the Alamo Rent A Car annual vacation survey said they had experienced “vacation shaming” in which colleagues make them feel guilty for taking a vacation and leaving others to pick up the slack.

If this goes on in your workplace, don’t give in to the pressure.

Tell those who complains that you’re more than happy to help them out when they take their own vacation. If they proudly proclaim that they’re too busy to go on vacation, let them know that their productivity is likely suffering.

  • Plan well in advance

A well-planned vacation is a vacation that actually happens. Plus, research shows the benefits of going on vacation begin before the vacation itself.

You can get eight weeks of increased happiness simply from planning and looking forward to your vacation.

  • Plan to avoid checking in while away

Another big advantage to planning well in advance is that it can save you from checking in, or worse, actually working while you’re on vacation. Do you want to be the person who conks out early in the evening in some exotic locale because you were up a couple of hours before your family or friends checking email and dealing with office matters?

Because you’re planning well in advance, you have time to bring other team members up to speed on the matters they might have to handle while you’re away. You can make sure all your important contacts, both inside and outside your company, know when you’re leaving and when you’ll be back. Also, let them know you won’t be able to check email to reinforce that you’re truly away.

  • Make sure the people who work for you take their vacation time as well

It’s especially important to take all your vacation time if you have people reporting to you. Your employees will take their cue from you, and if you never take vacation time, they may not either. That’s bad for your workplace.

If you truly don’t want to go away, take a staycation or consider finding a weeklong project that you can work on at home.

Don’t engage in vacation shaming. No one in your company should be indispensable and it should be feasible for every employee to take a week or two off during the summer without having to check in.

If that doesn’t sound like your workplace, it’s time to institute some changes for everyone’s benefit.”

This week is all about planning your escape. Where would that be? Are you game for my vacation challenge? How would it feel to plan your next vacation to a brand new place so you can experience the joy of surprise in the unexpected?

My personal recipe for a great vacation – mix equal parts of uncertainty with non routine, then add a generous sprinkling of the unfamiliar topped with loads of curiosity!

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Word-Of-the-Week #676: Outmoded

July 20, 2017 by · Comments Off on Word-Of-the-Week #676: Outmoded 

Outmoded – no longer fashionable or widely accepted.

Would you like to be a trend setter? How would it feel to increase your productivity? Are you using all of your vacation time?

This week Minda Zetlin’s Chicago Tribune article, Take Your Vacation and Everyone Benefits, is the perfect follow up to our last 3 WOW’s on Curiosity, Routine & Unfamiliar.

Are you one of the millions of Americans who’s married to your job, taking only a few days off every year because of your many important responsibilities? If so, research suggests you aren’t doing yourself or your employer any favors. Not only that, you’re becoming outmoded. Many Americans are finally starting to take more vacation time.

A wide range of experts emphasize the importance of taking time off for productivity, mental and physical well-being and more. Despite that, Americans took fewer vacations, with average total days off every year dropping from just over 20 days between 1978 and 2000 to about 16 days in recent years, according to research by Project Time Off.

But the picture is starting to change a bit.

In 2016, Americans took an average 16.8 days off, the second year of growth after bottoming out in 2014 at 16 days. It may not sound like a staggering change, but according to Project Time Off, this is the biggest increase we’ve seen since used vacation days began dropping at the beginning of the century.

Despite the improvement over the last two years, there are still 54 percent of Americans who did not use all their paid vacation time last year, Time Off has found. Its research is based on an online survey with 7,331 American workers who work more than 35 hours a week and receive paid time off from their employer.

New research by the vacation search engine Liligo also shows an increase in the average length of summer vacations based on bookings in its database, which are up from an average 10 days in 2015 and 2016 to 14 days in 2017.

Taken together, these findings may suggest a change in Americans’ attitudes toward vacations.

It could be because of growing recognition among employers of the importance of vacation time or it could be that in a time of skilled labor shortages and low unemployment, employees are less fearful that a week or two away from work will cost them advancement opportunities, or possibly even their jobs.

Whatever the reason, you should jump on this trend, because your relationships (at home and at work), your productivity, your mood, your health and more likely will benefit.

And, if you are one of the sad Americans who isn’t taking your time off, then consider this: You are doing your job on a volunteer basis for a week or more every year.

Some employees can recoup the vacation time they didn’t take in the form of extra cash or severance pay when they leave their jobs. But if this is your plan, don’t count on it.

Because so many Americans aren’t taking their vacation time, many companies carry this loss on their balance sheets and some are seeking to get rid of that liability by instituting use-it-or-lose-it vacation policies or unlimited vacation policies (in which case, paid time off doesn’t accrue). Some companies are counting on employees being afraid to take a lot of unlimited PTO, of course.

You’ll be better off if you just take all your vacation time, and so will everyone who works or lives with you.”

This week is all about not becoming outmoded. Would you take more vacations if you knew it would improve your relationships (at home and at work)? Or that it would improve your health? Would you like to be in a better mood more often?

Stay Tuned – Next week “Ways to make vacations Work!”

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