What Might Have Happened at Uber: Protecting Leaders From Hubris

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There is an accepted Peter Drucker adage — “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

I do agree.

We’ve watched countless organizations suffer at the hands of their own culture. There are clear examples where the culture has morphed into such as incredibly difficult beast, that it leaves an organization at the brink of demise (think General Motors, News of the World, etc.) This week, we’ve learned in grave detail how Uber has seemingly turned a corner and driven directly into the muck — and at first glace we might place all blame on its culture.

However, we must recognize that culture is created by the leaders who shape that organization. Uber is no different. Those who have a hand in molding the mores, accepted practices, methods and mechanisms to support those practices. Leaders fail. They fail because they fall prey to the most human of mistakes. Mistakes of perspective that we have likely all made — but on a much grander scale that promises a widespread effect on countless individuals.

Culture can operate like a precarious game of dominoes. It is always a delicate game of balance. Once out of alignment, the entire game is halted. Ultimately, leaders have the responsibility to monitor that balance.

One element which affects this balance is hubris. A state when a leader passes into a “loss of objectivity zone” that can forever mark a company. Hubris is a disease of perspective — defined as “excessive pride or self confidence” — and the impact within an organization can be devastating.

I’ve written previously about why and how leaders fail. From Abercrombie to Wells Fargo to Volkswagen , the rise of leaders only seems to be matched by their cataclysmic demise. From falling prey to bias, to losing touch with customers — when looking back at the signs and symptoms, diagnosing a growing problem seems simple.

Hubris, you see — is a disease of perspective.

In a recent Atlantic article, Jerry Useem eloquently explores this damning by-product of leadership success. Borne of power and fueled by bias, hubris is an over-confidence that can only come from power that insulates. Research has captured the phenomenon, which is characterized by a lack of “mirroring” or empathy for others. They stop doing what likely helped them attain success. Power, it seems, can stop leaders from remaining effective.

But this question looms: How do we protect leaders from hubris?

I have my own ideas.

However, I would like to learn yours.

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 Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Being Human at Work

Relaxed Businessman

When our oldest child entered middle school we found it necessary to meet with his principal. At that time of course, school was his full-time job — and there were developing signs that it was the wrong job. As parents, we felt the need to discuss a strategy to address the job-person fit. To be frank, the over-riding goal was not to boost his grades, but to protect him as a developing individual.

As things stood, his role was clearly a frustrating exercise. Sadly, he was showing signs of complete exhaustion. One very astute teacher put it this way: “He actually has 7 bosses and they all want something a little different. That’s not an easy task.” I couldn’t have put it better. He was drowning in the midst of the demands he faced. None of this emphasized his strengths — only his clear weaknesses in the executive functioning realm.

Our son brought himself to his role as student. But more importantly, he was a human being that was faced with the learning environment as it was presented. We held no judgements as to what was “right” or “wrong” about that environment — only that his experience with that environment was both unique and challenging.

What we asked of his principal was quite simple: 1.) That he had an opportunity to explore/discover something that brought him feelings of competence and 2.) that he still loved (or at the very least, respected) the process of learning when he left her care. She was the needed glue to help him to sift through the noise and find the signals.

Being human at work poses a related challenge.

When you ponder your work life, what immediately comes to mind? Do you feel supported? Respected? Are you challenged? Are you developing in a manner that is meaningful? Are the unique qualities that define the positive foundation of you, a part of that work life? Or like our son, are you faced with poor job-person fit?

These may sound like unusual questions. But, they shouldn’t be.

When I discuss negative work experiences with clients, expressions of feeling “drained, “lost” or “frustrated” are mentioned. When we are fighting for the elements that uniquely define who we are, we suffer. Our employers may miss out on our strengths. Our customers do not benefit from our talents.

We wage a talent war that no one can win.

This realization drove me to take a step back.

What might help explain why this dynamic — that when ignored can become utterly devastating. I recalled humanistic psychology. A reaction to behaviorism and the tenets of psychoanalytic thought (made known by Freud), humanistic theory offers an interesting framework as we approach the job-person fit. Humanism explains that we posses a drive toward becoming self-actualized. In other words, a drive to maximize our creative potential. (This line of thought came to the forefront through the work of psychologists Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.)

Its direction and tenor could easily apply to work life:

  • When considering people — the whole is greater than than the sum of the parts.
  • There is a drive to achieve congruence between our “real self” and the “ideal self”.
  • Some measure of unconditional positive regard is necessary to fully develop as an individual.
  • An individual is greatly influenced by his/her environment. Social interaction is key to development.
  • We are fully aware and have the ability to make a conscious choice. Our past experienced help drive future behavior.
  • Human beings are uniquely capable of intentional thought and goal directed behaviors.

I wonder how we can build this respect for individuals into every organization. How might current trends in HR support this effort?

I know there are many of us fighting for this. Is one of them you?

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 Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

To Move Forward — Be Constructively Critical (of Yourself)

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We all like to think that we do things well — and a strong belief that we have the skills to succeed helps us in most workplace situations. However, there can be unwanted “glare” that can create a gap in self-knowledge. In fact, our own confidence can impede us from looking at our own behavior with a constructively critical eye.

Succumbing to bias concerning our own workplace strengths is an easy road to travel. Moreover, the areas that we value the most (and derive the most satisfaction) — can be the most heavily protected. As a result, we are less likely to look for opportunities to examine our skills critically. In fact, research has shown that we tend to view our own skills more positively than our peers see us. So it is possible to be unaware that a problem may be on the horizon.

Organizations that have enjoyed success, can blindly stop looking toward the future. People that have proven expertise, can also stop looking for avenues to grow. It is a looming weakness that we all should consider. It is important to realize that meeting our goals, does not ensure our continued competence. Only a keen eye and professional development, can help us stay in the groove.

So I’ll pose these questions:

  1. What skill (that you possess) do you personally value most at work?
  2. Do you consider yourself to be highly competent?
  3. Have you paused to critically examine your performance in this area recently?
  4. Can you identify a component of this skill set that could improve?
  5. How would you improve? What actions would you take?

I challenge you to look at your own skills critically and find a strategy to stay “skill healthy” longer-term.

What did you identify?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and workplace strategist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Let’s Face It: Gen Y Still Has it Right

Millenials

In 2011, I drafted my first blog post entitled: Gen Y Has it Right. I wrote the post because of discussions claiming that Millenials were completely different from other groups at work. On some level, I thought this was an excuse to ignore workplace elements in dire need of revision. On another level, there was a clear lack of respect for one important principle: individual differences. It simply wasn’t accurate to characterize all Millenials as entitled or disloyal.

Well, I am still detecting a subtle undertone that Millenials (all 75 million of them) are somehow markedly different from others at work — and I remain baffled. I simply will not subscribe to stereotypes, when discussing people at work. I will concede that groups carry “context” with them to the workplace; shared experiences of their generation. I’ll also concede that we can look for trends, to guide how we interact with employees (or future employees). However, I do not believe this is justification to ignore the notion of within-group individual differences.

A recent post discussing yearly raises and career mobility, found that if these elements were present, some Millenials would rather stay put. However, I was surprised to see we were still refuting the notion that Millenials love to job hop. Who really enjoys disrupting their entire work life and suddenly jump ship? I would predict that if career and salary were openly addressed, the option wouldn’t prove attractive.

Interestingly, when I completed a research project concerning this group in 2008, I was shocked at how the group varied. In other words: they didn’t all want the same things at work. Some wished to advance quickly up the career ladder. But, guess what? Others did not expect this. Individual differences matter. They matter to you — and me — and all Millienals.

So, I thought it was time to re-share the 2011 post. Let me know what you think.

Sorry, if you beg to differ. I think Gen Y has got it right.

The qualities they seek in the workplace — such as feeling valued and finding meaning in their work — are really healthier for all of us. So, let’s stop debating common sense and admit that we’ve been tolerating workplace issues that should have changed decades ago (i.e., inadequate feedback models, yearly performance reviews).

To be perfectly honest, some of these stubborn problems might finally budge at least in part, because Generation Y has displayed the conviction and the guts to persevere and ask for more.

I understand that some organizations have experienced what I’d like to call, “generational shock”. I have heard the stories, younger employees appearing overly confident, posturing as if they are entitled to a meeting with the CEO. But, could it be possible that Generation Y is suffering more of a public relations problem, than an across the board ego issue?

More feedback they ask? Flexible hours? Supervisors as mentors? How dare they!

Let’s be sure that we aren’t labeling an entire generation as difficult and tedious, because we are a bit envious of their “nerve” to ask for an improved work life? To tell the absolute truth, when I read how Gen Y envisions their work lives, I find myself thinking, “I’d like that, too.” (On some level, shouldn’t we all?) If the world of work is entering some sort of an “existential crisis” — where central issues such as the meaning of work are being questioned — Gen Y probably isn’t going to rest until that crisis is resolved.

My bet is on them to continue to mature — and help us meet these workplace challenges.

Let’s remember that Gen Y didn’t reach this juncture on their own. There are a number of evolutionary workplace events (traumas, actually) that have come together. This may have begun with the “collective unconscious” of their parent’s work lives; imprinted worries of layoffs, a recession, pay cuts and organizations generally behaving badly. These have likely been carried with them to the world of work. When we layer in the burgeoning trend of transparency and add social platforms to the equation, things were bound to shift — and they certainly are.

Good.

I’m glad. Let’s see what happens.

What we’ll might see:

  • Engagement will continue to matter. Gen Y would rather be unemployed than hack away for a lifetime at a job they hate. Employees deserve to love what they do — as engagement looks much like the concept of “self actualization”, but applied to work settings. (It appears that Maslow was right all along.)
  • Improved performance feedback. Gen Y won’t settle for a yearly performance appraisal (neither should you). They prefer a more consistent flow of information, and this makes perfect sense. (The timing of feedback and its specificity are agreed upon beforehand.) No one should work in a vacuum.
  • Supervisors as mentors. Research has shown that job satisfaction is positively correlated with a great boss. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, as supervisors should help their employees seek challenge and develop at work.
  • Continued transparency. From recruitment policies to organizational direction — Gen Y aspires to be part of an open and shared movement. None of us want to feel we are sequestered within a massive hierarchy.
  • More communication channels. Gen Y will continue to lead us through the technology arena, with a steady increase in workplace tech that will help us all connect and become more effective.

Personally, I am going to try to embrace and support the changes that Gen Y is seeking — wherever possible and within reason.

I need these work life attributes, just as much as Gen Y.

What do you think — does Gen Y have it right?

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 Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Staying Positive When Career Envy Strikes

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Careers can deliver more than a few difficult moments. Goals can remain elusive. Opportunities may wither and fade. Clients and colleagues can disappoint. Reclaiming a positive mental state — so the next wave of opportunity is not overlooked is vital. However, this can prove to be quite challenging.

Often rest and time are often powerful healers. However a cycle of negative rumination can set in. One common emotion, which can erupt as we compare our paths to those who appear to be thriving, is envy — and it is particularly destructive.

Envy can literally tilt how we view situations, people and ourselves — causing what I call a “temporary blindness” and extreme bias. Researchers examining envy in the workplace have shown that envy can not only affect how we feel about people, but the ideas they bring forward, which is quite perilous. In fact, the closer the source of the idea to us, the less likely we are to feel positively toward it. (For example, an idea created within the organizations vs. brought to the organization.)

Envy can be a destructive career force. In fact, when envy exists a number of counter-productive elements can take hold:

  • Invalidating thoughts about your own gifts and potential.
  • A tendency to overlook or devalue your own opportunities.
  • A closed mindset — where we cannot learn from others who have been successful.
  • A lack of motivation to continue your journey (Networking, professional events, skill development, etc).
  • A tendency to back away from challenge for fear that outcomes will not weigh in your favor.
  • Undermining or devaluing the person who is the focus of your envy.

Handling your emotions can be tricky. Try to identify the particular “envy source” — the a single element that you might covet in another individual’s path. Is it respect? Financial success? Exposure or opportunities? Explore how can you bring more of these elements into your world with a mentor or career coach.

Also remind yourself of the following:

  • You are an individual — and your journey will also be unique.
  • Consider the skills that differentiate you from the pack in a positive way. Ask yourself: How would someone who thinks well of you describe you to others?
  • Create a list of the possible paths that would bring desired elements toward you. Identify 1 or 2 steps to bring this to fruition.
  • Bring positive people/situations into your career life to balance negative thoughts — and make this a habit. For example, seek team experiences that affirm the strengths of  all team members.

Has envy affected your career? How did you overcome the emotion?

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 Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Dealing with a Career Path That Feels Tired & Worn

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We can all experience something I call “career malaise”. While this may not qualify as full-blown career regreta tired and worn path may leave you feeling listless and unmotivated. Economics may have forced you to remain in a less than challenging role, or you may simply be at a loss to identify your next steps. Whatever the reason — your feelings may signal that you have reached a crossroads. How might you look at your work differently to develop a new strategy and re-energize?

I’ve posed this question to some wise career experts. Hopefully, they help you identify what might be missing. Their advice is quite varied — and may provide the spark you need to make progress.

Here is what we discussed:

We May See Our Career Path as Inflexible
Sometimes we feel stuck or stalled because we see only one path — and that path likely travels in one direction — up the corporate ladder. If we can step back, (down or even sideways) to learn something new, interesting doors present themselves. Yes, it is challenging to be a “rookie” once again. However that same challenge can be the key to a more fulfilling future. Whitney Johnson, author of Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work offers this advice:

“Be willing to step back. Backward could be your slingshot.” – Whitney Johnson

We Miss Subtle Industry Shifts
In other cases, we fail to fully align with the current state of our own industry. As a result, we begin to lag behind skill-wise — and this limits our potential to find challenging work. Chris Yeh co-author of The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age is a strong proponent of managers/employees working together to create a role that not only benefits the organization — but also strengthens an employee’s career value. In other words, you are working on skills that may prevent another stall.

“If you can identify specific experiences/skills you need, try to get them added to your current tour of duty.”- Chris Yeh

Our Personal Brand Has Evolved
Exploring how we have changed over time — and aligning this with our communicated personal brand is also something to consider. Has what you truly desire to accomplish career-wise changed? Do others understand that shift? Cynthia Johnson, co-founder of Ipseity Inc, a firm that helps others develop their brand voice, encourages individuals to differentiate their personal brand in a way that is authentic — and learn to tell that story effectively. (See more of her tips here.) Utilizing digital avenues to craft and communicate your evolving personal brand, may also help align career goals with your path. She advises you take this in steps:

“It is important to include short-term and clearly defined goals while mapping out your brand strategy. If you try to do everything at once you will become overwhelmed and do nothing at all.” – Cynthia Johnson

We Are Unsure of What to Bring into Our Path
Aspects of work that may have thrilled you in the past — may no longer motivate you. What could you bring into your work that would “meet you” where you are? I love the advice of Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project) concerning work and those painful feelings of “envy”.  She advises that feeling envy when considering another individual’s role, may signal elements that you should bring to your own path.

Here are a few additional ideas to consider:

  • Shift your locus of control. When we shift control of our work lives to external forces (such as luck), we lose the opportunity to impact our own career. Bring that control back to home base and realize you can take action.
  • Attempt to see yourself in a new way. Flexing your “envisioning” muscle isn’t easy. However. we all tend to ignore this mind-expanding step. We often  focus on the “here and now” and never take time to consider where we want to go. What do you see there?
  • Realize your history is still unfolding. We see ourselves as human beings that are done changing — when in fact our “history” does not end with today. Research on happiness by Daniel Gilbert points to this illusion. We are still evolving. Embrace that opportunity. If this isn’t possible at work,  consider a side project (Here’s a course to explore that here.)
  • Develop a personal learning “agenda”. As described in this HBR post, we have various reasons for being underemployed or under-challenged. However, it is critical to address the existing knowledge deficit strategically. Examine your skill and knowledge base carefully. Is there something you could do to position yourself to expand that base?

Stale career paths rarely grant our wishes.

However, you might grant a few of your own — by taking an honest look at what might be missing.

What advice would you offer? 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 Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Giving Inspiration its Due

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For it is not the light we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but the thunder. We need the the storm, the whirlwind, the earthquake.- Frederick Douglas

We consistently speak about the need for creativity and innovation — yet we rarely speak about the elements that come beforehand. Feeling inspired is a vital element in our work lives. However, it is often written off as an esoteric concept that cannot be well understood. Without inspiration so many things would have never come to be.

Exploring where and how we find inspiration, is time well spent.

Psychologists examining inspiration have postulated that the construct possesses 3 main components: evocation (it overtakes us, rather than being found), transcendence (the vision rises above our usual constraints and the status quo) and approach orientation (it moves/compels us toward the goal of exploration and expression). Moreover, inspiration differs from the concepts of insight and creativity.

Think of inspiration this way — insight is the problem solving component, creativity nurtures idea formation and inspiration drives the actualization of those ideas into action/products.

Inspiration somehow brings us to a place we’ve never visited — possibly to the crossroads of thought and experience. However, we must remember that how we are inspired (as individuals) varies. Some of us are inspired by what we read in books. Some of us by nature. Others in works of art or architecture. Still others can be inspired by a particular individual or their experiences (ergo a role model or the muse). We should try to become mindful of the elements that personally inspire us — as that spark of inspiration may be the beginning of our next, great chapter. As explained by researchers:

Despite superficial differences in narrative content, the inspiration narratives shared the underlying themes of having one’s eyes opened during an encounter with a person, object, event, or idea (i.e., being inspired “by”), and wishing to express or actualize one’s new vision (i.e., being inspired “to”). – Oleynick, et al., 2014.

Learning more about the process and how others might have been inspired in their daily lives is an interesting endeavor. So — here are a few sources addressing various topics surrounding inspiration. Let me know what you think:

If you are interested in learning more about inspiration as a psychological construct (as I am):
The Scientific Study of Inspiration in the Creative Process: Challenges and Opportunities, Oleynick et al., Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 25 June, 2014.

Peruse the “What Inspires Me” channel at LinkedIn. Read personal stories of challenge and success from authors worldwide.

The possible role of nature in inspiration: The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, by Florence Williams*

Daily Rituals by Malcolm Currey*
If you wonder how the masters structured their days (and possibly found inspiration), here is a fascinating source. Hint: Daily walks are quite common among this group. (Click on the icon to explore).

When was the last time you felt inspired? What precipitated inspiration?

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 Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

* This is an affiliate link. If you choose to purchase through this link, I receive compensation.

When You Do These Things, You Might Hate Your Job

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Over the years I’ve spoken to hundreds of individuals about their work. When things were going poorly, the situation could only be solved with hard work and complete honesty. Only then, were we able to identify what was feeding the unhappiness. Although the reasons were varied (and often layered) — most weren’t buried. They lingered right in front of our “proverbial noses”.

There are specific situations that I would consider absolute “land mines”, in terms of achieving work life happiness. (Where happiness contributes to both energy and success,) I thought you might benefit from a brief list of the worst offenders.

  • Consider your family, to the exclusion of your own needs. Sacrificing a fulfilling work life for your family is quite noble. However, this will likely deplete your psychological resources longer-term —  which benefits no one. If your job is intolerable, speak with your family about your hesitation to search for an alternative.
  • Choose salary, in lieu of job alignment. Attractive, yes — recommended, no. I can safely say that once you’ve made this error, it becomes far less appealing. In some cases we must work with the opportunity as it presents. However, if there is an alternative, play the long game. When you love your work — the money is more likely to come.
  • Ignore your “destiny”. In many cases, we aren’t ready to see (or act upon) what is right in front of us. (My journey as a writer, followed this route. I needed to find a way to wed the need to write with my training as a psychologist) Astute managers (and your colleagues) will see your gifts. Deal with your reservations to explore the opportunity to weave your potential into your work life.
  • Stick with a horrible boss. Mastering the devil may be a path that appeals to you. However, it is just like placing a second bet after a significant loss — it is one you should never place. An individual changes only when they wish to change.
  • Over-Invest. Yes, there is such a thing. When you begin to carry the load in terms of dedication, hope, workload — or any other aspect of your workplace — this will become unsustainable both physically and psychologically.
  • Ignore your own personality. We cannot edit ourselves out of the work life equation. If you are a nightmare to supervise for example, your career can be negatively affected — and opportunities will bypass you. Delve into the reasons that cause the “knee-jerk” reactions that do you no favors at work.

Have I missed anything? Add to the conversation.

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 Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Go Ahead. Put Yourself First.

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Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting. – William Shakespeare, Henry V.

I was completely transfixed when I read Shakespeare’s quote. We so rarely admit that it is good practice to put ourselves (yes indeed, ourselves) first. In our minds we rehearse what we would say — and how we would behave differently — to achieve this. However, it is a healthy exercise that we rarely put into play.

This week I disabled the “Contact” page at The Office Blend. (No worries — I still read each and every comment that my readers share.)

Why? Well, the “contacts” were exclusively one-sided and self-serving. (Please share our study. Please read our report. Please buy our service.) This dynamic was the polar opposite of why I began blogging — to share research, exchange ideas, collaborate and help others create a stronger work life.

So, I felt a need to protect my joy in doing just that.

I decided (at least for the time being) to put myself first and shut things down.

Then I reflected on that very deliberate action — as it would likely be questioned.

When did it become politically incorrect to put “you” first?

Individuals who are gloriously happy at work, have realized this is absolutely necessary. Moreover, you cannot wait for someone else to do this for you.

I challenge you to make a little room and put “you” (and your career imperatives) first. Carve out room to focus on elements that might bring more meaning to your work life.

This is not about ignoring your responsibilities. It is simply about recognizing a responsibility to yourself.

So.

Feed your workplace soul.

Eliminate one useless or draining element.

Say “no” strategically.

Take initiative.

Lean in to the elements that bring you joy.

Enroll in that course you’ve bookmarked.

Read the book that’s been calling your name.

Have lunch with that inspiring co-worker.

Deliberately identify what makes the difference.

Protect that fiercely.

It’s alright to put you first sometimes.

Go ahead.

_______________________________________________________

Read more on the topic:

Happiness Habits That Will Make You Thrive at Work, by Jennifer Moss.

Work On Yourself First, by Donna Stonehem,

Choose Yourself by James Altucher

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 Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

The Problem with Clutter

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“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” – Albert Einstein

I’m sure we could debate the advantages and disadvantages of clutter. However, in real life terms (leaving Einstein aside) — is erring on the side of less clutter and more organization the best path?

I believe it is. When you work in clutter, co-workers may make negative assumptions — and bosses may worry that you are chronically disorganized.

Moreover, a cluttered state can affect feelings of well-being and productivity.

Research discussed in this article at HBR, examined how persistence was affected by exposure to a neat vs. a messy work environment. The researchers found that subjects exposed to a neat environment worked at a challenging task longer (1.5 times actually), than their counterparts who viewed the messier desk.

As the article explains, when our resources are drained by distraction, our performance can suffer. This can affect how we tackle a challenging task. Of course, there has been evidence in favor of a bit of mess to encourage creativity. However, definitive research is in order.

A cluttered mind is an entirely different challenge. If you tend to get lost among your many thoughts and have difficulty zeroing in on what is most important — a strategy is vital. In, many cases this can be resolved by tweaking your power of focus. (It is a noisy world and we  “self distract”.) See one technique here and the supporting book below.

Here are a couple of other clutter busting books to explore. If you’re chronic messy-aholic in the office, start small. Discard papers. Develop a system to retrieve what remains. Remember to give things some time — so you can settle into any change. If you are simply fine-tuning your organization skills, let us know what you learned and how you amped-up your game.

Banishing Physical Clutter:

The life-changing magic of tidying up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing*
This book delves into when and why you should let some things go. Enough said.

Taming Our Cluttered Minds:

i Disorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less*
Focus is critical in a noisy world.

*This denotes an affiliate link. I often receive emails about suggestions for topic-focused books and products. These links make things quite simple. Purchase or explore as you wish.

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 Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.