The Office Blend Blog

How Not to Overlook Your Team’s Best Ideas Now

Photo by Alex wong on Unsplash

I couldn’t think of a better time to remind ourselves of the potential link between resource constraints and innovation. The challenges facing organizations (in multiple sectors) during this crisis, are ominous. Yet, the environment still requires us to develop critical solutions that can impact how we deliver vital goods/services. Interestingly, resource shortages can spur innovation.

We are forced at look at what we do differently, when the game changes.

The paradox: Innovation can already be out there, yet we are unaware of it. There may already be solutions practiced by those on the front lines — those who are closest to the work. Yet the broader organization is unaware of these actions.

This is an important time to gather ideas and “hacks” that have already been applied (and are working). This should be a pressing priority.

A few thoughts:

  • Your employees = expertise. This mindset is fundamental. Those doing the work have intimate knowledge of the existing challenges. Moreover, employees independently solve problems on their own and may have discovered a “Jugaad“, a simple or frugal work-around or hack. Others may have already improvised solutions to a more complicated problem as a temporary fix — one that could be improved and used more widely.
  • Don’t overlook less-established employees. Those newer to your organization bring a different perspective concerning the way things are done. Promote a level of psychological safety that encourages everyone to contribute. Reach out to them. Remain open. Ask them, “What do you see, that I may not see?”.
  • Consider adjacent input. Those who work with you, can also help you innovate. Seek help from the functions that contribute to getting the work done. Consider adjacency, as an immediate source of potential ideas.
  • Utilize your company’s intranet as a lifeline . Recast your intranet — your internal communication mechanism — as your innovation platform. If your past “war game” scenarios have revealed weaknesses in delivering vital goods or services, gather ideas immediately — before the crisis is in full force.
  • Post challenges as they develop. Let your employees know about growing issues that require their attention. Post current challenges plainly to the entire organization of possible. This will be ever-evolving.

Hoping this helps. Leave your ideas below. You could help another organization serve others.

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 Work (and Other Things) Might Help Us Cope Right Now.

Photo by Cathal Mac an Bheatha on Unsplash

It is Spring 2020. We are all struggling to establish a new normal — in times that are anything but normal.

I’ll spare you, and will refrain from sharing advice about how to work remotely. I’m wagering that many of us are well beyond this and are not open to another opportunistic pitch to build someone’s client list. We are in the midst of history being written. That alone, demands that we peel away the layers.

Many of us simply want to protect ourselves, our families and quite possibly our psychological resources. Resources such as hope, self efficacy and resilience, that can be adversely affected as we practice social distancing.

As an alternative, I’ll share few thoughts on how to stay on a somewhat even keel. (Disclaimer: These are my own. They do not have to be yours.) Not surprisingly, this does include work — and seeking a daily measure of joy. I am referring to the type of work, that feeds your soul and occupies your mind. I am also referring to the trusted elements of our lives to which we turn, when feeling unsettled.

What to try now:

  • If possible, continue to do the work you love to do. I’ve just listened to Coldplay’s Chris Martin live streaming an impromptu home-based concert at Instagram (@Coldplay). As a psychologist, I’m thankful that he can continue to share his gift to help others. Try to do the same. Work on topics that bring meaning & value to you.
  • Reach out. Limit feelings of isolation & distance. Technology can obviously work with us here. I couldn’t love Zoom more than I do today, in this very moment. I intend to contact the clients & colleagues, I’ve come to respect over the years. Utilize Facebook video to call friends who are alone (quite reliable) and text your neighbors. I’m hoping this helps in some way.
  • “Lean in” to the things that bring joy. Whether this is music, film, reading, art, walking, observing birds, podcasts, comedy, singing, blogging, or crafting. Do these things when you have a moment. James Altucher just shared his reading list as we self-isolate. Shuttered Broadway performers are singing for us. Museums have shared virtual tours. Improvise. Build these into your daily routine.
  • Complete something. Anything. When we cannot control our circumstances, self-efficacy suffers. This can lead to feelings of helplessness. While you distance, complete smaller projects/tasks that you can pace. Bring feelings of mastery into your “new normal”.

My best to everyone. We are all struggling. Share your concerns.

What are you doing right now to support your psychological foundation?

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.



4 Lessons That Burnout Can Teach Us About Productivity

Jack Seeds @Unsplash

Have you ever considered stepping away from something you love? A task that you previously enjoyed — but in the present not as much? A team? A role? An organization?

I realize the question may seem counter-intuitive. Why would we consider doing that? Yet, this is precisely what may need to happen.

Most of us deliver value to our clients or customers because we love our work and are committed to progress. However, loving an element of your work life is not synonymous with a vaccine against burnout. In fact, it may leave you vulnerable. (Writing always checked this box on my side. But that process no longer fed my work life core, as it once had. Looking back on the impasse, I hovered near “burnout” for quite some time before scaling back.)

What does burnout look like? How does it present? It’s not as if it sends a note, letting you know of its arrival — and crossing into that territory is often undetected. Yet, there are clear signs that we’ve arrived: Apathy, where there was once passion. Anxiety, where there was previously anticipation. Exhaustion. Dread.

Stepping away or slowing down may be needed.
This will serve you longer-term — helping you to re-engage more productively with your work.

What I’ve learned:

1. When to stop isn’t discussed. We are offered an abundance of advice about how to start something. How to do more — deliver more in less time — be more. But, there is not nearly enough discussion about when and how (and why) we should walk away. We conveniently forget that remaining productive over the long-haul requires balance & rest.

2. Don’t wait for a savoir. Know this: It is unlikely that someone will approach you to say, “Stop what you are doing, you seem mentally exhausted.” You must be the governor of your own psychological resources. Monitor feelings of hope, self-efficacy, resilience and optimism. Pay attention if one has fallen precipitously.

3. Restructure/re-imagine your work. Becoming inflexible concerning how you contribute can become a player. When we pigeon-hole our contribution into one form — we can become very, very weary. We fail to explore modifications that might support our energy level.

4. We cannot ignore evolution. When people do something reasonably well — we naturally assume we should continue. We also assume that we will remain motivated indefinitely. That’s not always the case. As contributors, our needs and motivation can subtly shift.

We cannot always step away completely from important aspects of our work. Yet, we can acknowledge how we feel about them. I encourage you take a step back and take the temperature. Explore the options. Talk with someone about how you feel — and brainstorm solutions.

Is there is an aspect of your work life that you no longer enjoy, in the way you once had?

Note: Sharing articles from this site without the express permission of the author is forbidden.

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.

The Art of Management, The Strength Gap & a Litmus Test


Quotes of the Week

“The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work.” – Agha Hasan Abedi

“Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.”Paul Hawken.

Thought of the Week

We measure many things regarding work life. Engagement and workplace culture come to mind. We may tire of the topics, but the problem isn’t that we measure these things. The problem is that we measure these things — and do little with the information.

Strengths fall into this category.

We practice a somewhat lazy view of strengths.

That is never our intention, yet this is often the outcome. We spend considerable time and money identifying/measuring strengths, but then we essentially ignore the information. Life gets busy. Deadlines need to be met. Yet the practice of exploring — then ignoring strengths — can bring a certain frustration.

Why did we bother? It is a questionable strategy that makes little sense. People have a inherent drive to be their best selves and do great work. If we’ve got the keys to potential success, why not use them?

Yet, we proceed to throw challenging work at individual contributors who cannot possibly excel — or we under-utilize high performers with work that cannot possibly energize them. We’ve either broken the spirit of a less established employee or de-motivated the high performer who could spend their time in a more valuable way.

The bottom line is that the work needs to be completed. But at what cost? It is important to consider the psychological resources of the team while doing so. These resources provide internal stability within your team. Resources the team will need to utilize during times of stress or challenge. Resources that provide energy.

The Strategy: Value Litmus Test

Take the time to as ask the following 2 questions:

1. Where would the skills and abilities of X, bring the most value to the team?
2. Would X, find that assignment meaningful or fulfilling?


The Core File is a brief, weekly post about work & organizations. It is designed to offer food for thought for your work week.

To ensure you don’t miss an installment — subscribe by email on the right sidebar.

The Core File: Thoreau, Innovation & Obstacles


“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” – Henry David Thoreau

The problem with “innovation” as a leading organizational goal isn’t only semantics. Indeed, many are weary of the mention and what that word now brings to mind. We should also consider dialing the pressure down — and redirecting the emphasis toward ideas vs. innovation. Taking the time to create language that helps innovation feel  more approachable, seems a wise idea. (Read that discussion here.)

However, there is more much more to this.

Innovation can be unachievable because the chemistry isn’t fully developed. More specifically, we ignore the psychological foundations necessary to support innovation. For example, innovation self-limits if psychological safety isn’t present. All the ingredients must be present.

You can explore this ingredient within your own team.

How does your team really feel about risk-taking? Sharing an idea before it is perfected?

These are good indicators of your team’s chances to innovate.

The Strategy: Goal + Obstacle Method.

  • Know that self-efficacy is built by doing.
  • Know that self-efficacy is also built by moving toward goals + solving obstacles.
  • Yes, you should focus on your goal.
  • But, also acknowledge your most pressing distraction or obstacle.
  • Complete one action a day to address both.
  • So — gather two opinions. Read two articles. One for each.
  • Adjust your actions accordingly.


The Core File is a brief, weekly post about work & organizations. It is designed to offer food for thought for your work week.

To ensure you don’t miss an installment — subscribe by email on the right sidebar.




How Not to Manage a High Performer

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.

Write a Pitch (to Yourself) About That Next Big Move in Your Work Life


We all have work life goals. Whether it is a change in where we work or how we work — the time we spend envisioning these elements is invaluable. Yet, like many great things that could be,  these aspirations often remain stuck in our mind’s eye, quickly lost in the daily routine of our lives. These dreams may be modest (seeking a coach, investing in a course) or grand (pivoting toward an entirely new industry).

All may be a worthy step.

None will come to be — if we don’t offer them a chance.

During sessions with clients, these aspirations often surface. This may occur in the form of a passing comment about their current work life landscape. Yet, I always take note and encourage further exploration. So, I’m proposing that we go a little Mad Men to expand on your work life idea, in the form of a real-time pitch. We may not all work on Madison Avenue, but we can borrow their persuasive techniques to get the point across to our most doubting critic — us.

Consider these elements:

  • The Opening. Start with why you happened upon the idea to begin with. Was it burnout? A general feeling of boredom? A passion for something new? What led you to that idea? Use that information to write the pitch introduction.
  • The Objections. There are always potential weaknesses that could deter you from moving forward. (Time and money, for starters.) Know that taking the plunge to do something different, is always a more challenging road than something proven. What are your primary concerns? How might counter them?
  • The Research. Take a moment to leave emotions aside and consider the facts. Is there information available to bring more light to the topic? Take the time to dig in and gather all of the available resources. There is likely information to sway your opinion.
  • The Opportunity Costs. What’s left on the table if you stick with the status quo. If you do nothing — what might happen? Will you find yourself unprepared for an opportunity? Consider how the decision might affect the future.
  • The Lifestyle. What might you gain by moving forward? Clarify how your life might change for the better. How might a shift affect your psychological resources (hope, optimism, etc.) and/or passion for your career? Can you live without those possibilities?

Changing work life requires exploration and support.

Who will offer the needed feedback required to refine the idea and help you incorporate it into your work life? Seek them out.

Those who know your work best, should be the first that you consult.

Have I forgotten an important element? Share it in comments.

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.