Who I see struggling at work today

Although everyone is being challenged to some degree in today’s economy, I have noticed that some people are struggling more than others. Here are the folks, in particular, that I see struggling …

The unconnected
I’m not talking about online social networks and such. I’m talking about folks who have not spent the time or effort to manage relationships with peers, their boss, with others across departments, across agencies. They’ve essentially isolated themselves. This is a serious deficient during tough times. One way to manage anxiety during turbulent times is to have access to reliable information.

The idealistic
I hear things like “it’s just not right” or “they don’t know what’s going on” or “it shouldn’t be like this.” I call these people the idealistic. What happens is they give themselves permission to not cooperate, to even aggravate others because they feel they are on the higher moral ground. At work, feeling or being right doesn’t translate into success; solving problems does.

The technology resistors
Technology has automated, innovated or outsourced many job tasks and functions. If technology can solve a work or business problem, it will. Because it is less expensive than people over the long term. Resisting technology is a lost cause [but I’m speaking to the choir on this one since you belong to govloop :~)].

The learned helpless
Learned helplessness is the “give-up reflex.” People learn to give up when they perceive or experience no control over repeated bad events. I see this a lot in organizations with long tenured staff. This can be quite tricky in economic downturns. People who have learned to be helpless have little resistance to adverse situations; so things move downhill quickly. These folks probably get easily sucked into conversations about how bad things are, and generally just check out.

The foxes
These are the folks I get most concerned about because hiding or going on on-the-job retirement, is a sure fire way to lose your job. Now’s NOT the time to think you can outfox your boss or management.

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Chris Gentry

Nancy…help! I see myself in your descriptions. How do we get out of the hole? Or are these sure signs to move on?

Nancy Dailey, Ph.D.

Working in organizations, we all have probably fallen into one of these traps. The first step is to recognize where you are, behaviors that are keeping you there and then do what I call Stop-Start-Continue. What behaviors do you need to stop doing? start doing? continue doing? You may come to the conclusion that no matter what you do, the current work environment will not support the new, optimistic you. That’s when you might want to consider looking for different opportunities.

Earl Banks

Good stuff, but how deflating it is to hear co-workers say “You’re always trying to change things” or “See what happens when you give too much, nothing.” It’s a constant battle trying to shed the negative tone of folks around me, but I keep pressing along. How can you become a change-agent for these types of attitudes?

Nancy Dailey, Ph.D.

One way to stop or at least minimize the whining is to engage others in the change. Make them take ownership. That does work if you and your senior managers, etc., actually empower them to make changes. At some point, if the work culture is one of constant complaining or resistance, staff changes may need to be made. I’m not necessarily advocating firing people but shifting folks around to use it as an opportunity to set new performance expectations, including attitude issues like cooperation, proactive communications, problem-solving behaviors, etc. Changing somebody’s mind set is not easy but it can be done. It doesn’t happen too often though, usually people quit or get fired.

Gabriela Dow

Excellent insight. I’ve noticed lately that instead of people saying they are just lucky to have a job the people who are left after massive layoffs aren’t so sure they got the better end of the bargain… a few have commented that the workload is heavier than ever, with no assistance and under more difficult circumstances and they feel as if they are working harder than ever for less pay, time away from the family and getting closer to a heart attack every day 🙁