Your Job is a Poor Fit: What to Do While You Wait For a Better Opportunity

Businesswoman Awkwardly Bending over Yellow Counter

Over the years, I have found myself in a number of less than ideal roles. For some reason, I thought that I was alone in this plight. But, I have since realized that this assessment could not be further from the truth. In fact, it is not uncommon to find ourselves in a role or an organization or both — not adequately aligned with our career goals. Indeed, no role is perfect. However, what if it has become crystal clear that the fit just doesn’t seem to be there? (More about 6 signs of a poor fit here.) We can’t simply pick up and leave — and in most cases no one would advise this. So, the looming question then becomes: What should you do while you wait for your next (and hopefully improved) opportunity?

Consider Jamie, an experienced professional who has re-entered the workforce after a few years on the sidelines. The organization she recently joined is not aligned with the experience amassed in her core sector and she is feels incredibly challenged to keep up with the daunting learning curve. She realized that this first step back into full-time work wasn’t going to be perfect a fit. However, the on-going daily stress is challenging her resolve to stick things out for the longer haul. She knows this step is crucial, but feels she is quickly fading.

Of course, a poor fit isn’t reserved for seasoned professionals.

Jessica, a recent university graduate, entered the world of work with high expectations concerning what she might accomplish in her first year on the job. Active in clubs and organizations related to both her training and intended path, she enjoyed a high level of both autonomy and respect. However, in the real world of work — she is faced with the challenge of proving herself once again. Her manager clearly isn’t open to new ideas from a less established employee and she is struggling to even gain meeting invites. Frustrated and dejected, she toys with the idea of moving on to greener pastures.

Both situations are common — and potentially devastating. Having a heart-to-heart with yourself is often number one on the agenda. Often you must embrace the fact that this happens to many and does eventually resolve. Learning from the situation can offer strategies going forward.

Jill Katz Founder & CHRO at Assemble HR Consulting, shares this advice: “You would be surprised how often people feel stuck in their own role”. Jill who has led HR for several brands, including Macy’s and Calvin Klein continues, ” As we move into a world where personal and professional goals are blending — it is more important to get in touch with what we want — how to get it and how to manage the interim. One critical strategy is to be highly candid with a direct supervisor during the interview process and every week thereafter, to ensure the communication is fluid and open. More than not, these frustrations correlate with this process not occurring.”

In most cases, a combination of strategies can help us move forward effectively.
Here are a few to consider:

  • Get real. Expectations can be a real bear to deal with, especially when you’ve over-extended an idealized vision of the near future. If you’ve realized that you miscalculated a role’s potential or there were promises made that couldn’t possibly be met, you may find that a “come to reality” discussion with yourself may be in order. Clarify what you can — and cannot — accomplish career-wise in this role and emphasize the positives. Look for “smalls wins” that will feed your workplace soul.
  • Chill & give it time. Being impetuous is not a great virtue within the broader context of a career plan. If you are new to a role or organization, for example, give things at least 3-4 months to establish. This allows time to gain an understanding about the ways things work and for your manager and colleagues to learn your strengths. A career is not like microwaveable popcorn — things take time. If you’ve been with an organization for a time, you know how things can change and things can resolve for the better.
  • Look for an inspiring project. Organization work on many fronts. Seek a project with an inspiring mission, that might help build your connection to the organization and those within it. Staying 100% engrossed in work you do not connect with, is a miserable experience.
  • Glean what you can. If you can’t move into the right role, make a commitment to learn something valuable. You could seek inspiring individuals that might contribute to your development. For example, there could be a colleague well-versed in a skill of knowledge realm, that would be advantageous to your career.
  • Take the time to focus on people. Jill point out that, “Regardless of the subject matter, building relationships will always help to drive a career forward. In moments of stand-still, maximize relationships, get to know others on a more human level by offering time and assistance. This will pay off in the end when new teams are formed and new opportunities become open in the future.” These formed bonds could carry you through a difficult impasse.
  • If all else fails, consider short-term “survival” goals. If you find yourself barely hanging on, setting shorter-term goals can help. If overwhelmed or have lost your patience, focus on getting through the week. Then the next week. Thinking longer-term may be counter-productive.

Being in a less than perfect role, doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot continue to move forward. It simply means that you must change the lens — and utilize the time in front of you in ways that you may have not previously expected.

Of course, I hope that a better fit is right ahead of 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.


How Letting Go Can Help Your Work Life

Photo by Cezanne Ali on Unsplash

Many of us are challenged to let go of expectations within our our work lives. We might bemoan the collaborations that didn’t prove fertile or the client that got away. We are taught in no uncertain terms, to “stick with things” and to not “give up”. But, I’ve also seen this strategy backfire and cause a great deal of stress. As a coach, I’ve see this affect many types of contributors, from those new to the workforce — to seasoned CEOs and business owners. On some level, the unfulfilled expectations that we set for ourselves concerning goals and even people, can get in the way of a more fulfilling work life.

Inevitably, the elements that we value the most, can cause us the most trouble.

Big, audacious goals are often touted as a cornerstone of our work lives, on literally every social media channel you may encounter. (Some advice here, on how to set them wisely for your team.) We are encouraged not only to set goals, but to live them with each and every breath we draw. I’m good with goals and we all need them. However, just like the battery that feeds our favorite tech device — goals have a “life span”. They reach a state, where they may no longer be viable or serve as a meaningful motivator. How this affects our state of mind is something we should pause and note.

People also cycle into our work lives and then leave us, in many cases for good reason. There are expectations attached, as well — and not all of these might be fulfilled. We (or they) might have changed somehow or circumstances influenced that outcome. However, this can also cause us distress. Sometimes our time with them may be drawing to a close and it is difficult to accept. We may simply not be ready to move on, or what we wanted from the relationship has not come to pass.

This all requires energy and “headspace”. Yet, our attention cannot be infinitely divided. Research has shown that our minds burns through 20% of our energy requirements — though it represents only 2% of body mass. Even at rest our brains remain quite active, and the quest for coveted energy is endless. Our minds are continually working. In a sense, wasting that precious energy, is squandering our own potential. Especially when it is in part, of our own making. Most of us have experienced an impasse where we must consider leaving something behind. We may feel that the rewards for a time investment will not be realized, or that we somehow we feel drained.

Sometimes we simply must move on — and let go.

How you would describe your own history in this regard? Do you find it easy to let go? Or are you challenged to do so? If you lean toward the stubborn and notably inflexible end of the continuum, the process can be arduous. Although tenacity can come in quite handy at times, problems emerge when we fail to revise an inflexible stance. However, all of this hanging on doesn’t always serve us well. It can bring a fog that clouds new opportunities and can fuel bitterness. Nevertheless, turning away and leaving these things behind can be challenging. (For some, this can even bring a certain sadness.)

Letting go of people and things that define yesterday, can be quite good thing. This process requires reflection and practice. On a very basic level, we must change our mindset about letting go.

Here are a few thoughts (IMHO) concerning what letting go is and isn’t:

  • Letting go isn’t a defeat.
  • It does not signal failure on your part.
  • It may mean you have committed your best effort — and the outcomes/rewards weren’t there.
  • It is closure.
  • It is about shifting your energies to fertile ground.
  • It is about becoming more agile.
  • It can foster resilience.
  • It can build a sense of adventure; restore a certain hope and confidence in the future.
  • It can mark the moment of a new beginning.

In many cases letting go, creates room for pursuits that are far more rewarding — and carve out a place for the goals and people that will help move us forward.

I would say that could soften the blow.

(Please take this post in the spirit with which it was shared — to be helpful.)

Is letting go challenging for you? Have you mastered the art? Share your experiences.

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 Story of Sham: Competition, Failure and Greatness in Second Place

Secretariat & Sham at the 99th Kentucky Derby, 1973

My younger sibling had a rival throughout school. They stood toe to toe in their subjects, perched at the top of their class — while jockeying to earn the respect and attention of their teachers. In the end, it appeared that my sister was deemed a very close second to her academic rival. The long-standing competition was clearly intense (not entirely sure it was healthy) and I’ve never asked my sister about how she viewed the experience. Things worked out in the end, as both attended a prestigious university. But, I’m confident that losing via a close competition was not be comfortable. Second place — can be a very challenging place. (Learn about the new research center at Columbia University examining failure here.)

Most of us would like to believe that with time and practice we might excel and possibly land at the top of the heap. However, both life and work are laden with disappointment, rejection and failure. We might think of the role or promotion that we didn’t quite earn — or the accolade in an area meaningful to us, that went to another. In many situations, a winner emerges and it is not us.

However, the key issue remains: How do we process the vital moments of work and career in which we were not that clear winner?

In that moment, how do we re-group and move forward?

Disappointments such as these, can certainly feel like failure.

Somehow, I can’t help but be reminded of the story of Sham — the incredible horse that had the untimely honor of being born the same year as Secretariat. (His fight to earn even a single leg of the Triple crown in 1973, was incredible). Sham was remarkable in his own right, identified early on as a potential champion. However, that was not meant to be. The reason for that outcome is both heartbreaking — and glorious — at the very same time. This excerpt from the LA Times story by Art Wilson in September of 1993, tells the story beautifully:

A son of Pretense might only naturally be called Sham. Still, it wasn’t a fitting name for this dark, leggy, elegant bay who rode alongside history instead of into it. By the clock, Sham would have won every other Kentucky Derby contested at a mile and a quarter. Through 118 Derbies, Secretariat and Sham remain the only entrants who ever came in under two minutes.

I’m often asked about what to do in the midst of disappointment or failure. My advice always remains the same: Give things time. These situations create a muddled fog concerning our own abilities and potential. When we suffer a setback, we cannot see the possibilities of another path that may lead to another valued, yet to be identified goal — that may prove equally as fulfilling. In my own life, this pops up frequently (in races of consequence and of lesser consequence). It is never easy.

As human beings, we have to deal with the aftermath of that lost race, as only human beings can do — with time, kindness and reflection. We are forced to repair our resolve and lift our spirits. We must rest and dust ourselves off, so to speak. To move along. To build resilience.

However, I must still think of Sham, the horse with heart, that gave it his all and will forever remain #2 — in a year of horse racing that was like none other. I am grateful in some way, that he wasn’t entirely aware of his predicament and what he might have accomplished in another year.

However, no matter the day, he was fierce and true to his own gifts. He came in second to Secretariat with a lasting message about his character. (We should offer that to ourselves.)

In any other given year, he would have been the champion. Yet, he always ran like one — because in his bones he knew, what he had to do.

I love him for that.

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.


We Don’t Always Respect Our Own Strengths. We Need to Change That.

Photo by James Pond on Unsplash


Strengths have endured as a focal point of career growth. Whitney Johnson speaks of our unsung “super-powers”, that can drive both career disruption and growth. Massive training organizations, have arisen to discuss how we might find our strengths. Psychologists speak of how we can augment organizational agility by matching contributor strengths with the needs of a specific role.

We all agree that strengths matter — and that their identification is vital.

However, no amount of press, research, training or persuasion, can help us avoid the wasted energy and missed opportunities that occur because of one simple fact: As individuals, we may not always respect those strengths. The idea deeply resonates with us — however, truly adopting a strength mindset may not follow. (I would venture to say that our behaviors reflect this discrepancy.)

We tend to treat strength alignment, as if it were a luxury item — when in fact it essentially functions like water. A fundamental. A basic. A necessity.

We should attempt to normalize the notion of strengths and strength alignment. We might explore methods to bring them front and center, in our everyday work lives. Few things could sustain us career-wise, with as much power, as the opportunity to identify and apply our strengths. But, inevitably “noise” that presents while seeking to apply that “strength signal”. (For example, consider how we naturally give more weight to a failure or setback, than a success. This dynamic often distracts us from forming meaningful connections about our own performance.)

The bottom line is this: if we do not truly value strengths — we won’t begin the process of advocating for their use.

Weaving the notion of strengths into our conversations about work and work life, should become much more natural. There are opportunities that we often overlook. When have you freely shared with a team member: “You know, you have an incredible ability to do this — let’s be sure you have the opportunity to develop and apply this skill going forward.” Similarly, when is the last time you asked: “What do you see as my strengths? What am I missing that others might see in me? What do I complete decidedly well?” (Need a method to guide this process within your organization? Explore the Reflected Best Self Exercise — the RBS — here and here.)

Now, what happened next? What was done with that information? Did anything change going forward? After we gather the information, that knowledge needs to serve as a guiding force, helping us (and others) through our own career journey. A campaign — so to speak.

Aligning strengths with career won’t happen without a nudge in the right direction. We have to act as though we truly believe in its importance.

On some deep, foundational level, it is up to us to champion the mindset and lead that charge.

Do you utilize a technique that helps others follow their strengths and incorporate them into their work lives? 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.


HR Tech Founder Series: How Zugata is Addressing the Heart of the Performance Management Revolution

Photo by Samuel Scrimshaw on Unsplash

This interview is part of a series of conversations with HR Tech Founders who are solving key people-centered issues within today’s organizations. This interview is with Srinivas Krishnamurti, Founder of Zugata.

The revolution has come to performance management — and feedback is central to that dynamic.

To be quite plain, it is performance management with the goal of actually improving performance — not simply measuring performance. While many platforms will help you collect feedback, Zugata takes it further with a twist. By utilizing algorithms to build a personalized social graph, the platform helps individual contributors gather feedback from those who have a clear view of an their performance.

The twist? No one else has access. It’s designed for the individual. Organizations that utilize Zugata are committed to this philosophy.

Ultimately, the platform helps employees collect feedback, interpret it — and put them on their paths to development through personalized resources based on that feedback data. Creating a culture of growth & development, leads to higher engagement and retention.

Feedback is the natural place to begin.

What is the backstory behind Zugata? What led you and your team to develop the platform?

The idea for Zugata came about through our own frustrating experiences using HR software at previous companies. Honestly, I would only log in to our HR system once a year around annual reviews, but other than that —  never.

“Broadly speaking, most of the HR software is built and optimized for HR teams and not for individuals like you or me.”

The focus wasn’t on helping me be a better employee or a better manager. We wanted to address the needs of employees (vs. HR) and set out to build a platform that helps employees develop and reach their potential. Additionally, we wanted to help companies collect and use data to help them make better decisions about their people and organization.

We noticed that organizations have a wealth of data about their customers, competitors, market trends and even their data centers, to optimize their operations. However, it’s surprising how little data they have on what’s so often referred to as their most valuable asset, their people.


What key features does Zugata bring that have been previously missing in other platforms focused on feedback/performance management?

Firstly, our overall philosophy about performance management is different. Our belief is that performance management must drive an improvement in performance, rather than just measure it. Everything we do percolates from that core mission.

While we do believe that companies need to measure performance to make compensation decisions, we separate this out from all other activities that focus upon performance development. We believe that development is continuous — and not a once or twice a year discussion.

Continuous feedback is critical to guide employees in terms of areas of strength and growth.

“Our AI algorithms automatically identify who you work with — and solicit feedback from the right people on your behalf. We’ve developed a best-practices based approach to offer feedback that is specific, actionable and objective.”

Each employee has his or her own performance dashboard, providing clear visibility into strengths and areas to improve. Another differentiator is that we don’t stop with feedback; we then deliver personalized development resources to each employee based on this data. We’re constantly building out these resources and have partnerships with, Skillshare and The Muse to offer classes and coaches.

Second, Zugata is designed for the modern world of work. For example, as Bersin often discusses, today’s organizations are moving away from the hierarchical organizational charts and moving toward a network of teams. Your manager isn’t always the person you work most closely with. However, most systems depend on the manager to provide developmental feedback to an employee.

Instead, Zugata integrates with the platforms people use to get work done, like your Gmail, Calendar, Exchange, Outlook 365, Slack, Jira, and so on.  We are able to build a personal social graph for each employee based on the metadata in these systems. This means that feedback requests are automatically triggered based on who people are actually working with. We also have an agile goals module and have recently designed team-based goals to support this new organizational model as well.

Third, Zugata also offers intelligent insights concerning organizational performance. In order to create a culture of high-performance, you not only need to help employees improve — you also need to optimize the environment in which they work.

Earlier this year, we launched Zugata Insights, which enables HR leaders to understand their organization in unprecedented ways. We run text-based feedback through a machine learning algorithm, then categorize attributes and phrases being used to describe people within an organization. We can filter these attributes by gender. Companies can start to measure and manage unconscious bias by seeing if men and women are being described differently across the organization. We can also help companies see the top attributes of their top performers, helping them to clearly understand the attributes they reward at their organization and assess how well they line up to their published cultural values

What are the most vital benefits?

Our customers use Zugata to create a culture in which employees have constant and fair opportunities for development. Today’s employees are self-advocates; if you’re not providing them with ongoing skills development and growth opportunities, they will leave. Research shows that by providing better career opportunities for employees, organizations can decrease turnover by 33 percent, saving an organization with 10,000 employees $7.5 million dollars per year. In addition, using Zugata is a step toward creating an inclusive culture. We help companies ensure that all employees are receiving quality feedback and receiving personalized development resources, that evaluations are designed for objectivity, and that and they have the data to measure and manage unconscious bias.

Zugata allows HR leaders to be strategic partners to the business. Historically, HR Tech reporting looks more like activity metrics. Knowing how many managers have submitted evaluations or how many goals are entered into a system does not help HR make strategic decisions.

“We provide data that allows HR leaders to actually understand the organization so that they can use data to make and measure their impact.”

For example, a clear understanding of skills and skills gaps — can inform hiring and training decisions. A list of the attributes you reward can help you evolve your culture. Or, finally, a way to measure unconscious bias can help you get ahead of unconscious bias before the promotion cycle.

What is your long-term vision for the platform? What comes next?

Zugata will continue to invest in adding value through the use of data. For employees, we will help with not only getting better in their current role but also with achieving their career goals and aspirations. For people leaders, we are very much in the first innings of what we could achieve with our Zugata Insights initiative where we leverage NLP, machine learning to help leaders better measure the biases that hold their organizations back. Look for us to invest a lot there in the future.

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.

We Talk About Engagement. We Talk About Turnover. Why Can’t We Talk About This?

Photo by Barrie Johnson on Unsplash

Please note: This post first appeared at Linkedin

In this ever-changing world of work & organizations — I’m going to go out on a proverbial limb and vote for stability.

Not the type of stability that shoots you in the foot and has the potential to signal an organizational downfall (resting on laurels, complacency, lack of customer connection). I’m speaking of the kind of internal stability that allows your organization’s engines to really rev and take flight. The kind of security borne of trust and understanding.

It lives within the organization’s cultural core.

The idea may sound a bit esoteric and difficult to grasp. Never the less, discussing its presence is vital. It is essential because great employees do not simply leave bad bosses — they run, when possible, from an unhealthy culture. We have wrung our hands over various constructs that swirl around that core; engagement; turnover; commitment; loyalty. However, if we do not first take aim to affect our cultural core, forward progress is stymied.

There is a level of stability necessary for organizations — and the people within them — to thrive. We must address this.

Communication = Energy

One thing remains salient (at least from my perspective). You can’t positively affect your organization’s cultural core without bringing your team along. There has to be trust. There must be communication. There has to be the recognition that your people are your organization.

How your traditions, mores and accepted processes affect them is critical. These collectively form your culture.

People provide the energy to start the organizational engines. If the mission of your organization is misunderstood or mistranslated, your cultural core — so to speak — is weakened. Sometimes we simply forget people and we run ahead without them. We forget to ask if they are still “with us”. Or they were never on board to begin with. Same difference. We all lose.

We didn’t even bother to ask. Shame on us. We then must circle back with great haste.

Creating Safety

This kind of stability demands open conversations about how the work is done, the goals and the direction we are traveling. It requires a conversation about growth and career. It also requires planning for the future (competency-wise) — even if that future is a tad fuzzy.

I would hypothesize that for the period time before great success or innovation, the organization was likely stable in some sense at the core — and this provides a sense of safety (ethical leadership, strong teams, adequate resources, etc.) It may seem that successes are borne from one Eureka moment — but there was likely a safe core there. People fully understood they were “culturally” safe and they were free to seek excellence. Even with the whirlwind of activity around them in the external environment, that built stability was present.

Here are 6 elements to keep in mind when building out the core of your team or organization:

  • Examine competencies. It’s really nonsense that the notion of competencies is dead for organizations. What’s dead is the idea that these areas of focus remain stagnant. What’s also dead it that we should use these as “hammers” to drive performance. Instead they should reflect the strategy of an organization and translate into meaningful behaviors.
  • Build trust. Trust comes in many varieties and it needs to be attended to. Trust in leadership, communication and the potential to succeed — should be considered.
  • Temper key risks. How your employees view and process risk is an interesting cultural litmus test. When thinking of doing something remarkable or different, what goes through their minds? Excitement? Fear? Obstacles? This dynamic can limit an organizations ability to remain innovative.
  • Examine growth. Does your culture allow your employees to grow and reach across functional lines — or does it force contributors to protect their turf? Does your culture reward team players who help others thrive? Moreover, are ideas protected?
  • Conversations are king. You cannot align your team without exploring how they feel about their own aspirations and the environment in which they work. This starts with your core team and cascades throughout the organization.
  • Metrics. Strengthening your core requires an organization to include a robust set of metrics. Many will be new markers of success. (Remember Marshall Goldsmith’s quote: “What got who here, won’t get you there”.) This also requires you to examine the drivers of those measures honestly.

From your perspective, how does an organization’s core affect work life? Share that 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.

We Need to Pay More Attention to Career Paths

Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

Most of us join an organization with the intention to progress career-wise. Finding an employer who will help us develop our skill set, discover motivating paths and avoid stagnation is vital. Yet, even in this day and age — these qualities can prove elusive. Our managers simply don’t have the time to help us sort it out and the information available internally can be spotty, unclear or inaccurate. To be truthful, the deficit to explore our future path begins early in the job search process, where the information provided with which to make career decisions is sorely lacking. This information deficit can continue, when employees struggle to find information to inform their career journey.

Ultimately, both engagement and retention suffer.

This problem is multi-faceted. But, there are two sides I’d like to consider here: 1) The information shared during the recruitment phase and 2) the quantity and quality of information available to current employees seeking internal growth paths.

Sadly, there exists a “lop-sided” emphasis on talent acquisition vs. career development. (Yes, recruitment is an integral element of the talent pipeline, which I respect.) Admittedly, this has much to do with the inherent difficulty of capturing the complexity of roles within organizations, describing them accurately and securing the right mechanisms to communicate that information. As a result, employees often (as a last option) seek a change organizations to reach their career development goals. Moreover, because recruitment channels receive the lion’s share of attention — managers seeking talent within their own organization might acquiesce and fill the role from the outside.

This sets up new problems on both sides of the exchange. Firstly, built knowledge about both the organization and the work at hand walks out the door with the established employee. Secondly, employees must again play the role of the newcomer and all that brings — wasting precious time mastering a new culture and its own contextual concerns. (I am ever hopeful that HR tech will begin solve these problem for us. Listen to a discussion concerning implementation of the Fuel50 platform at Ingersoll Rand here.)

Some of the informational issues could at least partially impacted during recruitment — where the information provided concerning roles, triggers early decisions about the job-candidate “match”. There has been progress in recent years to abstain from job descriptions that are simply a long lists of needed skills, responsibilities and requirements. However, there is one category of information that may be rarely shared — but could offer a wealth of information to potential job candidates. This is information concerning career paths of those that went before them. If shared in some way candidates could at least envision how they might develop professionally if they committed to a longer-term tenure.

As an illustration of this issues discussed here, I’ve just read another article about strategies to attract talent, with the word “lure” in the title. This article provided useful information — but somehow utilizing the word “lure” in reference to a job candidate defeats the purpose. We should set out to attract contributors in a transparent and informative manner. This involves putting the right information out there, so that effective decisions are made. For example, the “context” concerning a role does matter. How will you actually apply a specific skill set? What outcomes will you working toward? (See a great video from Ruutly about this very topic here).

In summation, we need work together and solve these information gaps. If we are to tackle the engagement crisis, we need to look beyond the initial role that an individual holds and look ahead. This inevitably involves how we describe and communicate internal opportunities that will comprise their  “future”.

Yes, all of this requires much more thought and devoted resources.

Yes, this would require organizations to adequately describe roles internally and keep track of contributors’ paths.

Yes, this involves paying greater attention to “internal recruitment” within organizations.

Yes, this would involve an even greater level of transparency.

However, collecting and communicating more information concerning where starting point “A” might lead during organizational tenure, could not only attract future employees — but keep a few more great people down the line.

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.


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. These organizations were filled with remarkable people, who had nurtured deep ties with the community and intended on leaving a lasting, positive impact.

After spending time with both leadership teams and contributors, I quickly realized that their challenges were a microcosm of what might occur in larger companies. There was far less “noise” bureaucratically, so to speak, and the challenges were much easier to identify. However, the consequences of inaction would be equally as devastating and would mover at a much faster pace.

Most were already 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 continue to grow.

But, regardless of the industry, there was a certain similarity in their predicament — and the thread that connected them was growth. Rather, how these organizations were 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

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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:

  • 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.