Keeping Up With the Joneses

Business, depression, HR, L&D, Leadership, mental health, Perfectionism, Uncategorized, values, workplace

I don’t think we’re honest enough in business, or in life but this blog is about work. We’re all so caught up with keeping up with the Joneses or in saving face but what does that actually help? 

There is, of course, a need to remain ‘professional’ whatever that means, and we also need to ensure we don’t overshare and make people uncomfortable. Like, ‘here comes Tina into the tearoom about to tell us in graphic detail about her IBS’ – no thanks, Tina. 

What I mean by saving face or keeping up with the Joneses is this desire to portray absolutely everything about our jobs, or our businesses as perfect. Again, I’m not saying to be a moaning Myrtle about things but why not be at least realistic. It surely can’t be good for you to pretend everything is perfect when it isn’t.

Here is a typical example:

‘How’s business, Joan?’ Asked Lee. 

‘Oh brilliant, I am just so busy!’ Says Joan.

*Little does Lee know, Joan hasn’t had paid work in months and isn’t sure how she’s going to pay her mortgage.*

Ok so that’s a little extreme but the point remains that saving face to this extent just cannot be healthy for Joan. Also, maybe if Joan admitted to Lee that things had been slow for her recently he might be able to help in some way. Of course context and their relationship makes a difference but please, lets try and be more honest. Is it any wonder so many people are struggling with low self-esteem, anxiety and depression when they potentially feel like the only person that they know who isn’t succeeding? Social media is rife for this as many have pointed out, seeing the idealised version of people’s lives, their utopic workplaces and stepford families is enough to make anyone feel inferior. 

Don’t let it get you down though, you’re not the only one struggling as much as it might seem that way sometimes. Maybe if you’re more honest with your friends, family and co-workers, you’ll find that they do the same and we can all start having real conversations, and helping and supporting each other. 

I know that it might seem scary and pretending you’re fine is a hard habit to break, it is the British way after all, stiff upper lip and all that. 

With that in mind, I’ll start; I’ve just gone independent and I’m scared. 

Yes, I’m excited but I’m also nervous. I’ve gone from knowing I’ll be paid on the same day every month to hoping I have a good enough reputation and network to ensure that I’ve got regular work. I’m fortunate though, as I know I have a great support network of people who I can be real with, who I can ask for help from, and who can be relied upon to celebrate with me or commiserate with me. 

Try opening up. Don’t accidentally (or otherwise) make people feel like the only ones that are living less than perfect lives. 

I’d love to know your thoughts. 

Love. Family. 

Africa, Charity, HR, L&D, Leadership, Perfectionism, teamwork, Uncategorized, values, Volunteer

    I’m en route to Dubai and from there to Kampala as I write this blog. Those of you who regularly follow my blogs you’ll know that I’m on my way to volunteer with homeless children and to train/ coach shelter staff with Retrak charity and other likeminded HR/ L&D volunteers. I’m with the Manchester lot on this flight, and those flying from London will meet us in Dubai. 

    It’s hard to describe the full spectrum of emotions we’re all experiencing on this flight. We’re excited, nervous, emotional and in many ways this still feels very surreal. 

    It’s been a long fundraising journey for all of us and between us we’ve raised nearly £19k to help improve the lives of homeless children and hopefully to find them loving and supporting homes and families. I can’t imagine being where I am today without the support of my family, they’re my support and my inspiration (that’s us, the Cowells in the featured pic!). 

    To raise money I’ve done a 6 hour sponsored spinathon, a car boot sale, a pub quiz, numerous raffles and my parents have bullied everyone they’ve bumped into, in to donating. The other guys have done all sorts – 10k runs, sponsored walks, fashion shows – you name it and they’ve done it. 

    I must say though that I also feel guilty – I feel like I could be bringing more money, or more items for the children, or have in some way got the word out about this fantastic charity in a greater way. I feel nervous. I’ve put myself forward to be chief sports coordinator (self appointed title) and I’m planning on running around with the kids, playing football, basketball, organising a sports day – anything! What if the kids don’t like me? What if I can’t control my emotions and I allow myself to be overwhelmed? 

    That is, of course, my typical perfectionistic response to any situation (I could have done better and what if I don’t perform as well as I should?). However, despite these anxieties I know I’m going to leave Kampala feeling proud. I know in my heart I’ve tried my best and will continue to try my best and the rational part of my brain knows that, that is all anyone can reasonably ask of themselves. 
    I also want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have donated, supported and cared. I feel truly overwhelmed by your love and kindness. 

    Thank you. 

    Play “The Game” or be Disruptive?

    Business, Disruptive, HR, L&D, Leadership, Management, Perfectionism, teamwork, Uncategorized, values, workplace

    chess

    Hmmm what to do?

    We all know that the reality of any workplace is that if you’re not liked (by decision makers) then you’re going nowhere fast. So, to an extent, we have to play “the game”. What’s “the game” I hear you ask? Its making sure that the right people like you, it’s showing that you’re dedicated and willing to do more than pretty much anyone else, its supporting decision makers and ensuring that you appear to be the logical if not the only choice for any upcoming promotions or development opportunities. Well that’s all very well and good and I’ve certainly done my fair share of playing “the game” but sometimes shit needs to be said.

    Ask anyone who has ever worked with me and they will tell you that I’ve got a fair few opinions, a lot of ideas, and I tend to speak my mind. So, the question is, can you play “the game” AND be disruptive?

    By disruptive I mean not sitting back and letting bad decisions be made without offering your insight. Quite often you’re words of wisdom will not be acted upon (depending on your position and organisational culture) but you’ll at least have the satisfaction of know that when things do go wrong, it isn’t through lack of you trying to intervene. You did your best.

    Sadly, sometimes in the workplace people will resent you for offering your opinion, even when you’re right (especially when you’re right). You’re going to have to make the decision as to if it’s worth giving it anyway. Only you can make that decision.

    In my case, I will always do more than is needed or even expected. I’m flexible and willing to get the job done no matter what. That’s not because of “the game”, though – that’s through pride (and being brought up proper!). I take pride in being excellent at any role I take on, whether or not I feel rewarded by the company, that’s just how I am (see my blog on my perfectionism for more about weird old me).

    In my opinion, and its just my opinion of course, sometimes its worth getting into a bit of hot water with the boss to say what needs to be said. If you’re anything like me, this is for your own wellbeing more than anything else. I can’t stand to watch people make bad decisions especially when I’ve already made them (and I’ve made plenty). Thankfully I work in a role where I’m considered to be an expert (!), and I am fortunate enough that my advice is more often than not welcomed, after all, its what you’re paying me for. The skill, of course, is in guiding people towards a path of insight rather than dragging them there and the same is true for inside of your organisation too (it’s a skill that’s not just for clients!).

    It’s a tough balancing act, getting ahead at work without compromising yourself in some way. Especially when you’re at the start of your career.

    For those of you looking for advice I would say this:

    Take pride in a job well done, let that be it’s own thanks; if you don’t feel proud of your work, it’s probably time to do something else. Sometimes you’ve got to suck it up and crack on in the world of work. Use your knowledge, expertise and experience to say what needs to be said. If they don’t take your advice, take it on the chin, dust yourself off and keep doing what you’re doing.

    What do you think?

    In Pursuit of Perfect

    Business, depression, L&D, Leadership, Management, mental health, Perfectionism, Uncategorized, workplace

    Why is perfectionism a problem?

    You hear a lot of people talking about perfectionism along the lines of – “well its my high standards and hard work that has got me where I am today”. Well, yeah sure, to an extent. But perfectionism by its very definition is unrealistic:

     

    Perfectionism blog image

     

    So what’s the problem with perfectionism?

    Perfectionism is associated with a range of psychological problems, including depression, generalized anxiety and worry, social anxiety and shyness, obsessive-compulsive problems, anger difficulties and issues related to body image and eating

    (M.M. Antony & R.P. Swinson 2000: 29).

    Yes, yes and yes to pretty much all of that other than I’m not shy.

    How do you know if you’re a perfectionist? Well here is a story from my life for you, see if it sounds at all familiar:

    Back when I used to play netball (before retiring from injury) one evening my team was playing to win both the league and the cup. We won one and lost the other. That night I was so livid and so upset that we didn’t win both that I actually threw up, and I couldn’t sleep. I was just replaying in my mind what I could have done differently, what my team could have done differently. My housemate at the time couldn’t understand why I wasn’t chuffed that we won the league – and, of course, she had a point but I couldn’t see it. My achievement was entirely overshadowed by the loss and it made me sick. I have so many stories such as this from my life that I could relay to you.

    So, in a nutshell, that’s the problem. Its the same whether its sports, business or your relationships – you can’t celebrate your successes, you’re never satisfied because you always could have done better. In this area I see such a strong correlation between sports and business, just as I do around all kinds of leadership theory, teamwork, motivation and resilience; more blogs to follow on that.

    Not only is perfectionism tough on you, but it’s tough on almost everyone else around you too. They have to see you struggling to achieve utterly unrealistic goals, and quite often they’re held up to the same ridiculous standards. A great example of early “socially-prescribed” perfectionism was seen in this year’s series of Child Genius – the pressure the parents put on their children to win was too much for any child to take and needless to say tears ensued, “[w]e have to ask ourselves as parents when we’re pushing our children, whose agenda are we running?”. (J.Bluestein 2015: 40) – here, here.

    As Dr Jane Bluestein states:

    Perfectionism is not a good thing. I’ve witnessed (and experienced) its toxic and corrosive effects on our thinking, our bodies, our relationships, our work, and our sense of worth. […} It’s the voice of the inner critic that screams “failure”, “loser”, “fraud”, regardless of the authenticity of our efforts, progress, or success.

    (J.Bluestein 2015: 04)

    So what can you do about perfectionism?

    Firstly you have to recognise your perfectionistic tendencies. It often helps to have a good friend to point this out to you – is that a realistic goal? Are your current emotions reasonable by someone else’s standards? Helpful questions to ask yourself.

    You’ve got to know which areas of your life your perfectionism is at its peak. For me it is sports, any kind of competition and my career. For you it might be your children, or your relationships, your artwork – it can affect almost any area of your life.

    Check yourself, don’t allow yourself to have that endless negative self-talk – “I could have done it this way and then maybe it would have been better” OR “why didn’t I do it like that?”. Don’t berate yourself, try and keep perspective and always, always celebrate your successes (and if you’re a leader, the successes of your team!).

    Be mindful!

    Be kind to yourself and remember that comparing yourself to others is very rarely helpful, relevant or realistic. Practice self-care, it is so incredibly important, although, arguably, one of the hardest goals to achieve for many of us (myself included).

    As always I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Any comments of feedback would be greatly appreciated.

    For further reading:

    Never Good Enough: How to Use Perfectionism to Your Advantage without Letting It Ruin Your Life by M.R. Basco (Simon & Schuster)

    Overcoming Perfectionism by Jenny Gould (Ventus Publishing ApS)

    Perfectionism: What’s Bad about Being Too Good? By M. Adderholdt-Elliott, M. Elliott, & J. Goldberg (Monarch Books)

    The Perfection Deception: Why Trying to Be Perfect Is Sabotaging Your Relationships, Making You Sick, and Holding Your Happiness Hostage by J. Bluestein (Health Communications Inc.).

    When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough: Strategies for Coping with Perfectionism by M. M. Antony & R. P. Swinson (New Harbinger Publications)