RSS Finding Peace at Work

Author’s Note: I wrote the following piece toward the end of 2010.  At the time, I was feeling in a particularly peaceful and reflective mood as the result of enjoying the holidays with my family and close friends. Being in such a relaxing state of mind made me think about those times that I, like you, must deal with issues at work that creates unnecessary stress. (And by “unnecessary,” I mean that the stress is not of our own doing, but is the result of a team member, peer, or even a supervisor.)

It’s important to me that I maintain a positive outlook so that my team members don’t see me “sweat.” Through years of practice, I have learned to minimize my negative reactions to unavoidable stress by focusing on the “big” picture.

Understandably, people get frustrated at work. Too often, however, these frustrations can be negative to an organization when the affected individuals choose to focus on their personal perspective and not the greater good. Allow me to explain and offer a common case study that most of us can relate to.

 I’m referring to the stressful environment that is created when you have a team member that seems to never perform at the same level as their peers.  It can be stressful on the supervisor who fails to coach the low-performing employee satisfactorily (in the eyes of the peers); and it can be stressful  to co-workers who often must work harder to get the assigned task completed on time, under budget, or both!

To the supervisor, failing to coach properly can create a negative team environment characterized by low morale and less-than-optimal performance. To the peers, negative perceptions about the supervisor can become personally debilitating because the situation could eventually (and wrongfully) justify a negative perspective about the entire organization, potentially crippling their work effectiveness.

In this scenario, whether you are the supervisor or the peer, I think it is important to stay focused on what you have personal control over. This includes your attitude, how you choose to spend your time (your work priorities), and whether or not you should speak up about the specific situation. I think we all know what the supervisor can do to minimize their own stress in this situation: Make it a top priority to provide strong coaching and create a work plan that the employee must deliver on in order to keep their job.

What often gets lost in this scenario is how the peers think and act in order to create a more peaceful work environment for everyone involved. Often times, colleagues contribute to the problem by talking about the employee between themselves instead of taking ownership to mentor the employee to become more productive. While it’s expected that supervisors provide coaching, team members who accept an informal mentoring role are seen by their leaders as part of the solution and not part of the problem.  The behavior of peers comparing lesser-productive team members to each other or to themselves comes at great risk to an organization. The risk can be felt by increased levels of stress because they are CHOOSING to focus (their thoughts, words and actions) on the peer rather than on the broader organizational goals.

Peace at work comes when team members choose to focus their attention on ways to make the team better. Individualism (in its various forms of thoughts, words and deeds) can and does create unnecessary levels of stress. How you choose to deal with it not only speaks volumes about you, but also your organization. Whether or not you have formal leadership responsibilities, take the focus away from yourself and think of the greater team. You might just be amazed how quickly your peers will follow suit.

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Home About Archive Mitch HagstromMitch Hagstrom
Executive Vice President
Chief Banking Officer
Pacific Continental Bank

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