Damn, the last few days have been like a tsunami for most of us!
There is so much fear-worry-anger, many words of wisdom, and funny graphics (TP) flying around all the TV, internet, and social media platforms regarding Covid-19’s invasion into our lives. We humans seem to spew all forms of emotions when struck with significant change that is viewed as unwelcome. This is what happens when we begin the grieving process dealing with any loss or change, so strap in and get ready for the onslaught.
I will add my voice to it all, and act not as a lecturer but as a reminder of all the wisdom and common sense we all know, deep down in our hearts and spirits, is ever-present, awaiting our access.
I am remembering that abrupt change, like hearing about a sudden death, an unexpected job termination, a loved one suddenly leaving you, comes with a fairly predictable pattern we humans follow. We all have just been handed to us a series of changes that have come unexpectedly, all at once, without our involvement or approval. This has significantly impacted our work, economic , and social streams of living. Just watch the news and see how many people are in shock, denial, fear, anger, panic and more. The run on toilet-paper and floods to the grocery and gun stores reveal our acting out in predictable ways to new things thrust upon us.
I want to share or remind you of some wisdom that may help put all of this in perspective. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D., in her groundbreaking book On Death and Dying (1969), outlined the phases of grieving including the emotional and spiritual processing experienced when one learns that they are dying. Her five stages have since been aptly used to describe the process of grieving most any loss or significant change, including that of perceived lifestyles.
I share these five stages with you so you can see where you or others around you might fall. I have found that when I find myself in times of turmoil, I remember the “grieving process curve.” I become more conscious of what’s going on and allow my higher states of wisdom to help me get through what I am experiencing more effectively and healthy.
Take a read and see where you are, have been, and then see what’s ahead for you. Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grieving are:
- Shock & Denial
In this phase, our heart and emotions—rather than our head—rules our belief system as we try to adjust to the idea of life without the person or lifestyle we’re losing. Even though we know what was is over, we really don’t believe it. Against the better judgment of everyone around us we can’t help but entertain the fantasy of returning to our former life. We keep wanting to see hidden glimmers of hope, yet are faced with clear indications that it’s over. (Unsurprisingly, this is the phase where we are most susceptible to late night texting and social media outbursts).
Anger, coupled around fear-worry-doubt, can manifest in many different ways—anger at your ex (“How could they do this to me? Why can’t they stop being selfish?”), anger at God or the Universe (“Why can’t anything ever work out for me? Why am I cursed?”), anger at people or situations associated with the change or break-up (“Anger at the boss or anger that your partner lost their job, because that is when things changed”), and anger at other people who don’t agree or stand with your anger.
This is the phase where we think it’s a great idea to tell anyone and everyone how crazy/unreasonable our ex-boss-government was. This is also when we think it’s crucial to send out hateful emails-texts-social media posts because we don’t know how to contain our emotions.
Bargaining often goes hand in hand with denial. Bargaining can be looking for any possible way to make the old ways work through negotiation, threats, wishing, dreaming or magic—for example, telling your ex that you will change, move, go to therapy. Reminding them of the hurt caused to the children, family, and dog by leaving. Many people bargain with “The Powers That Be,” promising to be a better person if only we can go back to our old way of being.
Depression, like anger, also surfaces in many different forms in people. Feeling tired all the time, not wanting to do anything but lay in bed, feeling disconnected from people even when you’re with them, being on the verge of tears most of the time. Your mind is constantly full of fearful and worrisome thoughts, you have sleep issues, or seek changes in appetite and drug or alcohol use. The most significant and consistent is hopelessness. Hopelessness is the most pervasive and debilitating; it is the thing that leads us to believe that nothing will ever be or feel different than it is right now. Hopelessness makes it feel like you will never move on and that nothing will ever work out for you in the future.
Finally, this is the phase in which we accept what has happened allowing us to make peace with the loss. It doesn’t always come on suddenly, it often happens gradually interspersed with some of the other phases. Acceptance doesn’t always involve harmony and ease —there is almost certain to be some lingering sadness. Acceptance entails making peace with the loss, letting go of the relationship or what was and slowly moving forward with your life. Sometimes it feels like this phase will never come which usually means you’re still struggling in an earlier phase.
I hope this sheds some light on your current emotional condition and that of others. Maybe this will help you lighten your load, go easier on yourself and others, and just allow all this to pass without unnecessary pain and suffering. If you find this of benefit share it with others in your sphere of influence. Lean on others and share what’s going on inside you, and be there to listen to them as they share their plight with you. In this way we can all be there, more present and compassionate for each other which I believe will be the greatest gift of this huge, but temporary challenge.
In this blog and the next few I want to discuss what I think is one of the most significant unspoken topics we face in the world of business today. The topic centers around the chronically high level of disengagement we have historically in our organizations since Gallop started tracking it 35 years ago.
The figures are very telling. Gallop reports three areas of what they call Employee Engagement (EE):
– Employees who are Engaged in their work, meaning they regularly report an affinity for the type of work they do, are satisfied with their direct boss/manager, and have a positive connection to their organization as a whole.
– Employees who are Not Engaged in their work, are those who while may be somewhat satisfied where they work, are yet not mentally or emotionally connected to their work, their boss, or their workplace.
– Employees who are Actively Disengaged in their work, meaning that they are unhappy, unfulfilled, or just have miserable work experiences and they go out of their way to not work, interfere with others who are working, bad-mouth the organization whenever possible, excessively miss work or are tardy, and play the system.
I have been tracking EE for decades, and the percentages of each category amount to the following:
– The percentage of Engaged Employees has averaged around 30% of American workers. This has been rising slightly over the past 3 years and now sits at 34%, measured monthly. The higher number today is due to 10 years of a good economy – when looking back in the late 2000’s it dropped well into the 20% range.
– The percentage of Actively Disengaged workers has been hovering around 20% historically, while lately it’s dropped to 16%, mainly due to same economics.
– That leaves the Not Engaged. This group seems to be stuck at about 50% of all workers.
This means that about 70% of all U.S. workers, including management, are not fully engaged at work!
What a tragic loss for all of us!
Now data is data, but when we take a high-level view of this, what stands out for me are a two key things. One is that over the past 40 years we have been on a binge in the areas of management and leadership development. Look at the exponential rise in the number of books, MBA programs, seminars and learning programs on these two topics. One would think that would have moved the engagement needle a bit more that we witness. Unfortunately not!
The second takeaway is how many people are suffering, stressing, and wasting precious time, while at work! I include ALL levels of workers, from the lowest levels of the org chart to the C-Suite. I have witnessed the various levels of disengagement all my working career, and have seen the short and long term devastating effects unengaged and actively disengaged people suffer, which include: stress, health issues, difficulty sleeping, depression, musculoskeletal disorders, unable to relax or concentrate, difficulty thinking logically and making decisions, and low levels of happiness or satisfaction.
Conversely I see the negative impacts disengagement has on our organizations, driving lower levels of creativity, effectiveness, productivity, sustainability and profitability. These include: increasing absenteeism, increasing staff turn-over, impairing performance and productivity, increasing unsafe working practices and accident rates, increasing complaints from clients and customers, adversely affecting staff recruitment, increasing liability to legal claims and actions by stressed workers, and damaging the organization’s image both among its workers and externally
All of us at work need to raise our levels of awareness around the word ENGAGEMENT.
If you are an employee, ask yourself, on a scale of 1-10:
– How engaged am I at work?
– How much I love the work that I do?
– How much do I like my co-workers?
– How do I get along with my direct supervisor?
– How much respect do I have for my supervisor?
– How much do I respect the leadership of my organization?
– How much do I resonate with my organization’s statement of vision/mission/purpose?
– Am I willing to take full responsibility for my level of engagement in my work?
And, ask yourself: If I am significantly unengaged, what am I willing to do about it? If I am really unhappy, am I willing to find another opportunity where I will feel more fully alive at work?
If you are a manager or leader, in addition to the above questions, ask yourself, on a scale of 1-10:
– How engaged do you think your direct reports are?
– How do you know if your employees are engaged or not?
– What do you think you can do to elevate awareness on Employee Engagement with your team?
– Are you willing to receive feedback that you may be the reason some of your people are disengaged?
– If you are the reason some of your people feel disengaged, are you willing to make needed changes?
As a leader you may want to take these questions to your people and open up a new thread of dialog that will ultimately help you make a number of positive changes.
EE is a two way street. Leadership needs to do what it can to get better connected with their employees, know what is needed to provide an engaged culture, develop leaders to keep a high-awareness level around engagement, and make employee engagement a strategic priority. Employees need to look within and determine their own engagement levels, what they need to change in their thinking and behaviors to get better connected, or to stop causing their own and others suffering and find employment elsewhere.
Unengagement /disengagement are toxins that none of us, nor our workplaces, deserve or can sustain. My bet is if we all can boost employee engagement then we can sit back and watch how higher, better, faster, more innovative-productive-cost effective our organizations will become, which will open up new possibilities for making work much more meaningful and prosperous for all!