Putting the work in
Article by Robyn Webb published in Fitness Life magazine, January 2011.
Are you happy and fulfilled at work? Recruitment specialist and HR consultant Robyn Webb points out that YOU have the power to make your employment environment positive.
Will your list of New Year's resolutions include "I will strive to be more positive and happy in my work"? How best to make this one resolution you can keep?
There are so many ideas and options out there when it comes to exploring new opportunities or even a new career. However, a total job change may not be appropriate or necessary. Enhanced satisfaction can stem from an improved workplace attitude, tackling challenges with a different approach and recognising opportunities to influence others towards an enhanced business culture.
Whatever position you hold in your organisation, there are many ways you can contribute to a positive environment, with the additional benefit of building and enhancing your personal brand.
The power of a smile
A friendly smile, a smile of acknowledgement, a smile in appreciation. Smiles are contagious, but someone has to start the process and why not let it be you? Who knows, it might just spread and brighten everyone's outlook.
Saying ‘please' and ‘thank you'. Fundamental. Of course we all remember. Every time. Or do we? How often, due to other pressures or distractions, do we overlook these courtesies and risk turning requests into demands, or miss the opportunity of showing appreciation?
Interest in others
Respecting the fact that some of your colleagues may prefer to separate work from personal life, most of us like to share a little about the significant issues in our lives. Take the time to get to know a little more about the people with whom you interact. What is important to them? Take a few moments to ask after their family/sports/important function/outcome of an exam. Showing you have an interest, while respecting their privacy, builds rapport and ensures that your colleague, subordinate, manager, customer or client feels valued as someone with a life outside the work environment.
Focus on Positives
Look for the positives. If you tend to be a complainer, try a more positive approach. Look for solutions to challenges, rather than just seeing the problem. If others get you down by their complaining, try using humour, demonstrate the positive side, or just ignore them and don't let them get to you!
Be a Change Advocate
Change can be challenging and often meets resistance. Try to reframe challenges into opportunities and influence others through your positive outlook.
Deliver on Promises
If you have made a commitment to a team member, keep them informed if there is a delay and trust that you can expect the same level of communication in return
Enthusiasm and Cooperation
Be alert to any tendency to respond with flippancy when asked to do something. Some may not realise you are joking, or the approach may be past its use-by date. Your demonstration of willingness may well be reflected in increased cooperation from others.
Be alert to others' priorities. Asking someone to do something late in the day, interrupting them in the midst of an important project may not endear you. Offer your help when others are under pressure - your assistance might be welcome and you will be recognised and valued for your flexibility, team spirit and cooperation. But beware of becoming the ‘fall-back' for others - the support should work both ways, so take the lead and hopefully your colleague will do the same for you
Tokens of Acknowledgement
Extend your gratitude to those who contribute to your objectives, or in acknowledge of special effort.
A small gift, a card or a note costs little but means a lot to the recipient. You will gain pleasure in the process. A muffin, a coffee, a chocolate bar, a small plant - the options are endless. An unexpected (pleasant!) surprise on the desk or at the work station will go a long way to strengthening relationships and enhancing team cooperation
Clearing out old files, sorting the email inbox, assigning unused manuals or other office paraphernalia to the recycling or destruction bin can all be great for the spirit. A newly organised desk or work space for the New Year. Perhaps make it an office project. Go to it.
Feeling under Pressure?
You may be having unrealistic expectations placed on you. Talk with your team members or your manager and negotiate effective prioritisation, or identify and suggest the additional resources needed to effectively deliver on objectives. A constructive presentation of the situation, with possible solutions, is more likely to result in a positive response and outcome.
If you are in a leadership role, revisit your open- door- at- any- time policy and schedule time out to refocus. Identify the pressure points and seek resolution - perhaps your direct reports need to accept more responsibility, or you may need to consider additional temporary or permanent administrative support?
Suggest a coffee out of the office with your manager and ask for feedback. Explain that affirmation is important to you.
Bored? Lack of challenge? How can you contribute more broadly? Where are the opportunities? Try to identify some options and discuss your ideas with your manager. It may be appropriate to increase your networking within the business, researching other divisions to identify potential for progression. But make sure you communicate how you are feeling.
Conflicting instructions can be frustrating and counter-productive. Follow-up to confirm requirements, processes and priorities.
Share your knowledge and ideas. Mentor others. Contribute to meetings or discussions, as appropriate. It can be hoped that your enthusiasm and participation will be noted and may lead to increased involvement in new projects, with opportunities with growth.
Brighten your space
Lift your mood, and that of others around you, with flowers or pictures. Not necessarily a fancy arrangement, but perhaps a few summer flowers from home in a jar on a ledge somewhere... Photographs, pictures of a favourite scene (or celebrity?) or drawings by your child can not only cheer you but can engage others and foster relationships.
If you are in an environment where poor behaviour is accepted, you may need assistance to address the issues. Another manager, HR representative or an external person may be able to guide you towards changing the aspects of company culture which have concerned you. Regrettably, if all avenues have been explored and your values are not aligned, you may well be happier in a new working environment.
Whatever your work environment, be alert to reasons for celebrations and opportunities to have some fun. You may not have money-spending authority, but perhaps you could generate a funny or challenging quiz, or a joke of the week (mindful of company email policy - it could be in the weekly newsletter, or on the wall in the lunchroom).
Recognise and celebrate not only successes such as winning the order or exceeding a target, but perhaps milestones such as meeting a deadline or overcoming a hurdle on the way to the final outcome. Acknowledging each small success ensures all contribution is recognised and enhances everyone's sense of value and appreciation.
The last two years have been demanding for most New Zealand organisations and their employees. There will still be challenges, but business and market feedback is more positive as we head towards 2011. Make it your year. Be noticed for all the right reasons - your positive attitude and your effective contribution to a happy and cooperative work environment.