Gallup recently published a report from a global survey on the state of the world’s workforce.
According to the study, 60% of those surveyed are emotionally detached at work and 19% are totally dissatisfied.
Not surprisingly, we hear so many people complaining about work that it seems the percentages are quite low.
According to the report, 59% of people who responded said they felt stressed the day before; 56% felt anxious; 33% felt physical pain the day before they even answered the questions; 31% felt angry.
How do we relate to work? What does work mean? The Oxford Dictionary defines work as “a mental activity or physical effort made to achieve a result or attain a goal.” Physical or mental efforts to achieve some result generally involve stress, worry, even some physical discomfort.
What creates the greatest lack of satisfaction is unfair treatment at work, then too many tasks to complete, unclear communication from managers, lack of support and too much time pressure.
Somehow, the hell is in the manager. Nothing new, I would dare say, for as long as I can remember, the blame for the unhappiness of many employees is the boss/boss.
In the last couple of years, however, everything seems exacerbated. I was also reading in this report that in 2020 1.9 million people died because of Covid; in 2021 3.5 million died, globally.
To use a metaphor, it seems as if the four horsemen of the Apocalypse have come together: Plague (pandemic), War, Famine (economic crisis, significant decline in purchasing power), and Death. All of these heightened people’s uncertainty, anxiety and fears. And, as if these were not enough, the presence in the workplace of so many different generations, the gaps created by the impact of technology, hybrid working, working where everyone wants, inflation, make the business environment subject to continuous challenges.
What to do? Many, of course, so many that it seems overwhelming. The study urges the development of leaders, of course, they have the power to make decisions, the big impact in organisations. The leader is like the conductor of an orchestra: they think everything through beforehand, form a vision of the desired outcome, set the tone, set the pace for an aria, an entire concert, a project. A dose of action, stress, excitement, is necessary for everything to go well. When this dose is too high, others perceive it even exacerbated, it comes on top of their own fears, worries, anxieties, emotions.
The last few years have taken their toll on both the team and the leaders, however positive, balanced, “mindful” they may be. I’m not saying it’s not working for leaders, quite the opposite. It’s an ongoing endeavour because the world is changing around us, the co-existence of so many different generations demands a high degree of adaptability, cognitive and emotional flexibility, and the leader is well advised to keep up.
L’air du temps, the spirit of these times, demands that leaders have the ability to cope with changing external forces, the ability to identify opportunities, to lead different generations in such a different era. Add to that the ability to initiate and lead the digital transformation of companies, the motivation of employees who are increasingly looking for meaning, purpose beyond themselves in what they do, the ability to manage all stakeholders well, and the integration and use of social media channels intelligently, and you have a picture of the complexity of a leader’s job. And it’s good to do all of this with firmness and gentleness, with strength and grace, with boldness but also with empathy.
Beyond focusing on leaders, I would venture to say that perhaps we should also focus on increasing the assertiveness of each individual. When I say assertiveness I mean the ability to hold an informed viewpoint with calm, empathy and respect. Assertiveness does not mean aggression, it does not mean passivity or manipulation. It means standing our ground, standing up for our views, having the strength to change our minds if the other person makes a good argument. It means assuming that there are two parties in a relationship, that both parties are responsible for the relationship, not just the manager.
It’s very hard to accept that we make mistakes too, that it’s not ok to always say that the others are to blame for what doesn’t suit us. Of course, in the heat of the moment, it seems that only we are right, that others don’t see us, don’t hear us, support us, etc. But when we think cold-minded, it’s good to look from above and do ourselves the favour of looking at ourselves critically, of accepting that maybe we were wrong, we got too worked up, we reacted out of line, without respect for the other, without diplomacy. Only by repositioning ourselves can we make amends, by taking responsibility for our own behaviour, by acting to change something, by putting the interest of the relationship above the overinflated ego.
The manager has more responsibilities beyond thinking about what’s on our minds. Maybe they ask us sometimes, maybe it’s not enough, maybe they don’t know how. But how about we be more honest and assertive too? How about writing to them and telling them that we have some talking points, a, b, c, that we would appreciate finding half an hour to clarify.
In my experience, most of the time major problems arise precisely because we are not assertive, because we make scenarios about what the other person is thinking, we don’t clarify, we let these scenarios grow, always negative, until we don’t want to face the other person. Feeling that we are the main character in the manager’s or anyone else’s life is nothing but a harmful illusion.
Taking responsibility for the relationship, your own decisions, and your life means courage, assertiveness, initiative, confidence, and leadership. Perhaps more #self-leadership would be part of the solution to less discontent, more motivation, and more joie de vivre, whether at the office, at home, or anywhere.