One of Those Days

February 6, 2015 by
Filed under: Uncategorized 

Have you ever had one of those days where it seems like your best strategy for getting through the day is to abandon anything you might have intended to get done and just wait for the fires to start flaring up?

I’ve heard people describe that as their go-to approach in the workplace. We can live in fear of the phone ringing, dread a call into the boss’ office, hope like hell that the client doesn’t come up with yet another crazy new idea. One of those days can easily become All of Those Days.

Most people can really only commit no more than 75% of their time at work to what we would call productive project work. The rest is disruptions, e-mail, colleagues dropping with a work-related question or to chat about last night’s Game of Thrones episode. Track where your time goes for a few days and I’ll bet that you wish you could commit 75% of your time to real work.

Few of us enjoy the pleasure of doing what we want to do at work, do the things that really resonate with us. Google has been famous for explicitly committing 20% of employee time to work on pet projects. Many people approach the workplace with the attitude that what they really want plays second fiddle to the apparent needs of the project, not appreciating that most of the time these two can be easily aligned.

With the time pressures we face on most projects, we feel forced to make snap decisions, we fail to take the time to appreciate the viewpoints of others. We step on each other’s toes, relationships and team dynamics deteriorate. Turnover increases, and we are constantly working to assimilate new people into the team, still oblivious to the impact of the culture that has accidentally grown in the organization.

Even if we’re in an organization whose mandate is to truly support the needs of their client base, there will be times when we can’t succeed. The client’s first reaction (after all, they live in a world just as chaotic as yours) is to point the finger in your direction, which can easily lead to another cycle of conflict, in this case with the stakeholder that is your entire raison d’être.

Build whatever processes and procedures you like. In the vast majority of cases all of the above situations will still occur. Processes and procedures, particularly when they are established a priori, simply do not accommodate how we personally process the disruptions in the workplace. Some skills can be learned, such as effective time management, that allow us to deal with the onslaught of what comes our way, but even this usually brings us only to the point of survival, not yet to the point of thriving.

There are workshops that touch on different aspects of what is required to thrive, such as conflict resolution, and time management. Heck, even an established process (one that is collaboratively agreed upon based on the needs of the particular project constraints and stakeholders involved) can go a long way toward helping – they are all necessary, but they are not sufficient.

Some organizations are learning the great value that comes from consciously developing and maintaining an open, respectful and collaborative team culture, addressing what we all know from experience is the critical difference between great and horrible projects.

You can take this a step further, but only if you are ready to commit to some deep introspection, development of new habits, and opening up to what can sometimes be challenging conversations. You can learn to thrive in the workplace, but this requires a sustained journey. This requires you to accept that nobody can hand you the solution to dealing with the horrors of the workplace – you need to grow these skills intrinsically.

Check out this new series of workshops and assets constructed to help you develop your own personal approach to becoming more resilient in the workplace.

All in the name of getting you past that dreadful experience of having one of those days. – JB

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