The Ground Rules: How to Argue with Yourself About Your Work Life

Art: Monica Bond @ https://www.ciaozen.com/

As many of us are, I am particularly hard on myself when it comes to work life. I participate in egregious inner conversations concerning a host of topics; including an inability to tolerate boredom and a long-standing uneasiness speaking in front of large groups. When these arguments arise, I am particularly unfair and inflexible. Admittedly, these conversations are infrequent, but are surely damaging.

Being hard on yourself isn’t a rarity — but it is can weaken your work life core. Indeed, we all have bad days and weeks. We all have relative weaknesses. We all have doubts about ourselves and an armory of bruising experiences that could feed that opinion. Yes, from time to time, we all participate in “inner speak” that does us no favors. But, how do we prevent this dynamic from becoming a habit? How do we stop the assessment of ourselves from becoming rigid or petrified? How do we shift (even slightly) our deepest doubts about our own work lives to avoid a deeper fissure?

We might learn something from how we share our broader views and values on subjects other than work life. Moreover, the process of conversing effectively about our own career internally, can benefit from some sage old wisdom & research.

  • Commit to fighting fair. Closing yourself off to a competing or more positive view, will encourage long-standing damage. (Bringing up a highlight reel of every blunder or failure, will not help you overcome a fissure in your foundation.) Make a pact with yourself to construct an equally powerful positive reel to combat negative arguments and soften the dialogue.
  • Examine what lives behind the doubt. Where there is smoke, there is often fire. Look at the contributing events that may have caused the fissure to develop. What really happened? How can you be instrumental, not helpless — in preventing a similar situation? Mitigate the effects as soon as possible. You can take responsibility for your own contribution, without losing respect for yourself.
  • Don’t throw yourself overboard. Know when to engage in this internal argument. It is easy to throw up our hands and launch into extreme negativity, when you are at your worst (in the midst of the challenge or issue). Try to avoid the entire argument, until your environment is more stable. Calmer minds prevail — and help you move to the the other side of the argument.

Ultimately, our work life core is ours to protect and nurture. Make it a priority to always fight fair.

About the Artist: Monica Bond is a New York-based illustration artist, working with both analog and digital techniques to create art from the soul. In each piece she emphasizes the message, “this moment is your life.” Her passion for creating art became the driving force of her own life when she discovered that the artistic process itself brought her purpose and peace. Monica grew up between Milan and New York, went to college in Rome and now lives outside New York City with her husband and two daughters.

Marla Gottschalk is an I/O Psychologist & work life blogger who explores core stability and the dynamic nature of work life. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her practice helps people, teams & organizations build stronger work life foundations through the practice of core stability. Her thoughts on work life have also appeared at the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

You Should Be Your Own Muse

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Muse

1: any of the nine sister goddesses in Greek mythology presiding over song and poetry and the arts and sciences Clio is the Greek Muse of history. 2 : a source of inspiration especially : a guiding genius.

My grandmother used to stock a drawer on the end of her bright, pink kitchen with paper. When I visited her as a young child, it was always one of my go-to spots. Whether she placed that paper to indulge my penchant for sketching, I’ll never know. But, I’m grateful that she provided the materials which acknowledged the importance of creativity. Being able to create something, whether great or small, helps us build a stronger core; one that extends to both life & work.

Yet, inspiration can be difficult to come by — even in the best of circumstances.

In times such as these, it may seem frivolous to indulge the notion of an “inspirational state” (more about that here). But, I have come to think it essential to our work lives. Something that underscores the best of being human. Yet, if we continually rely on others to help the creative process ignite, this puts us at a distinct disadvantage.

While you are likely grateful for what you do have in this moment, your life & work may have suffered from a lack of inspiration. The usual “triggers” may be absent or limited (serendipitous hallway conversations, conferences, time away from our desks, quiet moments). But, I’m a stubborn sort, and feel that there are ways to build the potential for creativity within our daily lives. I’ve relied on this vantage point for some time now. On some days I am successful. On others days, not as much. But, I am resolute and committed to the process.

To combat this internal gridlock, we must find what we might need from within ourselves. More specifically, to find our own energy sources. My own journey has led to a number of observations — including this: We must learn to function as our own muse.

Here are a few of my tips & techniques:

Pay attention. You must become more sensitive to your own distant drummer & indulge the pangs of interest. What are you drawn toward? A development in an adjacent field? A new writer? Design thinking? Attempt to not dismiss a seemingly random element that attracts you, however unrelated it may appear to your work. Read more on that topic. Talk more about it. Ultimately, if your brain engages with something — the benefits are likely to spill into other areas.

Get a hold of morning rituals. What are you consuming along with your coffee, first thing in the morning? What fills the first moments each day? How might this affect you? How can you better control negativity, tension & stress (which likely fight inspiration and creativity)? Know this: cultivating inspiration & creativity is an art form — and not the result of divine intervention.

Stop the energy drain. There are people & situations that truly drain us — drowning our abilities to serve as our own muse. If someone or something consistently leaves you in a funk, stop the exposure or contain the effects as soon as possible. Process why the interactions affect you in that way. Resolve to change your perspective or move beyond it.

Edit your physical surroundings. Most of us have been sequestered to a much smaller world over the last 22 months. As a result, our immediate surroundings have become more and more important. Pay attention to where you work. Pull out items or mementos that help you feel safe & settled. Organize your office. Insert a healthy dose of art or music. Do what you can to trigger positivity.

Utilize a dreamy state. Writer’s block, a well-known ailment, known to be difficult to tackle — has been around for centuries. This article offers a glimpse regarding how mental imagery can open the door to recovery. In a sense, writer’s block is simply a creativity deficit. A frozen state, in which the sufferer is caught without a worthy muse.

Indulge, not stifle. Try not to shrug off an idea or collection of observations. Grab a notebook and record the source idea. Then use that page as a nexus for related thoughts & refinements. Return to those thoughts regularly and build on the threads. Be loose with your thoughts. Try not to edit your creative meanderings out of existence.

Get visual. Creativity breeds creativity. So being a bit closer to the visual arts, may help you feel more productive. I challenge you to discover 5 inspiring photographs or photographers at Unsplash. Note the subject matter and why you are drawn to it.

Go ahead and create something, anything. Whether you have raw talent or not — dabble. Choose a vehicle that attracts you, whether it involves paint, pencil, ink, a hammer or a camera. Remember that creative acts, can be pursued solely for your consumption and no one else’s.

Please note that you do not have to work in an known “creative field”, to benefit from the contributions of inspiration & creativity into your life. I would wager that both of these elements, fund both our well-being and problem-solving abilities.

Read more: Thoughts on Asimov’s The Eureka Phenomenon here.

Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist & speaker. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her practice helps people, teams & organizations build stronger work life foundations through the practice of core stability. Her thoughts on work life have also appeared at the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

What You’re Feeling is Burnout

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I felt it was time to speak about burnout.

Considering the year(s) we have all muddled through, it can come as no surprise that many of us are feeling exhausted.

For unknown reasons, I never thought to share my developing burnout saga. First let me say, the dynamic was hastened by the pressures of the pandemic — yet the roots may have already been established. I’ve also realized, that when we fail to see the writing on the wall, burnout can take hold in a manner that can be difficult to shake.

It is real. We need to act promptly. To protect ourselves. (See an overview of the research here.)

As a consultant, I’ve discussed burnout with many over the years. I’ve seen burnout manifest during unpredictable organizational lows, as well as industry peaks. It can occur because of one perpetually trying client or the full brunt of a dire economic downturn. But, no one is immune. No one. We seem to experience burnout as individuals — and its particular course is also individual. This can throw us off the trail and possibly leave us unprepared. Know that burnout will not look the same across contributors, and should be addressed when it is likely a factor. (See my targeted session here.)

Above all, we should be discussing the issue and sharing experiences.

Personally, burnout manifested like a storm gathering courage in the distance. There were signs it was approaching. Pangs of apathy and avoidance. Yet, because this is alarming on many levels — particularly because in most cases (as was with mine) the work is our livelihood — we try to ignore its presence. There are so many reasons that we cannot simply pick up, check out or change course.

We assume there is nothing to be done, as we cannot change the things we must (and in many cases previously loved) and should do. We opt to compensate and press on.

However, there are costs to this strategy.

Engagement with our work wanes. Motivation plummets. As is the case now, we have also lived through a tumultuous time in history which has affected every breathing corner of our lives.

We cannot expect all of this this to steer clear from our work lives.

While we may not be able to walk away from our responsibilities, we can take the time to understand the winds within our own storm. This may offer clues that can lead to solutions. So, here are a few things to consider when approaching burnout.

Hopefully, the topics may alert you to something that can be addressed.

  • We have broken psychological agreements about work life with ourselves. In many cases, there is a psychological contract with ourselves, that we have breached. We may have briefly thought: “I’m extremely weary of this” or “I’m not as happy with this part of my career, as I used to be”, but we pressed on. The scales were tipping and we kept on going, without considering where that path might lead. The rewards were simply not keeping pace with the investment of time, trouble and emotion.
  • When to stop is never discussed. We are offered an abundance of advice about how to start something. Yet there is not nearly enough discussion about when and how (and why) we should slow down or step away. We conveniently forget that remaining productive over the long-haul requires balance & rest, even with the tasks that we love. We may not have had the strategies in place to achieve this.
  • We wait for a savior. It is unlikely that someone will approach you to say, “Stop this pace while you are still doing well.” You must take on the responsibility of your own psychological resources. Monitor feelings of hope, self-efficacy, resilience and optimism. Pay attention if one has fallen precipitously. This will be a clear sign.
  • Declare or wither. One pillar of core stability, is to embrace radical self-awareness regarding what you need to stay productive. We cannot always choose the roles, tasks, or people that are a part of our journey. However, if it is humanly possible to affect core elements before burnout sets in, do this. Declare the work life elements that are vital to your well-being as a contributor.
  • Acknowledge that living through history is an accelerator. As a child I used to try to imagine how others had lived through World Wars. What were they thinking? Could they go back to living normal lives that would include joy or a sense of calm? I can only hypothesize that they would not want to return to the elements of their lives that were already worn or troublesome. They would want to grab life and live it to the fullest. That a clear purpose to live well, would dominate.

I do not have the answers — only more questions. However, acknowledging what we have lived through and how this affects our work is vital. Above all, know that our collective journeys are personal, and this requires a very personal solution.

Do you have a strategy to mitigate burnout? How has this helped you? Share it with this forum.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work & organizations have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post

Where We Are Now With Work

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Photo by Eli Sommer on Pexels.com

There is nothing so stable as change. – Bob Dylan

I’ve not felt like writing in weeks. I have 45 open drafts. That’s a record (even for me).

There is a malaise that meets me at my desk on many mornings. I would characterize this as a lack of energy. A bit of resistance to do the work I normally love.  (Indeed, I am grateful to still have a role to occupy my mind.) I will hypothesize that the pace of both challenge and change in our world, has finally caught up with me.

Of course, none of us has all of the answers. We can only bring our collected knowledge and best intentions to forge ahead.

As I usually do, I’ve talked to others about their work as well — how it has changed (for better and worse), how it will remain so for some time, how we must adapt. What I’ve learned, is that we are entering a new phase of work life, “post” the arrival of Covid. The changes we are going through come with an element of loss and we should open to speak about all of it.

We are each affected differently, that goes without saying. But, as aptly expressed in this HBR article: “If we can name it, we can manage it.” I’ll start. You can join in the comments section if you wish.

I am quickly realizing that this crisis isn’t a sprint. It is a marathon. We are in this for the long-haul. Some of the elements of work life that once were — may never return. Some of the changes will be useful. Other changes will likely make us feel oddly out of sync. (We seem to be moving through a crash course in “digital transformation,” in real-time.)

I also know that we should draw from our foundation, our built work life core — to help us along. We must acknowledge what we can bring with us on this journey. More specifically — that we can bring along the good, as well as the challenging. (A strong nod to positive psychology here.) Bolstering our resolve with the positive, is vital. This may be a useful strategy in our arsenal to combat all of the work life twists and turns, yet to come.

What we’ve built.

We bring along the elements of our work lives that we have nurtured. The strong teams. The great colleagues. The challenge of the work. The healthy cultural landscapes.

These elements will help us adapt, help us face the changes with resilience.

Of course, when the dust settles we’ll have decide if we still fit — and at least assess where we find ourselves within our current organization. The outcomes of which will not be easy to predict. It is hard to know what choices (good or bad) an organization will make. What choices you must make. Yet, I do know that you should pause to re-evaluate constructs such as the psychological contract. Discuss it openly. Declare what you need to stay engaged and healthy. Managers should have an open and honest conversation with each one of their employees to take stock.

Ultimately, our world of work is now characterized by change.

To keep pace — look to your core.

Lean in to the great things you have built.

Please Note: The articles on this site are the intellectual property of the author — and cannot be used commercially without expressed written consent.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist & speaker, who explores the value of core stability to empower work & career. Her course, The Core Masterclass teach managers how to build core stability for themselves and their team.

5 Unexpected Things I’ve Learned About People, Work & Organizations

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Photo: @jamieinemo at Instagram

What we need to know about our line of work, can never be conveyed completely in a classroom setting.

Scores of valuable lessons are learned through our experiences. In some cases, they emerge as topic gaps. For example, a course entitled “consulting for success” was not a part of my curriculum. (It should have been.) In other cases, the guidance is shared, but delivered far too early — as we require a certain breadth of experience to comprehend its importance. (Only maturity brings this.)

Ultimately, we discover many of these vital lessons on our own.

On some occasions, just in the nick of time. On other occasions, that timing is not as fortunate.

Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned with time:

  1. No matter how driven or successful — work cannot be corralled into a neat, confined space.
    Early in my career, I was caught in an elevator with the most senior level employee in my department. (Her office was just a stone’s throw from mine and I would only see her breezing to and from meetings.) Normally stoic, on this particular day she was uncharacteristically open, “In this organization you need to learn to leave your personal life at the door. Remember that, Marla.”, as she huffed out of the elevator. As the doors closed, I was so struck by her admission that I forgot to exit. I realized years on, that work affects us broadly — because of its central importance in the operation of our everyday lives. Work-life balance is really more of an integration challenge. Moreover, when an organization ignores this fact, undo pressure and stress often develop. Everyone loses, as she likely felt in that moment.
  2. Never make assumptions about people how people feel about their work.
    I left school believing that my training and reasoning skills, could help me solve most of the encountered work life problems. However, that belief was inherently flawed. Over time, I came to realize that the true nature of someone else’s experience, isn’t obvious. The only way to gain access and understand that perspective, is to develop a trusting relationship and inquire. True feelings and dynamics are often shrouded — and leading with curiosity is vital.
  3. Growing pains aren’t just for kids. They apply to work life as well.
    My father was a family physician, so I was well versed concerning the pain experienced as tendons stretch to accommodate bone growth. I’ve also realized that organizations and careers paths, suffer from a similar dynamic. As individuals & organizations approach important inflection points, they must stretch to meet the challenge. This can become quite uncomfortable. My role is to help them through it.
  4. Goals which once motivated us, can also trip us up.
    If you’ve ever been stuck trying to force your way forward, you may have experienced this issue. Sometimes the goals that we establish for ourselves and seek, actually begin to hold us back. This happens when we see things one way — and cannot budge to see an alternative path. In some cases, it may be time to let the goal go.
  5. Authenticity isn’t always a good thing.
    I’ve worked with more than one individual, whose authentic “brand” or work style, literally stood in the way of progress. I’m not referring to awful people, who fail to possess concern for their employees or colleagues. I’m speaking of talented, kind individuals who have a working style or flow, that happens to affect others adversely. When made aware of how their quirks derailed others, they are usually horrified. (Know yourself and how you work best. But, also build awareness of how that might impacts others. If you aren’t completely sure — ask.)

Work life is a journey.

If approached with the right mindset, it is also a non-stop learning experience.

What have you learned about work life that was unexpected? Share in comments.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who focuses on empowering work through the development of a strong foundation. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including the Harvard Business Review, Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

How Not to Manage a High Performer

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Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

Note: I originally posted this piece at LinkedIn.

I’ve observed high performers drowning within their own work environments.

Their days are consumed with tasks that drag them far from where they would bring the most value. They are overworked — but vastly underutilized. They can feel stuck and frustrated. They often spend their days putting out their colleagues’ “fires” and must literally hide to secure uninterrupted periods of focused work.

In some ways, they are punished for being well-versed in “how things get done”.

This is wrong on so many levels.

If these practices are commonly occurring within your organization, you should proceed with caution. At the very least, you are tempting the “workplace fates” — and the fates may not be kind.

Research has indicated that your least engaged employees,  may actually be your high performers. This flies in the face of conventional lore and contiguously sets up a dangerous, high risk scenario. The practice of your high performers picking up the slack for under-performers for example, can drone on for a time. However, this will likely create a whole new set of problems. At some point, the “gig” is up. You’ll look up one morning to find your high performer, standing in front of your desk, giving notice.

“Why”, you ask in complete and utter shock.

The most frustrating element in this dynamic? We can do something to prevent their exit. You’ll be left at a loss — but they may feel as if they have narrowly escaped a hostile environment.

Here are a few things to avoid where your top performers are concerned:

  • Punish them for competence. If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it one thousand times. Often competent, established employees become responsible for each and every problem employee or departmental snafu. In essence, they have two sets of challenges — those of the entire group — and their own.
  • Fail to challenge them. When things are the busiest and work simply needs to get out the door, you rely on your top performers to keep things flowing. However, this doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like the opportunity to tackle a “stretch assignment” that utilizes their skills and strengths, when things calm down.
  • Fail to consult them when key changes are considered. We don’t always need a hired consultant to guide decisions affecting the business. Consult your established staff. Tapping their knowledge base helps us see the bigger picture for what it really is.
  • Fail to share what they know. It is critical to share their depth of experience with others (not just those in trouble). Set up a master series — and let your high performers lead the way for your less established employees.

Have you had this experience?
How do you recognize your committed, high performers? Share your strategies.

Ready to work with Dr. Gottschalk?  Schedule s strategy session here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including the Harvard Business Review, Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

How Letting Go (of Goals) Can Help Your Work Life

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Photo by David Yu on Pexels.com

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.” – Herman Hesse

Most of us are challenged to let go of disappointment, failure or regret within our work lives.

We bemoan the collaborations that didn’t prove fertile, the target we may have missed or the client that got away. We are taught repeatedly to “stick with things” and to “never give up“. Yet, I’ve seen this strategy backfire and cause a great deal of stress. In times such as these, taking an honest look at our goals to evaluate where we really are is critical. We must be aware of our available psychological resources and prevent further drain.

As a psychologist, I’ve seen an unusual type of guilt — “goal guilt” as I like to call it — affect all types of contributors from those new to the workforce, to seasoned CEOs and entrepreneurs. In may cases, the unfulfilled elements in the past, simply get in the way of a more fulfilling, more work life in our future.

Invariably, the elements that we value the most and live at the core, can cause us the most trouble.

Big, audacious goals are touted as a cornerstone of our work lives. (Some advice here, on how to set them wisely.) We are encouraged not only to set them, but to live alongside them with each and every breath we draw. I’m good with goals and we all need them. Yet, just like the battery that feeds our favorite device — goals have a “life span”. They reach a state, where they are no longer viable or serve as a meaningful motivator.

How this affects us is something we should pause and note.

People also cycle in and out, of our work lives. There are expectations attached to them as well — and not all of these might have been fulfilled. There may have been a mismatch, or we (or they) have changed or circumstances influenced the outcomes. Our time with them may have felt unproductive and frustrating, but inevitably, “it was what it was”.

All of this holding on requires energy and “headspace”. Yet, our attention cannot be infinitely divided. (Research has shown that our minds burns through 20% of our energy requirements though it represents only 2% of body mass.) In a sense, wasting that precious energy, is squandering our own potential.

Sometimes we simply must move on — and let go.

How you would describe your own history in this regard? Do you find it easy to let go? Or are you challenged to do so? If you lean toward the stubborn and notably inflexible end of the continuum, the process can be arduous. However, all of this hanging on doesn’t serve us. It can bring a fog that clouds new opportunities and can fuel bitterness. Nevertheless, turning away and leaving these things behind can be challenging and bring a certain sadness.

Letting go of people and goals that define yesterday can be a good thing. We must challenge our mindset to allow us to do so.

Here are a few thoughts concerning what letting go is and isn’t:

  • Letting go of a goal isn’t a defeat.
  • It does not signal failure on your part.
  • It may mean that the goal no longer serves you.
  • It may mean you have committed your best effort — and the outcomes/rewards weren’t there.
  • It is closure.
  • It is about shifting your energies to fertile ground.
  • It is about becoming more agile.
  • It can foster resilience.
  • It can build a sense of adventure; restore a certain hope and confidence in the future.
  • It can mark the moment of a new beginning.

In many cases letting go, creates room for pursuits that are far more rewarding — and carves out a place for the goals and people that will help move us forward.

I would say that softens the blow.

Is letting go challenging for you? Have you mastered the art? Share your experiences with our community.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

How to Survive When Challenging People Knock You Off Your Game

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No one relishes the thought of meeting the client, colleague or manager whose mere mention is synonymous with stress. Yet, challenging people (and the situations they create) are a work life fact. Chances are high that you will encounter one of these individuals along the way. When you’ve landed in a tight spot with someone who just isn’t playing fair, it can feel like a tidal wave of emotions.

Unfortunately, the experience can leave us feeling off balance and not quite like ourselves. This can be overwhelming. Feeling undermined or attacked is traumatic — and emotions run high. (Completely normal.) Most of us will immediately formulate an internal counter-attack or argument. However the opportunity for this play out in real life, is often dependent on the existing power dynamic. In many cases, we simply have to process the situation to move through it.

If you are not in the position to openly respond  — or directly defend yourself — you can be left with disturbing after-effects. We might feel a little “hung-over”, exhausted or dazed. Ultimately, encountering toxic people can affect our ability to thrive in the workplace. This is a real and present danger. So we must address the situation quickly.

Here is a bit of advice to wade through the fall-out:

  • Psychologically separate. The first thing to protect is your work life well-being. This may require applying mindfulness techniques to observe the situation from a safer psychological distance. Most human beings have a powerful response to extreme negative feedback — so ensure that your emotions (and feelings of worth) are not hijacked or destroyed. Think of things this way: What if the situation happened to a friend or co-worker? What advice would you offer them?
  • Seek support. Touch base with a trusted colleague or supervisor to share your experience and gain some perspective. Knowing that you have support, will help your resolve and deter doubts from taking a foothold.
  • Learn from the experience. A post-mortem review might be challenging — especially when you feel you are not at fault. However, reviewing the entire story to identify where things may have gone off the rails (and to revise future strategy) is warranted. Subtle cues can provoke someone who is already difficult to work with. Protect yourself going forward.
  • Face reality & exit the battlefield. If you feel your reputation may be at stake, attempt to exit the dynamic entirely. Request another colleague to cover the client or complete unfinished project work. Sometimes, more exposure only breeds more trouble.
  • Give things time. The surprise of the initial shock will fade. However, how you process the experience will matter longer-term. You will change as a contributor — but hopefully you will also emerge wiser, stronger and better prepared.
  • Focus on resilience-building. Learning strategies that help us bounce back are critical. Protecting our psychological resources is important, as situations where we feel misunderstood or attacked can have long-standing effects.

How have you dealt with unreasonable individuals in your work life? Share your strategies here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial & Organizational Psychologist, diagnostician and coach. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared at the Harvard Business review, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum

What You Need to Know About Yourself to Help You With (Workplace) Change

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The wind of change, whatever it is, blows most freely through an open mind. — Katharine Whitehorn

I’ve been told more than once, that I’m not the best role model concerning change. (To be candid, I agree with the characterization.) I balk at the mere whiff of a change — holding on to hope that it won’t ever come to pass.

Then adjusting my course will not be necessary.

Honestly, this can become a problem.

As you may have read in this post, I’ve struggled with even the smallest of changes, muddling along until the “new normal” finally appears. Until that moment, I feel somewhat annoyed and completely out of sync. For better or worse, my “go to” reaction is to keep my world frozen, until I can carefully consider every aspect of the situation. Unfortunately, holding time at bay usually isn’t often an option. (This also irks me. Why can’t things go at my pace?)

Regardless, I firmly acknowledge the value of flexing our workplace “change muscles”. However, knowing ourselves is likely the very first place to look when building this skill set. I believe that we all have a leading predisposition when faced with change at work (and life in general)  — representing both our collected experiences and temperament. Of course, this influences our leading strategy when reacting to change, as well.

That’s where things get tricky. (If you manage others, just reflect on what this means for your team.) We need to come to an understanding of our own tendencies and recognize how this might affect our response.

This realization, is a crucial step.

As a consultant who advocates for change for a living — here are a few of the predispositions I’ve observed over the years:

  • Piners or Grievers. These individuals often lament the coming of change, even when it is inevitable or completely necessary. They may grieve for the roles, policies, procedures and co-workers of days gone by. They do move on eventually — but often with decreased fulfillment, satisfaction and a good measure of sadness.
  • Researchers. An unbridled penchant to gather information is the leading response for this group — as looking at the issue from all angles often helps them move on. Unfortunately, a leading by-product of this view is “analysis paralysis”. Another issue: time may not be a negotiable. (This would be where I fall, although I do pine at the start.)
  • Supporters or Embracers. These individuals are generally open to change and feel excited to contemplate the future. They may not be a primary driver of change, yet are happy to see the possibilities, are optimistic — and help things move forward.
  • Alarmists. For these individuals an impending change triggers intense feelings of urgency. This could lead to premature or risky career behaviors, that could negatively affect them longer-term. (Such as quitting on a whim, etc.)
  • Dreamers. This group always manages to see the best in the current situation, even when there is overwhelming evidence to move on and accept a change. (I would add there is a very mild level of complacency operating). Because of this perspective, they might miss opportunities to properly plan a place for themselves in the new “order” of things.
  • Observers. Usually quiet and calm, these individuals take a solid “wait and see” approach. They rarely panic — and prefer to watch things unfold organically. They might superficially support the change, but may eventually exit if the change eventually is perceived as untenable.
  • Aggressors or Terminators. These individuals feel anger when they are faced with an unexpected change. They may become a strong “naysayer”, vehemently opposing a change and could exhibit negative behaviors without reflection.

After I drafted these, I searched for other frameworks that capture how we process change. I happened upon the Kubler-Ross Change Curve, which applies the seminal model of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross concerning grief, to change efforts within organizations. (This theory states that we all move through specified phases when dealing with change, rather than identifying a leading emotion that we deal with over time.) I thought it wise to mention it here.

Where do you fall? Have I missed your leading orientation toward change? Share your style in comments.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial & Organizational Psychologist. She is a Consulting Psychologist at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared at The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum

15 Quotes to Get Your Head in the Right Place at Work

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Not every day can begin with unbridled enthusiasm.

We all have days when our emotional status is just not in the “right place”. Personally, I’m never sure about the root cause of my malaise. It could be anything I suppose, a stressful interaction that has lingered, a bad dream or the cheesecake I had last night for dessert.

However, it can spell trouble for my day. Changing the dynamic, becomes the first order of business. Sometimes, I opt to read New Yorker cartoons.  Sometimes, I call a trusted colleague or friend.

If all else fails, I read quotes about work life, career and inspiration.

Here are some of my favorite “mood changing” quotes.

I hope they offer you what you might need to impact your day for the better.

  1. Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. – Confucius
  2. It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it. – Lou Holtz
  3. Do your work with your whole heart and you will succeed – there is so little competition. – Elbert Hubbard
  4. All things are difficult before they are easy. – Thomas Fuller
  5. The harder I work, the luckier I get – Samuel Goldwyn
  6. Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them. – Ann Landers
  7. The secret of getting ahead, is getting started. – Mark Twain
  8. It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves. – William Shakespeare
  9. When we no longer can change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. – Viktor E. Frankl
  10. There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there. – Indira Gandhi
  11. Study the past, if you would divine the future. – Confucius
  12. A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night. – Marilyn Monroe
  13. Food, love, career and mothers, the four major guilt groups. – Cathy Guisewite
  14. Believe you can and you are halfway there. – Theodore Roosevelt
  15. Change your thoughts and you change your world. – Norman Vincent Peale

Share your favorites in the comments section. I am sure I have missed more than a few classics.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who focuses on empowering work through the development of a strong foundation. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including the Harvard Business Review, Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.