Brexit – the Five Stages of Grief

So there we are the deed is done, the majority of the UK public has voted to leave the European Union. The Parliamentary system is in tatters, both of the major political parties are searching for leaders to lead us country through this quite revolutionary landscape. No vision, no plan, no hope, no nothing to give us any certainty of our collective futures. Us Brits like to do things slowly, deliberately and with some degree of certainty. Therefore it’s easy to see how cataclysmic this result is for the nation.

For the 48% who voted to remain in the EU the result has provoked all manner of wailing and gnashing of teeth. There is an appetite to mobilise against this injustice that has been foisted upon them. However, from my recent discussions with clients, friends and colleagues, there is a profound sense of loss for a country, values & culture we all felt we knew? Have we lost our belief that the UK is an outward looking, inclusive and progressive European country?

Collective Grief of the 48%

My own reflections from recent events are that many of us (plus some that voted leave and are regretting their choice) are experiencing a profound feeling of grief? In other words a loss, bereavement and grief for what we once had. We know that the events of the past 10 days mean that things will never be the same again, maybe like the loss of a close friend or loved one? It may also be a future that you feel powerless to change and did not vote for? Indeed I have witnessed these comparisons to my previous counselling work and my time at the Samaritans and Victim Support. Supporting many people going through a profound sense of anger and shock or “why me, I don’t deserve this”. Even the loss of a smartphone or cherished childs toy can promote this feeling of profound sadness and grief at the loss of something dear and irreplaceable.

To take that hypothesis further we can use the Grief Cycle model developed and first discussed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in the 1969 book “On Death & Dying” (in On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss – 2014). The model promotes a simple five stages that may well help to put some context around how some may be experiencing recent events. Moreover within the contexts of the five stages of grief.

Five Stages of Grief

  • Denial  Denial perhaps best described conscious or nonconscious refusal to accept facts, information or reality, etc., that are relating to the situation concerned. In this instance the UK EU Referendum. Denial is a normal reaction to rationalise overwhelming emotions that can go some way to protect us against uncertainty. It is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock of the event/loss. We block out the words and hide from the facts of the effects of the decision and perhaps any negative outcomes. We can easily become fixated upon stage when dealing with the sense of loss. We see the aftershocks of the referendum results still reverberating on social media and in the press. The events of the referendum are not easy to avoid or evade, as there is knowledge that things will never be the same again here in the UK.
  • Anger –  Anger can manifest in many different ways. In the case of the referendum, arguments, protest marches, blame, petitions, a second referendum etc etc. The people who voted to remain are now having to deal with the emotional fallout from the referendum, they may be angry with themselves, with others and especially those close. We have read about inter-family/community conflict as a result of groups voting one way or another. Of course knowing this can help keep detached and non-judgemental when experiencing the anger of someone who is very upset. However, with these highly charged emotions around, this result can make rational debate seem a distant fantasy. This anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family. We can feel guilty for being angry, needless to say, this makes us more angry at an outcomes that “we did not vote for this”
  • Bargaining – Traditionally the bargaining stage for people facing this level of social & economic change can involve attempting to bargain with whoever they can. We have heard about a group of business people banding together to ensure that Parliament change the legislation to make triggering article 50 possible (mechanism that starts leaving the EU).  This can  buy “reflection” time as a strong bargaining chip. Perhaps that there are many of us that feel we can bargain or seek to negotiate a compromise? For example “how can the leave and remain voters work together to unify the country?” when facing this magnitude of break-up of the political and social order of the country. Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it’s a matter of life or death. Perhaps this is the weakest line of defense to protect us from the painful reality of the vote of the referendum.
  • Depression –  Sometimes referred to as preparatory grieving, the dress rehearsal or the practice run for the aftermath of leaving the EU. Needless to say, this means different things to different people. This stage maybe best described as a form of acceptance with some emotional attachment. It is perfectly natural to feel sadness, regret, fear, uncertainty, etc at what may be ahead of the country we thought we knew and could rely on. This stage may show that the person has at least begun to accept the reality of the situation. Sadness and regret of the fact we will no longer be a part of the European Union predominate a sense of depression in the case. We worry about the costs to us, our jobs, our families and our communities. We worry that, in our grief, we have spent less time with others that depend on us. This phase may be eased by simple clarification and reassurance. We may need a bit of helpful cooperation and a few kind words or more to the point a clear vision, strategy and plan for how we are going to move forward as a unified country.
  • Acceptance – Lastly, this stage can vary according to the people involved and the person’s situation. Although broadly it is an indication that there is some emotional detachment and objectivity. We will hope to enter this stage and must pass through their own individual stages of dealing with the grief at the events. Coping with this collective sense of loss is ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience. However, in this case it may well be beholden to our politicians & leaders to help the country focus upon helping the remain voters see the future as being different and in a positive light. The continual political infighting, uncertainty and sense of inertia will only will prolong the natural process of healing.

I hope that this simple but effective model helps put those difficult emotions that the 48% may well be feeling presently. Of course many will not feel like this at all and have shrugged the whole matter off and moved on. However, the collective conversations had over the recent past suggest that many are experiencing one or at least some of those debilitating stages of grief and bereavement.

Lastly………

Whilst writing this post last week there has been some acknowledgment by Boris Johnson (of all people) that the country seems to be in a state of “contagious mourning”for the referendum results. Perhaps then the people of this country need to feel that there is hope to be able to move through these five stages successfully. Without a vision and a plan we may well be stuck in a place that is bad for people, business, communities and the economy as a whole.

It is this acknowledgement that the 48% may be feeling a collective sense of grief for a country and culture the once knew, that may help us move forward in due course. However, the current malaise and political vacuum will only exacerbate the anger, fear and frustration of the sense of bereavement experienced by many. So for all those people who voted remain, give yourself some slack and acknowledge the stages you may be going through as a natural progression. Its part of a process of moving forward and making it a landscape and country we will all feel collectively proud of once more.

David Dean is a principle work and coaching psychologist focussing on creating clarity & the vision for careers, business and professional development. Helping to make your career a nicer place to be. Check out Bright Sparks Coaching for more information and contact details.

References

E. Kübler-Ross, D, Kessler (2014) “On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss” Simon & Schuster UK

The Smoke and Mirrors of Positivity

rejection-620x412We live in a world awash with the need to be positive and the need to play nicely with one another. Organisations, institutions & positivity guru’s have, according to Barbara Ehrenreich, hijacked positive psychology to espouse the virtues of “if you have nothing positive to say – don’t say anything at all“. Ehrenreich’s book “Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World” makes a compelling argument to suggest that positive thinking resulted in the misguided invasion of Iraq, global financial crash, the collapse of Lehman Bank and the sub prime mortgage scandal. Anyone brave enough to counter the positive delusions or the belief in the mandatory positivity, optimism and cheerfulness were told to shut up, sidelined or fired. The proposed collective wilful ignorance highlights that if the negatives were ignored then all would be fine. Clearly they were not fine.

The film “Up in the Air” (2009) George Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham showcases the art of spinning a positive scenario for people facing redundancy. The workforce will still feel the pain, rejection and abandonment but the business has been conducted positively for the company making the workers redundant.

Smoke & Mirrors

However, the illusion of positivity creates a sense of control upon us, that ensures that we inculcate all involved into the belief it will all be OK if we believe in positive thinking. Indeed there is a sense that we can change our world by just thinking positively – almost as if we have a positivity magnet that will attract whatever our hearts desire.

Positive thinking suggests a better life will suddenly appear when the latest positivity guru pop’s up with the next vacuous clichéd pseudo-inspirational quote to help us feel great.  By simply adjusting our attitude. Needless to say, it won’t happen. We may feel great for a little while but the guru has no more investment in you other than getting you to buy their next book, or attend the next nauseating “Billy Graham-esque” evangelical positivity conference. Indeed this perspective is akin to the Pollyanna Syndrome (or positivity-bias), defined as being when someone who is blindly or foolishly optimistic, almost delusional.

Its Never as Simple as Negative and Positive

Clearly, not everyone will agree with Barbara Ehrenreich’s world view. However, we arrive at a point that rational realism and an emotional agility is missing from or organisations and within our daily lives. There are countless common sense ideas on how to become positive and happier; be kind, count your blessings,work less, spend more time with friends and family & everything in moderation. Of course there is every reason to believe that this is not a panacea to becoming happier. According to positive psychologists Dr Todd Kashdan & Dr Robert Biswas-Diener (2015) we have gone about promoting happiness and positivity in all the wrong ways. We are encouraged to ignore negativity and focus upon the positives. Indeed we don’t actually need to choose between a negative or positive but move toward a more emotionally agile to match our emotions to the situation.

Clearly being happy & positive is a good thing and beneficial to us all in our lives. However, “in a world where rejection, failure, self doubt, hypocrisy, loss, boredom, annoying and objectionable people are inevitable (the authors) reject that the notion of positivity is the only place to look for answers” (Kashdan & Biswas-Diener 2015).  So what is the answer to gain an emotionally agile life, to be in a better position to embrace both positive and negative emotions to promote “wholeness”  (Kashdan et al 2015). Indeed the authors go on to cite a number of evidenced based studies that extol the virtues and how the affects of negative emotions are in fact more beneficial and life affirming than positive in some instances. Moreover a  great deal of memories and learning experiences develop when we are experiencing negativity or dis-comfort in one shape or form. Learning to live with negative emotions and giving them space to help us see that boredom is the affect of not enough stimulus (but can stimulate creativity), or feeling guilt because we have crossed a moral line somewhere. This information is telling us we just need to adjust something in our lives and, more to the point, we can tolerate these emotions and the discomfort they sometimes bring.

The belief we need to control our perceived negative emotions may be wrong, and that the cult of the positive is stifling emotional growth. Without promoting the emotional intelligence necessary to be able to feel guilt, shame, disgust or fear etc, and how to use the action tendencies or feedback being given we will just have an indeterminate “bad” feeling. As a result want to move away from the pain and discomfort that may just help us become balanced and emotionally happy.

More often than not we can’t actually categorise human emotion we feel so cannot use the information provided by them as we do not have a construct for them. Just end up with a bad feeling or just don’t have the words to describe how we feel.  So although at times we may have a preponderance of negative emotions in our lives, the key is the become more aware and to clarify them. As a result these emotions no-longer have the toxicity that we associate with them.

And Finally………………..

I appreciate that if you got this far with this post you have gone way beyond the call of duty. However, the positivity illusions lead us to suppress those range of negative emotions that will help us grow and hopefully listen to a fear or anxiety that things may going wrong around us. How many times have we been to an interview and felt the disappointment of not doing very well or the entrepreneur who is narcissistic or the arrogant belief that their business will succeed.

Optimism & positivity serves a purpose and will help the job seeker and the entrepreneur however, without these repackaging so-called negative emotions the entrepreneur is unlikely to make the business work or the next interview will go better as we need these motivations. Negative emotions do not need to be enacted upon so acknowledging this is what anger feels like for example is enough, or maybe we need to use the triggers of the feeling to understand how we have arrived at the point of anger and frustration. Therefore having a choice to take time out to recognise things aren’t great currently and not being bamboozled by those espousing positivity, will give us all the space to know we will be just fine and we will survive these feelings.  Indeed our emotions act as a metaphysical thumbs up or thumbs down, letting us know how we are doing and what to pay attention to.  Recognising these negative emptions will help us to become healthier and more emotionally agile to manage situations and have the tools to springboard us to happier positive life.

 

References 

Ehrenreich, B. (2010) “Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World” Granta, London

Kashdan, T. B & Biswas-Diener, R. (2015)  “The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self” Plume Books, New York

The Evidenced Based Curriculum Vitae

Teamarbeit-Dooder-Shutterstock.com_One of the first questions clients usually ask me for is help to create a great CV (or résumé) that will get them the position or role they are want, or need for their career progression. It’s generally a low impact way to seek professional career coaching support for career/job change. It can also be perhaps a “one stop shop” just to start to the process of change. Most people I speak to have read the countless books, reams advice given via social media and the internet or have just relied on what they have done in the past. The big question for me as a geeky psychologist working with careers, is where is the research that will help create that winning CV or résumés consistently time after time?

The sad truth of the matter is there is very little proper empirical evidence about what constitutes a great CV; or even less evidence for that matter for covering letters. Now it could be argued that a great CV is the one that gets you the job or secures you that new role.  That view it is very difficult to argue against of course. However, looking for evidence requires a little more digging to help clients move forward with a CV that they can use as a working document for their future career.

So where to start with the empirical evidence for a great CV? Now research does show that good advice is given for structure of CV such as chronological, functional/skills based or hybrid but there is little known about what to put into the CV (Thomas et al 1999). This suggests that there is plenty of advice out there in books and the internet but it is mostly anecdotal and subjective in nature. Needless to say, recruiters & careers advisors will have a view etc but who is right?

According to Julia Yates (2014) there are three key areas to focus upon

  • Academic qualifications
  • Work experience
  • Extracurricular activities

Depending upon where you are in your career the weighting of these elements will change. For example if you are starting out at work, you will probably place more emphasis upon the extracurricular activities & academic qualification.  However, a more experienced individual will be expected to focus upon the their achievements and work experience. Good grades in your qualifications are worth highlighting, though perhaps where you haven’t done so well may be worth leaving the grades out (Thomas et al 1999).

Brown & Campion (1994) conducted some interesting research with US college students suggesting that if young people wanted to showcase their drive & energy then more or less anything will be acceptable – exam grades, activities at school or achievements at work etc. However, to highlight your social and interpersonal skills then  the after school clubs or where you captained a team seemed to interest employers. Any leadership skills can be highlighted by the evidence you have in a work context of supervising others etc. Interestingly there is no link from this research with sporting achievements and impressing employers.

Clearly, employers are more interested in concrete examples of achievements in a work context rather than self-aggrandising statements. Finding examples of a desirable skill or experiences that match the culture, language and essentials for the job & employer will more than likely impress over and above a list of positive adjectives.  Lastly, Thomas et al(1999) suggested that accomplishment statements (achievements) and a targeted career goal or objective within the CV such as “seeking a sales managers role in a leading confectionary business” helps just as an unspecified one doesn’t.

We also have the vexed question of discrimination and declaring an illness or disability within a CV. There has been some research that indicates that having a declared mental health condition makes the candidate less employable, whereas those with a physical disability were more employable. Though a non-disabled person seemed from the research to be most employable. Notwithstanding the prejudice against men in traditionally female roles and against women in traditionally male roles (Brioult & Bentley 2000). So as you can see CV structure & content is a minefield of advice, evidence, anecdotes and just plain old school illegal discrimination.

So where does this potted history of the scant evidence of CV’s leave us? Well with a lot of advice and anecdotal models but little evidence of that elusive winning CV

Read the rest of the post here at Bright Sparks Coaching Blog

Bibliography

Bright, J (2010) “Brilliant CV: What Employers Want to See and How to Write it” Prentice Hall; 4 edition

Fennah, P. (2014) “The Elite MBA CV; Executive Impact” bookboon.com (pp 71)

Lees, J. (2013) “Knockout CV: How to Get Noticed, Get Interviewed & Get Hired” McGraw-Hill Professional

Mills, C (2015) “You’re Hired! CV: How to write a brilliant CV” Trotman

Yates, J. (2014) “The Career Coaching Handbook” Routledge, Abingdon UK.

References

Bricout, J. C. and Bentley, K. J. (2000) Disability status and perceptions of employability by employers. Social Work Research, 24(2): 87.

Brown, B. K. & Campion (1994) “Biodata phenomenology: Recruiters perceptions and use of biographical information in résumé screening” Journal of Applied Psychology, 79(6): 897-908

Fennah, P. (2014) “The Elite MBA CV; Executive Impact” bookboon.com (pp 71)

Thomas, P., McMasters, R., M.R. and Domowski, D.A. (1999) “Résumés characteristics as predictors of an invitation to interview”. Journal of Business and Psychology 13(3): 339-356

Yates, J. (2014) “The Career Coaching Handbook” Routledge, Abingdon UK.

Read more blogs on this and many other career and work related subjects like this atBright Sparks Coaching

David Dean is an award winning independent Work, Career & Coaching Psychologist, blog writer, work psychology tutor & speaker on areas of psychology that make your career and workplace a better place to be.

Disclose or not to Disclose?

download (13)So you have a disability or have a long-term health condition and are looking to pick up your career, perhaps starting out at work or would just like a job – do you feel confident employers will see past your condition? You have the knowledge, skills and abilities in your CV for the role but do you disclose your disability or health condition? To disclose or not this is the question. Having worked with disabled people and individuals with long-term health conditions for many years, these and many other questions stop or hinder applying for work and getting back to a career.

Indeed recent research from greatwithdisability suggests that 76% of students are reluctant to open about their disability or long term health condition. However the research did find that 57% of respondents recognised the benefits associated with being open and honest about their disability/long term health condition from the start of the process. Needless to say, these decisions for any person with a disability or enduring health condition are intensely personal and sometimes difficult to overcome.

The definition of a disability according to the Equality Act 2010 here in the UK, is a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on someone’s ability to do normal daily activities. The range of disabilities and long term health conditions identified is fascinating for a non-disabled person. ADHD, Autism, Acquired Brain Injury, Bi Polar through to Visual Impairment are amongst many that people navigate and manage in their daily lives at work.

So what is the best way to approach applying for work or progressing your career with a disability or enduring health condition?

Disclose or Not?

  • Employment & disability employment advisers will give conflicting advice on disclosing in your CV/covering letter or application form – some say yes some say no. Perhaps the easiest choice for some is no. However, you may be missing a vital opportunity to highlight how you overcome daily challenges and still push on to achieve your ambitions and goals. The choice is made easier if the organisation you are applying to are registered with the Guaranteed Interview Scheme. You just tick the box and if you meet the minimum requirements then mechanisms will be in place for you to gain an interview. So the choice is not easy but well worth considering.
  • Lastly, being open at the outset will no doubt help the employer make those “reasonable and practicable adjustments” for you both at the interview and to their workplace should you gain the role. Helping the employer help you through being open & honest about your condition or disability highlights a level of self-awareness which shouldn’t be ignored.

The Interview

  • So you have got yourself in front the interviewer or interview panel now what. If you have disclosed your disability then they will be prepared and ready to give you the best opportunity to shine. Well that’s the theory of course. Many employers may need support with disability awareness to stay on the right side of equality and diversity legislation for example. Having supported many employers with many disabled and people with health conditions it is as tricky for them as it is for the disabled person to navigate the interview properly. So if the groundwork between interviewer and interviewee has been done, everyone can get past the condition at the outset so that it enables the interview to go without surprises. Notwithstanding, giving the candidate the opportunity to tell the organisation why they would be foolish not employ you!

Moving on through your career with a disability or long-term health conditions

However difficult it may be, being open about disclosure and honest right throughout the application process and onward with your career, could well be the right way to go. Disability & long-term health conditions are wide and varied so will effect people in many different ways. So with more people with these conditions at work it can only be of benefit to all concerned and pave the way for others following on. Work is a healthy place to be, it can aid recovery and rehabilitation, provides focus and a sense of fulfilment to all let alone those with disabilities and long-term health conditions.

Also by being at work in a variety of businesses and organisations, with any number of health conditions or disabilities, there is a distinct chance you get the chance to remove prejudice and raise the awareness of being enabled by being disabled. So I guess the message is, if work or picking up a career is an option for you then be brave and show how talented you are regardless how others may see you. You have a lot to offer and it may be that the dilemma of disclosure or not is the only thing that is holding you back in the end?

I can’t get no…………Job Satisfaction.

images (31)On a recent trip to my local discount supermarket, my attention was drawn to members of the staff team looking, well, thoroughly miserable and bored with being at work. They seemed to be just going through the motions, no eye contact with customers or co-workers, no smiles or any joy in being there. Now I do appreciate it is a supermarket and it may not be the type of job that makes you bound out of bed singing hallelujah and praise be to be going to work. However, it seems to be a common theme that runs through all members of this staff team. Its almost as though the business is made more difficult by having customers in the store rather than an opportunity to engage with your customers & co-workers and enjoy yourself more. For my sins, I have visited supermarkets in many different countries, and enjoy a rummage around the shelves, as seems to help me to get into the culture of the place and understand the people a little better. My local discount supermarket seems to stand head an shoulders above all others as being a miserable and unsatisfying place to work. The impression then is one of no fun, targets to meet, productivity to maintain and encouraged not to bother customers with any contact what so ever.  For risk of not loading the shelves or getting customers through the checkout in record time.

So that got my juices flowing in what constitutes job satisfaction, do we all have it, or have a right to be satisfied in what we do. Is it the case we have some jobs just for the money – so head down and just get the shift done, smile and take the money. Or is there more to life at work that we should be looking for and ensuring is in place to help us make the most of what we do, more to the point why we do what we do.

Job satisfaction is important not just because it boosts enjoyment, happiness and work performance but it also increases our quality of life at work and home. Many people spend so much time at work that when it becomes highly dissatisfying, the rest of their life soon follows suit. Studies from psychology suggest that the top satisfiers are:-

  1. Fair Pay – Whatever job you do, for you to be satisfied the pay should be fair. The bigger the perceived difference between what you think you should earn and what you do earn the less satisfied you’ll be.
  2. Sense of achievement – we feel more satisfied with our jobs when we have achieved something. As smaller cogs in larger machines it may be difficult to tell what we’re contributing.
  3. Positive feedback – Getting negative feedback can be very painful but at least it tells you where you can improve. On the other hand positive feedback can make all the difference to how satisfied people feel in their jobs.
  4. Variety – To be satisfied people need to be challenged a little and they need some variety in the tasks they carry out. It sounds easy when put like that but many jobs offer neither complexity nor variety such as our discount supermarket.
  5. Control – If people aren’t given any control, they may well attempt to retake it by finding other ways to undermine the system. Psychologists suggest that people who work in jobs where they have little latitude find their work very stressful and consequently unsatisfying.
  6. Support from the organisation – Workers want to know their organisation cares about them, that they are getting something back for what they put in. This is primarily communicated through how the managers treat us etc. Generally if people perceive more organisational support, they experience higher job satisfaction.

When you look at this list of what makes for a satisfying jobs, it makes you wonder why everyone can’t have one. With a little thought and motivation by HR & management, most of the predictors of job satisfaction can easily be provided. However, the answer is as you can probably appreciate not quite that simple.

Organisations tend pay lip-service to keeping their employees satisfied, but many don’t really believe or have objective measures to know it makes a difference. What research shows us is that it can make a huge difference. If you’re a business is looking to improve job satisfaction in a workplace then start with the list noted above and work through them to reflect upon where you and the workforce are with workers job satisfaction. It may not appear to be much but it will make a huge difference to people on the shop floor and hopefully my local discount supermarket with be a nicer place for me and the workforce to be.

 

Image http://www.seven-health.com/

The Home Workers Strategy (whilst still having a life)

A messy desk at homeA lot of people tell me that moving toward home working is easy, just decide one day that its going to happen and there you go…………..right? Without a plan and thinking thoroughly about your run and jump into home working you might want to think again. Interested well read on.

Many organisations for lots of different reasons close offices and decide that the workforce can work from a home base. Generally there is a shrug of the collective shoulders, you pick up your laptop, a phone and off you go. No planning, no discussions at home of what it may mean to the family or how you will manage the available space.

Mum’s and Dad’s going back to work after a baby might not want to be away from their precious one, so this options will help them get back to the work they love. Again jumping in with both feet might work but when you plan the home working thing with work and family in mind its potentially a win win situation.

Here is a quick check list of things I use to help business and individuals move positively toward home working bliss.

  • Get the right technology and support for technology sorted out quickly. Being on your own to sort out broken computers, sufficient broadband, mobile phone signal etc can be challenging. Make sure you have a back up system for both files and hardware , so the stress of things going pop is reduced.
  • Talk to the family. Ensure that families and especially children understand what is happening. Let them have their input into the transitional process.
  • Decide on where you will situate your office space. This goes back to families once more, as excess clutter and paper work can cause quite a lot of stress and conflict. A corner of a living room is fine but what disturbance will you get and what hours will you be able to work most productively without being bothered?
  • If you are lucky you can convert a bedroom or garage. Again spend time planning and setting this out so you feel you are at work and away from home.
  • Commute to work. Yes I know you are working at home but a trip to the newsagents or bakers in the morning helps you get your head in the right space for work.
  • Decide upon how to maintain your social connections. Meet colleagues at the many hotels with lobbies that have coffee shops and catch up with friends when you can.
  • Do not get dragged into working too long – presenteeism is a serious problem for home based working.
  • Keep technology away from the bedroom and yes I mean phones, TV’s and computers. You need your sleep to be effective at work and yes that means home based workers too.
  • Start a homeworkers coffee morning or lunch club. Great for small business owners to mix, get ideas & network.
  • Most of all enjoy the home working experience. Enjoy the flexibility and the chance for a better lifestyle for you and your family. Plus with planning get a great deal of work done whilst sitting at home.

So all is not lost for home based working just needs a bit of careful planning and bit of negotiation and most of all commitment to make it work. Good luck and most of all have fun with the change to more flexible working.

Call or email me for details of my strategies for successful home working and my upcoming book “How to Work at Home & Stay Sane”

A Question of Culture – bullying or just banter?

indexFor us here in the UK we have been reading and discussing an incident on a television program “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here”, where a contestant was believed to verbally bullied another member of the group. Now in his defence the person doing the alleged bullying stated it was just banter and that it was accepted between both parties that it was just that a bit of fun. However, the watching audience saw the incident differently. The cry of “bully” and abuse rang around the corridors of the media for at least 36 hours until another minor incident subsumed the short attention span. Though the incident raised an issue in the contemporary workplace between groups and individuals of what does constitutes abuse & bullying and what is just consigned to being banter. What is the cut off point between verbal jousting and causing offence? Hopefully exploring this cultural issue can shed some light on the moral maze we all seem to encounter at work and within organisations.

Having experienced may different working environments banter and joking can be fun, reduce stress and raise morale within the group but it can be difficult to recognise when harmless fun becomes bullying, victimisation or even discrimination. Personal jokes and banter, friendly insults and quips are often how we interact in the workplace, at social gatherings or when we meet up with our friends and family. Sometimes closer friendships and the degree of familiarity allow for insults or name calling to be exchanged, with lasting effects of feelings or upset. Clearly everyone is comfortable and shares the laughter and enjoyment.

The darker side of the banter questions can happen when a person is singled out to be the butt of repeated personal attention and cutting comments and then the banter can become harmful to the person concerned. It is clearly no longer fun and the line between banter and bullying or discrimination has been crossed. However, what is the tipping point pushing banter over into abuse and discrimination and subsequent personal isolation and upset.

It is difficult for employees to know and comprehend when the line is about to be crossed and have the confidence to tell colleagues that enough is enough.  Factory life (mainly male dominated) can be tough for the thin skinned. Sometimes personal differences will be highlighted with a nick name or term that describes the person that clearly identifies them to the group. Its usually not overly complementary so can be hard to come to terms with. Usually the shift team are bonded as a group and the ribald banter is part and parcel of your working life.  This environment is similar to male dominated dressing rooms in sport, it is this culture that the alleged celebrity bully comes from. Perhaps then exhibits a different tolerance to the banter than other groups?  There is a hierarchy and men occupy roles within the group. The banter is part of the motivation and bonding process to suggest although we can have some fun at each others expense we are a team. Its easy to make some lazy hypothesis to suggest its men that allow banter, experience in female dominated environments suggests otherwise.  The banter is there but in a different more subtle form. Perhaps more passive aggressive, less obvious but nevertheless still present within the group. Of course this is a generalisation and there always exceptions to the rule.

So In principle the bullying or banter question is about context and culture within the group and the organisation. When cultures collide i.e. a factory or dressing room toward families sitting in their armchairs at home & media hacks, then perceptions on the interaction change.  We formally accept different rules and expectations within different environments. Psychologically called attributions. A attribution is the process by which individuals explain the causes of behavior and events. So home life is different than being at work, out with friends or in the dressing room. Behaviour and language adapt to the different environment and cultural expectations. I am sure you speak to your friends differently to your line manager to your family? So the term bully is very difficult to define or attribute from a distance unless we understand that the people concerned consent to the interaction rule of engagement.

Tbe bullying and banter question is a moral maze. Measuring it by external standards through a politically correct lens will no doubt always veer toward bullying as these robust interactions do not appear polite or appropriate from a distance.  However we may need to take time to understand the different cultures we exist within and what rules apply and to whom before we make snap judgements. Understanding how we attribute events and behaviours with different groups will no doubt help us look behind the smoke and mirrors of society, social interactions and groups. Bulling cannot be tolerated but where do we draw the line for wholesome and group bonding banter? A question for us all to cogitate.