Thursday, June 11, 2009

What Does LeBron James' Behavior Say About the Workplace?

LeBron James didn't shake hands.

For those of you who don't follow professional basketball, James is a forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He left the court without shaking hands with the Orlando Magic players when they beat his team in the NBA playoffs.

This all happened two weeks ago and you might think the issue should have died down by now, especially after James said that he had sent a congratulatory e-mail to a Magic player after the game.

James explained that he didn't want to shake hands after getting beat up so bad. Bill Walton, a Hall of Fame center and NBA broadcaster, told the Wall Street Journal that he understood the sentiment. He said that it takes a lot of hard work to get the playoffs and, "When it doesn't work out, it's very difficult to put on a smiley face and say everything is great."

Welcome, Mr. Walton and Mr. James, to what other people experience at work every day.

While James makes millions of dollars playing basketball, there are plenty of other people who work just as hard in their jobs and don't make one-tenth of what he makes every year. Right now, employees are putting up with an awful lot in their jobs -- doing the work of three people, being forced to take unpaid furloughs and seeing their 401(k)s dwindle -- and they still put a smile on their face and go to work every day. Maybe they don't get the raise or promotion they wanted, but they have enough grace and smarts to respectfully acknowledge someone who does.

That's one of the reasons I think James' behavior has generated so much controversy. It's not just that he did something we're taught is wrong from the first moment we kick a ball or swing a bat, it's that he disrespected the hard work of someone else. And right now -- well, right now, we all are being subject to more of that than we should.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Does It Really Matter If You're a Workaholic?

With the tough economy, you don't hear many people complain about having jobs. This is surely due to the fact that those who are still employed are just so darned grateful to be bringing home a paycheck that it doesn't matter how many hours they work; they're not going to let any unhappy comment pass their lips. That's understandable.

But I also see a lot of people working themselves into the ground. They're on 24/7. They can't talk about anything but work, the deal they're working on, how they can't possibly take off this weekend because they've got work to do. I think it's great to be so passionate and enthused about your job, but at the same time, I think it's a very risky road. If you can't find a way to turn it off, if work is consuming your life, then you may be headed for burnout.

Are you a workaholic? Do you know the warning signs? According to Workaholics Anonymous, these are some of the signs you're a workaholic:

1. It is very difficult to relax. You often, if not always, feel the need to get just a few more tasks done before you can feel good about yourself and allow yourself to relax. When you do complete these tasks you find just a few more that you need to complete, and then a few more.... These uncontrollable desires often result in frantic, compulsive working. You are powerless to control this pattern.
2. You are so used to doing what you are expected to do that you are often unable to know what it is that you really want and need to do for yourself.
3. You often feel that you must complete certain tasks, even though you do not want to. You are too scared to stop.
4. You often feel resentment about having to complete tasks when you would rather relax or play. At these times you procrastinate, usually wallowing in self-pity and self-judgment. You cannot concentrate on the task at hand, and yet are too scared to give up the task for a moment and allow yourself the space you need.
5. Your sense of self-esteem is based largely on your perceptions of how others judge your performance at work and in other areas of your life.
6. You have an obsessive desire to understand everything in your life, including your every emotion. You cannot allow yourself to experience emotions that you do not understand, fearing your loss of control.
7. You judge yourself by your accomplishments and hence have the illusion that you must always be in the process of accomplishing something worthwhile in order to feel good about yourself.
8. You cannot sit down and just be.
9. You often go on intense work binges with the illusion that you need to get the praise of your fellow workers and bosses in order to feel OK.
10. You have the illusion that people will like you more if you appear more competent than you actually are.

Much of the recovery for workaholics mimics what you see for other addicts: Finding time for personal reflection; accepting who you are; asking for help; finding healthier substitutes for the addiction; and learning to live in the now.

Unfortunately, we live in a time when most of us consider ourselves so fortunate to have a job that we can't see cutting back. But consider this: If you really are going overboard,you could be putting your job (and your health) at risk because you cannot be the most effective for an employer if you don't have balance in your life.

Is there such a thing as working too much, or is the 24/7 job schedule just part of lives these days?

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Expert Advice on How to Deal With Current Mind-Blowing Stress

Some days I think there should be another word for stress besides "stress." I mean, does one simple word really describe what millions of people are experiencing these days?

We've been complaining for years that we have too much stress at work. Studies have shown that we get headaches, stomach pains, back problems and may even make ourselves more susceptible to things like cancer because of the pressure we feel in our lives.

But nothing could have prepared us for what we feel now.

That's why when I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Judith Orloff, I jumped at the chance. As a psychiatrist, I figured she would have all the answers when it came to dealing with how to handle the stress we're feeling today.

And here's what I found out: She's got a lot of suggestions but ultimately, if we want some calm in our lives, we're going to have to put some effort into it. Sure, a doctor can prescribe therapy or even pills to help the anxiety, depression, fear and stress, but it's really up to an individual to find that stress-free zone we all wish a snap of the fingers could give us.

I caught Orloff while she was on a tour for her new book, "Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life."

“For a lot of people who have things in their past like an insecure childhood, all the old patterns are being triggered by this crisis,” Orloff says. “People are really worried about what might happen.”

According to the American Psychological Association (APA) annual Stress in America survey, almost half of American workers say they’re stressed about their ability to provide for their families' basic needs, and eight out of 10 say the economy is a major stressor.

Orloff says that even though she is being deluged by new patients seeking help because of the current economic conditions, she says there are a number of ways for people to help themselves, and someone should look at this crisis as a chance to be grateful for “what is working in your life.”

Orloff says that those who want strategies to handle the stress being felt today should:

· Focus on the moment. “What’s killing people is focusing on what may or may not happen. Do what you can in the moment. If you lose a job, pick up the classified ads and start looking. Give yourself lots of affirmation. But stop thinking of the ‘what if’ and focus on the ‘now.’”
· Battle back the fear. It’s OK to admit you have insecurities or are afraid. Be specific about what scares you. By identifying your fears, then you can be better prepared to handle a situation that upsets you. Then, think about times you showed courage, even if it was simply getting out of bed when you felt bad. Let the courage infuse you, and not the fear. “It’s time for people to be heroes in their own lives,” Orloff says. “Believe in yourself and move forward.”
· Hang around positive people. Orloff says “emotional vampires” can suck the spirit out you with their negative and demoralizing talk. It’s better to engage people who are upbeat and who have positive things to say. Focus on how good you feel when you’re with good friends and a loving family and do things that relax you and make you feel better such as yoga, meditation, taking a walk or relaxing in a warm bath. Avoid things that add to your tension such as violent news stories, arguments or too much caffeine.
· Keep rejection in perspective. Job hunting can be stressful, especially if you’re rejected for a position. “Remember that you’re not being personally rejected. In these cases, it’s more important than ever that you have people around you who are your cheerleaders, who support you.”
· Attract hope. Even if you haven’t lost your job, chances are you know someone who has. When you start feeling depressed, connect with words, songs or art that have hopeful messages. Call a friend who has a hopeful outlook on life. Orloff says that hope is contagious – exposing yourself to hopeful situations will help lift your mood.

Finally, as dismal as the situation is for many people, Orloff says that she believes that our current crisis is really an “opportunity.”

“People are going to learn that no matter what is happening, they’re going to be OK,” she says. “I think many people will come out of this situation more empowered because of how they dealt with their problems.”

What are some ways you handle the added stress of the current economic crisis?

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Friday, October 10, 2008

10 Signs to Know You've Gone Off the Stress Meter at Work


If you're not feeling it these days, I want some of whatever you're drinking. Because with the latest economic news making most of us feel like we're on some sadistic new ride at Disney World, stress is catching up with most of us in one form or another.

And nowhere is that more evident than at work. After all, we spend a major portion of our time there every day, and the demands to perform are multiplied right now. Most of us -- even the most sanguine among us -- are feeling a teeny bit tense right now.

If so, you may want to take some steps to deal with it. Of course, sometimes it's hard to recognize that you're going off the deep end, so here are 10 signs that you may be under a bit of stress on the job:

1. Bite marks. In your car's steering wheel.
2. The announcement of "cake in the break room" has you clotheslining three people who try to get in line ahead of you.
3. You pay the tool booth operator, the parking lot attendant and the Starbucks barista in pennies. Bloodsuckers.
4. Your yoga instructor asks you -- repeatedly -- to quit swearing aloud during Downward Facing Dog.
5. Your co-worker whistling "Oh! What a Beautiful Morning" has you pouring salt in his coffee when he's not looking.
6. You use your latest 401(k) statement to make a giant spitball that you fire at your CEO as he walks by on the street. You giggle uncontrollably as he curses pigeons overhead.
7. When asked by your employer to watch expenses during these tough times, you turn off your computer and phone. When the boss asks you about it a week later, you look innocent and reply: "Just trying to cut energy costs."
8. You chisel the gold star off your "employee of the month" plaque and try to sell it on e-Bay.
9. While traveling on business, you show up for the airport gate in your skivvies. With your i.d. Superglued to your forehead.
10. During your performance evaluation you juggle, do an impersonation of Cloris Leachman on Dancing With the Stars and recite the Gettysburg Address while drinking a glass of water. "Just want to point out my talents so I can get that .0333 percent raise!" you tell the boss.

So, do you think you're feeling the stress? What are some other hints you might be hanging by your fingernails?

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