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www.unsplash.com, Eutah Mizushima
Similar to life in general, it is not uncommon to see constant suffering in our workplaces. This is influenced and brought many times from our personal, social lives and also influenced by the work environment.
The word ‘suffer’ means to experience pain.
Workplaces tend to see a lot of pain for many reasons, with a feeling of constant unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
In my observations, the following topics are some of the major causes of personal suffering in the workplace.
1. Unhealthy Ego
When the “I” and “me” feeling becomes very strong, it results in inevitable pain for oneself and others. The need to prove oneself all the time blocks the action of encouraging and enabling others. This also results in skewed views and inability to listen to and understand other perspectives. The focus moves away from the key topic that needs attention from an organizational perspective. Everything becomes personal. There is also a need to control as much as possible directly.
This is probably one of the most common reasons for unhappiness and suffering. In organizations, some people grow disproportionately faster than others due to better capability, fit for the job/organization, specific circumstances, environment etc. Sometimes, it may seem unfair. Irrespective of the specific background, constant comparison with others leads to dissatisfaction with everything, personal pain and intense unhappiness that may seep into other areas in life.
3. Never satisfied
Many individuals are never satisfied. The focus is always on gaining more, what I don’t have and what is missing for me. There is a need for good balance in one aspect of striving for perfection and continuous improvement. The suffering that results from dissatisfaction leads to unhappiness with self and others and constant urge for more and more, without enjoying the present. There are umpteen number of examples of brilliant corporate leaders who have lost all credibility due to greed or need to be perceived as high achievers always.
As A Result…
The resulting themes noticed in organizations are anger, jealousy, frustration, stress, conflict, intense lack of trust and unhappiness. All these lead to a feeling of disconnectedness and disengagement with self, work and colleagues.
Many people also go through a feeling of helplessness or no hope, especially during changes. There is a feeling of having very limited or no alternative choices during difficulties. Hence, they decide to suffer through the situation making life worse for themselves and others around them. The negativity and helplessness seem to just grow bigger.
Extreme scenarios even lead to individual depression or mental health issues. Unfortunately, normal work environments are not very kind or supportive in such instances due to various reasons including the high pace and demands of business.
Negative emotions in the workplace are also transferred quickly among individuals and groups. ‘Emotional contagions’ spread much quicker than one may think or imagine.
Excessive unhealthy competition and lack of collaboration are other signs of a ‘sick’ work environment. The organization overall suffers and falls behind in achieving its full potential and success.
What can be done…
Approaches for improvement can be reviewed from an individual and organizational perspective. Each one of us can start by looking after our own mental and physical wellbeing, without waiting for someone else to come with a magical answer. Organizations can support with appropriate practices and environmental approaches.
Self-Awareness and Self-Management, two core pillars of emotional intelligence are fundamental for anyone to manage individually. We all can learn from our own experiences, reflection and actions.
Coming to terms with something that we may not agree with (acceptance) or finding our own ways to accept the difficult change helps tremendously. If that is not possible personally and if there is a persisting strong feeling of unfairness which cannot be addressed, finding a new stream or possibility becomes a healthy choice for everyone.
During difficult times, we need constant energy and encouragement from ourselves, our closest support groups, friends and cheerleaders. It is really important to believe that the tough times shall pass and it is up to us to start making the small steps and changes that will start a new path.
Having an individual practice to find state of peace, harmony and balance like meditation, time with nature, time out from constant interruptions, hobbies etc. can help tremendously. Constantly reflecting on the good things in our lives and focusing on gratitude (many studies indicate that maintaining a Gratitude Journal helps tremendously) can help focus on ‘what we have’, not ‘what we don’t have’. Self compassion and forgiveness are very important when we are not able to meet our own expectations. Studies seem to indicate that we are tougher and more critical of ourselves than others.
From an organizational perspective, building a community feeling and social support in the workplace can also go a long way. Social support is at the core of successfully helping individuals to rebound from difficulties and challenges. Work practices, supporting tools and environment have to be developed. Every leader and manager can also play a key role in the wellbeing of the their teams and organizations through mindful interactions and actions. If consciously and carefully managed, they could play a major role in building healthy environments and mental well-being in the workplace.
Even a minor reduction of suffering in our lives and workplaces can bring a major difference to the individuals in our lives and the world around us.