Saturday, January 6, 2007


‘‘Never work just for money or power. They don’t save your soul or help you sleep at night.’’ —MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN 1 To thrive in these turbulent, changing times, both employees and employers need agendas that correspond to each other in realizing their mutual potential. This may be difficult, considering today’s economic realities. But, just ‘‘staying above water’’ does not assure companies will thrive in rapidly changing, technologically innova- tive marketplaces. To thrive, companies and their employees must continually adapt and resiliently search out the potential opportu- nities within ongoing changes. While employee and employer share the objective of avoiding the possible downward economic pressures inherent in changes, they may differ as to how to bring this about. Approaching changes by carving out new directions, and all that is involved in this, will consume the energy and focus of companies. But, in this attempt to thrive, a company needs its workforce to jump on board of its organizational initiatives for change. The best way for companies to accomplish this is by infusing their organizations’ procedures and policies with resiliency (see chapter 12). Here, we concern ourselves with how individuals can strengthen ties to their companies while at the same time thriving on change. Most employees try to carry out company policies and proce- dures. But they vary in their resilience to do so. When their resil- ience is high, employees readily endorse and adopt company changes. But, when their resilience is low, employees may only stay on board for the job security and income. A recent Gallup poll points to a dangerous situation concerning the U.S. workforce. The results show that 55 percent of the workforce are not engaged in their work, and another 19 percent are actively disengaged. Only 25 percent actually feel engaged. 2 Juxtapose these poll figures with the results of several other surveys showing that today’s employees value meaningful work and job satisfaction over income. 3 While income certainly pays the bills, it does not ‘‘save your soul or help you sleep at night.’’ Human beings need meaningful work to thrive. 4 When you like what you do each day, you are apt to draw on skills and talents that express your nature, even in doing the most seemingly unim- portant tasks. Human beings have the unique ability to utilize ac- tivities, like work, for creative expression and fulfillment of life purpose and meaning. Unfulfilling work stifles these human ca- pacities. One answer to the problem of feeling disengaged at work is to build up your individual hardiness. Hardiness will make you more resilient and more apt to find meaning in stressful changes and to derive benefits from these changes. 5 When you let circumstances deprive your life and work of meaning, you become depressed, angry, hopeless, and apathetic.
1. DEVELOP STRONG WORK RELATIONSHIPS. One opportu- nity to find meaning in what you do each day is to nurture your work relationships so that you feel socially satisfied as a member of a team. A strong work network buffers you against the more painful aspects of your daily work tasks. Think about your work experience. Did you ever stay long at a company in which you disliked coworkers and management? Were you more comfortable in jobs when you had strong work relationships? Employees’ complaints normally concern personal conflict with coworkers or a supervisor, not work-task problems. And, when employees sue their employers, it’s most often when they feel personally maltreated by coworkers or management. It’s amaz- ing how much stress a person can endure if it occurs in the context of a socially satisfying work environment. The quality of your work relationships strongly influences how meaningful work is to you. When you and your coworkers commit to supporting each other’s productivity and satisfaction, the work environment is a nicer place to be.
2. LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE. Seeing how your job fits into a larger organizational context provides another opportunity to find meaning in your work. If you learn more about your company’s various department functions and procedures, you connect more deeply to the company as a whole. You see your contributions to the workplace as more meaningful when you fully grasp the big picture through its parts. 6
3. EXAMINE YOUR OWN GOALS. Yet another way of finding more meaning in your work is to see how your job fits with your personal vision and purpose. Does your actual work task have rele- vance to your larger goals? A paycheck is meaningful to your survival, but it provides little more than support of your basic needs. If work satisfies you on a personal level, you are also more apt to see it as more meaningful.
Resiliency-boosting skills help you to make use of these three key ways of finding meaning in what you do each day. Many stressful changes and problems expose gaps in the core beliefs held by you, your coworkers, and your employer. The hardy coping and social support procedures we have presented can help you generate con- structive solutions that often bridge these gaps. Resilient employ- ees and employers call upon enduring beliefs and values to find meaning in hardship. 7 Employees and employers sharing a common ground in beliefs increases the overall company’s resilience in the face of change, as well as the resilience of the individual employees. Sharing be- liefs does not mean complete agreement on everything. It is about conflict-free ways of exploring similarities and differences. The hardy attitudes of commitment, control, and challenge will pro- vide the courage and motivation for this exploration. What is the challenge here? If you thirst for more meaning in your work, you need to: s Increase your connection to the workplace and its proce- dures, s Engage more deeply in work relationships, and s Heighten your awareness as to the ways in which your job adds to your personal vision and purpose. Through resiliency-boosting hardiness, you need to be open to exploring your beliefs, to see how they enhance or inhibit the problem-solving process, and to strengthen ties between you, your coworkers, and your employer. Some call this kind of challenge a ‘‘defining moment.’’ 8 CHRISTY’S DEFINING MOMENT Take Christy, for example. She is a customer service super- visor for a telecommunications company. Many see her as organized, practical, reserved, and in control. She jokingly calls herself the ‘‘nursemaid of whiners,’’ most of whom are her supervisees. Christy dreaded going to work each day because her work task predominantly involved ‘‘putting out fires.’’ She was tired of ‘‘codependent’’ supervisees who refused to do anything without her direction. Besides supervising, Christy participates in department performance reviews, and when requested, she has the ‘‘awful’’ job of terminating employees at her supervisor’s request. It’s the ‘‘messiest’’ part of her job, especially because of the company’s ‘‘heart- less’’ termination procedures. ‘‘I’m so tired at the end of the day, I can’t muster up the energy to read or learn something new,’’ she complained to us. Over time, Christy’s distress undermined her perform- ance, health, and morale. The job compromised what she regarded as her core values of integrity, responsibility, citi- zenship, cooperation, and self-development. At first look, one might think Christy’s humanistic values, talents, and skills match up nicely with customer service work tasks. If her work environment was cooperative rather than aggres- sive, this might be true. But, she didn’t see the workplace that way at all. When Christy came to us for hardiness training, she was unenthusiastic about life, stuck in a rut, yet, to her credit, still motivated to understand this conflict more clearly. The following are Christy’s actual responses to our questions: 1. What is the most stressful work conflict that is bothering you? ‘‘Our company is just about to undergo another round of layoffs. As part of my job, I terminate employees who are my subordinates. When there’s a layoff, I end the day so fatigued that when I get home, I eat and go immediately to bed. That way, I don’t have to think about it until the next day. ‘‘I brace myself two weeks prior to company layoffs. I’m so anxious, I can think of nothing else. At these times, I feel so ineffective. Other supervisors seem to do it easily. My boss’s attitude about most things is to get

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