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

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/

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.

 

Lord Alan “Widow Twankey” Sugar and the Pantomime Ugly Sisters?

images40So the panto season has started early this year in the UK with the BBC 1 program Apprentice.  Now for the uninitiated a pantomime is

Pantomime (informally panto), is a type of musical comedy stage production, designed for family entertainment. It was developed in England and is generally performed during the Christmas and New Year season.

As with all English panto’s we have a number of characters such as the ugly sisters as the constants and Lord Alan Sugar as the Widow Twankey presiding over the “he’s behind you” knock about fun. Though through it all a Cinderella emerged in the form of Lindsey Booth who had the resolute dignity to admit that the adversarial and clawing environment was not something she was comfortable with. Its just a pity that she did not resign from the program rather than wait for Lord Widow Twankey’s chubby little digit to pronounce “Your Fired”!

Lindsey Booth runs a very successful and thriving business teaching children to swim and just does business in a quiet unassuming way that relies upon reputation and honest to goodness great service. Lindsey uses her life experiences to tell a very compelling and engaging story of a slow but purposeful business growth whilst being a full-time mother. None of the sell, sell, sell, more, more. Lindsey moves beyond that toward “we teach babies to swim and are proud of it”. Who could argue with that.

For me the Apprentice is a bit like rubber necking a car crash from across the other side of the road, you know you shouldn’t but sometimes its difficult to resist. Sitting in front of the television grumbling that business is just not like this, and these odious panic stricken business people are nothing like the great people I have met and continue to meet. So how does a program bring the noisy pip squeak out of serious business people?

I am sure the contestants are nothing like there ugly sister persona in their day jobs. Its inconceivable that the contestants would be working let a lone successful in their own right. I can’t imagine that they would work in a team or be management or leadership material with the attitudes that they exhibit. Perhaps bringing in psychologist Robert Hare to conduct some psychopath profiling as in his great book Snakes in Suits would reveal a nest of psychotic executive vipers? Of course I am exaggerating as the contestants are probably whipped up to a frenzy by the production company to exhibit all of the worse excesses of the blind self absorbed banking exec of 2008.

So where does the program leave the representation of young executives in 2014? Whilst working at Business School a couple of years ago the attitudes from young business students did suggest that they saw the Apprentice as a template for business success. This from a group of people still using Comic Sans to write business plans and customer invoices for example. Spelling was in text speak with no concern for the complication of working with people. People get in the way of making a profit don’t you know! By the time we had finished working together there was a more realistic view of business, with people at the centre of their success.

So the Apprentice is of course a comic representation of business with heroes and villains, profit and loss and is just television. However, I am wondering if some young people going into business see the Apprentice as a template or just knock about panto fun? Hopefully it is the latter and there are more Lindsey Booth’s out there to make a business that has value as well as profit.

Why Workplace Training Rarely Sticks.

TimagesI appreciate the title may be a little provocative especially to HR, managers and team leaders etc but its true – workplace training can have little or no effect for business. I am as guilty as charged, having been on so many staff training courses where the priority list for us was, a nice lunch, a day out, early finish & a bit of fun. Very rarely did the line manager & HR advisor tell us why we were to be “trained” (H&S training excepted), informed what was expected of us individually or as a group or how our behaviour was to change as a result. During our cosy one-to-one’s the line manager would ask me “how did the training go”? I would reply “fine thanks” and that would be it. No follow up, no measurement of behaviour change or training transfer, no return on the company investment for the employee or business. So where does it go so wrong?

Here are few starting points to consider…

1. Only a fraction of what business spends on training actually changesbehaviour
Without training outcome setting, needs analysis, measuring training transfer and weeks & months of follow up reinforcement, application, feedback, encouragement and accountability, as much as 90% of all instruction doesn’t “stick” in the workplace.

2. People won’t use a skill consistently until it becomes habit or an automatic process.
Until a new skill has been habituated, people have to concentrate hard to do things in a new way. In a busy workplace without having conscious awareness of the new skills or behaviour they quickly decay and are then unused. Until new behaviours become an automatic process, old behaviours will prevail for most of the time. Repeated failures to apply the new skill can be discouraging, with people typically go back to their old, previously behaviour patterns defeating the object of the training.

3. A new skill is unlikely to become habituated without a follow up and repetition.
To learn any new skill, routine, habit or behaviour pattern, you have to perform the action again and again to stimulate memory and automatic processes. Only after the new process is established will someone consistently perform the skill on the job. Because of the time involved, this repetition can’t happen in the classroom. It has to happen in the workplace with continual assessment and follow up.

So with this information to hand what can be done to ensure that training is identified, implemented, delivered and measured effectively for a great return on investment for the organisation & the individual. I am sure those involved in training/L&D are familiar with dear old Kirkpatrick and the four levels of training evaluation. Not without its flaws but a great place to start evaluating the training. However, having used a method developed by Kamal Birdi with The Taxonomy of Training and Development Outcomes (TOTADO) to great effect, this model helps measure the individual, team, organisational & societal levels of effectiveness of the expensive training at work.

So the models of evaluation & assessment are there so what aren’t they used by may organisations to help justify training budgets? Surely its about staff that have had skills added to positively rather than we have trained a XXXX number of people? The lack of assessment of training may be partly due to cost and extra effort or just lack of understanding of methods needed to evaluate properly? Perhaps there is a training need right there!

Measuring training, assessing trainees and evaluating training outcomes is a a very straight forward process. With a little application and understanding for what learning outcomes are needed then the line manager, leadership team and HR group can make significant improvements with workplace learning & savings with training budgets. Workplace learning can measured and will be effective with the cooperation of all parties concerned as long as objectives are agreed at the outset. Therefore changing the perception of training from a “whatever” to something of real added value. So the challenge is – can you be sure your workplace training sticks, if not take a few positive steps to change and make your training accountable, measurable and most of all enjoyable.

Bibliography

Birdi, K. (2010) The Taxonomy of Training and Development Outcomes (TOTADO): A New Model of Training Evaluation. Paper presented at the Annual BPS Division of Occupational Psychology Conference January 2010

Kirkpatrick, D.L., & Kirkpatrick, J.D. (1994). Evaluating Training Programs, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Kirkpatrick, D.L., & Kirkpatrick, J.D. (2005). Transferring Learning to Behavior, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Work Place Psycho(babble)(madeup)ology

images (33)Love it or hate it psychology in the workplace has an impact on all or working lives. From applying for a job and taking a psychometric test, an interview that is semi structured or structured toward having to attend an assessment centre etc. When you attend a training/L&D programme hopefully your learning transfer is measured and an assessment will be conducted over time to ensure a good return on investment for the business. Research & models of leadership, management,groups/team function, H&S, HR, culture, behaviour etc etc, Notwithstanding the burgeoning area of coaching psychology that helps numerous people in and out of the workplace daily. Now I could go on and discuss every area that work psychology gets its sticky little fingers into, but this will probably start the collective yawn that work place psychology can evoke.

Psychology has physics envy, there I have said it. An ex-colleague and good chum who is a physicist & statistician takes a dim view of this adolescent science of psychology. Our conversations go like this – psychology is madeupology and just a load of psychobabble that doesn’t make any sense. After all you do is confirm the bleeding obvious, its all common sense! I won’t go into my reply as it is unprintable. So why does psychology have this problem and sometimes negative perception in the workplace? Why is it some businesses and individual see us as just confirming what they already know or perhaps think they know.

Well firstly the thing about common sense it ain’t that common. We generally see the world though a perceptual lens that suits our beliefs and values. Therefore it may be that psychology at work is of little value due to the seemly obvious nature of the results. However, without all the research behind the theories and models of the workplace and facets within the organisation, how can we ever confirm the bleeding obvious as it stays as perceived common sense? This is where the issues exists as a lack of understanding of the years of work on theory and modelling on so many different areas of the workplace that sometimes it just gets overlooked as business white noise. Perhaps then its down to us to make psychology more understandable and more applicable to everyone’s working life? Something I believe should be the case.

To use psychology in the workplace is a valuable tool that is excluded at the detriment of any organisation. Many guru’s are employed to cast upon the masses their pet understanding of how things work with people and groups. Thing is it is just one person’s one eyed view without any commitment to ongoing development of their subject, organisation or clients. Though I do understand you pays your money your takes your choice with all things. However, without any background in the subject apart for a nice certificate and a great chat up line where is the substance of the offering?

So as a geeky psychologist who cares about the profession, I see physics envy is a positive thing as it make us work harder to find answers to the big organisational questions. We are all psychologists, we love people watching and making broad generalisations about groups and their views. So why not find out about the science of the bleeding obvious and how uncommon common sense actually is. Its not that bad you know and we might be able to make some sense of how you and your organisation ticks.

A Leadership Question – formal or informal?

images (32)I am sure you have seen LinkedIn and other social media platforms awash with articles on leadership and becoming a better leader. How many articles and promotions do we see “10 ways to become a great leader” or “Essential Leadership Training” etc, along with countless banal quotes from eminent business characters. You have all seen them I am sure. Now if I was a cynic there could good reason for this in terms of leaders & managers may well have a resources to pay for management consultants fees? As I am not a cynic I am sure that this is not the case. However, most of the leaders we hear and read about are those with formal power, influence and position. What about those who have no formal power in an organisation or a group, what is it that draws people to them? What is it that perhaps creates a more authentic sense of leadership and vision for the followers?

Needless to say, a person can influence others, and in this sense be a leader. Others look to them for ‘leads’ and follow their direction or probably more importantly their behaviours (health and safety is a good example). I am sure we have often seen someone have a negative influence on behaviour within a group/team when they flout rules or reject authority. Similarly a person can have a positive influence by being clearly supportive of an initiative and engaged in a process – particularly where their involvement is discretionary. In many cases, it is the informal leaders that will be the strongest influencers of behaviour within a group as their influence is more direct, closer to the group and constant.

Informal leaders have capabilities that more formal leaders do not, simply because they do not hold a position of designated authority. They can suggest things to other team members that could not be said by a person in an official management role. Their ability to influence is different, since informal leaders are often perceived differently than formal leaders. The informal leader who might take on this task is respected, perhaps trusted, based on his/her performance and relationships with the others within the group. While the formal leader is more likely to be in a leadership role due to his formal authority and power.

So what do we make of the informal leader? Dean Pielstick at North Arizona University published a fascinating paper a few years ago “Formal & Informal Leading: A Comparative Analysis” where his findings suggested that informal leaders are higher levels of leading than formal leaders overall but notably in vision, communicating, relationships, community, guidance and character. All of the vitalcomponents of authentic leadership. Informal leaders seem to have more fun are personable and treat co-workers with more respect. The informal leader is less likely to use coercion or have a need for power and perhaps more importantly less likely to use fear. Although this study is not without its faults the finding suggest informal leaders are more authentic that may well provide a lesson for more formal leaders.

This topic is much under researched perhaps for the cynical reason noted above. Though we may need to pay more attention to informal leaders and identify their qualities. Perhaps it is a more pure sense of authentic leadership as they have no formal power within the organisation? This may then fuel the need to strip away titles and trappings of power to provide the organisation a more transparent form of leadership that the group engage with fully. Therefore inverting the organisational pyramid with the leader & leadership team no longer sitting at the pointy end at the top but facilitating the organisation to function without barriers. Food for though at least.

Drop me a line or call today to find out more of how to nurture your informal leaders or leadership style .

 

References

CD Pielstick – Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 2000 – jlo.sagepub.com