Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It's Not You, It's Me

Every day we are faced with the challenge of relationship management.  It might be with our spouse, family, friends, or our jobs.  It is easy to fall into the steady, but droning rhythm of certainty and security.  However, often times boredom and monotony attach themselves to what once was an exciting, shiny new adventure.  We now see periods where we used to see question marks.  The line between comfort and engagement might be small, but it is very important.  If you feel like the magic is beginning to fade and those once sharp corners are staring to blur around the edges there are two things to remember:  You're not alone, and it's not too late.

Rekindling the Spark … With Your Job
Article published on February 16, 2015 
By Clare Trapasso
Working the same job with the same people at the same company for long periods can lead even the most dedicated professionals to burn out. So how can employees take a cue from Valentine’s Day and get the magic back at work?

Shops like T. Rowe Price and AB, formerly called AllianceBernstein, try to instill a sense of purpose in fund professionals and encourage collaboration among coworkers to reignite that loving feeling for their work and firms.

Meanwhile, management consultants recommend a range of tactics, from taking on new responsibilities to embarking on short-term projects, to spice up the daily grind.

“It’s important for people to maintain a balance between what they have to do and what they love to do,” says Jen Shirkani, CEO of the Penumbra Group, a Bedford, N.H.-based leadership development consulting firm specializing in the financial sector.

She recommends that unhappy workers ask their managers for more challenging assignments in areas outside their comfort zones. They should also have a few ideas of their own for potential tasks they could undertake.

“If you’re bored, if you’re burned out, [your boss] might have some good ideas of things you could do,” Shirkani says. But “ultimately, you are responsible for your own happiness.”

Executives with a VP title or higher tend to be the most engaged, according to Dale Carnegie Training  survey of about 1,500 workers across industries conducted in 2012. About 45% of managers and supervisors reported being engaged with their work, compared to 23% of the rank and file.

Roughly half of workers who were happy with their direct bosses reported being engaged at work. But about a quarter of self-described engaged workers said they would leave their jobs for just a 5% pay bump.

T. Rowe has found that when workers understand the direction of the Baltimore-based firm — and believe its leaders can achieve the goals set — they are more likely to be invested in their work, says Blair Slaughter, head of people and organization effectiveness.

The firm also offers development opportunities, including training and paid time off to volunteer in the community, to keep people committed to the company.

“What we’re trying to do is create an environment where people are excited to contribute every day and work at their highest and best purpose,” Slaughter says.

In the same vein, AB has striven over the last few years to make workers aware of how their contributions help the firm achieve its goals.

“That’s the critical role of management — to personalize what each employee’s purpose is,” says Vicki Walia, director of talent management and diversity at the New York–based firm. “There’s something about knowing that what you do matters.”

AB conducts an employee engagement survey every two years and launches new programs, such as quarterly peer coaching to help supervisors sharpen their management skills, based on the results, Walia says.

Like other workplace consultants, Susan Fowler, author of Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work … and What Does, recommends that professionals take it upon themselves to identify ways to make their jobs more meaningful.

“What’s happened in the workplace is people get so distracted by the kinds of motivational approaches, like incentives, rewards and pressures, so they lose sight of why they wanted that job in the first place,” Fowler says. “We forget that we love learning and growing.”

Managers should call workers out on their procrastination, she says, and ask them why they seem to have lost interest in their work. This can help employees figure out their own purpose in the company and give supervisors clues on how to keep them motivated.

Professionals should take inventory of the last month or so to figure out what they were doing the last time they got excited about their work — and then request more of those types of assignments, says Mark Murphy. He is the author of Hundred Percenters: Challenge Your People to Give Their All and They’ll Give You Even More.

“People in ruts … tend to feel [powerless],” Murphy says. “When you get outside of your comfort zone, you start to activate the brain, you get a little bit of adrenaline flowing and it gives you a new perspective.”

Professionals need to set their own long-term goals, which are challenging and that they are passionate about, he says. These may be separate from annual goals agreed upon with a supervisor.

Burnt-out workers looking to “reboot” can pick up quick, new projects, says Michael Gibbs, an economics and human resources professor at the The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

“Sometimes some things are so long-term it’s hard to feel like you’re making progress toward the end,” he says. “It can feel good to get something done and out of the way.”

Falling out of love with work can be caused by not learning anything new anymore, says John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based human resources and consulting firm.

“Maybe you need to look for ways to apply your creativity to the work you’re doing,” he says. “Maybe you could look for advancement or work in another area of the company. Maybe you have skills that you've developed [that your company] doesn't know about that they might need.”

In other instances, fixing one’s personal problems can help, as some people will pour themselves into their work, and then burn out, when things aren't going well at home, he says.

“Everyone falls into those ruts,” Challenger says. “You have to find ways to rejuvenate yourself.”

Clare Trapasso is a print and multimedia journalist at the New York Daily News with experience writing breaking news and feature stories in urban and rural communities.

As a general assignment reporter on the Daily News’ Queens Bureau and Metro Desk, she covers everything from schools being closed, to naked bike rides, to grisly murders, local politics and everything in-between.

Prior to that, she was an Associated Press reporter in the wire service’s New Hampshire Bureau. During the six-month assignment, she covered state and national news and put together several multimedia projects. She also edited stories and wrote broadcast news.

She became passionate about journalism at the State University of New York at Purchase College, where she graduated with a B.A. in journalism in 2002. In her senior year, she created a campus women's newspaper called The Cycle.

After receiving her undergraduate degree, she joined the Peace Corps. She was sent to Independent Samoa in the South Pacific, where she learned Samoan and taught college-level journalism classes in the capitol.

When she returned to America, she began graduate school. In 2007, she earned a M.A. in Journalism from New York University. As a student, she interned for the Daily News and The Village Voice. After graduation, she did an internship in the Associated Press New York City Bureau.

Clare Trapasso is interested in writing stories that can effect change. She can be contacted at claretrap@gmail.com.

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