In the last couple of months we have worked around a common theme of being successful on the workplace. In order to achieve this goal of being successful in the workplace, we often have to overcome various obstacles. We have discussed working with toxic employees and working in an unsuitable work environment, but know I want to discuss how to stay mindful in the workplace. Mindfulness has been a buzzword as of late, and for good reason. We live in a society where our attention is being divided on multiple fronts simultaneously. The brain has almost no time to relax, recharge, and focus. This overload of brain stimulation can often times be at its highest point in the workplace. This can be a problem if you are trying to be productive, efficient, and satisfied while you work. Mindfulness is about being in the present moment and not being distracted by thinking of the future, dwelling on the past, or letting all of your daily activities run your life and leave you just trying to catch up. I want to give you five easy tips for staying mindful at your workplace. These tips are not add-ons to your already packed day but rather, a way of taking purposeful pauses to experience your present moment throughout the day. This will help you relax, recharge, stay focus, and help you to be satisfied with your work, as you become the best version of yourself that you can be.
1) Start your own day rather than letting your day start you. Begin every day by noticing your sensations of breath for a few breaths before hopping out of bed in the morning. Just take a few deep breaths and focus on all the sensations throughout your body.
2) Make the most of your transition time. When you are driving to and from work choose a couple of days where you don’t listen to the radio or talk on the phone. When you get to work, give yourself a few moments to sit in the car and notice every breath.
3) Nourishment. Be mindful as you eat your lunch. Pay close attention to the colors, the texture, the taste, and the smells of your food.
4) Simply Walk. When you are walking between meetings or from one hall to the other don’t text or email. Feel your feet on the floor, the air on your skin, and the possibility of greeting a coworker rather than being absent minded or walking in to them as you text. Also, if it is possible try to take a couple 2-5 minute breaks to walk throughout your day.
5) Sit at your desk. While you wait for your computer to turn on or while you are waiting for the coffee to brew, just sit at your desk and notice all the sensations in your body as you simply sit and wait.
Try at least one of these each day and build from there. What do you notice? What other times during your day can you practice mindfulness? These are times of practicing mindfulness will help during “game time”, and will come naturally when life gets truly hectic!
In my previous post I discussed how to work well with toxic co-workers. What if you find your work place to be toxic? Not too long ago large companies like Google started a trend that has been transforming office culture around the country. Many offices have adopted an “open-office” concept. The benefit of having an open-office is that it is cheap, collaborative, and supposedly encourages more productivity. The only problem is open-offices are not for everyone. In fact, a lot of employees can’t stand it! For some people that are more introverted an open office can be an overwhelming work environment. Open-offices can make employees feel exposed, distracted, and under pressure. The question is “How can I make the most of a work environment that I don’t feel comfortable in?” I have some helpful tips for those of you who find yourself struggling to thrive in a less than ideal work place.
Make Your Space Feel A Little More Like Home
Customize your workspace and have fun with it. You can be as creative as you want, this is where you have to work everyday after all. Set up some family photos, a serene landscape, or paraphernalia of your favorite sports team. Customize the things you have to look at everyday such as the cover of your notebook, desktop, or mouse pad. This helps us feel like we have our own little territory and that helps us relax.
Turn Off The Music
In an attempt to concentrate and drown out all the noise around us many people pop in some ear buds and crank up the music. However, listening to music can be very distracting. Instead of music try playing something more neutral such as nature sounds or soothing ambient sounds. White noise in the background will help you concentrate better, help you get more work done, and put you in a better mood. It will also communicate a more positive energy to coworkers.
Even the smallest adjustments to your workspace can make a significant difference in how you feel. Adding plants and natural wooden accessories to your space can help you feel more relaxed. Unpainted wood and leafy green plants can help us feel at piece even in the midst of a chaotic work environment.
The open-office can make some people feel exposed and like they have less control. If it is possible, have a little control over your work experience by rearranging your space so that your back is not exposed to others. We have a primitive part of our brain that does not like the feeling of exposure and having activity going on behind us. Of course there is no real threat in your office but exposure can create a mood of hostility, insecurity, and pressure for some people.
The supposed “collaborative” work environment in an open-office can be great for some. For others it can be a real struggle and can produce an attitude of contempt towards coworkers. You should always maintain a conscious awareness of others before jumping to conclusions about them. What may be “crossing personal boundaries” for you might be “being friendly” to another. We all come from a variety of backgrounds, and different cultures have different distances for talking to each other. Considering others and getting to know them will go a long way.
If you supervise a difficult or toxic person, you know it holds a particular set of challenges. You are probably trying to walk the line between firmness and friendliness in your management and a challenging personality can easily knock your style off-kilter. Last month, we discussed suggestions for how to deal with a grumpy or negative coworker, this month, here are my suggestions for effective management styles for the dreaded office grouch.
- Pay Attention – Many times a person may act out because they feel helpless, bored or unheard. Listen to clues into how the person thinks, what problems he or she faces, and whether or not there is anything you can do about it. You may be able to adjust their responsibilities to keep them engaged and interested. Or they may just need someone to care enough to hear what they have to say.
- Be Firm – This means giving specific, constructive feedback when you see a performance or interpersonal problem that is affecting your company. Do not avoid conflict! Check out my blog from last year about how to effectively handle a confrontation.
- Set Consequences– Be clear about ramifications for destructive behavior and follow through. Avoid arbitrary punishments and inconsistent enforcement. Frame these conversations in a positive light, encouraging the employee to live up to the potential you see in them or they may miss out on certain privileges.
- Avoid Gossip – Talking to a fellow employee or subordinate about the difficult person will only create more strife in your office environment. Just. Don’t.
- Take Notes – Keep track of incidents and behaviors in your documentation. This will help you to be specific when you confront an employee. The notes will also be invaluable if you ever have the unfortunate task of letting a toxic employee go.
Every workplace has them. When I say “difficult coworker,” I bet a person immediately comes to mind. (If not… that difficult person may be you!) In this two part blog series, I will discuss different strategies for both employees and managers to handle toxic, negative, and irritable people. Next month, I’ll focus on managing a difficult people, but what if you are on the same level? Here are some strategies for dealing with an unpleasant co-worker:
- Manage your reaction. More than likely, you are not going to be able to change this person’s behavior, but you can control your own. A calm response, a pleasant disposition, an awareness of your thoughts and a peaceful attitude will neutralize an emotional, negative or mean actions by a coworker. You can easily take away their power by counteracting it with kindness.
- Establish boundaries. Negative thinkers, complainers and reactive people are usually determined to drag you down too. Be proactive, find healthy ways to keep your distance, like changing your lunch hour to avoid long interactions. Or set boundaries of what you will and will not discuss with that person, and clearly and kindly letting them know if the topic comes up.
- Be empathetic. Even if you disagree with the behavior of a co-worker, you are less likely to lose your cool if you try to imagine where they are coming from. They may have a difficult family situation, a traumatic past, or a current health problem that is producing stress. Understanding will help you be kind when kindness does not seem merited.
These are just a few of the ways you can make your work with a difficult person more manageable. In my role as an Executive Success Coach, I can train you and your employees to foster a great environment in your workplace. Email me to get started, firstname.lastname@example.org
Workplace issues require complex problem-solving skills because they involve multiple people, systems and ultimately a company’s bottom line. Here are my suggestions for effective problem solving in the workplace:
1. Meet. Find out who the problem and potential solutions will effect and include each party in the solution making process. Try to include the out-of-the box thinkers in your organization.
2. State. Before you begin to solve the problem, everyone involved in creating a solution needs to have a clear understanding of the issue and its ramifications for your company.
3. List. As a group, make a list of possible solutions. Be sure to include ideas that seem off the wall, they may open the door to innovation. Do not discuss the merits of each at this point just get them on the table.
4. Evaluate. This step may be the most crucial and laborious. It may require a second meeting to allow each party to research possible solutions, discuss ideas with experts or research case studies other companies with similar issues. For more complex problems, a consultant or research firm might be contacted.
5. Select, Document and Implement. Whether you put it to a vote or leave it up to a manager to decide, a good evaluation has already paved the way for a great decision. Be sure to put the decision in writing and give all parties access. After that, it is time to get to work!
6. Review. Your decision should include a timeline for evaluation and modification of the original goal. The best problem-solvers are the ones who can recognize when they have made a less favorable decision and are willing to go back and modify it.
If you have reached an impasse in your organization, my experience in executive coaching, group dynamics, and professional personnel training will be a valuable asset for your team problem-solving process. Contact me at 770-641-8726 to get started.
“Mindfulness” seems to be a buzzword in the media lately. It is given credit for everything from weight loss to stress reduction. It is the subject of numerous studies, including one released this month that indicates mindfulness has a positive effect on physical health. So, what is it?
It is simply the idea of observing the present, including your inner thoughts and your outer surroundings. As a spiritual and psychological concept – mindfulness is nothing new! People often plow through the day reacting to external stimuli or a mental hamster wheel. Awareness of this can be a tremendous help in personal growth, relationships, and stress reduction.
Here are a few ways to train your brain to be more mindful:
1. Develop a quiet discipline. Begin your day with a few minutes of silent meditation, journaling, or prayer. Go for a run, walk in the park, or just sit in your car on a lunch break. During these breaks, begin observing your thought patterns and triggers and mentally prepare for stressful stimuli.
2. Focus. Observe colors, flavors, sounds and surfaces. Try it tonight at the dinner table. Don’t just shovel in your food, take notice of every aspect of that steak and sweet potato I hope you are having for dinner– the juices, the aromas, the textures, the sweetness, the temperature. (Sorry… am I making you hungry?) Take notice how they influence your thoughts.
3. Count to Five. An important aspect of mindfulness is to be a conscious observer, instead of a participant, in your feelings. For example, if something makes you angry, instead of succumbing to the anger, take a moment to observe it. Notice your heart rate, your thoughts, or your clenched fist. I admit, this may not come easily at first, but if you begin this practice in simple situations, eventually you will advance.
While mindfulness is effective, it will not resolve major mental health problems or complicated family issues. If you would like to begin a deeper counseling or coaching journey, contact me for an appointment at (770) 641-8726.
Thanks for reading,
Steven D Brand
Psychotherapist and Life Coach
A Single Adjustment that can Change Your Family Dynamic
Life can move fast and sometimes even healthy families breeze past the time necessary to strengthen their relationships. There are so many complex issues in a family, but there is one simple change that can strengthen your family bond immediately: Eat dinner together. Research suggests that structured family meal times can improve grades, decrease obesity and even lower the risk of drug-abuse. Here are some suggestions for how to make dinnertime great.
- Set a Goal. You are probably busy with sports, homework and other extracurricular activities, so I recommend that you set a goal and a schedule for family meal time. You may start with just two set days a week. Inform your kids that those nights are off limits for friends or activities.
- Cook and Clean Together. Lower the stress by preparing simple meals and cleaning up together. This also encourages teamwork and gives your kids the chance to be creative and make memories. And the added benefit of teaching them how to cook and clean.
- Power Off. When it’s time to sit at the table, all electronics should be turned off or put in a different room. Parents, this includes you!
- Ask the Right Questions. Conversation does not need to be forced at the dinner table, but parents can keep in mind this principle when asking questions – be specific. If you ask “how was school today?” you’ll likely get a one word answer, “fine.” Try asking “What was your favorite activity you did at school today?” or “Who is the nicest (funniest, meanest) person in your class?” And of course, be an active listener!
While dinner may improve your family dynamics, it will not help you deal with difficult issues such as divorce, blended families, mental health problems, behavior issues and others. Contact me at (770) 641-8726 if you are seeking in-depth family counseling.
Steven D Brand, Psychotherapist Roswell, GA
How to Succeed with your New Year’s Resolutions
We all know the statistics about New Year’s Resolutions: Most people drop off of their self-improvement goals by the end of January. So, how can you be sure to hold on to your goals this year? Here are my four tips for successful goal-making – no matter what time of year it may be:
- Redefine Failure. Often, when you fail to meet a goal, you are not as likely to persist. That is because small failures often entice people to believe that they are incapable of reaching their goals. Instead of letting small failures stop you, build in to your resolutions the goal to be optimistic about your abilities and persist past small missteps.
- Reassess Periodically. It is a good idea to revisit your goals and meter your progress occasionally. I suggest that you make a note in your calendar to take a look back at your resolutions on (at least) a quarterly basis. This will keep your goals fresh in your mind and allow you to create short-term goals, instead of shooting for a lifetime improvement.
- Be Willing to Modify. Sometimes we are a bit too optimistic about our ability to change. If you are consistently falling short of your goals, include modifications into your quarterly reassessments. Success is a motivator! Once you meet these modified goals, you might consider a greater challenge in the next quarter.
- Find a Buddy. Your best bet for a successful change is finding someone else to do it with you. Resolutions are most rewarding when you have a friend or spouse challenge and motivate you when you miss your mark and to celebrate with you when you succeed.
The New Year is an amazing season for restoration and renewal. I wish you the best in your resolution-making and I hope you have a happy and successful New Year!
Steven D Brand
How to Thrive through the Holiday Season
‘Tis the season of holiday cheer… but for some people it can also be a difficult season. If you suffer from the winter blues between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, a few tweaks to your routine can help you thrive, not just survive this year.
- Stay Active and Outdoors. Sometimes the cold winter months can lead to bouts of depression. It is believed that this is caused by fewer daylight hours in the winter. This can be a mild annoyance or a diagnosable problem, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). To combat these symptoms, get moving outside. Take a winter hike in the mountains, a bike ride or a jog around the block. (For more serious symptoms, please seek professional help.)
- Be Thankful. With Black Friday on the horizon… enter the enticing trap of consumerism, comparison and all-out competition. These are toxic for your mental health. Instead of comparing your gifts, attire and activities with others, try to foster gratitude in your conversation and your mental discipline. A thankful journal is good, but telling a friend or family member about your gratitude is an even more powerful practice.
- Remain Flexible. You may have visions of a perfect turkey, uninterrupted football marathons and the new iPhone. But let’s face it. When Great Aunt Mable, Brother Bubba and all the kids get together, there is nothing predictable. Someone might burn the stuffing. It will probably be noisy. You could even get an Android. (Kidding.) Family-time is beautiful in its chaos, so let’s all agree that the holidays will not be perfect and enjoy the messiness of it all.
- Observe the Sacred. It is easy to breeze through the holidays without realizing the magnitude of what we are celebrating. I encourage you to take time to recognize what is sacred. Perhaps that means memorializing a lost loved one, attending a midnight service, or saying a prayer with your family.
I would like to wish you all a joyful kick-off to the Holiday Season. I believe this could be your best yet!
Please contact me if you would like to set up an appointment in my office, located in Historic Roswell.
Steven D Brand
12 Norcross St. #215
Roswell, GA 30075
Still want to read more, read my previous post about mentally rebooting for Fall.
How to Handle a Scary Confrontation
There is a misconception out there that workplace confrontation is a bad thing. I would disagree. Avoiding conflict or being combative is not good, but dealing with our differences in a healthy way? That is a great thing for an organization. Here are just a few of my suggestions for how to handle a “Scary” Confrontation:
- Be Aware of Differences – If a coworker confronts you, or you need to discuss a problem with a subordinate, try this mental exercise first: Imagine the person at home. Are they dealing with additional stress outside of work? Does their cultural or generational context cause them to see things differently? This exercise does not mean you should avoid a confrontation, but it will help you to be more diplomatic.
- Ask A Question – If someone is rude or confrontational when they approach you, try responding to their aggression with a question. Ask the person to clarify their statement or give more information. This allows them to reflect on what they are feeling and often opens a path to compromise.
- Reframe the Conversation – Many times, conflict escalates because of miscommunication. I suggest you first paraphrase a complaint in your own words. Use phrases like “What I hear you saying…. ” This gives a person time to rephrase their complaint and prevents you from giving a defensive, emotion-heightening response.
- State the Facts –Instead of accusing someone of wrongdoing, give specific examples about a coworker’s words or behavior that influenced the conflict. Avoid exaggerating words such as always or never.
- Shoot for Compromise – There should not be a winner and loser in conflict resolution. If there is, something probably did not go right. Workplace conflict should end with a solution that both parties can live with.
Unresolved conflict can lower productivity, decrease employee satisfaction and ultimately have a negative effect on your bottom line. Conflict Management is a big part of my role as an Executive Success Coach – contact me to help your Metro Atlanta organization reach its maximum potential.