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

Extreme close-up of a young woman wearing eyeglasses

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

CartBefore theHorse

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.

Perfection Isn’t Perfect at Work: Here’s Why

Notepad And Crumpled Paper Balls

Most of us view success myopically.

It is a common bias.

We often view the end result (a successful book, project or product) — and hold misconceptions that the path to that end was without flaw.

However, most paths are ripe with snags and changes in direction.

They are imperfect. So are the people that forge those paths.

If we all could accept our own imperfect paths (and lose the expectation to become perfect), we’d likely approach our careers differently. We’d possibly accept more risk — or enter uncharted territory more often. However, we are often more critical (and unforgiving) when we consider our own mistakes.

If you’ve been told you are a “perfectionist”(or suspect this trait)  — you’ve likely experienced this and more. You may push yourself too hard, offer yourself scathing reviews when errors occur and fret at the notion of being evaluated. These scenarios can become wrought with frustration. (Perfectionism can have deep roots. If you feel you the need for clinical help, please seek out a trusted therapist).

Here are a few questions and answers concerning perfectionism applied to our work lives.

Is perfectionism affecting my work negatively? You would know better than anyone if perfectionism is getting in the way — and the signs can be lost in our everyday lives. If you’ve become overly risk-adverse because of the fear of an error or being evaluated — or you frequently experience “analysis paralysis”, it may be time to tackle this head on. Just know that working to achieve task perfection is a little like repeating yourself in conversation. Nothing new is added to the mix. Try to move on and test your results of recommendations to break the ice.

Is there a pattern? Often we have certain “triggers” that bring on perfectionistic behaviors. Some of us feel perfectionism creeping in when we are embarking on a new path or challenge. Others when we might be compared to others. Be aware of your unique responses and attempt to intervene.

Is perfectionism related to procrastination? You bet. When we put things off to avoid being judged or evaluated, they live side by side. This can lead to even more frustration.

Can it hold me back? That depends — and trust in your environment plays a strong role in this dynamic. For example, if you never share a promising idea because it is not perfected, you (and your team) could be missing out on key opportunities. The experts on creativity at Pixar encourage their employees to share ideas much sooner in the creative process and this can lead to feeling uncomfortable. But this also allows contributors to build on ideas together. Attempt (within reason) to share what you have to offer. Start small and don’t use perfection as the lever.

Can I get it under control? The answer is yes. However, be patient with your progress — as old workplace habits often die a long protracted death. Learning to accept some level of failure is likely a part of this process. (Perfectionism can be stubborn and toxic.) Be mindful of irrational fears and try stop the cycle when you see it begin to spin. Learning to let go of the reigns can be challenge — and you must be kind to yourself if you hit a dead-end.

I always think of Sandra Bullock and her very public “fail”in 2010. She might have hidden from her public embarrassment, when she won the infamous “Razzie”for her work in All About Steve. (The same year she won the Best Actress Oscar for The Blind Side.) Instead she chose to approach her imperfect performance with levity and humor. Somehow she drew upon her past successes for courage. (I don’t think I could have mustered the courage).

Her Razzie award acceptance speech was a defining moment in self-acceptance. (See it here).

I’d say that was a winning strategy.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.

It’s No Secret: Here’s Why Organizations Lose Their Best People

Businesswoman Awkwardly Bending over Yellow Counter

I’ve written previously concerning why people and organizations struggle to change. When we miss opportunities to do so — we fail to unlock an enormous amount of potential. Organizations also stand to lose talent along the way.

There is one enduring theme that must be acknowledged and added to the conversation. Organizations are made up of human beings. As human beings, we often struggle to let go of old frameworks. Companies dealing with persistent people problems such as low engagement, depleted morale or rising turnover — also struggle to make progress — and there is a clear reason why this is the case.

Let me elaborate.

If there is a single, worrisome story that I observe it is the following:

Company finds great thing. Company begins to rest on its laurels concerning great thing. Company neglects great thing. Company eventually loses great thing. Company begins to decline.

Sadly we are not talking about customers or products — this story is about people. (Please know that I do not view people as “things”.)

We need to grasp that lamenting declining people-centric metrics will not solve people-centric problems. Identifying sub-groups of contributors in the gravest danger of jumping ship — is not the answer. Quantifying the high cost of turnover, is not the answer. (See a great discussion addressing employee engagement here.)

The answer lies in action.

The advice is simple.

Invest in people.

Invest in their experiences (from on-boarding to departure).

Invest in their aspirations.

Invest in conversations.

Invest in their development.

Invest in their managers.

Invest in their observations.

Invest in their ideas.

Invest in their concerns.

Invest in their successes.

In many cases, the most powerful solution is taking that first step.

Start now. Start small. I encourage you do so.

Has your organization recently taken that first (or second) step? Please share your strategies in comments.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial & Organizational Psychologist. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared at The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum

Leaving Space For the Potential You

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“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw

Career exploration really begins within our own imaginations — well before we utter a single word or visit a job board. We consider where we currently find ourselves and where we’d like to go, trying on jobs and titles and experiences in the process.

It’s a very quick exercise within our mind’s eye. However, it is a vital step in the career growth dynamic.

How we visualize ourselves in the future matters.

I happened to be reading about mindfulness yesterday, particularly discussions about carving out space between a stimulus that we encounter and our reaction to it. (See a discussion of the one-second rule here.) Research has revealed that taking a moment to suspend making a decision, forming an opinion or choosing a behavior, can have a significant impact upon our work lives.

That has me thinking about our initial responses as we consider our own abilities or potential.

Conventional thinking tells us that all human beings seek pleasure and avoid pain. Yet research has shown that our own regulatory focus — or the way we typically approach risk plays a role. (Some of us are more naturally promotion focused and embrace more risk; others choose a safer path and are more naturally prevention focused).

So, do you dismiss yourself too quickly? Pass over a path that may be fruitful long-term because of the risk or disruption involved? Do you have moments where you consider ourselves in a non-reactive way?

Does a prevention focus hold you back? (Read more about that here.)

We can’t build careers if we don’t fully consider all of the possibilities. Yes, there are risks. But, we can be aware of our reactions to those risks and manage the associated fear.

If you respond with an immediate “nay” when contemplating a pivot or challenge, be mindful of your own natural tendency in that regard. When you pause at that window of possibility — envision yourself succeeding, not drowning — and see what that brings. Keep your desire to prevent failure in check.

I challenge you to hold on to the possibilities just a bit longer.

See what you do next.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.