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The Economy is Creating Anxiety for Workers

Workplace Insight

According to the United States Department of Labor, Americans, today, are more concerned about job security than they are about the nation’s security, war on terror, healthcare, or education. Our sense of well-being is anchored in the ability to perform a job that enables us to provide for our families and ourselves; a job that we can depend on. At the beginning of the current economic crisis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that 10 million Americans were unemployed, 2.6 million jobs were lost in 2008 alone, and the first quarter of 2009 was expected to be much worse.  We look at the situation now and see that some of the forecasts held true as we entered into what has been called the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. These shocking statistics are also quoted in the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and Business Week.

Layoffs are a natural response for employers as they struggle to sustain in the face of this heightened recession. Many people have lost trust in the institutions that are supposed to provide a healthy level of stability and certainty in our lives—our government, our banks, and the companies we work for. We are living in an anxious world, as employers and employees. Unfortunately, sustained levels of anxiety make it harder for people to concentrate and process information, significantly hindering job performance. Anxiety is also infectious, particularly in the workplace, where one employee’s feelings of job insecurity can escalate to collective hysteria. Read More

Integrity and Why it Matters

Relationships

What is the impact on your organization when employees and leaders do not do what they say they are going to do? There are so many companies today that have a vision or mission statement that includes the word integrity, yet it’s unclear what that means to the people in those organizations.

Take, for instance, Goldman Sachs who has recently been accused of benefiting from both sides of a deal (heads I win, tails you lose). Goldman Sachs business principles: “Integrity and honesty are at the heart of our business. We expect our people to maintain high ethical standards in everything they do, both in their work for the firm and in their personal lives.” Is a “win at all costs” strategy consistent with this business principle?

Integrity has three definitions according to the Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary:
1) an unimpaired condition: soundness.
2) firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: incorruptibility.
3) the quality or state of being complete or undivided: completeness. Read More

You Didn’t Hook the Fish, He Chose to Bite

Relationships

A couple of summers ago, I went for a week-long backpacking trip in the beautiful and rugged California Sierras. One early morning, while I was getting ready for a 12-mile hike to one of the mountain passes, two fishermen caught my attention—not by accident, but because one was yelling with excitement. “I caught one! I caught one!” he yelled, “And it’s a big one!” Minutes later, he announced again, “I caught another one!” He was obviously feeling very proud of his skills as a trout fisherman. At that point, my mind shifted into judgment. “What a fool,” I thought. “He didn’t catch anything—the fish got himself caught on that hook.” Then I caught myself, and started to wonder about my reaction: How often do I get “hooked” on someone’s “bait” and then blame them for hooking me?

We spend a decent portion of our time—both in the office and out—dealing with conflict or disagreements and blaming others for our disappointment. In fact, interpersonal conflict is often the cause of a major waste of energy and resources, high employee turnover, and in some cases outright company failure. Dealing with conflict is similar to the predicament the fish finds itself in. In a conflict situation, someone puts out the bait, but you have the power to choose whether or not to bite. Once hooked, the more you struggle to pull yourself away, the more entangled you become. You may ultimately surrender the fight, but resentment will build, priming you to bite again the next time the bait is presented to you. Read More

It Takes Just a Phone Call

Relationships

It takes just a phone call to make someone feel relevant.
It takes just a phone call to let others know that they are on your mind.
It takes just a phone call to show respect for someone.
It takes just a phone call to let others know that you care.
It takes just a phone call to say: thank you for your efforts.
It takes just a phone call to make someone feel worthwhile.
It takes just a phone call to make someone feel visible.

In a world where people are feeling uncertain about their future, where people are losing their jobs and their homes, and where people are looking for a means to provide for their families—in a world where we all feel some level of vulnerability, it takes just a phone call to make a difference.

We live in a society where digital communication has transformed the way we interact with each other. People are bombarded by emails  24/7. Reacting to this constant influx of information is very time consuming and, as a result, we scrutinize everything to avoid finding our “inbox” full of garbage. The unfortunate outcome of this behavior is that we are losing some of our ability to empathize with others. We are becoming more desensitized and detached from those we care about,  and unknowingly paying the price. Read More

Sustainable Relationships at Work and at Home

Relationships

About 20 years ago, I was visiting one of my mentors, Robert Tannenbaum (RIP). As we engaged in our conversation, a simple to understand model to describe the relationship that exists between employers and employees started to emerge. As we discussed the model further, we came to realize that it was valid for any relationship—boss to subordinate, friend to friend, parent to child, husband to wife, etc. Last week, as I sat in my office, that conversation came to mind. Something about what I see around me in the way most people or most of us deal with the current financial crisis made me bring this model into the present day. I’d like to share this simple model and reflect with you on what it means in our current turbulent times.

In any relationship, there is an exchange between the parties. One party asks and the other party gives. No matter what, there is always an exchange. The balance or the reciprocity defines the quality of the relationship and also the long-term sustainability of it. Four different dynamics of exchange take place: Read More