Is your workplace beginning to mimic reality TV shows? If so, what can you do to take care of yourself? And what can—and should—you do to reconnect with your colleagues?
Last week, one of my stress management clients likened her week to “a bad Survivor episode” This got me thinking about how TV reality shows often magnify real life experiences.
Maybe that’s why “Survivor” and shows like it (Remember “The Apprentice”?) captivate audiences. Maybe viewers recognize the anxiety they themselves feel when their work environment feels unstable, often because their employment or even the company is in jeopardy.
Fortunately, few workplaces are quite as dysfunctional as reality TV. But in my 10 years as a stress management consultant, I have encountered a few that mimic reality show behavior.
What about your workplace? Are resentment, mistrust or anxiety on the rise where you work? If so, you can survive. You can even thrive (and still be a decent, kind person!).
Obviously, in real life, you can’t vote others “off the island” or even out of the boardroom. But you can change the way you think about the organization, engage in your work, and manage yourself.
When there is instability around you, you may also notice unpleasantness. Unpleasant feelings cause many of us to pull back and even “harden our hearts” in response. This can lead to avoiding certain tasks, projects and people.
Of course, in real life, cutting yourself off from assignments and others isn’t a good long-term strategy: not for your career, and certainly not for your attitude.
To reconnect with your colleagues, reconnect with your better self. Easier said than done? Maybe. But not so hard as you might think.
The first step: Acknowledge the fear that exists in others–and, yes, even in yourself.
Fear is universal. (Some of us just manage it better than others.) And the concept itself is scary to think about.*
But if you look behind blaming, gossiping and mistrust in any group, you can almost always see fear (the poorly managed kind).
In such stressful situations, it’s common to worry about being pulled in “over our heads” to someone else’s issues. We fear not having sufficient skills to manage our own turmoil, much less someone else’s.
As I wrote in this column last year, we can build skills to face those challenges, move through them and become better, more successful people.
How? Mindfulness could be the way.
Why mindfulness? Mindfulness helps us allay the fear of our own insufficiency. It shines the light on our inner resources.
It helps us develop awareness, compassion, consideration and patience—skills that great leaders know—and that research keeps showing—are vital to individual and group success.
Mindfulness fosters self-awareness and enhances positive feelings, which eventually spill over into the rest of your life—at work, at home and in your social life.
These are the behaviors and the values that move through offices and through generations. They are deposits in the savings account of our individual and shared humanity.
But is all that good business? Some say these values are irrelevant to modern business, which is inherently brutal. The truth is, it’s the lack of these values that leads to brutality—just as a drought leads to famine.
In the real world (as opposed to TV game shows), successful businesses value not just financial wins, but the relationships that promote them. Mindfulness provides the solid ground those relationships can be built on.
It helps us realize that we can be decent to everyone—but we don’t have to please them all. We can be calm when confronted with resistance or even aggression.
As any worthwhile achievement, mindfulness requires that we learn. This mindfulness exercise helps us learn to calm and accept ourselves and others— flaws and all.
Try it a few times and see if you don’t begin to feel calmer, more whole-hearted and better prepared to consider others’ interests as well as your own—instead of being absorbed with what might go wrong.
Mindfulness is like a diamond. It converts pressure to strength and beauty. It reflects and magnifies light within and without—including not only our best traits, but those of the people we work with.
*That’s why President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It’s also why I wrote this blog entry last year.