Tag Archives: work

organizational leadership, empowerment and sustainable peace

i am still intrigued by the question of the relationship between work, mental health and peace. it is interesting that this relationship is hardly ever explored, not even the relationship between the workplace and peace. however, here and there i find a little nugget. one of them is giving peace a chance: organizational leadership, empowerment, and sustainable peace by gretchen spreitzer at the university of michigan at ann arbour. here is her finding:

we started the paper with the question – can business organizations contribute to sustainable peace? our initial explorations provide some fledging support for our hypotheses that participative leadership practices and employee empowerment can foster more peaceable conditions. how? in simple terms, we suggest that business organizational leaders can give employees opportunities for voice and empower employees to have more control over their work. from these more participatory work practices, employees will be exposed to some of the key characteristics of peaceful societies. when people get a taste of empowerment at work, they may then seek opportunities for empowerment in civic and political domains. in short, business organizations can develop collective agency so people believe they can intervene in civic and political life as well, leading to more sustainable peace.

the idea that business organizations can be a sort of olive branch for peace rather than just a harbinger of excess and exploitation is attractive. too often, it seems that companies seek to have a positive impact on communities through corporate philanthropy or corporate social responsibility. while these initiatives can be impactful, they are often expensive and can been outside the mission of the firm. this research suggests that business organizations can have a positive influence on peace through their everyday practices around participative leadership and empowerment. while not meant to substitute for more formal philanthropic efforts, this research indicates that business practices affect more than employees and the firms they work for. they can also impact the communities of which they are a part. business organizations can create models of peaceful societies which can ultimately move societies toward more peaceful outcomes. even when financial resources are scarce and impede corporate philanthropy, business organizations can still make a positive impact through participative leadership and empowerment practices. business organizations can do good for peace by creating good business practices. ultimately, it’s a win-win outcome because the business organizations benefit from these progressive management practices while societies benefit from having models for peace.

do you know an organization that embodies these values? have you ever worked in one?

how to create a heaven on earth

aaaah, book reviews. let’s start with the bad parts: how to achieve a heaven on earth is full of conservative christian overtones, quite a few of the articles have a bit of “chicken soup for the soul” feel, and at times i thought i was dealing with an aborted e-book. but there were clearly good intentions behind the book, and if you’re looking at “101 insightful essays from the world’s greatest thinkers, leaders and writers”, you’re bound to come across some good stuff.  for example

changing the game at work by christine barnes

don’t wait for the CEO to build a culture of engagement but begin by creating heaven on earth for your employees now. ask questions such as

  • do you know what’s expected of you at work?
  • do you have the materials you need to do your work?
  • do you have the opportunity to do what you’re best at, every day?
  • in the past seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?

i’m very happy to say that my part time work at mcc gives me all of this. what about you?

maida rogerson, who talks about many mothers

imagine. you’ve just had your first baby. your husband is in a new job and doesn’t have a lot of time for you. you’ve moved away from your extended family. suddenly, there you are, you and your beautiful baby, home, alone. your baby starts to cry, and you’re dead tired and all you want to do is cry yourself, and you have no one to turn to.

the idea behind many mothers is that it takes a community to raise a child well. a great idea, presented with lovely words.

perfectly broken by mark lundholm

i have a chemically challenged anatomy, a drug-resistant soul and a penchant for guessing incorrectly when it comes to the betterment of others. … because i am terminally self-centered, i am spiritually retarted, emotionally invisible, financially irresponsible, socially phobic and almost pathological when it comes to lying. … i have been liberated by the knowledge that my liabiliities as a practicing addict can now become finely tuned assets that allow to deftly navigate the foreign terrain of relationships, employment, success and excellence.

this is a language i understand.

would i buy this book?  probably not, for the above reasons.  but it’s a nice gift idea for someone who likes to be inspired by people who do something, rather than sit around complaining.

motivation, marriage and work relationships

as you can see, i haven’t been a very busy posting beaver lately.  i’ve been watching my energy level and need to put some things on the back burner.  every morning i come up with all kinds of wonderful ideas for blog posts but by the time i find a moment to post something, there’s not much left in the ol’ battery.

but let me just say a few words.  here are some things i’ve been thinking about.  motivation is one.  motivation is something i think about a lot.  how come there are sooo many solutions to problems out there (and more importantly, in here) and we don’t reach for them?  doesn’t that baffle you, too?  “there are more solutions than problems” said one of my clients today.  i totally agree.  what is it that doesn’t let us go for the solutions?  there is a lack of drive, of motivation.  how can that motivation be increased?

i’m also mulling about a 7-part relationship model, comprised of physical, sexual, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social and cultural aspects.  obviously, that goes for romantic relationships.  not entirely sure why i keep insisting on separating the physical and sexual aspects.  will the model hold true for non-romantic relationships as well, say, for friendships?  and why don’t i have a financial aspect?

talking about romantic relationships.  some of you are probably familiar with the work of john gottman, one of the most important researchers in the area of marital relationships (my blogging friend from coffeeyoghurt talks about it here).  i’ve been wondering how to apply his findings to work relationships.  among other thingsm he talks about the “four horsemen” that herald a breakup or at least a major crisis in a marriage – criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.  probably i’m not the first person who’se been wondering this; maybe i’ll have time one of these days to check it out.

so there it is.  a few things to ponder.  hopefully i’ll have something a bit more substantive to say soon.  in the meantime: peace and love to you all!

mental health week: empowerment in the workplace

hawaii: lava tubeyesterday i had a wonderful conversation with dr. matthew b. james about the hawaiian spiritual system of huna. since this is national mental health week and the focus of this year’s mental health week is workplace mental health, i asked him about huna in the workplace.

what is huna?
first of all, what is huna? it appears that huna derives from an ancient art and science of healing and spiritual development. dr. james believes this ancient system to be as old as 35,000 years. it is said to be a part of the original teachings of the peoples of a place which no longer exists. what remains physically of that land are the mountain peaks of the island chain called hawaii. huna is a modern label for certain spiritual and/or energy practices in the islands prior to western influences.

the term huna, i am learning, seems to be connected to something called ho’omana. ho’o means to make. mana means life force, equivalent, for example, to ki. “taken together,” says dr. james, “the word ho’omana means empowerment”.

pono – standing in the light
another important concept appears to be pono. literally, pono means “just beneath the surface”. it also means something like a wonderful form of righteousness: “standing in your own light, you are congruent with who you are”.

the way i am starting to understand this is that ho’omana can be seen as the practice of empowerment – an action towards empowerment – whereas pono is the result of that action.

pono and negative emotions
“when a negative thing occurs, we put it put it in a black bag'”. this black bag absorbs energy – the light of pono – and then prevents a person’s energy from creating what they want.

i was happy to hear that dr. james was quick to point out that there is no need to vilify, deny or suppress so-called negative energies. negative emotions are sometimes really good barometers. the trick is to acknowledge them, do whatever is necessary, and then let them go. problems only arise when we hold on to these “negative” emotions.

when a person holds on to negative emotions, they are pushed out of balance. in ancient hawaiian terms, nothing can be done well unless all three parts of a person, the unihipili, uhane, and aumakua (roughly translated, the subconscious, the conscious, and the superconscious) are in alignment.

and if you hold on to anger for an extended period, it’s bad for your body.

someone who is pono (stands in the light, is empowered) does not hold on to anger. how does that play out in the workplace?

huna and pono in the workplace
first, if you truly dislike your job, quit it. you can’t survive on sitting around thinking happy thoughts all the time. being spiritual doesn’t throw out intelligent thinking. if something is harmful and you keep allowing it to happen, you don’t stand in the light.

and if the workplace is not horrible but has some problems?

here are some ideas.

we don’t make positive decisions when we stand in the negative. try to forgive the person and forgive yourself. this is part of the practice of ho’oponopono, which means literally (or as literally as any translation of hawaiian concepts can get) “to make things right”. it is also often translated as forgiveness.

change your language
in ancient hawaii there was no word for sorry. “‘i’m sorry’ is blunt, and it ends the conversation. it encourages no interaction.” in hawaiian, one would say, “i humbly ask for your forgiveness. i forgive you, too.” this encourages interaction, and turns the exchange into a give and take: you receive, you give. energy or mana flows like an alternating current. we have to make a complete circuit. language follows energy; it acts like energy.

rethink how you communicate
once you change your language, your thinking changes. george naope, a hawaiian elder and master of chanting and hula, says, “think not that all wisdom is in your school”. often we think we know everything but all we know is how it works for us at this moment, not for someone else. george naope says, “i know you are masters, as well, and i respect that. this just happens to be the way i do it.” if you can’t recognize that, you set yourself up for confrontation. realize the other person may be there to teach you just as much as you want to teach them (or simply tell them what to do or think!).

dr. james has a masters in organizational management and does a lot of teaching in that area. the best way to manage is through team building. this closely mirrors ancient approaches to teaching. teachers/managers are not there to tell you what to do, they are there to increase the chance for success of the people they are managing through support, effective delegation and inspiration. most successful companies give their employees a lot of responsibilities.

good managers cultivate their employees’ pono – standing in their on light, accountable, empowered, productive. by empowering others they empower themselves and the organization. huna teaches that if you give someone responsibility, you have to give it to them 100%. you have to let them go through their learning curve.

if something comes up, you just express it. and then together you come to a solution. however, first you must let the other person fully express what went wrong and not say anything until they have completely expressed themselves.

(go here for a glossary or some hawaiian terms and concepts)

(the interesting image of the lava tube is by timothy)

recovering from bad work experiences: after the job offer

welcome to my last instalment of jacob share’s and my conversation on leaving bad work experiences behind. we started this in november and discovered the six stages of recovery from bad work experiences:

we’ve already covered

  1. resign: get the hell out of dodge!
  2. recover: get your bearings before you throw yourself back into the job search
  3. resources: make an inventory of your values, skills, knowledge and experience
  4. research: get the skinny on the people you’re next going to work with
  5. reapply: put yourself on an even foot with the employer
  6. results

so today we’re on to the “results” phase. usually this is:

get a job offer, accept it, phew.

this is how we usually do it, right? but if we’re smart it’s more involved – so involved that i’m thinking that “what happens after you get the job offer” could be a whole different series of posts …

however, i digress.

let me tell you a better sequence than get – accept – phew:

  • negotiate: once you get the offer, don’t say yes right away. this is the time for questions and negotiations: they want you and you are in the power seat. discuss benefits, vacation, work hours, start date and similar topics.
  • time off: when discussing the start date, unless you are totally strapped for money, build in some free time. you just left a difficult job, went through unemployment and a job search – one of the most stressful events in a person’s life – and you need to reward yourself with a day or so where you can take a breather. either take some time off now, before the job starts, or get a day or so right at the beginning of the first few weeks. you can tell your prospective employer that you had already booked day X and it would be difficult for you to reschedule. i’ve never seen an employer refuse that.
  • make a considered decision: unless you are 100% percent sure that you want the job and the chances of regretting it later are minute, give yourself some time. a graceful way of doing that that i have always seen work is saying something like, “thank you, this is marvellous! i have a policy of making important decisions within 24 hours. can i call you tomorrow at 10?” (by the way, that is a good policy!) if you have a feeling that this isn’t the right job, i urge you not to give in to panic and keep on looking.
  • stay alert: once you start your new job, don’t ditch your job search completely. there is a reason why the first 3-6 months are a probationary period. obviously, you won’t continue a full-fledged search – but keep your eyes open.
  • keep that resume fresh: even after the probationary period, never stop updating your resume.

why do this? of course, you want to be prepared. but more than that, doing this will remind you that you are in charge of your job and your job search. with that frame of mind, chances are you’ll never find yourself in a bad employment situation again.

(this post was included in the “i want to change my family tree” carnival) 

recovering from bad work experiences: out on the hunt again

this is another instalment of jacob share’s and my conversation on leaving bad work experiences behind. we started this last month, and pointed out the six stages of recovery from bad work experiences: resign, recover, resources, research, re-apply and results.

we’ve already covered

  • resign (get the hell out of dodge!)
  • recover (get your bearings before you throw yourself back into the job search),
  • resources (make an inventory of your values, skills, knowledge and experience) and
  • research (get the skinny on the people you’re next going to work with)

jacob and one of his guest bloggers, andrew rondeau, have some great advice regarding the “re-apply” phase – that’s when you go out there and look for a new job. a good job. a better job!

don’t forget that the job interview goes both ways – not only do they interview you, you interview them as well. in that interview, don’t be shy to ask smart questions like “when did you last ask for feedback on your management style, and what were the results?”

sounds pretty forward, doesn’t it? but if management style is important to you, why wouldn’t you ask such a question? of course, because you’ve inventoried your resources, you know what’s important to you in a new job, and you’ll craft the questions that will help you find out what you need to know about this organization.

apart from the background research and the job interview, there are many more clues that can give you a sense for your new work environment. pay particular attention to the receptionist: he or she is the organization’s human business card. how friendly, polite, upbeat and bright does he or she appear? again, what are your values? what type of receptionist would you like to have around? if the receptionist isn’t quite to your liking, ask yourself what that says about the organization.

another clue is how you are invited to the job interview. are you being told to show up at a certain time and place, or are you given a choice? what’s your first impression of the voice on the other end of the line? with the exception of large organizations, in most cases, the person you’re talking to will be a potential boss or supervisor. does that person sound like someone you’d like to work with?

do you have any more tips on how to tell whether an organization is good to work for?

(this post was listed in the carnival of healing at reiki digest

blog conversation: dealing with bad work experiences, part 2

yesterday we started a discussion of bad job experiences – part of a blog conversation i’m having with jacob share from the job mob.

so yesterday we set the scene – an awful, awful work environment with a boss or co-workers who make your life miserable.

what can you do about it?

here are the first steps back to career health that i’ve helped some clients take:

phase I – resign

  • if you’re still in that horrible environment and you’ve tried a few things to make it better – get out. if your boss or abusiv coworker walks like a monster, talks like a monster and quacks like a monster – guess what, she’s a monster! (well, probably not – but then you’re not his therapist; it’s not your job to help bring out the angel in that person) get away from the job, even if it’s going to cost you a few weeks’ worth of wages.

phase II – recovery

  • once you’re out of that environment, do whatever you need to do to bring your mental and physical health up to speed. if this takes you a few weeks – so be it. dedicate yourself to it. i’ve seen too many people say, “oh no, i can’t afford to go away for a few days/join a gym/catch up on my sleep because i need to look for another job.” jumping immediately back into the labour pool without replenishing your resources hugely increases your chances at landing yet another bad job.

phase III – resources

  • figure out what your values are, especially your social values. your values are a resource; something that helps you live well. most people who find themselves in difficult work environments don’t use this resource very well. questions are, what role does respect play, and how can you tell you’re respected? what type of personal boundaries do you need? which of your values are non-negotiable?
  • make an inventory of your assets. what skills, experience, knowledge, talents and attitudes do you enjoy using at work? in this phase, it’s really important to focus on that. never mind what you’re not so good at (i bet your old boss was very good at pointing that out) – what are you good at? what makes your heart sing?

let’s hear it from you – have you had bad jobs? did you recover from them? what were your first steps towards a better work environment?

i’m looking forward to what you, gentle readers, have to say about it, as well as jacob’s reply. in future posts, we’ll also talk about the last three phases: research, re-apply and results.

(go here for the next instalment)

blog conversation: dealing with bad work experiences

what was the worst job you’ve ever had? what are ways of surviving that experience – and not just surviving but learning from it and thriving in the next job?

that’s the topic of a blog conversation jacob from the job mob and i will be having in the next little while. jacob started it off in his post recovering from bad work experiences by mentioning a few very unpleasant work situations, for example

  • being yelled at by a receptionist for daring to follow up after sending over a CV
  • told 7 months in advance that i was going to be laid off
  • sitting in a tense meeting listening to one executive berate another one

these experiences leave a bad taste in your mouth, even if they happen only once. i remember once being bullied to tears at a meeting; it took me quite a while to get over that.

angry man

it’s even worse when these things happen on a consistent basis. being yelled at is a good example – i can’t tell you how many clients i’ve had who have told me that their supervisor raised his or her voice at them on a regular basis, like a few times a week.

consistently being asked to carry out a boss’s personal tasks and effectively being treated like a servant seems to be high on the list, too. (i once had a job where i was asked to take out the owner’s poodle. to this day i’m grateful i was fired from that job).

and the list goes on …

staying in these work situations is often like staying in a bad marriage. you try and try and try and it doesn’t get better. best case scenario, you learn to live with it. worst case scenario, you end up traumatized the same way people get traumatized by an abusive spouse. and i’d say that even the best case scenario is still pretty lousy.

how do you deal with the fallout, then? how do you get back your self confidence, enthusiasm and motivation so that you can look for better work, don’t go back to yet another bad experience and enjoy your next position?

we’ll talk about that tomorrow.

(image courtesy of orange_beard)
(this post appears in the carnival of life editing and  the december career and job advice blog carnival)