What's Really Undermining Our Economy
Office Politics and Competition
Three articles appeared in the Sunday paper as a self-help for those struggling in the workplace. These pieces came under such headings as "Your Co-Workers Won't Tell You," "Common sense in career . . .," and advice "If discrimination complaint is ignored, try finding new job."
As a young female in the workforce in a variety of businesses, I chose to work as a professional temporary because the status of "temporary worker" allowed me to avoid office politics, that unseemly aura created by dissatisfied personnel. I didn't have to know the details, after a few days on the job in an office, usually a corporate setting at the administrative level, I could feel the negativity. It's the kind of energy that pulls one down, making you fearful, feel you aren't good enough, or need to reprimand someone out of anger. Such an environment is nerve-wracking. So, for my own peace of mind, I avoided getting involved by moving onto my temporary agency's next assignment.
Let's look at a few of the highlights of the articles I mentioned earlier. The first, by the way, is a reprint from The Wall Street Journal. Of ten key points, I am going to focus on three:
- income competition
- what goes around, comes around
Income competition happens when coworkers begin sharing how much they make to one another. When a lesser-paid individual learns the truth about his or her ranking for the same or similar work, resentment ensues. The vibration of resentment takes its toll by pervasively pulling down team effort. The dissatisfied employee becomes two dissatisfied employees, then three until there is virtually a cloud hanging over the work environment to the extent that quality and production are compromised. As a matter of workplace etiquette and ethics, income should never be discussed between coworkers.
Infidelity occurs when someone is dissatisfied with their perceived importance or sexual life. For a man, it's often a challenge and "proving his manhood." For a woman, it's often reassurance that she's attractive. Either way, it's vying for power. This kind of power struggle, however, does not contribute to effectiveness in the workplace because the focus is on self indulgence and not on service to the client or workplace as a whole.
"What goes around, comes around" has been said so many times, it's become a cliché, but it's true. As in the case of the dissatisfied employee due to an earning discrepancy, any negative attitude easily affects those around the perpetrator. Then, it seems everyone is harboring something--a dislike, a bad night's sleep, a customer complaint, or denial for a leave of absence. Often the worker carries the stress and frustration with him when he goes home, and the cycle repeats itself.
Using Common Sense in the Workplace
Common sense seems lost in our fast-paced, competitive society. The get-ahead work ethic, while motivational on one hand, can backfire on the other. People cannot trust one another because there is the implication that one's gain is another's loss.
The second article is a reprint from The Washington Post and gives behavioral advice to the novice worker. A phrase from the article aptly describes its theme: You Just Got Hired--Don't Screw It Up! Some of the advice given is as follows:
- learn to accept criticism
- avoid arrogance
- study your boss, but don't second guess him
For managers, there's a correct way of administering criticism, and that is to first compliment the person about to be disciplined. Mention something he did well or a part of his character that is helpful and positive. Praise the person for it. Then lead into what you want changed by stating something like, "Now here's what I'd like us to work on . . ." and ending with "I know I can count on you. Let me know if you run into any problems." In this manner, the employee does not feel like a scapegoat.
For the worker, see how the change requested fits into the workflow as a whole. When viewed from this perspective, the directive becomes less personal and more helpful. Realize that "higher ups" are human, too, so if a statement is made that seems less than professional, forgive your employer. Realize, too, that you have the ability to make his day at the office go smoothly, and that is a powerful gift. The cost of employee turnover is expensive helps no one in the long run.
Arrogance comes when someone thinks he knows more or is better than someone else. While life experience is valuable, harmony in the workplace must take precedence over intellectual corrrectness. Courtesy, flexibility, cheerfulness are but a few of the qualities that must be practiced on the job. It was once said that gratitude was the best antidote for anger, which results from imbalanced or misdirected pride. I cannot think of any wiser advice for maintaining a level head than to be grateful for work skills, opportunity, good health, and a means for meeting life's obligations. Another tool an employee can use is to compliment a co-worker for their nice smile, making a good pot of coffee, or the help he or she gave you on an assignment.
Knowing a boss is like knowing a college professor--if you know what is expected, you're going to get the grade or, in the work environment, it means having a working relationship. Knowledge is the precursor to wisdom, and wisdom balances the emotions. The combination of balanced wisdom and emotion naturally increases the unfathomable power of anyone who has mastered the former two. Money, as income, is ultimately only a reflection of this mastery, a quality within yourself--not something you have to get from others.
Discrimination and Harassment on the Job
The final article was written by Marie McIntyre, author of Secrets to Winning at Office Politics. She addressed the problem one human resources (HR) manager had in getting issues investigated when executives were involved. This HR manager perceived that state and federal laws were being violated and felt obligated to disregard advice by her supervisor (the HR director) to essentially "turn a blind eye." Consequently, she received a very negative review after disregarding the director's advice and reporting the incidents to the appropriate governmental agencies herself. Her action, undoubtedly, was seen as "overstepping her bounds."
Ms. McIntyre emphasizes that the very best HR personnel represent both management and employees, and that it is important not to take sides with either faction. She recommended that this HR manager carefully review her own motives in the situation. If, in fact, there is an ethical mismatch between this manager's values and her director's, then a job change would be beneficial where the supervisor's practices were compatible to avoid job dissatisfaction.
It's hard to believe in this 21st century that job discrimination and harassment still exist, but this article shows that bias and immature reactions still plague many in the work force.
Separation Rates for Five Industries
Separation Rate (%)
Accommodation and Food Services
Leisure and Hospitality
Arts, Entertainment, Recreation
Professional & Business Services
So, you might be wondering, "So what? These things go on all the time--there's nothing I can do about it. I'll just play the game as long as I get my paycheck."
Well, I couldn't disagree more with such an attitude. Each individual contributes to the collective consciousness of the household, the workplace, the neighborhood, the county-state-nation, and ultimately to the planet itself.
Over the years, I have discovered several things that contribute to psychological wholeness and job satisfaction.
- Education - this life-long process brings people together and helps control the emotions. Educators themselves learn from their students, and doctors have to take required seminars to keep up with changing techniques in their field.
- Meditation - quieting the mind for a few minutes daily reestablishes balance in the energies around the body. It is from this state of calm that creative solutions arise.
- Physical exercise - anyone who practices it several times a week can tell you that fitness combats stress.
- Diet - reducing fast foods, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and animal proteins in the diet helps the body to maintain a healthy brain and nervous system. Leafy green vegetables contain folic acid and aid memory. Fruits help keep a good glucose level and, like vegetables, contain fiber. A sufficient amount of water intake prevents dehydration.
- Open communication - an important tool to avoid misunderstandings, setting goals, and developing trust. When supervisors meet once a week with employees to discuss accomplishments, changes, and to work out any experienced difficulties, productivity increases. If management isn't already doing this, an employee should suggest it.
This is only a partial list, but they are things that I learned through life experience by working in a variety of businesses. When working alone, I found my best boss was one who explained what he or she wanted done and let me know their schedule or itinerary (5 above). The remaining four factors are things the individual can, should, and must do to improve life in these United States and, ultimately, on the planet.
Good Insight by an HR Professional
A Reality-Check Questionnaire for Positive Lifestyle Changes
- Do I have a regular routine, with sleep and meal times occurring about (within 30 minutes) the same time daily?
- Do I have a time to simply be quiet and reflect daily? (10-20 minutes)
- Am I drinking enough water (1/2 ounce per pound of body weight)?
- Do I exercise at least 35 minutes three times or more a week?
- Is my work my life's passion?
- Does anyone at work bother me? If so, have I forgiven that person and taken steps to make the relationship better by occasionally complimenting him or her?
- Do I actively participate in group meetings at work? If none are available, have I suggested them to my employer?
- Do I eat healthy foods, or do I cram my mouth with sugary baked goods, fried foods, and avoid fruits and vegetables, especially fresh greens?
- At the end of the day, do I feel fulfilled and grateful with how I'm living?
Power of the Individual to Effect the Economy
So, here we have it--the building inefficiency in the workplace due to dissatisfied, disgruntled employers and workers. As a result, an undermining current is created in the workforce that creates a national debt on an energy level and manifests in the national debt we already have in this dear United States.
Before our government and congressmen can effect a real solution to our problem, we have to get to the root cause--our attitudes. Each individual is responsible for initiating change in his or her thinking, work habits, life style, and defining realistic goals that will bring about change in our country's welfare trend. Kind words and a positive disposition are powerful tools in creating social stability and ultimately balancing the national budget.
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© 2013 Marie Flint