Puncture envy

We all feel envious at times. We want something that someone else has. Or we begrudge each other. If I can’t have it, no one else will. Both forms exist at most workplaces, and are seldom expressed openly, surfacing rather during bitter diatribes on justice, or as sarcasm or even silence. When envy is let loose, it can do considerable damage through harassment and bullying.
Envy can be about better relations to the manager, more flexible work hours, greater responsibility, and, not least, salaries. Often, it’s not reality that unshackles the green-eyed monster, but wild fantasies based on a lack of knowledge or a lack of insight into the other person’s working conditions. “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”, as the saying goes.
As an employee, you can help to puncture envy. Suggest a discussion on each other’s responsibilities and roles at work. A holistic lens is always useful for giving a fair survey of the situation. Or suggest job rotation, if this is possible. This will give you insight into the work others do. And why shouldn’t managers get “work experience” at their employees’ workplaces? This will help them develop a fairer picture of the entire business.


I want my manager to see me

Every time I hear the “sees me” employee mantra, I feel an ambivalence, as two reactions are elicited within me.
The first is: What power have you yourself over it? We can always dream and wish, but the very act of seeing someone, the acknowledgement, is based on a voluntary act and can be described as being considerate towards the other.
The other reaction is: Sure, it’s nice to be seen. I agree. But why all this fuss about the boss seeing me? There are others around me who “see me” – friends, wife, husband, partner, children, members of my association, and colleagues. Isn’t that enough?
Of course, I also think that we should be able to demand of a manager that he or she sees the employees. The problem is that this is a voluntary act that arises from within the individual’s own mindset. Consequently, we have to focus our efforts on ourselves rather than on others. In practice, this means that I have to start with myself.
The inside-out perspective says: if I want to be a responsible, helpful employee, if I want to have a happy marriage, if I want to be a person who seizes on the positive, if I want more love, if I want to be understood, if I want more openness, if I want to be a good parent, if I want more freedom at work, if I want to be seen…I’m going to have to start with myself.


Wage slaves and a motivating manager

Wage slaves
After a few days together on an employee course, we gradually open up to ourselves and to those around us as we put aside our masks. What comes out of our mouths is less clichéd and less woolly, and we start to mean what we say. Consequently, the discussion that arises around our work and why we work is especially interesting, not to say scary. Many of those I meet consider work a necessary evil. It’s not as if they’re never happy at work; indeed, they can find their work both enjoyable and stimulating, but generally speaking it’s unsatisfying. “If it wasn’t for the money, I’d…”
Wage slave is a term that often comes up in such discussions. Not in any bitter sense, but more as a statement of fact. “I work because I have to. Sure, there are good moments, but on the whole it’s pretty tedious.”
No surprise, then, that a motivating manager is high up on the yees wish-list.

Towards a motivational manager
Motivate your manager
Leaders are people of flesh and blood. They have limitations; they can be tired, make mistakes, get depressed, and forget things, just as we employees do. And since they’re not omnipotent, they need backup. If there are faults with their motivational leadership, you can always improve matters by showing them what to do. Listen to your manager, and ask her what it is that gives her a sense of purpose at work. Help her to think about what she really wants. Perhaps your manager has worked at the company for a long time. Perhaps he’s a completely different person than the one who was first employed there. What is it that motivates him to continue?

Give praise
Reinforce your manager’s motivating behaviour by giving him or her praise. We all need a verbal pat on the back when we’ve done well.

Say what motivates you
We create our lives from a set of elemental values that we have somehow accepted and assimilated, values such as success, freedom, love for another, justice, security, tolerance, etc. Our values play a decisive part in shaping our ideas, our judgements and our behaviour. They also make us aware of what we’re striving for as they constitute mental images of what we want to achieve. What we do – our actions – only become meaningful once they become a means towards a particular end and when this end is seen by us as worthy.
Having reasoned thus, we could say that meaning only exists where we create it, and that meaning is dependent upon our convictions of what is valuable.
We can obtain motivation in the form of brief “uplifting emotions” when a comic does a stand-up routine about workplace stereotypes and makes us laugh at ourselves. Or when a famous football coach talks about the teamwork behind the success. These things give us little temporary wings to fly with. However, a more profound form of motivation has to do with your fundamental values and the goals you set up to achieve and develop whatever it is that gives your life meaning.
During your conversations with your manager you must try to convey as many of your values as possible. This will give him or her a chance to understand what motivates you.

Behave as an equal
Talk to your manager as an equal. Just because you have different roles at work doesn’t mean you have different statuses as human beings. Ask your manager to set up reflective dialogue meetings and talk about workplace motivation as adults. “What is it that motivates us here?”, “What are we lacking?”, “What do we need from each other?”, “What do we need from the manager?”. This involves us all in a genuine, honest way. It motivates.


The most powerful tool there is for building up or destroying your employees

Unfortunately, many of us have a kind of built-in command in our “computer programme” that often says “I can’t” or “I don’t have what it takes”. It derives from “negative acknowledgements” and makes us block the resources we have, impairing the outcome of what we’re doing.
A good and positive way of working on your own self-respect is to help to increase that of others. Showing respect for the employees I define as the ability to regard them with honesty and acknowledgement. Acknowledgement can, in this context, be defined as every form of attention that one person is able to pay to another. Your showing your employees acknowledgement or not is decisive to their self-respect and, ultimately, their respect for others. This means that you, as a manager, have at your disposal the most powerful tool there is for building up or destroying other people’s capacity to feel self-respect, and thus to respect others.
Acknowledgement can be praise, gratitude, attentiveness, pride, joy, admiration. Acknowledgement can be oral or physical. A pat on the back and a smile is a language that everyone understands.

It’s free and you can start immediately!


Following up at work

“Follow-up” is a term that often appears in management contexts as part of a chain. For example, within a council, the chain of municipal control can be a matter of creating a link between political ideologies – general objectives – operational concept – local goal documents – plans of action – follow-up and evaluation. The creation of this chain provides a clear structure concerning how a politically controlled organisation works and can be used as a cohesive system in the day-to-day running of the municipality.
To avoid misunderstanding, let me start by saying that I like order, with its clarity of connections and roles. The right amount of control provides solid support. “Are we in the black?”, “Will we reach our target with the resources available?”, “Will we be able to stick to our delivery times?”
Of course, all this is important data that help the company attain its goals. The problem is that many managers think that their business can be one hundred per cent controlled by technical control systems. And it’s this belief that makes control your enemy. People want to be followed up to be seen not to be controlled. Those who are given no responsibility show no responsibility either. Those who are treated as a cog in the machine act like a cog in the machine. Those who aren’t seen will eventually work to undermine the business as the only way of making sure that they are seen.
Albert Einstein once wrote: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.

Challenge the unwilling

My maxim as both a manager and a consultant is this: if we detect passivity amongst the employees, we must tackle it. Passivity isn’t some independent force that holds people hostage. It has a source, such as frustration at not being seen or listened to, or just downright anger at being treated like a “profit centre”.
Now frustration and anger aren’t independent forces that hold us hostage either. We humans have power over this. Our freedom of choice is there to be used. The employees are far too important to come to work with negative feelings.
A deeper conversation about what actually happens at the workplace and what we feel about what happens is often enough to galvanise people; a conversation that has its departure point in the people present and their personal wishes; a conversation in which we put aside the “victim” or the “Florence Nightingale” (she being the nurse who self-sacrificingly burnt herself out for the benefit of others).
Emotions, thoughts or actions that unconsciously limit us while lulling us into a false sense of security must be dismantled. My way of working is to not to mince words – to confront tenderly.

Right or wrong, I get the feeeling you’re not taking care of yourselves here at this workplace. I just have to step into the room and I’m drained of energy. Are you feeling OK?

And then I fall silent.
Challenging people to step up isn’t demeaning. It’s affirming. Responsibility is part of human nature. Even if the responsibility muscles are a bit flabby in some people, they’re there nonetheless. By respecting and challenging other people’s responsible nature, we show them a clear reflection of themselves in the social mirror.
Of course, we must take into account the individual’s level of maturity. We can’t expect effective responsibility at the workplace of people who are emotionally dependent, in a difficult domestic situation or the like. What we can do is to build an atmosphere at the workplace in which they can seize opportunities on the fly and solve problems with growing self-confidence. This helps people to tackle their jobs, everyday problems or lives in a larger context. All of us, myself included, are tempted to run away now and then. But if we’re to move on, problems have to be solved.
Once a person has “thawed out” and become more aware, desires are never simply needs-based or purely financial. New awareness makes it impossible for us to keep viewing the world as we used to, to keep experiencing life as we used to. Once the old awareness has been demolished, it cannot be rebuilt.


You want a fair manager

Be a fair employee; part of being a fair employee means realising that the manager, in his or her role, finds it difficult to be an angel who always does the right thing. A workplace is a human system in a state of unstable equilibrium, a human drama in which we wound and heal each other in a perpetual sequence of events. Power is abused, power is appropriated, some are promoted, others are given notice. New regulations are laid down, new frameworks; a goalpost is shifted and new rules are put into effect. We are constantly faced with new obstacles and opportunities. We test and are tested, judge and are judged, value and are valued, and measure and are measured. And at the end we might be compensated along the criteria that apply at this workplace.
Being a fair employee means realising your manager, as yourself, is not an angel who always does the right thing.

Universum presenterar framtidsföretagen 2015

Vilka är Sveriges attraktivaste arbetsgivare?
Det känns som om jag har skrivit det här tidigare. Men återigen är de arbetsgivare attraktiva som kan:

  • Skapa delaktighet.
  • Utmanar och utvecklar.
  • Ge ansvar.
  • Tror på win-win.
  • Respekterar olikheter.
  • Har en hållbar långsiktig verksamhet.

Det är i varje fall ord som återkommer år efter år. Och kanske är det inte så konstigt. Vi människor har inte utvecklats särskilt mycket sedan Universum började vaska fram de bästa arbetsgivarna. Medarbetare vill fortfarande vara delaktiga, ta ansvar och utvecklas. Som arbetsgivare torde det därför inte vara så svårt att bli just en attraktiv arbetsgivare. Se till att cheferna går ut till sina medarbetare och säger;
Mitt jobb är att hjälpa dig utvecklas så du får fram din fulla potential för ditt och verksamhetens bästa.

You can’t understand others through yourself

It’s through our own perception of reality that we watch, listen to and interpret the world. What this actually means is that we all live in our own little universe. To assume that as a manager you can interpret your employees through yourself is a mistake. The best you can do is to ask questions. “What do you mean by saying this? How are you? Are you irritated? I see one thing in your body language and hear another in your voice. Do you or do you not want to do the thing I’ve asked you to do?”
We can’t know what other people think or are thinking before we ask them. Everything else is pure imagination. Being clear towards others and yourself creates mature communicative interaction at the workplace.

Turn powerlessness and passivity into everyday power.

French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, who wrote a great deal about human freedom, argued that mankind is “thrown out” into the world without any predictable reason why. According to Sartre, we start with nothing, and because of this, we have to define and choose our lives ourselves. And through these choices, we decide what life is. We quite simply “project” ourselves and our lives. It’s not as if we sit down as children and sketch out a life-plan that we then follow to the last detail. No, our lives are shaped by countless decisions and actions that govern our gradual development.
Sartre also said that while we can choose our lives, there’s a specific conception around us about what it means to be human. He wrote: “As a result, my action has involved all humanity”. According to Sartre, we are, as humans, not only responsible for the choices we make about ourselves but also those we make for the whole of humanity.
I sympathise with Sartre’s reasoning. At the same time as I work with the draft of my own life, I create a draft of what it means to be human. It’s a great responsibility. My behaviour today is reflected in tomorrow’s generations. Personally, this means that I’m currently in a period in which I’m pondering a great deal over what it means to be a good human being. You might be thinking of completely different things: “What is happiness?” or “Why don’t I feel at home at this workplace?” or “Is this the right job for me?” I’d even venture to state that what we all have in common is the way that we more or less consciously carry around the drafts of our life plans. “Who am I?”, “What do I want with life?”, “What’s meaningful?” are eternal questions. As I see it, to constantly follow up ourselves is not just a personal matter but also an important matter for the employer, with the manager as its representative.
My suggestion to you as an employee is that you ask your manager to set up a forum that lifts who you are to the surface and strengthens the discussion about your life. A process in which you and your colleagues follow up yourselves, a process centred on questions of meaning, truth, happiness, time, freedom and personal goals.
We all need to experience what we do as meaningful. Working with your own life project at the workplace as well as at home, with opportunities to receive feedback from others in deep, trusting discussions, creates meaning and gives you the energy you need to turn powerlessness and passivity into everyday power.