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Posts tagged: organizational wellness

Happiness At Work

As an executive and organizational coach, I see many studies of the causes and symptoms of work stress. So it was refreshing to see a study about the converse: what makes workers happy.

Focusing on social workers, a profession known for its high attrition, stress and burnout, John Graham, Ph.D., a professor of social work at the University of Calgary and his then doctoral student Micheal Shier, now at the University of Pennsylvania, sent a survey out to 2,500 registered social workers in Alberta, Canada. Seven hundred people responded.

From that group they took 13 people who scored the highest in nine areas of happiness and then followed them closely through in-depth interviews about their lives at home, at work and through shadowing them at work. Here’s what he found made them happy:

  1. Flexible work schedules. The workers had the ability to provide self-care by having the flexibility to manage their personal lives. A flexible schedule helped them to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
  2. A strong sense of engagement in their work. The researcher found that was because of behind-the-scenes support the employees received from their bosses and employers. This support included flex schedules as well as the availability of superiors to consult with and bounce issues off of.
  3. A feeling of being appreciated and valued, which often stemmed from their being included in organizational decision-making.
  4. Having a high degree of freedom built into their jobs, meaning that they wanted the ability to try new things and expand out of their immediate area.
  5. A pleasant physical workspace and good relationships with clients and colleagues.
  6. Having a diversity of responsibilities, which might include training or teaching others, research, and policy development work.
  7. Having a mentor to talk about their life, career decisions and their day-to-day job.

Graham and Shier are currently researching whether these factors make other types of workers happy as well, but the hunch is that these attributes would be important to all workers.

What improves your sense of well being at work?


Time As A Means to Happiness

Forget Suze Orman. Time, not money, is your most precious resource. So spend it wisely.

Powerful research from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business …

“Our search to understand what makes humans happy (or happier) goes back centuries. As does our enduring belief that if we just do the right thing, happiness will follow — that additional happiness Blackjack Online will be doled out to us because we earned it, not due to the largess of a benevolent being. ‘Happiness is not a reward — it is a consequence,’ instructs Robert Green Ingersoll, a Civil War-era orator. Many notable others, from Aristotle to the Buddha to Ursula K. LeGuin, agree with this sentiment.

Read more here.

No More Mr. Nice Guy

Stressed on the job? Add rude co-workers to the list of headaches. ”Workplace incivility” is on the rise, researchers said last week at the American Psychological Association annual meeting.

The APA academics define workplace incivility as “a form of organizational deviance… characterized by low-intensity behaviors that violate respectful workplace norms, appearing vague propecia and drug interaction as to intent to harm.”

Translation: rudeness, insults and plain old bad manners.

Research suggests “75% to 80% of people have experienced incivility. It’s a growing and prevalent problem,” says Jeannie Trudel of Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion.

Read more of this informative USA Today article here … No More Mr. Nice Guy

Something Has to Change

I recently visited a large company to give a talk about the guiding principles in my book. From all appearances, it was a well-run company doing good things.

Many of the employees came up to me afterwards to chat, and I asked each of them, “How are things at __________?” Most of them said that things were good, and I had no reason to doubt them.

Others had a different response, and either from what they said or how they acted, it was obvious that they weren’t happy. Several of them talked with me confidentially and said variations of the following:

“It’s not a bad job, Dave, but my creativity is very limited”.
“I find myself constantly daydreaming of [something else]“.
“I liked it here at first, but now I feel stifled”.

These statements were invariably followed by something like: “I shouldn’t complain, because everyone tells me how good I have it. Lots of other people have been laid off or can’t find a job in the first place. Besides, I have good benefits here.”

Hmmm. Yes, it’s good to be grateful for what you have. Lots of people do have it hard these days, and that’s unfortunate. But here’s the thing: it can be a good job at a good company, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. In fact, if Buy Ativan you’re constantly daydreaming of something else, having a good job can be dangerous. A good job can keep you from a big life.

Sometimes what makes sense during one season doesn’t make sense in another; a commitment that was fulfilling at one time loses its allure. In these situations, pretending all is well is usually the wrong answer. If you’re discontented, it’s up to you to make a change. And if it really is a good company or organization that has treated you well, you’re not serving it well in return by giving it less than your best.

Aside from remaining stagnant and trudging along, when you find yourself in a good job that no longer meets your needs, there are only two options:

1) Find a way to bring the joy back to the good job.
2) Find a way to say goodbye to the good job.

You might think that leaving is hard. Of course it’s hard — it would be much easier if it were a bad job. Then the situation would become urgent and you’d do everything you could to get out as soon as possible. But because it’s good enough, you stick around.

That’s why, one way or another, something has to change.

Question: Have you ever found yourself discontented in a good job? What did you do?

Shift Can Happen

Several times since my book came out, people have come up to me with copies of The 8 for signing. “My [boss, wife, sister, colleague] doesn’t understand what matters to me,” some have said, “So I’m going to give them your book.”

“Thanks,” I have replied a few times … although I feel a little squirrely about signing books for people who don’t necessarily want them. I’ve invented a specific dedication for these copies, though:

“To John: I’m not sure you’ll like my book, but your coworker isn’t crazy.”

“John” could have been “Mom and Dad” or someone’s business partner or brother or manager at work, who sincerely cares about the people around them, but sometimes (he said with a real positive spin on it…) cares a little too much to let them have their own happy, healthy, productive life. Sometimes the generational gap is reversed, and it is the kids who worry about their parents. Sometimes coworkers are so wrapped up in their own journeys to see you on yours, and how your pursuits impact them and theirs. And sometimes bosses fail to see that an employee’s purpose-driven life is directly connected to their company’s profit-driven motives.

Guess what? I don’t think that simply reading any book (let alone mine) can change perspectives like that. That’s the bad news that I’ve discovered in my short time on this planet: it’s rarely that simple to change someone’s mind. To those on the outside, examples of successful people (or companies) who are living their values and getting more done aren’t very persuasive sometimes, because people (and organizations) always find reasons why someone else’s success can’t be replicated.

But thankfully, there’s also some good news. If you want to influence the people around you, you don’t have to buy my book (oh boy, the publisher’s gonna’ love this post) but instead, you can lead the way through your own peacefully productive actions. They are not going to change their worldview or their perceptions of you based on something you post on Facebook or Twitter, or by what I write in the front of my book. But when people see you following through on your dreams – and living your life on purpose – they can’t help but notice. Then the shift happens.

The challenge you face, therefore, is to be courageous in the face of opposition from those around you – “John the Colleague”, “Barbara the Mom”, “Frank the Dad”, “Betsy the Boss”… all of them. This is no small challenge, since you would much rather fight dragons or vampires or something that is clearly evil. Your family isn’t evil (despite what may be evidence to the contrary), your boss probably isn’t wicked (regardless of how that last performance evaluation went) and you probably can’t ignore these people and their perceptions. But I’ve learned something else in my short time on this planet, and it became especially clear while writing The 8: you can’t ignore your power and your purpose for very long without eventually losing your connection to both.

Some battles are better won by example than by persuasion. So you can talk forever about the shift you want to make at work or in your life; why you want to study a subject you’re interested in instead of one people think would lead to better career options, or why you want to communicate more openly and honestly to coworkers and customers, or whatever. And by following this well-trod path of just talking about it, you may make marginally incremental progress in the form of compromise. But while you’re judging yourself by your great intentions, the people around you are judging you by your actions.

More than just talking about making a shift in the direction your life’s headed,  you can put it in perspective for the people around you: I’m doing these things in my life today because they are important to me. I’m willing to give up other things to make it work. I am willing to do what matters today. I am willing to walk the talk.

More often than not, people will get used to it over time. You may always be thought of as the black sheep at the office, the strange one on your sales team, the outlier in the family. But you’ll eventually earn your right to freedom and maybe even some grudging respect from some of the “evil-doers” around you.

Then they’ll say, oh, there goes _____ again. That’s just what she does. Or they’ll think,  _____ has another crazy idea to fulfill his purpose in life… but the last one worked out pretty well for him.

And once in a while, a funny thing happens: they’ll learn from the decisions you made and the actions you took, and how you stepped out, faced down your fears, tapped into your talents and focused on what’s most important to you in your life. (They may or may not realize that some of your fears had to do with them, but by then, it won’t matter.)

So for those of you on a dysfunctional team at work, in an “interesting” family or embedded in a workplace culture where doing what matters is implicitly misunderstood; or for anyone else who feels pressured to be like those around them and dare not blaze their own trail, it’s all up to you now to lead by example. Who knows — maybe John, Mom, Dad and Betsy will end up shifting with you. Because (in one last insight I’ve gained in my short time on this planet) …

Shift can happen.

Now…go make it happen.

Happy Matters

I was talking with a long-time friend this weekend who just read my book and then promptly called to ask me a question. She commented: “Dave, nice work here; I like the do what matters angle…but why does being happy matter?” Boy – what a great question. Rather than offering my own experiences or referring her back to a few things I mention in the book, I pulled up some relevant research to pass along. So…here’s some of what we know about why happy matters from some other experts on the topic.

Adrian Furnham is a Professor of Psychology in the UK. He has written over 650 scientific papers and 55 books. Furnham wrote the following paragraph about the importance of happiness in his book 50 Psychology Ideas You Really Need to Know.

“Does happiness matter? Indeed it does! The research evidence suggests happy people have strong immune systems so they are healthier and live longer than unhappy people. They tend to be more successful at work and have better personal relationships. They are more attractive to others. They seem to like themselves more than unhappy people and to cope better with Viagra Online all sorts of setbacks. Happy people make better decisions and tend to be more creative. Unhappy people seem to waste time and effort being vigilant for signs of danger or failure. This saps their energy.”

A great website I discovered this weekend – – featured another researcher’s findings on why it’s so important to get (and stay) happy. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky – Stanford Ph.D, current professor at the University of California Riverside and the acclaimed author of many books on what she refers to as “sustainable happiness”:

“…Happy people have overall higher incomes, greater productivity, higher quality of work, more satisfying and longer-lasting marriages, more friends, stronger social support and better social interactions. They also experience more energy, more flow, stronger immune systems, lower stress levels, less pain and even longer lives than unhappy people. Study after study indicates that happy people are more creative, helpful, charitable, and self-confident; have better self-control, and show greater self-regulatory and coping abilities.”

Thank you, Shannon. And for the rest of you out there living your happy lives: why does being happy matter to you?

Drop me a line; I’d love to hear from you.


The Addicted Organization (Pt. 1 of 3)

Before founding Ascendi in 2004, I spent the better part of two decades in various clinical and administrative capacities in the field of addiction. Having been privileged enough to share in the lives of thousands of recovering addicts and their courageous families, I left that helping profession and transitioned to another – as an executive and organizational coach – which I anticipated being a fairly drastic departure from my previous career path. Little did I know…

What I’ve learned, in the thousands of hours I’ve spent working deep inside some of the world’s most well-known companies, is that addiction is rampant. On the surface, that statement should come as no surprise. But I’m not talking about the prevalence of employee substance abuse or its impact on productivity or profits. I’m talking about addicted organizations – workplaces that, just like the individuals I worked with in the past, are institutions that are experiencing chronic unmanageability. Companies who are seemingly powerless over their behaviors, who are increasingly involved in pathological processes, whose organizational lives have been dominated by destructive relational practices, who have lost a sense of their values and who function primarily out of characteristics such as chaos, crisis orientation, codependency, manipulation, self-centeredness, secretiveness, avoidance, feeling suppression, disconnectedness, denial, dishonesty and dualism.

The more time I spend consulting with organizations today, the more obvious it’s become that more than just “toxic” or “dysfunctional” (pick your euphemistic label du jour) many workplaces function in the exact same manner as the addicts I’ve treated most of my professional life. These organizations are hooked; and when some of them call my company in to help, they’re often (quite literally) just looking for another fix. So as a “corporate therapist”, what do I do in my work with these companies? Naturally…I conduct an intervention.

Over the next three posts, I’ll pass along some of what I’ve learned in my work with these organizations; and many of them (like so many of the gifted yet troubled addicts I’ve worked with) are good companies. They just can’t seem to quit doing bad things.

First, by reflecting back to the leader(s) in these organizations the behaviors they’ve shared that got them here, I help bring them to Step 1 - and (hopefully) to their admission of powerlessness over the old, destructive practices. This is best accomplished in two ways, much like an addiction counselor would intervene with, say, a heroin addict Viagra 100mg.

  1. I ask the “family”. In this case – the employees. Through interviews and surveys, I gather real (read: verifiable) data about the organization’s destructive behavior and deliver the findings back to the CEO. I’m always sure not to attach any of the emotion the employees may have brought to the disclosure and simply list the behaviors and the apparent consequences to their business, internally and externally. Example: “According to 60% of your Account Managers Sally, the Sales Manager’s attempts to boost product sales through intimidation and/or negative reinforcement such as [insert example of said negative behavior] has made them afraid for their jobs. Salespeople trying to build trust and elicit customer appreciation while conversely feeling mistrusted and under-appreciated by their boss (whether real or imagined) will eventually lead to their disengagement.”


  2. I assess the “patient’s” willingness. When I first started out as a consultant, I wrongly assumed that a Service Agreement for some of the organizational development work we do constituted an organization’s admission that they’d reached “bottom”. I soon learned that a signed piece of paper is no more an indication of a real willingness to change than being admitted to rehab signifies an alcoholic’s desire to stop drinking a fifth of Vodka a day. Sometimes the “patient” seeks help to appease a nagging spouse (employee). Other times, a client will involuntarily enter treatment as what we used to call a “nudge by the judge” – mandated to seek help after a DUI conviction or drug-related arrest. In rehab, or in an organizational development project, this might just be an attempt to create the appearance of willingness and to lull the “family” into a false sense of (job) security.

Over the next few posts, I’ll share more insight into the chronic problems facing the addicted organization and my experience in helping to bring these companies into “recovery”.

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you! Have you worked in an addicted organization? Are you powerless over the actions of an out-of-control boss? If so, consider the Serenity Prayer that has helped millions of people before you as you try and slay the dragon today…


God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.”

The good news is…there’s hope. Contrary to popular belief, people (and good companies) do change.