The F Words of Work
Yes, I get it, there might be a few choice f words that come to mind when some people think of their workplace. Reality is, we are but a mere bunch of humans dealing with bunches of humans every day, and that can bring us an enormous amount of fulfilment, high levels of engagement and many positive challenges. For some, however, it may mean the complete opposite or indeed somewhere in the middle, therefore I acknowledge that f words may differ from human to human.
Recently, concepts such as the future of work, generational workforce expectations, new ways to engage people and how best to support and communicate around mental health are hot topics in the networks I’m part of. With an increasingly competitive talent landscape, it must be front of mind how to attract, engage, retain on various levels.
With this in mind, these are a few of my favourite f words! I look forward to hearing how mine compares to yours.
News flash, unlike my father who spent over 37 year in one of New Zealand’s leading banks (admittedly in multiple cities in various roles) many people do not spend their entire working life in one company anymore. Current theories suggest millennials may have between five and 10 careers in their working life – not jobs, actual career changes. Because we are all trying to run or help run a successful business, the future must be a priority, whether it is engaging people longer in more bespoke ways, defining new roles that don’t exist now, or being more considered and open around transferrable skills and people being able to move into a “previously not immediately obvious” job function. Sometimes it is as simple as communicating the direction of the business earlier than you expected, or to more levels in the organisation that you had been sharing with before. Ever had people leave when you had a business strategy, career move or opportunity they (and your company) might have benefited from, which you hadn’t shared with them yet? The shift to having multiple careers can work for your business – instead of people leaving to find their next challenge, they might just find it within – if you’re open.
I’m talking about the intuition stuff here; instincts, gut feel, being tuned in. Recently I’ve seen more content than ever about RU Ok Day, Suicide Awareness, Mental Health training and these are all excellent steps forward for inclusion, compassion and supporting everyone to do their best work. I know in our business here at Meltwater we are working to integrate these themes and support mechanisms into our daily conversations. Not once a year, not when things go wrong. Every. Single. Day. Feeling is also about being tuned in for the good stuff, when it all goes well, when people are highly engaged. What was different in that moment and leading up to that moment? How can we continue to replicate that energy and that success?
Not just working hours, although flexible arrangements are crucial to support commitments many people have in order to study, for parenting or carer responsibilities, for sports and volunteering. But I’m also talking about how people work – how they learn, how they deal with stress, how they react to challenge and change. Every human has a different approach, response, perspective and drive. Every person in your organisation will land differently, learn differently and respond differently to pressure, to celebration, to disappointment and to recognition. Flexibility means a bespoke approach to practically everything you do for people, including leadership styles, management systems, learning design, performance and engagement initiatives.
Goes without saying that there ought to be some fun at work – not to be confused with the expectation of being constantly entertained. It is, after all a workplace. Fun looks different to each person. Some find it fun to collaborate, for some it’s more fun to work alone (I refer to a friend of mine who prefers to spend ‘Shipit days’ on his own project instead of the team collaboration it was designed for), for some it is dressing up in costumes at work (my sister’s worst nightmare – see below section: fear), for some it’s fun to eat together, for some to drink together, for some to get sporty and for some it’s fun to try influence the use of keep cups. Some people like public accolades, some a simple thank you behind the scenes and an early mark, and for some, it’s not fun unless you are completely out of the office and partying like it’s 1999. Whatever the fun is, make it frivolous and fancy but make sure it fits.
It’s ok to be afraid. That doesn’t make it any easier in the moment though does it? Whether it be an imposter syndrome fear, where even though you’ve got a wealth of experience and have done some amazing things in your life, that maybe you’ll be discovered to not be capable, a fraud, suddenly not worthy. Or maybe it is the fear of missing out on that promotion, fear of not doing a good job, fear of making a mistake or being left behind. Public speaking, juggling parent and work responsibilities and the fear of not doing enough in either. Fear of not understanding a concept as swiftly as others, fear you won’t be included in a strategic decision. So many fears, so little time. First, breathe. Are you thinking about only what could go wrong? Could you try visualising the things that will go well, the value you bring, visualise a positive outcome. Facing your fears head-on is easy in theory, at least acknowledging fear is a start. Obviously, if fear or anxiety becomes all-consuming, overwhelming and has a negative impact on your every day, then there are many avenues and practical steps to take in seeking professional help.
Okay that’s a massive cheat on an f word, but I wanted to share a couple of my favourite aphorisms of which I draw on frequently in my life. 1. “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” Yes sure it’s a cliché but it also happens to be true. Whether it be asking for more responsibility, for a favour, a concession or for equal pay, sometimes you need to just ask. 2. “What is for you, won’t go by you” shared by a colleague at a time when I wanted something to go my way that didn’t. It’s a ‘meant to be’ type of adage and very much resonates with me. 3. “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” sometimes it is and sometimes it’s not – take a moment to consider this, often.
To experiment, to speak, to speak up, to speak out. Freedom to innovate, to challenge the status quo, to be yourself. Freedom to try and fail (another good f word – there is always something to learn from failure), to ask questions without judgment, to have ideas, to fight for what you believe in. Not of course freedom to come and go as you please without delivering results… see above note about running a business.
What are your f words?