Sounds like a false distinction doesn’t it? But, the idea that there is some kind of line between our personal and professional selves is woefully out of date. While it might be true that we curb a little of how we act at work – not swearing, for example  – we just don’t leave part of us at home and put on a totally different persona when we’re in the office.

Professional vs personal?

What’s happening inside us at work is the same as what’s happening inside us outside of work. Maladaptive coping mechanisms and all. And, as a resilience coach who has worked in multiple businesses, I can tell you that -while we can keep the less helpful aspects suppressed for a short period of time – they are always going to come bubbling up at some point. Usually as our automatic response in the most stressful moments, or those where we feel most exposed, which is when they are likely to do the most damage.

Whether that’s a micro-manager who is behaving that way because of a deep insecurity about their own abilities, or someone who is disruptive when stressed because their nervous system is in full threat mode (and they don’t know how to deactivate it), how we feel on the inside affects everything. The coping mechanisms and self-awareness we have – or don’t have – define how we show up at work, whether we know it or not. Our emotional wellbeing is our own individual responsibility. But at the same time, office environments where people are (intentionally or unconsciously) dumping all of their issues into the culture can be toxic and unpleasant to work in. And also unproductive, uninspiring and devoid of innovation and enthusiasm.

Typical workplace cultures today rarely encourage self-reflection – and compassion is still (incorrectly) viewed as a “letting them off the hook” route to people taking advantage. It’s amazing to see how much resources and energy get wasted when we forget to look at the human underneath the problem. 

Let me give you an example

If you have someone on your team who struggles with motivation you might point out that they are not doing as well as their colleagues – try to stimulate their competitive nature to get them motivated. You might remind them that their promotion is dependent on performance. You might try to help them break tasks down into manageable chunks or to find ways to be more organised. And this could be a long and drawn out process that takes time and energy – from you and them – and in the end feels to the person in question like so much pressure that they are signed off with stress. Who wins in that situation?

A lack of motivation comes down to fear

If you take a step back and look at that scenario by purely focusing on the human at the centre of it, things change. Because a lack of motivation isn’t laziness or a lack of organisation – more often it is caused by fear. Maybe it’s a fear of failure. Fear of change. Or of some perceived personal flaw being seen by other people. When you tackle that fear you solve the motivation problem. Why don’t we do this? Because people’s fears are seen as very personal and not appropriate for the workplace. But they are there, influencing how we act 24/7, whether we see them as appropriate or not.

Resilient people are motivated people

So this is my area of expertise. And I can definitively say that working with a resilience coach looking at what the fear is – because it’s not always obvious until you actually focus on it with expert help – and identifying how to move past it, will achieve much more than any other motivation initiative. It also empowers that person with greater self-knowledge, an understanding of what motivates them (because it’s different for all of us) and the tools to re-motivate themselves if something similar happens in the future.

As a workplace resilience coach I know wellbeing initiatives need context

Of course, one point that has to be made here is that in any workplace, wellbeing initiatives like resilience coaching don’t exist in a vacuum. And won’t work if the general working conditions are so oppressive, stressful or inflexible that there is no space for what humans need to happily exist. As recent research shows, there needs to be alignment between the way business works and what wellbeing initiatives offer. Otherwise it’s like trying to dam a river with sponges. 

Corporate cultures will always require a focus on performance, productivity and output. But there are many more effective ways to make these happen than criticism, pushing people or simply demanding results. One very obvious approach is to focus on building human resilience in the business. Not just focusing on resilient traits such as consistency or being able to bounce back but what actually creates these traits in the first place: self-awareness, being able to calm and self-soothe, self-compassion. That’s something that a lot of resilience training programmes that exist today don’t provide. Resilient business cultures are built from people who can do these things in the workplace as well as at home. And in a shaky or toxic culture it’s often a focus on building up these human elements that is missing.

Work with a resilience coach

I work with individuals and teams on a fresh approach to being resilient – one that takes into account the human with far more effective results. If you’d like to talk about where this could build up your business book an intro call.

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