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 appear to be jumping too far ahead. In a way, we forget ourselves — that we are first human beings. Simply put, there are certain elements within work life which 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 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 topic. While we glamorize new and dynamic aspects of work life, we have effectively sidelined the beauty of a solid foundation. However, the evidence of a the need for stability exists. (Think of the work of Edmondson or Luthans).

In other 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 and the gaping hole it leaves in its wake 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.

2 thoughts on “The Stability Paradox

  1. Hi Marla,

    Thanks for the article! I was just wondering what you refer to when you say “engagement” as a metric? Would this be something like… Sales? Or… How much an employee engages with their day-to-day job? I think I have a rough idea, but wanted to see if I could understand better.

    Thank you,



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