Work, for many is drudgery and has little meaning. They go to work with a heavy heart because they receive little satisfaction from it, However, there is one exception - they get paid. Perhaps you have heard these statements:
"I work here because the money is good."
"I put in my time so the company owes me."
"I work from paycheque to paycheque."
"I don’t like what I do but the pay is good."
Money becomes the end, not the means to the end. There doesn't appears to be a higher purpose. Work becomes hard for them, not in a physical sense, but in an emotional sense. It becomes an emotional energy drain and plays havoc on one's mind, body and spirit. It becomes sheer drudgery.
It needn't be like this. Not that work isn't difficult or emotionally draining. Work still can be that way. It can be physically draining. Lifting heavy objects day in and day out is physically draining; helping people solve their problems on a daily basis is emotionally draining.
So how do we move the dial so that work has meaning and personal purpose? So that work goes beyond drudgery?
Two intertwined dynamics are required. One is organizational leadership and the other is personal fit. Organizational leadership clarifies vision, mission and values; personal fit brings a meshing of personal purpose and values with the organization. Let's take an example.
A former associate of mine once worked with a fertilizer company. The fertilizer was of the smelly manure kind, not the clean-cut potash kind. Employees were not enamoured with their work, in fact they expressed a heartfelt dislike for it. My colleague brought the company through a re-visioning process. He engaged the leadership team in developing a meaningful vision for the company and in turn engaged everyone in finding deeper meaning in their work - other than shovelling "sh*t" day in and day out.
The leadership team and employees came to realize that what they were about was important for the growth of food. They were providing fertilizer "to feed the hungry." They discovered "why" they were in the fertilizer business – to feed the hungry.
This awakening from what was apparently drudgery to a renewed purpose initiated greater opportunities. New values began to emerge that called upon personal and corporate compassion and outreach which were expressed in behaviour and action: employees began volunteering to the local food bank, the company promoted and employees became engaged in developing community gardens (using their fertilizer, of course) and contributing to improved farming practices within developing countries.
Everyone within the organization found a renewed sense of purpose. It did not take away the "smell" and the shovelling of manure but it gave a new meaning to "why" they were doing it. The process required leadership, personal fit and commitment. Leadership spurred the visioning process, personal fit meshed personal values with company values and commitment drove behavioural change.
This example summarizes the issue and results pertaining to part of the process. It doesn't give the full picture. Certainly, a shift in thinking (a renewed vision and values) initiates the behavioural change, but the transformation doesn't occur over night.
The process takes time, energy, resilience and perseverance. Leaders require patience as cultural change occurs over time and not in an instant flash. They need to continually talk and walk the vision, mission and values and become role models for others. As one CEO said, it is often a two-step dance - "two steps forward and one step back, resilience is the name of the game." It's a nudge to the future, not a giant step.
The process also requires ownership, responsibility and accountability among employees. A sense of ownership for their actions and a shift in thinking towards possibilities. Ownership for the fit they have with their work - that their work is more than a paycheque; that they need to go deep within themselves to find their sense of purpose and connect it with the vision and values of the organization; and, if the fit isn't there, to seek employment elsewhere.
Work doesn’t become "drudgery" when you enjoy what you do and it fits with your sense of purpose and values. For many in that fertilizer plant, knowing that what they did – shoveling manure - helped feed the hungry, gave them a renewed sense of purpose. From this beginning, they went on to do greater things for themselves and their community through compassionate outreach.
Is your work, "drudgery"? Or do you find higher meaning in what you do? If not, what can you do about it? If you are in a leadership position, what can you do to open new horizons and help your colleagues find new meaning in what they do?
Integrity is often identified as one of the core values of many businesses and organizations. The challenge for those in the organization is "what do we mean by integrity?" It is often easily identified and glibly said, but do people in the organization understand what it means.
Integrity has a multi-dimensional aspect to it. We often attach the word integrity to many functions within the workplace and life: moral integrity, data integrity, personal integrity, market integrity, corporate integrity, philosophical integrity, mathematical integrity, medical integrity and so on.
When we use integrity as a corporate value, we usually mean that the word applies to everyone and all functions within the organization. Hence, the organization deems it appropriate that people deal with each other and customers with integrity, that the data is collected and screened with integrity, and that it markets itself to its various stakeholders with integrity.
Values however, are acted out through behaviors. We know that people have integrity if they exhibit the qualities of integrity. When we think of behavior and use the word integrity we expect the person to : act consistently, exhibit moral character, adhere to ethical principles, and project the qualities of honesty, truthfulness, accuracy and authenticity.
Let's lift two key phrases from this list of behaviors.
Consistency of Action: Consistency is about sameness. That one acts the same regardless of the situation. We often hear the phrase: "He says what he means and means what he says." This person consistently shows that his behavior reflects what he means, and people recognize it to be so. Think about John, however, who shifts and changes to accommodate his different mood swings. How do we relate to John because he "runs hot and cold" and we don't know from one situation to another how he will react? John becomes a relational stumbling block and his colleagues are constantly on guard. John is acting consistently but in a way that weakens his relationships with others. John tarnishes his integrity by the way he acts with others.
Consistency of action is a choice we make. We can choose to be obstructionist or not. We can choose to leave one situation where we may be frustrated or angry and enter another where we put our frustration and angst aside and deal with the new situation without negativism or rancour. We can choose to act positively or negatively.
Soundness of moral character and ethical principles. Moral character relates to a sense of doing things right for self and others. It is based on the natural principles of "treating others as one would want to be treated," and as such relate to the positive virtues by which we live such as: honesty, empathy, patience, kindness, gratitude, justice and courage.
Ethical principles are based on moral behavior or principles of morality and usually pertain to right and wrong behavior. Professions often have ethical principles by which those in the profession must abide. A workplace may have a Code of Conduct which outlines employee and employer expectations and responsibilities. Many of the expectations within a workplace code of conduct are based on moral and ethical considerations. Both professional code of ethics and a workplace code of conduct identify the consequences of a breach of the code.
We begin to press the edges of integrity when we start to stretch and test the lines of a professional or workplace code. Certainly, one acts without integrity when the lines are clearly crossed such as committing acts of fraud, stealing large amounts of money or lying about a grossly negligent act. But what about the little things that gradually erode integrity in the workplace such as:
Once again, our integrity is determined by the choices we make. This time it is about how we want to live our life within the bounds of moral character and ethical principles.
Integrity comes from the Latin word 'integer' which means whole and complete. To act with integrity then reflects a sense of 'wholeness' and consistency of character. Therefore, to be a person of integrity our behaviors, words, actions and outcomes should positively reflect who we are.
Others will know if we are acting with integrity because they will see the connection between what we say, do and act as one with us in all situations. There is only one 'me' and that 'me' if I am to act with integrity must be the same 'me' whether at work, home or at play. We become authentic when we consistently reflect our wholeness to others through what we call integrity.
Does this mean we must act with integrity ALL the time? The short answer is 'yes but not necessarily' because we do mess up from time to time. The key here lies in our intention. When we mess up the integral thing to do is recognize and correct the mess-up as quickly as possible. We take responsibility and become accountable for what we say and do and how we act. Clearly it is not our intention to act without integrity; our intention is to act with integrity but sometimes because of emotion, lack of sleep, or caught in a 'frazzled state' we let our guard down and may say, do or act inappropriately. When this happens, we should immediately take corrective action. We may eat a little ‘humble pie’ in the process, but it is the 'right' thing to do if we want to keep our integrity intact.
Here are seven considerations for you.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie. MSW, FCMC
For a five-minute take on integrity, listen to So-Young Kang here.
We don't often hear these three words in the workplace: forgive, love, and compassion. Yet when we meaningfully express them and use them as a call to action they can have a huge impact on the culture of our organizations.
Forgive: The Encarta Dictionary defines forgive this way: “(to) stop being angry about or resenting somebody or somebody’s behaviour; or, to excuse somebody for a mistake, misunderstanding, wrongdoing or inappropriate behaviour.” I haven’t heard the words “forgive” or “forgiveness” used much in the workplace. When they are used with meaning they have a powerful impact. Mostly I have heard words that beg forgiveness like "sorry" and "apologize." Often with little meaning behind them. They were more polite words, then meaningful words. I have also heard expressions that can easily be interpreted as discriminatory, blaming or name calling.
Everyday someone in the workplace, including the boss, makes mistakes. Mistakes are made because we are not perfect. The thing about mistakes is that they can be corrected, and they do need to be corrected. However, there is no room for the blame game, name calling and discriminatory language. To get caught up in the latter is a sure sign we are still harbouring anger or resentment. Correct the behavior and when appropriate say, “I forgive you, and mean it.” Think of the positive effect it would have on the culture of an organization if people forgave each other for past wrong doing or misunderstanding.
Seeking forgiveness and forgiving are not easy. Read the definition again: “stop being angry about or resenting somebody or somebody’s behaviour.” It’s easy for someone to say "I'm sorry" and “I forgive you.” It’s harder to remove the resentment or anger one feels. This takes time, but until we come to grips with these feelings we will become consumed by them and the anger and resentment will tear us up from the inside out and our relationships and overall effectiveness will be diminished. So, the first thing we need to consider is the forgiveness of oneself, because it is the self, who holds the resentment, anger and grudge. It is a reciprocal process binding both forgiveness and forgiving. And once the healing is experienced through forgiveness and forgiving we can go on and forgive others.
Forgiving and asking for forgiveness also takes courage. Asking for forgiveness shows our vulnerability. Something we don't do easily as we see vulnerability as a weakness. When we understand the power of forgiveness we turn that weakness into a strength. Seeking forgiveness lessens our burden and actually shows the strength of our character, and when accepted, the character of those we work with. When the reciprocal activity of forgiveness happens in the workplace it is a powerful statement of the trust, openness and compassion found in the relationships we have with each other, our team or our organization as a whole..
Forgiveness in the workplace pales against the seeking and giving of forgiveness we read about regarding the "Truth and Reconciliation" process people experienced in South Africa, or about our own process regarding our First Nation's people. The stories that were told, the deep forgiveness that was extended during those hearings should be an inspiration for all of us. If you get a chance, read some of those stories and be inspired about forgiveness, and ask, "why is it so hard to do this in our places of work?"
Love: Love is a loaded word in our society and perhaps it has always been that way. Love is almost always associated with emotion and synonymous with passion, attraction, desire, and sexual feelings. We certainly don’t condone sexual behaviour in the work place and many businesses have rightly developed policies about “romantic relationships.” However, we do use the words “passion” and “love” to express how we feel about what we do, for example: “I love what I do,” or, “ I’m really passionate about my work.”
Another meaning for love is expressed through the acts of patience, kindness, respect, selflessness or gratitude towards one another no matter how hard that may be. This is a different kind of love. It is the love of volition, or the love of choice. It means our willingness to pay attention to the needs, best interest and the well-being of others, regardless of how we feel in any given day. It's the persistent positive action of what one does. It is consistent, fair and foundational. This is the type of love we can show in the workplace. As someone once said: “Love is, is what love does.”
This is also the love that strong leaders share with their organizations and people they serve. Consider for a moment the impact great leaders have had who were not afraid to use and express love through their actions, such as: Jesus, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Mandela, and Mother Teresa; or leaders in the business and sports world such as Jack Welsh, Herb Kelleher, John Hunter, Kevin Roberts and Vince Lombardi.
One well respected Executive Director, I know, had no difficulty pointing out mistakes or correcting poor behaviour. When he was done with the correcting he would always say, “We still love you,” and did so in the kindliest of ways.
Compassion: There are several ways in which we can develop a culture of compassion in the workplace. Take for instance we can in a compassionate way:
Yet the word “compassion” is seldom used. How often have you heard, “let’s show some compassion to our fellow workers?” or, “we need to be compassionate about those less fortunate than us?" Compassion is all about understanding or empathy for the suffering of others. Here’s what I have heard too frequently: “tough it out,” "don’t cry,” “stop your whimpering,” and “I don’t want to hear excuses.” If we hear things like that perhaps we should ask, “Is there room for some compassion here?”
There are real ways we can bring compassion to the workplace - we just need to commit ourselves to act. What are the rewards? Not much - just a healthy, committed and dedicated workforce. Who can ask for more? Try a little compassion next time you're faced with a difficult problem - it just may surprise you.
What to do: Try something different in your workplace. Consider forgiveness, love and compassion as cornerstones for positive interaction; it may just change your organizational culture for the better. We would be hard pressed to deal with “forgiveness” and “compassion” without the “love choice. That is why I have placed love between the two – we can’t have the two without the one. Can we really express these words in action independently of each other?
Want to learn more?
Books that may help: James C. Hunter, “The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle,” Greg Baer M.D. "Real Love in the Workplace," Karen Armstrong, "Compassionate Life," and a very light read by various authors “ Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work.”
Richard P. Fontanie MSW, FCMC, Up-dated from Fontanie Learning Solutions
Image from: Royaltyfree/corbis
My parents always told me to be grateful for my blessings; no doubt your parents did as well. Learning to express gratitude was reinforced from my early years in grade school through to the end of my formal education at university. We were always encouraged to say a simple thank you and mean it.
We may have lost something in our society today as I think people show a greater sense of entitlement rather than a sense of gratitude for what they have and what others have helped them achieve. This is expressed in many ways: the disrespect shown towards co-workers, managers, and employers in our places of work; a lack of courtesy from drivers on our roadways and those who line-up at the grocery store; the cashier who utters the familiar deadpan "next"; and, the absence of a simple thank you when a good deed is done for another.
Gratitude comes from the Latin word gratus meaning grateful and its first known use as an English derivative was in 1523. It expresses a feeling of appreciation, gratefulness or thankfulness. It has meaning for the giver when it is genuinely expressed and for the receiver when it is graciously accepted. Gratitude engenders a deep feeling of thankful appreciation for the goodness within us and others. In many ways it goes beyond the self to form a special bond with those we encounter, nature that surrounds us, and, a higher Spiritual Source that cuts through to our core.
Ancient wisdom people, philosophers, religious leaders and spiritual writers tell us that gratitude is the basis for strengthening our relationship with God and with one another, as well as, improving our own well being. Intuitively they knew this and speak eloquently about it. These days, however, we are caught up with "evidenced based" learning and "scientific findings" to support what appeared to be naturally known. With that in mind here are few of the scientific findings about gratitude from a business perspective.
I have found that grateful employees are also better employees. A growing body of Research shows that employees who express gratitude have greater attention, determination, enthusiasm, energy and are better able to deal with burnout. Others point out that employees who are encouraged with a sense of gratitude are more satisfied.
With all this positive affirmation about gratefulness in the workplace one would think that expressing a thank you would be commonplace. Wrong! According to a study conducted in the United States under the auspices of the John Templeton Foundation and reported by Janice Kaplan, workplace comes in dead last among the places to express gratitude. The study also found that 74 percent of the people surveyed never or rarely expressed gratitude to their boss. But they are eager to have a boss who expresses gratitude to them. 70 percent would feel better about themselves if their boss were more grateful and 81 percent would work harder.
A more recent study (still currently underway) is finding that organizations which show the highest level of gratitude are those providing community services - significantly greater than business, health care providers and government agencies (the latter two had the lowest scores). It also points out that employees are less likely to feel a sense of gratitude than those holding higher positions within the organization.
Feelings of gratitude and appreciation are strengthened when employees feel valued. Consider these suggestions to improve a culture of gratitude:
So now we have a growing body of research that tell us what we have always been taught: Being grateful pays big dividends for our well being both in and out of the workplace.
I end this post by going back to the beginning with my parents' words of wisdom, and what I hope every father and mother tells their child: "Give thanks for your blessings."
Sources: Harvard Health Publications In Praise of Gratitude; Harvard Business Review: Foster a Culture of Gratitude; Mark Goulston: How to Give Meaningful Thank You; Amit Amin: 31 Benefits of Gratitude ; Victor Lipman, Why is Lack of Employee Recognition A Chronic Problem
Author: Richard Fontanie MSW, FCMC. From the Archives of Fontanie Learning Solutions
Joy in the workplace transcends the mundane and contributes to improved productivity, job satisfaction and customer retention. Joy comes from the "inside out and the outside in." People express joy through their behaviour and action; and, their inner joy affects others and others have a reciprocal affect on them. It goes without saying that joy comes from people and not from machines. However, people do enjoy using technological devices such as tablets and computers for a variety of tasks. These do contribute to feelings of satisfaction but they don't emit any joy. These devices are innate objects - sterile, empty and joyless.
Businesses and other organizations can also be innate and lifeless, especially if they are just a numbered company. What makes companies come alive are the people within them and how they relate to each other. A joyful organization is one where its leaders promote and give room for joy to flourish.
Recently Richard Sheridan wrote about his company, Menlo Innovations, which has joy as a core principle. Sharidan's book, "Joy, Inc." explains why he thinks joy is so important in today's workplace and how it has led his company to heights beyond his expectations. Dennis Bakke the co-founder and CEO of AES Corporation, a highly successful energy company during his time at the helm, developed a workplace culture around the notion of joy and social responsibility. His book, "Joy at Work" tells his story of how the value of joy transformed his workplace while achieving a high level of profitability and customer satisfaction."Joy at Work" is written from a Christian businessman's perspective, but there are many gems in it for every leader regardless of religious or non-religious persuasion.
I have had the pleasure of working with many local business leaders who encourage a sense of fun and joy within their organization. They may not have a specific "joy principle" as those mentioned above but the way they carry out their day-to-day business suggests they use joy and a pleasant work environment as motivational drivers.
Supreme Basics Products, a family owned office furniture and products business founded in 1974 with a handful of employees and grown to over 300 employees today, has found a way to bring joy and fun to their workplace through active inter-team participation. Various functional teams throughout the organization use their imagination and creativity to celebrate key company milestones, express gratitude to customers and enjoy special occasions. The VP of Human Resources, Judy Bidyk, shared with me presentations and contest entries such as: Easter Egg and Halloween Pumpkin making contests, 'Meet Our Team' presentations and 'Customer Service Appreciation' awards. "It's a go big or go home mentality," she said, "and the bar is getting higher each time we do something like this! People just have fun with creating, competing, participating in good natured smack-talk and congratulating each other's efforts It's a joy to be part of it all. And you know, as they design and build their exhibits teamwork and engagement is naturally strengthened. Yes they're competitive, but competitive in a good way!"
Warner Industries, a trucking dealership and transportation company, promotes the motto "Fun Friendly People" as a way to convey a message of what people inside and outside the company can expect. Graham Warner, the owner along with his wife Dionne, a cancer fighter and eight time survivor, has found a way to take the motto a step further by bringing laughter and humour to those suffering from cancer. They bring joy and hope to those undergoing the rigours of cancer treatment. ( Read their story of hope:"Never Leave Your Wingman")
How do businesses encourage joy in the workplace? It's simple: they pay attention to what's important to people. I have found several common themes that emerge from their approach including:
Do something different: Businesses and organizations that encourage joy have leaders who dare to do something different. In many businesses it is the owner or CEO who sets the stage for joy to percolate throughout the organizational culture. They have given their leadership team space to promote fun and joy by making them central elements of their business philosophy. They know if people are happy in their work, productivity improves.
Lived values: Those businesses where people have smiles on their faces and show a sense of satisfaction have leadership teams that promote and live transcendent values such as commitment, trust, integrity, service, compassion, and social responsibility. The leadership teams lead by example and nurture the organizational values in as many ways as possible: one company develops "Wellness and Quiet Rooms", where people can go for physical or mental breaks; another engages their workforce in volunteering services to their local community; and, another takes selected employees on trips to developing countries for weeks at a time to work on improving social and health conditions. These leaders don't just hang the value statements on the wall; they find ways to make them come alive.
Change and renewal: Leaders who encourage joy are also not afraid to make changes by involving employees in the process. They find ways to continually renew and up-date policy and processes. Something akin to an annual "spring cleaning." They recognize that it's the employees that make the organization productive and are the most likely ones to experience what works and what doesn't. Progressive leaders know that employees who are engaged in identifying and removing obstacles which limit and frustrate productive work, have a greater degree of job satisfaction and express that satisfaction (and may I say, joy) among themselves and with customers.
Delight customers: At the heart of businesses that express joy is the principle that all employees have the responsibility to delight customers. They understand that everyone is a customer; and whether their employees serve someone coming through their doors or serve a colleague, the approach to delighting the customer is paramount. They also understand that it is difficult to delight a customer if employees themselves don't have a sense of delightfulness, and so they invest in programs that strengthen self-awareness, customer service practices, communication skills and team building. To delight others means to bring them joy.
There are many other strategies that business leaders embed in their companies which contribute to employee satisfaction and hence a joyful place to work, such as:
Lessons Learned: Business and organizations that promote a fun-filled and joyful atmosphere are successful. I don't want to give the impression that they are overly idyllic or problem-free. Their leaders will readily admit that their organizations still have issues and that there is more to do to make their places of work come "fully alive." They also point out this will only happen with the participation of all employees. The joy that individuals feel relates to how they perceive joy and interpret it for themselves. Business can contribute to establishing the conditions for joy to enter into the workplace, but unless the individual accepts and internalizes what is offered, joy may elude them. In the end though I find that companies that develop approaches to delight customers, treat their employees well, search for a greater purpose, remove barriers to achievement, celebrate events and encourage just plain and simple fun, are companies that are a joy to work in and with.
From: From the files of Fontanie Learning Solutions; image from www.freedigitalphotos.net