Why Stability Contributes to Agility


My interest in the stability paradox — the need for a solid foundation to support organizational agility & resilience — has deep roots within my career. (Read my other posts here and here. Read about ARA theory here). In the late 2000s, I had the unique opportunity to work with a number of small businesses. Many were successful, family-owned and displayed an extreme passion for the products or services they provided. They were filled with remarkable people, who had nurtured deep ties with the community and intended on leaving a lasting, positive impact. After spending time and listening, I quickly realized that their challenges were a microcosm of what would occur in larger companies. There was far less “noise” bureaucratically, so to speak, and the challenges were much easier to see. However, the consequences of inaction were equally as devastating.

Most were experiencing some level of distress. Some had survived the economic crisis — only to realize they were one of the last companies standing of their kind. They were relieved, yet stunned. Others were facing new and disruptive competition. But, they all sensed they were on shaky ground as to how to move forward effectively and grow.

However, regardless of the industry, there was a certain similarity in their predicaments — and the thread that connected them was growth.

Rather, how these organizations was unprepared to support further growth.

To my astonishment, most had managed to grow rather ferociously with a sparse internal structure — until they reached an inflection point where the “informal” structure no longer supported the organization. Then all hell began to break loose. Communication channels began to fail. Cross-functional teaming was in disarray. Response times expanded. Customers were unhappy. Tempers would flare.

I was challenged to help them, but soon realized that increased internal stability was required. Without a stable underlying foundation, nothing would work. (Read more about this here.) However, preserving what made them both innovative and unique, was also important. That became the goal: a set of best practices that reinforced the supportive skeleton of the organization — such as mission, values and communications channels — but still allowed for flexibility that helped these organizations survive and thrive.

We would usually focus on a few elements:

  • Discuss mission & strategy. It was usually time to revisit the core principles of the organization. Did the mission still fit ? Was there and agreed strategy to support that mission? Without these elements, the moving parts that drove growth would become locked.
  • Stabilize communication. By the time an organization reached 80 or 90 people, the informal communications network became stressed and or had fractured. Investing in intranet software, for example, to facilitate conversations and collaboration became critical critical. A technology investment was also needed — especially if a sizeable group of contributors were in the field.
  • Examine software solutions. Software does need to match the demands within an industry. However, in many cases platforms were added as a particular need presented, with little consideration concerning how the addition impacted employees and customers. So, the “house that Jack built” became the plan. Solutions didn’t work together, and in some cases they competed, adding needless steps and little added value.
  • Review talent needs. Inevitably positions needed to be added that could serve a strategy function for key functions. These individuals could keep an eye on growth opportunities and what the organization would need to do to respond effectively. Moreover, role clarity for existing roles, was usually weak or absent.
  • Look at development. Contributors need to believe that they have room to grow. Adopting practices that encourage feedback and coaching are also factors which affect internal stability. In small business, when an individual departs, a library of experiences goes with them. A completely new role may not always be possible — but a discussion of what a contributor may want to learn may be possible.

I was awestruck by the risks that small business owners happily shoulder for the good of both their customers and employees. Helping them in some small way was incredibly rewarding. Pointing them in the direction of stability, with the goal of preserving flexibility — seemed the right move.

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.


What You Need to Know to Master the Performance Management Revolution: An Interview with Elaine Pulakos & Rose Mueller-Hanson


Performance management hasn’t always been the most popular of topics.

Laden with bureaucratic layers and endless paperwork — many PM strategies have devolved into a shadow of what they could be. In fact, for many organizations PM simply became something they had to endure.

That is wrong. So very wrong.

However —  a revolution of sorts has begun. Organizations such as Deloitte and The Gap have been dishing out some pretty incredible PM changes. Their strategies have very disruptive. Very new age.

However, there is an aspect of all this revolution that you may be missing — and it essentially boils down to this question: Are the strategies being discussed in the mainstream media, the right strategies for your organization?

Whether your organization has decided the precise way forward or if you are simply struggling to translate the revolution into a thoughtful course of action — you’ve come to the right place for the real story. (Hint: Losing ratings isn’t the only agenda item to consider.)

At The Office Blend, we thought it wise to seek out an expert, and we are fortunate to have two  — Dr. Elaine Pulakos & Dr. Rose Mueller-Hanson. Both have been living in and researching the PM space for more than a decade. Their unique take on PM is built upon an evidence-based foundation — which can help HR professionals like craft a tempered response to the PM revolution that works for the specifics of their own company.

I’m all ears.

You should be as well.

BTW, their latest book Performance Management: An Evidence Based Roadmap has just hit the shelves. Click on the cover below for more information.

Let’s start at the beginning.
What is the backstory behind the book — and why did you feel the need to approach this topic at this moment in time?

Dr. Elaine Pulakos (E.P):
Organizations have been knee deep in PM reform for the past few years. This started with the formal performance review being taken to task as a heinous process that demotivates employees. Ratings were likewise maligned as demotivating and have no impact on performance.

Unprecedented numbers of organizations have been transforming their PM processes, including well-known brands such as Microsoft, Accenture, Gap, and Deloitte, among others.

The main idea is to replace formal PM steps — like ratings and formal reviews with informal feedback, coaching, and expectations that would better enable performance in real time. Research by CEB and Google has clearly shown the benefits of “real time” PM on both engagement and business outcomes.

Since 2010, we’ve been at the forefront of arguing for more effective, real time PM practices that focus on driving performance, noting the importance of behavior change to embed regular, informal feedback and coaching that helps employees succeed on the job.

Many organizations, eager to remove the burden of traditional PM, focused their initial efforts on quick fixes that did not end up moving the needle enough to drive real change. There was also an obsession with the question of “what to do with ratings.” This became the focus of PM reform, which was an unfortunate distraction, because it over-emphasized a small and relatively unimportant piece of the PM transformation puzzle – to the detriment of holistic reform.

Initial steps taken to reform PM resulted in less impact than expected, especially among organizations that focused on eliminating ratings. CEB, now Gartner found that employees reported higher levels of dissatisfaction after ratings were removed than when ratings were part of the PM process. This was counter to expectations but not surprising. Removing ratings without having effective feedback and coaching in place risks even less communication of performance information than before – which is exactly what happened.

Companies that focused on regular, effective feedback and coaching generally saw better results. The Center for Effective Organizations examined companies that implemented ongoing feedback, rating-less reviews, or crowdsourced feedback. The combination of all three practices yielded the most positive impact. Ongoing feedback and crowdsourced feedback together were more impactful than either ongoing feedback alone or ongoing feedback and rating-less reviews. These results supported the importance of regular feedback in achieving positive PM outcomes.

We’ve just begun scratching the surface of how organizations need to transform PM to drive performance. As we enter the next stage of PM transformation — we know that quick fixes and removing ratings alone won’t be enough.

The impetus for the book stemmed from being at a point where we can take stock of what we’ve learned so far, to advance the PM transformation journey. Our goal was to capture what organizations’ have experienced and what the research has shown about PM reform — to create a roadmap for Phase 2.0 of PM reform. This would reset our efforts where needed and double down on what’s been shown to work best to drive high performance.

Dr. Rose Mueller-Hanson (R.H.):

I would add that a lot of media stories had been shared about performance management that raised more questions than answers.

Organizations were bombarded with best practices from big organizations. However, the problem with ‘best practices’ is that you can’t just transplant one idea from one company to another. Each company is different, and PM needs to reflect the unique culture of that company. We wanted to provide a truly useful guide that organizations could use to transform their approach. We wanted to offer principles grounded in research that could be tailored to an organization’s environment and culture.

On a personal note, I have been both the victim and perpetrator of performance management. Perhaps no other HR process is as hated as PM. It has a profound impact on people’s lives and happiness at work. I truly believe that PM has the potential to help people perform their best and help organizations succeed. But too often it is used as a substitute for trust. Lack of trust leads to too much control. Which leads to over-engineered rules, processes, and tools. Our hope is that organizations can fundamentally shift PM from the burdensome chore it is today to a powerful driver of performance.

How does your vision of PM differ from what might be going on in organizations currently?

Some organizations are still fixated on the question of ratings.

Although some have successfully removed ratings, the prevailing opinion is that we probably cannot give up ratings in most organizations, especially without robust climates for feedback and coaching in place. The reality is that decisions about ratings do not matter as much as other factors – like the culture for informal feedback and coaching — in achieving effective PM. Although the question of ratings is not the best place to focus PM reform, many organization remain fixated.

A blocker to effective PM is that organizations still think of it as a separate HR process that sits outside of the work. We need to re-ground the idea that managing performance is an integral part of getting work done and shift our focus — and investments — from formal PM processes to embedding effective PM behavior in how daily work gets done.

Setting clear expectations, measuring progress, coaching and providing real-time feedback are critically important, especially in the face of today’s fast-paced change. To succeed and respond effectively, PM behaviors need to be incorporated into the fabric of the organization’s culture as the way work gets done, so they become contextualized and routinized in service of achieving important work goals.

Finally, most organizations have yet to make the shift to view PM as a strategic tool for driving the organization’s goals. So, they neglect to treat PM transformation as the comprehensive change that it really is. Conceived of and leveraged properly, PM drives higher performance for individuals, teams, and organizations. But organizations under-utilize its potential by continuing to treat it as a bureaucratic HR process. We’ve lost our way as a result of over-engineered PM processes that have pulled PM away from work.

R.H.: I would emphasize this last point and add that PM needs to start with the goal of organizations trying to improve performance.

Everything needs to flow from this goal. If organizations use that as a litmus test, it will drive a lot of positive change. For each PM rule or process, organizations should ask “is this going to help us improve performance.” If the answer is ‘no’ they shouldn’t do it.

What do you see as the most important shifts — and where should organizations begin?

E.P.: We identified seven key shifts that are important to driving high performance. Incorporating all of these within a comprehensive PM change effort, will move the needle markedly in enabling high performance.

Shift 1 is that we need to move away from PM that serves too many purposes – like rating, rewarding, providing feedback, defending decisions, and so forth – to PM that is squarely-focused on driving high performance. Too many purposes yields process-heavy systems that don’t end up serving any well.

Shift 2 is that we need to capture PM opportunities within the dynamic workflows when they occur — and not wait for scheduled PM activities later on. This requires giving up control and allowing PM to occur in real time as needed.

Shift 3 is that we need to move from using general competencies standards to job-relevant definitions of success. Competency standards are almost always too high level to drive real performance. Instead, we need to manage performance to nuanced work and role expectations in the given context.

The 4th shift is that we need to move from performance evaluation to performance measurement. Evaluation is a judgment after the fact, while measurement is the ongoing collection of information to track and adjust performance. To drive high performance, measurement needs to be the focus because evaluation comes too late to do any good.

Shift 5 is to decouple expectations between PM and outcomes (e.g., pay, advancement) by explaining how pay and other talent decisions are impacted by factors beyond ratings (e.g., the economy, organizational performance, etc.). This helps avoid disappointment and confusion that occurs when outcomes do not align fully with ratings.

Shift 6 acknowledges that we’ve under-estimated the importance of the environment in traditional PM processes, especially with increasing reliance on teams to deliver products and services. We need to fully examine situational and process barriers to success before blaming to individuals for performance failures.

Shift 7 is one we’ve already discussed. It’s about moving from PM that sits outside work in a separate process to PM inherently embedded in how work gets done.

R.H.: One theme that runs across many shifts is the need to change mindsets. PM is driven by mistrust in organizations. The belief that left to their own devices — managers and employees will fail to do the right thing. They won’t have meaningful conversations, hold people accountable for progress, etc. This mistrust then leads to heavy-handed rules and requirements. Everything must be documented. Everything must fit a certain format so that it can go in the online system. These rules, policies, and requirements lead to a system that is not flexible enough to keep up with the changing demands of a new work environment.

For example, many PM systems have specific rules around goal setting and documenting goals within the IT tool. Goals then must be approved by managers and are “locked down” by HR so they can be used as the basis of ratings. This is all done in the name of holding people accountable for results.

But, it then makes goals hard to evolve to keep pace with new priorities. Organizations need to fundamentally let go of all these rules and control and instead allow people the freedom to set goals, monitor progress, etc. to fit the work.

Thanks to both Dr. Mueller-Hanson and Dr. Pulakos for their time and trouble. I know that I feel better informed.

Please leave any comments below.

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.


You Should Embrace a Little Boredom in Your Life: Here’s Why

Photo Credit: jzaccordesigns.com

Have you ever wondered why your best ideas always seem to arrive in the shower — or while you are on a walk — or first thing when you wake up? Well, it is no coincidence. Researchers have known for years that your brain requires peace (and quiet) to connect disparate elements that are churning behind the scenes.

This is why you experience increased creativity during down time.

With our busy technology-packed lives, we tend to equate feeling busy with well-being. However, your brain may be begging for a bit of boredom. So, make a point to schedule time to be completely quiet.

If your are very still — you may even hear the faint sound of your own drummer.

To learn more — visit my YouTube channel (yes, I’m experimenting there) and find the playlist: http://bit.ly/2y0Tans

  • Manoush Zomordi: How Boredom Can Lead to Your Most Brilliant Ideas. Breaking our technology habit can be a challenge. However, it is more about empowerment, than time spent. Zomordi’s, Bored and Brilliant initiative opened the eyes of thousands.
  • Genevieve Bell: The Value of Boredom. Bell educates us concerning how (and  when) the notion of boredom and its negative connotation — developed. She further explores how technology impacts this dynamic.
  • Rollo May. Rollo May on Boredom & Creativity. Existential psychologist Rollo May, questions our use of toys (technology?) to avoid boredom — and how boredom “pushes you toward your own imagination.”
  • Cal Newport. Quit Social Media. The author of Deep Work: Rules For Success in a Distracted World talks about how a lack of social media, has positively impacted his own life and work. He discusses the addicting nature of the medium and what might happen if we would consider leaving it behind.

Read more about this topic:

Dr. Marla Gottschalk writes about life and career as a LinkedIn Influencer. Her posts have also appeared at various outlets worldwide — including US News & World Report, Forbes, Quartz and The World Economic Forum.

What Happened at Toys R Us?


Toys R Us may be a memory in a matter of weeks.

That stirs a boat load of emotions for many of us.

Personally, this conjures up the toys my own children enjoyed; Barney, Pokeman cards and Star Wars miniatures. Once again this confirms that time marches on, whether we like it or not.

The same axiom also applies to the quickly evolving environments in which organizations must live. The landscape evolves, whether or not organizations are ready to respond effectively. Brick & mortar operations have been hit particularly hard over the last decade. Like many that have struggled, Toys R Us has been a formidable company. A storied brand that continues to sell a lot of toys.

However, things have changed.

I frequently discuss how organizations have gone down the wrong path; how they might have chosen the wrong strategy or invested in leadership that led to only problems. However, I’m not sure this tells the entire story with Toys R Us. Yes, leadership could have been more agile, shifting more intently to a focus on customer experiences. Yes, they have faced extreme financial challenges. Yes, they should have been ever-responsive to the e-commerce landscape.

However, I have the distinct feeling these weren’t the only reasons why Toys R Us could be leaving us. You see, as an organization, Toys R Us may represent an era that no longer exists. (Please know I deeply respect what Toys R Us has accomplished as an organization.) A time when children played predominately with toys. When they were not using a device of some sort. A time when lingering in a toy store was on the “to do” list.

Somehow I can’t blame that shift entirely on one organization.

It seems that Toys R Us is verging on extinction. (Hoping this does not come to pass.)

The environment may not support its species any longer.

The reasons why — may have deeper ramifications.

Only time will tell.

What are your thoughts?

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.


How to Build a Viable Psychological Contract for Millennials


I am writing this post at the request of a Millennial.

With all the discussions about culture and engagement — he would like me to answer one powerful question: “How do we (young employees) establish a meaningful psychological contract with an employer, when we distrust organizations in general?”

That hurts.

For someone like me, who would like every single contributor to have a meaningful tenure at a workplace — this hits hard. That question is the result of a myriad of elements that have merged, to form a deep rift in the career equation for an entire generation of contributors. (By the way, if you haven’t read my other posts on the topic, find an introduction to psychological contracts start here.)

It is expected.

In some cases, deserved.

However, it is ominous.

Millenials have watched in horror as the economy collapsed in late 2000’s. They watched as college graduates struggled to find work — and how they still struggle to make headway salary wise because of that collapse.  They’ve watched as their parents were mistreated and in many instances, cast aside by the very organizations they had come to trust.

According to Pew, Millenials are saddled with more student debt than other generations, trust less and have fewer attachments to traditional institutions. Strike one, two and three,

Sticking with this thread, if individuals do not trust employers to look out for their career or personal well being — with whom (or what) is the psychological contract formed? The answer unfortunately is this: “With myself. I am out for me”.

I see an inkling of good and a whole lot of bad in this declaration.

Yes, depending on yourself (owning your own career, for example) is admirable. However, something precious is lost when we cannot identify and ultimately give something of ourselves to the organizations with which we affiliate. If we do not trust the organization, we do not share. If we do not share freely, we protect our ideas. If protect our ideas, we limit progress and innovation.

It seems that we have some work to do if we expect a healthy psychological contract to be built.

There is a way forward.

Here are a few places to start.

  • Recruit with clarity. From the job descriptions we share, to the career paths we might offer — organizations must operate in manner that is honest and complete. Recruitment practices should be allowed to reflect a communicate strategy that improves applicant fit and engagement. Organizations should focus on smart HR Tech solutions to accomplish this. (See how J & J is harnessing HR Tech to accomplish this here.)
  • Offer stability. Psychological contracts are not a one-way street; they must work in both directions. If you manage a Millennial, discuss not only what they bring, but what the organization might bring to their developing career paths. (Read about constructing Tours of Duty in The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age) What will they learn? What role models will you provide? Remember, they may remain insecure about their future career paths.
  • Build community. Nothing builds confidence in an employer, like the knowledge there is an entire within-organization community to support you and your career. Encourage both building and participating in internal networks that engage contributors.

What is your organization doing? Share it here.

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.

How AI Can Support the World of Work


On the surface, preparing for the integration of AI into the world of work can sound like a formidable proposition. While we might have reservations concerning its integration, the more balanced question centers on how we might integrate AI to improve our own capabilities — and in turn the heath and capabilities of organizations.

Most of us would concede that as human beings we are prone to biases that lead to less informed decisions. In many situations, AI can address our shortcomings and improve our performance.

As Erik Brynjolffson of MIT points out in a recent HBR interview:

“…the benchmark for most entrepreneurs and managers is: who’s going to be better for solving this particular task or better yet can we create a system that combines the strengths of both humans and machines and does something better than either of them would do individually.”

Interestingly there has been much discussion about AI’s application to HR and work life. Here are just a few topics that I’ve noticed:

  • Chatbots. In the HR world, chatbots can be utilized to address and improve many aspects of the employee experience. Chatbots have the potential to support numerous processes — through conversation — within on-boarding and coaching — helping HR departments to meet their goal of supporting contributors. (See how AI has also impacted “summer melt”, where students fail to matriculate in college settings here.)
  • Job listings. A better informed candidate — one that has ample information to determine potential fit — is the first step to secure the right the role, for teh right person. The augmented writing platform Textio, for example, utilizes AI to improve the quality of information within job postings — potentially reducing bias and attracting a broader, more diverse pool of applicants.
  • Interviewing. Google has developed the automated tool qDroid based upon the seminal meta-analytic selection research completed of Frank Schmidt and John Hunter. This work illustrated that a work sample was the best predictor of candidate success, followed by tests of cognitive ability and structured interviews. The tool generates behaviorally based questions, that are specifically tailored to the job in question.

We cannot overlook the fact that a mindset that embraces progress, will hasten the integration of AI into the world of work. Simply engaging with AI is the best start to determine if it might help your organization. In fact, organizations can (and should) begin utilizing AI at little or no cost. (See the access options to Watson here. Please note, as referenced in this discussion there are other AI alternatives for voice recognition, for example, driven by the specific need).

For organizations that may not have a skilled data analyst on hand — and may not require one on a full-time basis — these AI options can become vital. For those more skilled in data analysis, the notion that an insight might be left undiscovered, leaves me quite curious as to how the work can be improved. (In fact, training employees to utilize AI and ML has opened up recently.)

Not unlike Andrew McCaffe’s 2011 discussion of Enterprise 2.0, the deciding factor rests in the following questions:

“During times of great business change, two fundamental questions are: what kinds of companies are able to make the transition, and what happens when they do?”

Has your organization embraced AI? How has it impacted the work at hand?

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 Stability Paradox


Stability is an often underrated element of work life.

Like an unsung hero, it is critically important — yet rarely discussed.

While breakneck change and innovation are lauded, we often jump much too far ahead. In a way, we forget ourselves — that we are first human beings.

Simply put, there are certain elements within work life, that should simply remain constant and steadfast. Think of the importance of a healthy, supportive work environment, role clarity or a wise manager. These can keep us remain on a productive path, even when things are quite difficult. This is not the type stability that signals an individual or organizational downfall (resting on laurels, complacency, etc.).

It is a very different animal.

Over the last decade, stability has become a somewhat reviled and forbidden. While we glamorize new and dynamic components, we have effectively sidelined the beauty of a solid foundation. However, the evidence of a the need for stability exists — and is peppered throughout the literature. (Think of the work of Edmondson or Luthans alone).

The force of stability also affects organizations. In many cases, the pillars of work life, such as performance management or communication channels, have let us down — unable to provide the needed fuel to excel.

In fact, stability has catapulted off of our radar with great haste, leaving a gaping hole that only deepens. I believe that lagging metrics and the overwhelming failures that plague organizations, are partially related to this need. Truth be told – its absence likely haunts our workplaces each and every day.

The potential sources of stability are varied and in some cases personal. However, these sources are vital. They are necessary. When these elements are present we somehow find our way (and discover our place) through needed progress and change.

Inevitably, as the pace of change quickens in our work lives, the more we will require certain elements to remain solid. We’ve wrung our hands over persistent issues such as low engagement, while leaders lament the possibility of losing their most valued contributors. All the while, we undervalue key sources of stability. Sadly, there are countless organizational decisions made every day that completely disregard its lower boundary.

When individuals (whether in life or work) achieve great heights, there was likely an element of stability that served as a necessary foundation. (Think of creativity as it relates to psychological safety, for example). Even in the face of tremendous odds, people and organizations do prevail. However, that element — stability — whether emanating from within, or existing from a structure, was likely present.

Bringing needed stability into our work lives and balancing this with opportunities for experimentation is an important challenge. I believe that the quality in which we address this “push and pull” is vital.

Innovation and progress will remain.

They are the way of the world.

However, if we also embrace aspects of stability — the journey forward may become much clearer.

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.

Seeing Our Work in Context


Context is important for both people and organizations.

None of us are allowed to move forever through the universe with a myopic vantage point.

This strategy eventually fails — as the broader perspective overtakes us.

One of the most difficult challenges is to see ourselves (and our actions at work) in context. This is a real problem established environments. We can become distracted from our true mission by long-standing biases and mantras, including “this is the way it’s always done”.

When organizations reach this point, functions often express that they cannot work together. To be certain, there is myopia operating. Groups are too close to their own work to see how it affects neighboring functions. Or they simply don’t have the time or inclination to examine what might really be happening.

We often think of clients or customers, but rarely think of how we affect our peers. Most of us do not fully understand the demands placed on the roles that touch our own.

If we took the time to do this — we might see our own actions in context.

Silos hurt all of us.

Start in the right direction.

Great things can follow.

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.


4 Things to Consider to Put Resolve in Your New Year’s Resolutions About Work

Never Settle

I’ve just read this at HBR.

A great reminder — and definitely worth a solid look. Not unlike this author, I am all for feeling more satisfied with our work.

Yes, awareness is indeed the first place to begin.

However, if there is one thing I’ve learned, change is hard.

Curiously so.

I will venture to say this applies to most of us — regardless of level, role or age.

It applies even when we know that something different might be better for us.

To bring meaningful change to fruition, we have to take a deeper dive into why we don’t actually make changes we identify as needed. This inevitably, leads to a discussion of motivation. (For a little food for thought concerning motivation, read about expectancy theory here.)

On a related note, I’ve written previously about how to better manage time at work. This of course, touches bringing alignment to time as it relates to valued activities. (See that here). We should meld the two topics. You see loving what you do, is not only about subtraction and addition of tasks on a Venn Diagram — it’s about teaching yourself to respect that blueprint.

Your behavior (and your work life) won’t shift for the better — until you examine why you aren’t budging.

So, let’s take that step. While you are identifying the tasks that fall into categories A (things you love), B (things you are neutral about) and C (things you detest) — explore the source of the “blocks” that stop you from shifting time spent and why.

We can always wish for healthy “job re-design”.

However, we must deal with the backlog of issues that stop it from happening.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • It’s you. Stand up and take a bow. The reason why we don’t improve our roles, is because we are not willing to actually invest and do it. We’ll obsess, however, when push comes to shove we explain things away. We intellectualize, in an effort to avoid the problem. “It’s not that bad, that I’ve not been recognized for my work.” or “I can deal with my manager until they leave.” or “This might be better to address next year.” You have to be willing to pull up mental stakes, fight inertia and accept that the change requires action. In other words — lay claim to another work life homestead.
  • Accept you’ll make waves. Calm is good — until it isn’t. There is always some fear attached to striving for something better. You have to help yourself deal with the approach/avoidance gradient. That activity that headlines your Category B? You have to take a stand and make it go away. That won’t come without a little bit of stress. Gather the resolve to either campaign for its execution — or propose a new and exciting rendition that you’d like to be a part of. Why? Because how you feel after the fact will be worth the trouble. Try to envision how that would look.
  • Pick the right battle. Not all As, Bs and Cs are alike. Consider Category C. There are huge annoyances (an office location where people tend to stop in to chat) and there are deal-breakers (no time to engage in “deep work”). Similarly for Category A, there are “nice to have” elements, and those that would transform your work life. Be sure to note the difference, before you make a decision to act.
  • Psychological Capital. Always consider the end state if you decide to do nothing. Issues at work drain us. When we don’t address these issues, it can be damaging on a level that we do not recognize. Our psychological resources begin to wither. Think of the HERO acronym: Hope — Efficacy — Resilience — and Optimism. What might suffer if you do not act?

Side note: Here (as promised) is my list of A’s, B’s & C’s. I’m sure you can offer advice on how I should proceed.

Category A. Things I love: Reading research concerning work/career. Delving into a data set for the first time (with no interruption). Writing about insights/observations. Offering an “aha” moment about work or career.
Category B. Things I’m neutral about: Running analyses. Developing presentations. Deadlines.
Category C. Things I detest: Not getting paid for my time, because curiosity got the better of me. Flying. Meetings that lead to absolutely nothing. Speaking last at an event.

What did you resolve to change career-wise in 2018? Are you making progress?

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.


Moving On From a Negative Narrative That Just Isn’t You


“Letting go means to come to the realization that some people are part of your history, but not your destiny.”  — Steve Maraboli

The people that surround us affect our lives. Our managers, colleagues and clients — all help to create the supporting stage in which we find ourselves. When facing tense workplace situations, such as a misstep or difference in opinion, the eventual outcome can become an important inflection point. When a narrative emerges among these vital players that doesn’t reflect the real you, the situation can quickly become troubling.

If possible discuss the situation openly. Explore what might led to that point and if the situation can be saved. (This allows us to move past the impasse.) Be clear that the situation isn’t acceptable, that it is uncomfortable. Provide information to counter the confusion,

However, if you suspect that the poorly deemed decision or opinion has begun to negatively define you and cannot be revised — it may be time to reconsider your surroundings. When a negative narrative is written that appears set in stone, it can become an unhealthy place.

Ultimately, you should be surrounded by those who see the best in you (and you in them).

If necessary, explore a new stage that fits.

A narrative shouldn’t define you — unless it is your own.

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.