Actively Participating in Your Work Environment

Yes, I threw this together on a whim while at work drafting the monthly newsletter.

Yes, I’m sure it’s peppered with flaws, but I’m not looking for you to edit and nitpick your way through it.

Yes, I was inspired because of recent events surrounding my place of business and how people treat each other to shine a light on an otherwise ugly subject that oftens gets swept under the rug.

Yes, I was feeling sassy. I came to play, baby – let’s do this.

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Actively Participating in Your Work Environment

Recent events inspired me to bring attention to how negative thoughts, ideas, and feelings can substantially affect our time at work. Not just our own, but how it also affects others surrounding us. As we walk in the door and prepare ourselves for our work day, we make an active choice on the kind of attitude we will choose to embrace for the day. We choose whether or not to be affected by our patients, peers, leadership, or other external factors.

Dissatisfaction at work is a common trend in the United States. There was a Gallup study done in early 2017 indicating that 51% of U.S. employees did not feel connected to their jobs. The same study reported that 16% of employees are “actively disengaged,” meaning they’re tuned out and miserable. For these employees, their workplace is toxic. This stress can impact their physical AND mental health, resulting in anxiety, loss of sleep, anger or depression.

High absenteeism, lack of positive feedback and growth opportunities, and bullying are all signs of a toxic work environment. Workplace bullying can come in several forms: aggressive communication, gossiping, and passive-aggressive communication.

So how do we acknowledge this trend, move past it, and turn a negative environment into a positive, thriving place where we all feel safe and happy?

Our identities are tied to our work. Being recognized and appreciated makes others feel valued and boosts sense of self and self-esteem (which is protective in terms of depression and anxiety). Close to 50% of employees will at some time in their lives struggle with mental health issues. Working in healthcare we see a rampant amount of patients walk in with the appointment notes of, “anxiety, depression, mood.” We understand and take the concerns of our patients seriously, so why is it we have trouble engaging with one another the same way we would engage with a patient.

How to Cope:

  1. Don’t be helpless – change how you react.
  2. Set Boundaries – put limits on what behaviors you’ll accept and what kind of office politics or gossip you’ll allow yourself to get pulled into. Leave work at work.
  3. Engage more – if you see something wrong, try to fix it. If you see harassment, don’t let it go. Be an agent of change. If you see uncivility or unprofessionalism occur and you choose to be a bystander, this allows that behavior to flourish.
  4. Do things to de-stress – Exercise, Spend time with friends or groups away from work. Avoid co-workers who drag you down with complaining.
  5. Find self-esteem elsewhere – If you’re not receiving the recognition you feel you need from work, spend time doing something that you love (and are good at).
  6. Be present – Even in stressful situations, DO NOT disconnect. Listen and engage without
  7. Meditate – take a class and practice meditation to keep yourself calm.
  8. Focus on the positive – by nature, we’re in tune with the negative as a survival instinct. (It’s more important for people to notice “the bad stuff like snakes and poisonous berries than it was to remember beautiful sunsets.”) But look for the good work of others and positive in your life. Keeping a gratitude journal has been shown to increase levels of happiness as well.
  9. Have compassion for yourself – Don’t beat yourself up about mistakes. People who are more self-compassionate are more likely to bounce back from failures.

Soft Skills

What are soft skills and how do you get/develop them? Why do we constantly hear them mentioned during our staff and individual department meetings? Why are they so important?

Well, unlike hard skills, which can be proven and measured, soft skills are intangible and difficult to quantify (analytical thinking, verbal and written communication, leadership). Did you know, that most managers care more about your soft skills than they do technical abilities (reading comprehension & math). Why? Soft skills are so revered because they help facilitate human connections. They are the key to building relationships, gaining visibility, and creating more opportunities for advancement. Basically, you can be a rock star in what you do, but if your soft skills aren’t cutting it, you’re limiting your chances of career success.

So what soft skills do you need for your career?

  1. Communication – both written and verbal communication skills are extremely important because they set the tone for how people perceive you. They also improve your chances of building relationships with coworkers.
  2. Teamwork – success is the result of many people working toward a common goal. When employees can synthesize their varied talents, everyone wins (bonus: having friends at work can also boost your job satisfaction). Team players help build a friendly office culture which helps retain employees AND attract top talent. Furthermore, being able to collaborate with your coworkers strengthens the quality of your work. Try lending a hand when you see a coworker in need (“Hey, I know you have a ton on your plate. How can I help?”)
  3. Adaptability – You need to be flexible when things don’t go your way, you must be able to find alternate solutions. Change is a constant force and being able to shift gears in a moment’s notice is critical. Push yourself to be an early adopter of change.
  4. Problem solving – When something goes wrong, you can either complain or take action. Learn how to think on your feet. Always approach with a solution, not a problem. Sit down and think through how you’re going to address it BEFORE bringing it up.
  5. Critical observation – critical thinking allows you to bring fresh ideas and intuitive solutions. To be a critical observer, you need to be able to analyze information and put it to use.
  6. Conflict Resolution – Being able to resolve issues with coworkers will help you maintain relationships with peers and work more effectively. Being able to constructively work through disagreements with people is an indicator of maturity as well as leadership. The best way to resolve disagreements between coworkers is to address issues directly, but delicately.
  7. Leadership – Having confidence and a clear vision can help influence your coworkers and get them on board with your ideas now and in the future. Being a leader is not merely about getting people to do what you want. Leadership means inspiring and helping others reach their full potential.

So – How Do I Handle a Frustrating Day at Work?

Don’t take it personally, bad days at work can be caused by a number of things. If your bad day was set off by someone else’s negativity, don’t take it personally. If someone else was angry, upset, stressed, frustrated or just plain mean, it’s important that you not internalize their actions or behavior. Don’t bottle up how a bad day made you feel. Communicating how you feel to someone else can help you work through how you’re feeling.

Shake it off & don’t take it home. When work sucks, it’s all too easy to bring our stress and unhappiness home with us. To shake off a bad day, leave work at work. Try to establish an end-of-the-workday routine that helps signal the official end of the day. This way, when things don’t go so great, your mind still gets to process that work is over – and now it’s time to go home, relax, and do something that makes you happy.

Do something that makes you feel great. Put an end to your bad day by seeking out things you know make you feel empowered, confident, and happy. That might mean doing a yoga routine when you get home. Maybe grab your favorite book and a glass of wine and treat yourself to a quiet evening. Or if your extroverted, you may get your energy back by taking someone on a coffee date. Just make sure you engage in healthy habits. You won’t bounce back from a bad day or feel better if you overindulge in food, alcohol, or an hours-long TV binge. You need to bring yourself back up – not sedate yourself with activities that keep you sedentary and disengaged.

Vent or rant if you need to. Sometimes you just need to, and that’s okay. Get it all out, but put a time limit on the complaint session. Moan and whine for 10 minutes, then be done and move on – go do something that makes you happy.

Evaluate what happened. Hopefully, one or more of these strategies can help you bounce back after a bad day at work. But before you move on and put everything behind you, take a moment to reflect on what didn’t go so great. If you can evaluate what went wrong, you can better understand how to avoid doing the same thing in the future.

This should help you be proactive – rather than reactive – and you may be able to prevent a bad day from derailing your week before it even happens.

In conclusion

We have seen a significant shift in the environment, attitudes, and team work in our clinic recently. I felt it appropriate to draw attention to this instead of sweeping it under the rug. Please remember to take accountability for your own actions. Try to come to work with a positive attitude, if you’re struggling to remain positive – grab a cup of coffee or maybe take a walk with a coworker. Respect your peers, we are all in this together doing the best we can with the tools we have available. We rely on one another to complete our jobs. If you see someone having a hard time, offer to help. Do not abandon them if you know you have the knowledge and skills to help. And above all, remember to be nice, respectful, and professional.

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