"Is this really harassment?" is a question I get a lot. Here's the answer.Read More
I am quickly starting to hate and despise the words “virtual” and “remote.” That’s a shame, because they are perfectly decent words than can be very useful in the right place at the right time.
What I hate and despise is when those words are used to describe work and the people who do it. For example:
“We sold our office building and now we have a virtual office.”
“We allow some of our staff to work remotely when that’s appropriate.”
“I just hired two new people. One works in the office and the other is remote.”
“We are improving our infrastructure so we can work virtually.”
Go to your bookshelf. Blow the dust of your college-years copy of Roget’s Thesaurus and open it up. (OK, I know you didn’t do that, so just open a Google search window if you want to play along.)
Look up the words “virtual” and “remote.” Here is what you will find.
Synonyms for virtual: indirect, unacknowledged, tacit, potential, implied, basic
Synonyms for remote: far-off, faraway, inaccessible, isolated, lonely, unknown, alien
Antonyms for virtual: actual, authentic, real
Antonyms for remote: close, known, near, open, sociable, loved
Now think about what you are really saying when you describe your work environment and your coworkers or staff as “virtual” and “remote.” You are saying, “My inaccessible, lonely and unknown coworkers work in a way that is unacknowledged, implied, and indirect.”
When you use these words to describe what you do, when you do it, and how you do it, you are sending implicit and unconscious messages to those “remote” workers in your “virtual” office, and to your members, your customers, your clients, and yourself.
What if you just called the workplace, “work” and the staff, “workers?” Then, “In my organization, the remote staff work in a virtual office,” becomes “In my organization, the workers work.” And it hardly seems worth stating something that obvious.
“In my organization, workers work.” No judgment, no anxieties, just an accurate statement of what is so.
Try it for a week or two or three. Eliminate the words “virtual” and “remote” from conversations about how work gets done. Better yet, whenever you hear yourself using time and place as a measure of work getting done, stop yourself. Stop admiring Joe for always getting to the office early and leaving late. Stop making snarky remarks when Sally leaves at 3 pm to go to her daughter’s dance recital or soccer game. Let go of the outdated belief that work can only be done in a particular place at a particular time.
Change your word choices and your messages and, ultimately, your beliefs about work, and notice how much easier it is to focus on what is real, actual, and authentic. Reframe expectations so that desired results (including benchmarks and deadlines) are clear and explicitly agreed to by those responsible for creating them. Hold everyone accountable for producing those results, without exception. Focus on the ultimate outcomes, the advances and accomplishments that truly tell us that work has been done.
Then ask yourself, “Does it really matter when and where work gets done, as long as the results are what we wanted?”
That’s not virtual, and it isn’t remote. It is actual, and it is as close at hand as you decide to make it.
Why do I never get the things in life that I want? Why does success elude me? Why does every attempt I make to change my life lead me back to what I had to begin with? What do I really want, anyway?
When you're asking yourself questions like these and getting no answers, it's time to bring in a coach.
Coaching can address any part of your life in which there is a discrepancy between what you say you want and what you have and consistently get. If you’re confused, uncertain, scared, don’t know what you want, or you're tormented by “should’s” and “ought-to’s,” coaching can serve to sort through the confusion and bring clarity and focus.
Coaching can help when:
- You know precisely where you are heading and want some tools and encouragement to pick up the pace or keep you focused.
- You are happy where you are and getting curious about what might be next.
- You are facing a setback or disappointment and feel unsure about what’s next.
- You are experiencing mild and vague disgruntlement and wondering where that’s coming from and what you can do about it.
- You are unhappy and tired of trying to fix things on your own.
As a coach, I offer a client-centered approach and effective and useful techniques and tools, including:
- structure for getting the results that you want. I provide structure for your work through regular coaching appointments, tasks and steps to work through, deadlines, and benchmarks for success.
- accountability – I will hold you responsible for doing the work, completing tasks and exercises that you’ve agreed to do, and meeting deadlines that you’ve agreed to. Simply being held accountable for doing what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it is a very large component of our successful coaching relationship.
- challenges that move you out of your comfort zone and give you confidence in your ability and belief in your accomplishments.
The best coach in the world won’t do you much good if you don’t do the work to create change in yourself and your life. What you get out of coaching is directly proportional to the amount of work you are willing to put in.
Your commitment and determination, even in the face of resistance and reluctance, are key to make coaching work for you. Indeed, if there weren’t resistance and reluctance in the way, you wouldn’t need a coach. You have to be willing to be uncomfortable. You also have to tell the truth – about what is going on for you, what you are feeling and thinking, what you have done or not done, and what kind of results you are getting. And yes, you have to do the homework – the tasks and exercises that I ask you to do, even when you don’t immediately see the reason for it.
Is coaching worth the time and expense? If you want to make a change in your life AND you need the support of a coach to make that change happen – ask yourself “What is it costing me to have my life stay the way it is?” What is it costing you in terms of your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health? What is it costing your loved ones and friends? Ask yourself if you – a happy, productive, satisfied you – are worth it.
You can find loads of books and articles about how to “handle” emotions in the workplace. Most of them are pretty useless, because they are based on the unquestioned premise that to succeed, and to lead, we are required to pretend we don’t have emotions at work.
I have long known this to be a bad way to deal with emotions in the work place. And now I have some science to back me up.
If I ever get back to Finland, I’m going to look up Lauri Nummenmaa just to shake her hand and thank her for doing the work she does. Dr. Nummenmaa is a neuroscientist who does research at Aalto University, and she and her collaborators use brain imaging tools to figure out what happens when we experience emotion.
Two of her recent papers speak directly to this issue of emotions and the futility of pretending we don’t have them. In case you want to check them out yourself, here are the titles and URLs:
“Bodily maps of emotions”
“Emotions promote social interaction by synchronizing brain activity across individuals.”
Dr. Nummenmaa and her research colleagues figured out a way to measure something that many who work in behavior and psychology have know for a long time: that what we call “emotions” are sets or packages of bodily sensations that we have learned to label anger, fear, sadness, joy, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust, and so on.
You can‘t make yourself not have emotions, they just show up, like the tide. And, like the tide, the ebb and flow, wax and wane. And although we think we can hide our emotions from those around us, we give ourselves away in myriad ways, from small changes in our facial expression or tone of voice, to changes in the way we smell.
Dr. Nummenmaa also found that when people sharing an emotional state, their brain activity synchronizes in a way that enhances our ability to predict and understand each other’s actions. By attempting to suppress our emotions in the workplace out of some belief that having emotions at work is “inappropriate,” we are cutting ourselves off from one of the ways our brains make it easier for us to get along and work together.
Since you can’t avoid having emotions, ask yourself, what are you doing with them? Are you storing them up? Building a case out of them? Making yourself sick pretending you don‘t have them? Or are you feeling them, letting them move through you, and speaking your mind when necessary, to get over yourself?
I used to brag that I had a strong temper but a long fuse. What was really going on is that I would suppress anger so quickly I wasn’t even aware of it until much later when it emerged rather explosively – or it oozed out indirectly, as gossip, or nagging, or wanting to avoid someone. I eventually learned that the most frequent sensation I feel when I get angry is tightness in my chest and stomach. I’ve learned that when I notice that sensation, I need to check in to find out what I’m making myself angry about, and then deal with it in a way that I get over being angry, rather than just squelching it.
The challenge is that we are all taught, from the time we are small children, to suppress the emotions our cultures regard as “negative” – particularly anger and its derivatives such as frustration, fear, and sadness or its milder cousin, disappointment. We also learn to keep a lid on our joy, in part because the physical sensations that accompany anger (which we learn to suppress and become uncomfortable around) are similar to those that we feel when we are joyful.
Of course as little, immature human beings we do have a lot to learn how to coexist with other little (and big) human beings. We had to learn how to live with our emotions without causing harm to others or ourselves.
Now, as healthy adults, we are capable of fully experiencing and expressing our emotions without causing damage, physical or otherwise, to ourselves and others. To do that, we have to unlearn what we learned as kids.
We have to be willing to fully experience our emotions, acknowledge and take responsibility for them as self-generated, and express our emotions in ways that lets them move up and out, rather than hanging on to them.
To tell the truth about emotions, to fully express them, we have to start by noticing we have them. We have to be willing to own them as ours, and to express them in the moment, in ways that are congruent with the power of the emotion in the moment.
With practice, you can get so good at this that, most of the time, you’ll be able to notice, express, and get over emotions when they are still small, before they pile up and build up to explosive levels. Not just anger, sadness, and fear but also happiness, joy, and appreciation.
I got a lot of help in learning how to do this from Brad Blanton, author of Radical Honesty and Practicing Radical Honesty and from my amazing life coach and co-author of The Book of How, Raven Dana. Read those books. Do the practices.
Learn how to express your emotions, at work and everywhere else you go. That’s how to manage emotions.