Posts Tagged psychology
Happy Holidays from BizPsych! We typically have several requests this time of year to present our “Thriving with the Holidays” seminar for client companies. Surprisingly, this year we have had only one request, from our sister division in Las Vegas. Is it possible that there may be less acute stress this year in many organizations? Is there still much stress, but no time? Perhaps our past years’ efforts have cured all holiday stress (Nice fantasy…)? The holidays are a wonderful time for so many of us. Yet, for many people, the holidays bring an increased stress level that can take away from that delight. For some it’s actually a depressing time of year for a variety of reasons.
The cornerstone of our recommendation about coping or thriving with holiday stress has to do with setting balanced and reasonable expectations of ourselves and of others. There are cultural expectations that can lead to stress and disillusionment, i.e. “we should all be blissfully happy, have beautiful and significant presents for all, and be ever cheerful.” This probably does not work for all of us 100%. We can, however make meaning, be grateful, have authentic interactions, and celebrate what we believe in. One of the ways we can accomplish this is to set meaningful and realistic expectations for the holidays.
A number of years ago I worked out an optimal holiday stress management strategy formula called “Holiday Stress Math.” It is not rocket science, so please enjoy:
Holiday Stress Math
Holiday Stress is a function of: Expectations (E) vs. What Really Happens (WRH)
If E are H (High) and > WRH = HS (High Stress Holiday)
If E are L (Low) and < WRH = LS but DOL (Low Stress) (Depends on Luck)
If E are L (Low) and = WRH = LS but NGT! (Low Stress) (Negative Good Time)
If E are H (High) and = WRH = MS, PGT but HRI(Medium Stress) (Positive Good Time) (High Risk Investment)
BPRE (Best Possible, Realistic Expectation) = WRH(What Really Happens) = GRE (Good, Realistic Holiday)
Have a meaningful and reasonable stress holiday.
Peace and Joy,
Vice President, BizPsych
In the past, I have had a hard time remembering how daylight savings worked. Why? Because I would always recall the time I insisted on wearing my tennis shoes to go bowling and I flew down the alley and landed flat on my face. In my mind, falling was forever synonymous with falling forward and making face plants. Hence, the reason why I‘ve had such a hard time learning (and remembering) that it was fall backward and spring forward.
Then, I finally came up with an easy way to make the distinction clear. The word “fall” has four letters in it and so does the word “back.” Ever since I discovered this handy-dandy way to remember, I’ve been able to get it right!
Now that we’re into daylight savings time, I’ve had to ask myself:
Are there any other areas of my life that could benefit from a slight recalibration?
Am I getting a less than desirable outcome than I would prefer? And if so, is it because I am perpetually stuck in thinking the same way in a given situation?
Do I need to change my perspective and see things in a different light?
Is there a better way for me to think about things that would make my life easier and create less heart burn? Am I still making unnecessary “face plants” because of my stubbornness?
Daylight savings creates a slight shift. The nights become longer and the days become shorter. We’re reminded that the holidays are just around the corner. We start to notice that the mornings are a little chillier while the grass and car windows show slight signs of frost. We grab our sweat shirts and start looking for our favorite sweaters. We even begin to notice the displays in the grocery store are different. There are multiple signs and signals shouting: “change is in the air!”
So, I ask, “Why wait until the New Year comes to make resolutions that promote positive change and wellbeing?” Daylight savings is a great reminder that we can always make recalibrations and adjustments and, there is always time to make a slight shift to get a more desirable outcome. How often do you feel as if you’ve just won the lottery because you’ve been given the luxurious “gift of time?” Even though it’s just a slight move on the clock’s hand that creates the change, I encourage you to think of it as an invitation; an invitation to stir things up a little, create a shift in your thinking, change your rhythms, and challenge your beliefs. Then, during the long hours of the night, as you watch the hands on the clock go by, you can celebrate all of your successes that will make it easier to spring forward into action the next time we change the hands of time.
Just remember, if your organization needs a few recalibrations or you want support with making a few refinements the professionals at BizPsych are here to support you with executive coaching, training, and organizational development.
Marcia Kent, MS
In the 10th installment of Health inSite, we take a look at strategies of an up-and-coming way of engaging health through Gamification. Gamification has recently taken to the health world via a veritable windfall of funding coming through venture capital firms to try to create platforms that encourage and incent people to take on everyday health activities. While most of these have been fitness related applications and websites so far, a good number are starting to look at emotional resiliency, pro-social behavior, and more. If you’ve not yet read Jane McGonigal’s book, Reality is Broken, or seen her TED Talk, I highly suggest them. McGonigal suggests that there is value in creating unnecessary obstacles for people to achieve more and feel the power of their own success by creating fiero moments – moments of intense pride in one’s triumph over adversity. These obstacles enrich our lives and add value to our, oftentimes, mundane daily activities. As McGonigal mentions in her book, if the point of golf is to put the ball in the hole, why don’t we just pick up the ball and walk it over to drop it in the hole. Yet, we spend a lot of time playing the game and add obstacles to make it more challenging. It creates motivation to achieve for the sake of achievement, rather than the end goal. This is the point of a game and it has a big role to play in the future of health.
There are a number of groups starting to use the concepts of gamification to encourage health promoting activities. And, there is a lot of hoopla being created around using technology platforms to make gaming a part of employers’ health strategies, with 60% of employers planning to add gamified health strategies in 2013. However, most of these groups are only using small pieces of the total package that gamification, and other psychological research, includes; and sometimes, are even using pieces that are inappropriate, such as financial incentives and gimmicks, which directly undermine the value of the game itself. But maybe there are better opportunities to correctly use the concepts of gamification, as well as the many other pieces of psychological research that we’ve covered in Health inSite, to create a total population health strategy at work; the first wellbeing program that actually pushes employees to challenge themselves, and each other, to become more healthy, rather than less ill. In fact, MINES is doing just that.
It takes more than a website to do this – including focus on using the resources available to a company’s natural habitat, the worksite, to engage employees during the 40 hour work week, and more, by creating a story. As described in the burgeoning world of Alternate Reality Games and Transmedia Storytelling, the ability to tell a cooperative narrative – on and offline – among those with which you work is an opportunity to actively create health, the benchmark of Salutogenesis. When you have many platforms for engaging in this storytelling, you increase the modes of access to actively engage all employees where they are, rather than forcing them into a platform that they may not be comfortable with, or is not ideal for their way of engaging in their health generating behaviors. This is done by asking for participation in the developing story that is experienced, rather than simply viewed. Imagine, rather than passively hearing or reading what someone needs to do to fight diabetes, or other chronic health condition, or even simply drop a couple of pounds, each person can create opportunities for their fellow employees to actively and interactively challenge one another in the course of an unfolding story. This makes health promotion participatory and engaging.
We’re focused on creating the health generating plan of the future and want to share it with you. In the meantime, maybe you’re already starting to embark on this grand adventure in your own ways. What do you do at work that helps make people healthier?
To our health,
One of the theories that has impacted my consulting most profoundly over the last several years comes from the work of the Arbinger Institute. The two books from this group have helped guide me to a vision of the absolute practical and financial benefits of collaboration in the workplace. The books are: “The Anatomy of Peace – Resolving the Heart of Conflict,” and “Leadership and Self Deception – Getting out of the Box.” This work offers a relatively unique perspective of how and why collaboration can break down in our relationships. In both of these books it is suggested that when we engage in any act of self betrayal, i.e., acting in any way against our own sense of what is the right thing to do in any given situation, we naturally begin creating a path of self-deception. We begin fooling ourselves in a way that impedes objectivity and truth. An act of self-betrayal may be anything from not going out of our way to help someone who may be in need of our help, to not honestly confronting someone or a situation when appropriate, to not acknowledging the truth of a situation. According to Arbinger, when we engage in an act of self betrayal we automatically begin justifying our action. We begin to amplify our own virtues and extend blame to others. We end up in what Arbinger describes as a “box.” The box is a lens through which we objectify others in order to justify ourselves. This is the concept of self deception; we are seeing others through a distorted lens due to our need to justify our own actions. We are not truly seeing them objectively, but amplify their faults and our virtues. We know we are in a box when we objectify others.
I believe most of us end up in this situation at times. Beyond the Arbinger concept I believe we may end up “in the box” for other reasons than self betrayal, such as disappointments or negative experiences with others. Regardless of the cause, I agree that we are “in the box” when we objectify others. This happens in traffic all the time. Think about it – have you ever called someone you don’t even know a name because you were frustrated by their driving (or just by the darn traffic jam)? Do we objectify our leaders or our subordinates in the workplace when they don’t live up to our expectations? The “us/them” that occurs in many workplaces is a process of objectification and justification.
A further concept from Arbinger is that when we are in a “box,” we enter into collusion with others in which we invite the very behaviors we least want from them. If instead of supporting my co-worker, I regularly correct them, they may begin to resist me. I may in fact, know more than they do and have valuable things to teach them. However, instead of focusing on their success – helping things go right for them, I focus on correcting what they do “wrong.” I may begin to see them as inferior or disinterested. When I do this, I invite greater resistance. The more they resist, the less they learn and the more I have to correct and the more I see them as a problem. This is a circle of collusion in which we are both inviting the very behaviors from one another we least want. This is the opposite of collaboration. Collusion is working around our perceived deficits of others. Collaboration is bringing out the best in one another in partnership.
The Arbinger theory encourages us to take responsibility for our own box, to get out of our box, focus on helping things go right vs. focusing on correcting others, and to stay out of the box by practicing and acting according to what we know is right.
Once in a training program in which I was describing the Arbinger theory, one of the participants asked me this: “Is it possible for a group to be in a box with an individual or another group?” WOW! What a concept – think about different departments in a workplace that could potentially get into boxes with one another – Sales and Operations, Accounting and Business Development, R&D and I.T. Is there ever generalized objectification and justification between these groups? Do they ever collude in inviting the very behaviors they don’t want from the other? Then we think about even bigger realities like religion and politics…
In my next blog I will examine the Arbinger model applied to groups and politics.
Patrick Hiester MA, LPC
Vice President of BizPsych
References: “Leadership and Self Deception: Getting out of the Box,” “The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict.” The Arbinger Institute. Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.
Recently, BizPsych was asked to host a webinar on “The Respectful Workplace” for a client company. This title of this training, “The Respectful Workplace,” has often been a useful and polite cover for harassment training. In fact, I often recommend using this title, as it is the fundamental concept of respect that is at the heart of understanding harassment and sexual harassment. In this case however, the organization wanted us to explore respect in the workplace in terms of values, attitudes, and behaviors that promote and maintain respect. In planning for the webinar it occurred to us that communication is a key concept in the experience of either respect or disrespect in the workplace. So, we decided to focus on tips and insights that may be useful in promoting respectful communication in the workplace.
Difficult, Crucial, and Fierce Conversations
There are many books, theories and approaches that tackle the subject of challenging communication in the workplace (and outside of the workplace). The value of effective conversation in the workplace has been researched and demonstrated. The literature on the subject has further promoted implementing these communication modalities. We chose to focus on the concept of essential and effective conversations, as a method in sharing practical tools to enhance respect in the workplace. In this blog, I will focus on one of the seven principles from Susan Scott’s work, “Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and Life One Conversation at a Time.” This was also shared during the webinar.
“Principal 6: Take Responsibility for Your Emotional Wake”
This concept is key to the consideration of respect in the workplace. “Emotional Wake” has to do with how we come across to others – “what you remember after I’m gone” (Scott, pg. 187). The author uses the image of a boat speeding through a slow zone and the effect that the boat’s wake leaves on the calm waters. This wake symbolizes the impression that we leave after a conversation or interaction with another. Your wake is what people remember about you and how they describe you to others. This can be a tricky concept, as others perceive you through their own filters. Your wake is a combination of what and how you say and do, and how others perceive this. You may not be remembered in the way you intend; hence, the need to pay even greater attention to your wake, i.e. your impact and not merely your intent. Ms. Scott quotes a CEO, frustrated with workplace communication (pg. 191):
“What I get to say is not what I want to say,
Is not what they listen to,
is not what they hear,
is not what they understand,
is not what they remember when I’m gone.
What do I want them to remember when I’m gone?
I need to say that, and only that…clearly!”
What You Don’t Say
Your wake is also significantly determined by what you don’t say. This has to do with expressing appreciation, acknowledgement, and listening. I find that as I age, more and more people are only focused on their own needs and interests. They just don’t listen. They may be fascinating people, but part of their wake to me is that my needs and interests are not important to them. Is that how we want to be remembered? Appreciation is “value-creating.” Expressing appreciation is helpful when creating desired emotional wake.
We may encounter situations in the workplace in which people have created such negative wakes with one another that they begin to give up on their relationships altogether and are deadlocked in conflict. All they see is the negative wake of the other, and this perception may continue to amplify over time. In these situations, it is clearly essential to “check out” our perceptions of others. It often happens that each person has built up and reinforced erroneous, negative assumptions about the other. It is just as important in these situations to have “fierce conversations” with ourselves. Our own lives must be working and positive in order for us to leave a positive wake; the wake we choose and want. These can be the most challenging times to consider our own emotional wake. What we frequently see is individuals making the choice to simply protect themselves by pulling back and withdrawing from the relationship. While this may seem to be a better choice than engaging in conflict, the result will further drive the “negative wake.” In this case, people are neglecting the need for appreciation and acknowledgement of the other. The most respectful choice may be to look inward and recognize the need for internal change, rather than attempt to control the situation through inauthentic defenses.
Eliminate “The Load”
“The Load” is the unspoken tone underneath the words we use, or sometimes the choice of words we use. These are implied meanings, either unintended or at times intended. This could be a “sugary sweet” cover up for a deflection or dig. It could also be an aggressive and threatening tone. We don’t have total control over others’ perceptions of us; however, we do have influence and can increase this influence by paying attention to what our intentions are, being mindful of our word choices and non-verbal’s, and eliminating the “loads” from our conversations. Practicing mindfulness may be the best way to achieve this. Mindfulness is observing ourselves in a way that allows us to see our behavior as objectively as possible and without judgment. This is a mirror to the self. The more we can develop this capacity, the more we can experience our emotional wake as others might experience it.
Respect in the workplace is a value to all of us. It is essential to productivity, teamwork, and job satisfaction. Respect must also be an expectation of the organization. We see the fallout when respect has broken down in the workplace. There are many elements to creating and maintaining a respectful workplace. Learning and practicing effective and respectful conversations is one of the best tools we can offer. This is especially true in difficult and challenging situations. It is not the challenging situation itself that is the problem. Disagreement and conflict are normal in any healthy workplace. How we handle these situations is the key to maintaining respect. Paying attention to our emotional wake is our first and primary responsibility in what, and how, we contribute to this end.
“There are people who take the heart out of you and there are people who put it back.”
-Elizabeth David, from Fierce Conversations
Patrick Hiester MA, LPC
Vice President of BizPsych
Scott, Susan. (2002) Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and Life One Conversation at a Time. LOCATION: Berkley.
Emotional Intelligence, or EI, is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself (Wikipedia). We all have different levels of EI. Some of us are emotional geniuses who are incredibly gifted at assessing, identifying, interpreting, and acting upon emotions. Others have low Emotional Intelligence and have difficulty understanding the precise reason they feel anxious or they don’t know the best way to deal with a stressful situation. Most of us are in the middle somewhere and can maybe understand how to work through issues with co-workers but could use some help in learning the best approaches to what bothers us personally. But for all of us, we can actively seek to improve our emotional intelligence by understanding what is causing our emotions and by practicing techniques to help improve our responses. There are several resources available online and there are many great books on the subject as well. In order to achieve a higher level of emotional intelligence, work at it every day and practice techniques for better communication with your peers, coworkers, and family. If you are curious how your Emotional Intelligence currently rates there is a short quiz available for free at:
Manager, Business Development
We are a cool species, engaging with our world in a very different way than any other species of which we know. We shape our world physically, mentally, and socially to suit myriad fantasies, individually and collectively. This results in a shifting landscape of reality in which we, as Daniel Kahneman points out in his final chapters of Thinking Fast and Slow, are subject to our cognitive biases that may have positive or negative sway in any given situation. The key to best engage with that reality on a day to day basis is to recognize these imperfections in our cognitive wiring in a reflective way.
In those final chapters, Kahneman points to a need to recognize, that as remembering beings, our memory often fails us. It’s subject to outside influence and shortcuts on our own behalf. Taken together, this means that there is an opportunity for each to shift our remembering self towards a different understanding of an event than our experiencing self, the one that’s actually present during an event. This is because our memory is subject to duration neglect and a product of our episodic memory – we are prone to ignore duration as opposed to intensity. If we were to have a true recording of events, we might not remember correctly that vacation taken last year, when it rained for the first three days, but the last day was so gorgeous (and all of our pictures were from that day) that we may remember it more fondly than we experienced it.
What effect does this have on adherence? Quite a lot actually, and this is where perception has a great opportunity to hop into the world of Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse treatment. Simply by altering the treatment protocols to take into account this remembering self, it is possible to focus on the peak-end rule. The peak-end rule says that when we are remembering an event, we more heavily weight the experience of the most painful or pleasurable event (peak) and the last thing (end) that occurred in a timeline. If a treatment protocol were to decrease the peak of a particular episode and include a positive, context-provoking end to the episode, the remembering self will have a different memory as it progresses towards more positive outcomes.
There is another major implication of this very important understanding of the remembering self vs. the experiencing self and it is related to a concept called Salutogenesis (basically “from health”). Salutogenesis is a concept coined by Aaron Antonovsky, a Medical Sociologist, as a counter to our current health model, which has a pathogenic slant to it. I would venture that our health system is as much a product of our two selves as potentially influenced by a change in the approach. Our duration neglect and base-rate neglect lead us to an imperfect memory of the picture of health that we have for ourselves. This leads us to looking at healthcare as episodic – we go to the doctor in a self-encapsulated event, we get ill, we deal with symptoms. These are all pathogenic experiences of our overall wellbeing. If we had a tool that helped our experiencing self more accurately engage with our health reality, that we are always to some level healthy and to some level ill, duration neglect would be mitigated, increasing our ability to engage with our health as if in two realms, time and space, rather than simply in a given moment in time.
So what does a salutogenic framework look like? Mindfulness, resilience, focus on daily health-promoting activities that increase our ability to get healthier, rather than fend off illness. Of course, a fee-for-service model doesn’t bode well with this concept, so unless you’re enrolled in a highly visionary health promotion healthcare system, you’re probably on your own – for now. If so, here are some resources we’ve seen that might be helpful for you to consider when you begin working towards your healthiest self:
SuperBetter.com – This site allows you to engage in a number of different challenge “packs” to help increase your emotional, social, mental, and physical resilience. You can even invite your friends to help you complete these challenges!
FitBit – not simply a pedometer, this device will help track your sleeping patterns, too, giving you the opportunity to analyze some of your base-rate metrics and progress in your fitness.
Various apps and websites – there are literally thousands of apps out there now for tracking everything from heart-rate to nutrition to fitness to mental resilience to even sobriety (check out sober24, an online community for alcoholics in recovery!). Keep in mind that when you are looking at these programs, you are more likely to be successful if you are doing it with someone else. And if you invite someone else to participate, they are as likely to make you healthier as you are to make them healthier!
Your EAP – while most people think of their EAP (Employee Assistance Program) as something they use when things are bad, keep in mind that MINES has many programs that may help you no matter what level of health you’re at – including career coaching, financial coaching for learning to save, and more. You don’t have to be in pain to give us a call; we’re here whenever you want to talk.
To our health,