The “strong & silent” type, the “rock” that people can depend upon. We often gravitate towards projecting and demonstrating strength and resilience both in and outside the workplace. Whilst it is true that this form of projection can inform our psychology and reinforce our resilience in a “fake it until you make it” fashion, it can also lead to a distancing of our projected persona from the sobering reality of our psychological health. This distance can over time become a void; filled with buried anxieties, stifled micro-aggressions and rising stress levels.
How can we diagnose and remedy this disparity between fact and fiction, before it damages our health and productivity in the workplace?
The project that led me to this epiphany was one of discovery – a client had asked Pavelka to come in and analyse the wellness of their sales team. Their challenge was that, while they had an open and considered approach to wellness within the organisation, the sales team were most often on the road and so missed out dedicated wellness sessions, in-office culture and the like.
How could they assess the well-being of their sales team, and how could they increase engagement between the team and the rest of the workplace?
We began by surveying all of the team, exploring their thoughts and feelings on their own health and well-being. The general finding was emphatic – they considered themselves healthy and resilient people who weren’t experiencing undue stress.
From my own observations of their routine and behaviour however this opinion was not grounded in reality – so how could we dig deeper and, with an open conversation, uncover more detailed feedback? This meant taking the results from the survey and, not taking them as the conclusion to the project, using them as a tool to uncover the false positives and negatives that comprised the team’s views of themselves.
By reaching out with qualitative interviews, while the individuals still stated their belief in their health, they also explained issues from low moods, digestive issues, snapping in conversations and finding themselves short-tempered at times. Back to what I’d simply observed first-hand, there were moments when this was visible within the workplace; slammed phones, hardly any personal interaction at their desks; head down, sighing and a defensive posture.
Despite being honest with their health issues, they couldn’t come up with a reason for it – after all they didn’t feel stressed or so they said! In reality we had uncovered classic signs of physiological stress in a pressured environment – which sales typically is.
With a continued experience of stress, adrenaline and dopamine rise – you feel both energised and excited, even whilst experiencing stress. Far from making that stress positive, it means the build-up of stress continues until it inevitably bursts.
A key takeaway for leaders in organisations is awareness about not only what people say, but what they are experiencing and what consequences that this can have.
After our findings were discovered, the company in question undertook more one-to-one check-ins, placed specific calendar time in the sales teams’ diaries for well-being sessions and the like.
In a year of new working realities, organisations must make themselves aware of ways in which to open up the conversation virtually too. A typical conversation flow starts with ‘how are you?’ and ‘I’m fine.’ But even going a step further and prompting – ‘really though, how are you feeling, what’s happening with you today?’ and leaving time for thought and response can make a huge difference.
For the individual, having the patience to begin the day with breathing exercises is a simple and short technique that brings focus back to yourself, away from external noise and pressures.
There are many methods and considerations to look at in the wellness of your people – and it all starts a first step. Contact us here and we’d love to begin the conversation.