Well-being at work – is it someone else’s job?
Well-being at work – is it someone else’s job?
When the topic of well-being at work arises, does the emphasis on work mean that we give the responsibility of our well-being at work to our workplace? Surely we have all experienced that at some point.
In this article, Bernadette Glass, a consultant and presenter to workplaces everywhere, with 35 years of experience, explores how she has learned what true responsibility at work means ... in Bernadette’s words:
"In my experience of work over the past 35 years in the human services field, I have done my fair share of whining about the workplace and how ‘they’, way up there in decision-making land, have got it wrong and “don’t care about the impact of their decisions on the ‘workers’.”
Bernadette presents and works in various workplaces, helping them to develop responsibility as individual workers and as a whole team, which leads to greater coherence, efficiency and team work.
She observes just how often we turn to blaming others instead of addressing what may really be going on in our workplaces.
In Bernadette’s words:
"Interestingly, the focus of my own work in this field has been 'self-responsibility' (of the client that is!), in that clients have made complaints about the service or their worker when the chips were down and they were frustrated with the lack of movement or resolution to their issues. I now realise that the same sound was being echoed in the workplace."
Have we not all, during our own work felt overworked, undervalued, exhausted and sometimes even wanted to throw in the towel? When management has introduced structural changes that increase our workload, how often have we met those with complaints about management not understanding what it is like at the coalface? Have our managers (and other work colleagues) not copped a lashing from our whining (albeit behind closed doors or in quiet hallways)?
Workplaces everywhere are filled with negative comments, criticism and blame. When Bernadette came to realise this was going on, and that she too was feeding it herself, a whole new view opened up to her:
"What I now realise is that I was doing exactly the same as the clients did – in not taking responsibility."
Doesn’t it all come down to us thinking that it is up to someone else, our boss, the corporation as a whole, everyone else – to make us feel good? Bernadette puts it like this:
"My belief has been that the organisation is responsible for whether my work experience is positive or not and whether the clients have had a fair deal."
Pretty powerful stuff! So is it possible that we have actually thought that it is up to our boss to make us have a positive work experience and that – if that is missing, it is all their fault? Mmmm. Have we not all experienced this – whether it be in ourselves, or in those around us?
Is it possible that it is not actually all about someone else making us feel good, or positive?
If yes, then where does that leave us? How much workplace conversation would be slashed if there was no more gossiping, blaming, criticising – but simply people getting on with what they are actually there to do.
Many of us may laugh at this – as we know our workplaces are very much not like that at present. But what if they could be ... because we could choose to be different in them?
Bernadette offers further insights on this, to those who go into workplaces to assist or support them to function better as a team, suggesting that this applies equally to them, too. In Bernadette’s words:
"It’s fine to support and encourage clients to take responsibility so that they don’t become dependent on others for what they can naturally do for themselves. But isn’t it equally as important that those of us working to support the clients – or to enable the clients to take self-responsibility also take that same self-responsibility for ourselves in our work?"
Bernadette continues, and this applies to us all:
"This then raises the question - Can I leave my responsibility for my well-being to someone else? My well-being can be supported at work and there are a myriad of programs and HR discussions about how to implement well-being programs most effectively in the workplace, but, above and beyond all of that – is there not now a role for me to take in changing that towards deepening my own self-responsibility?"
Could it be that our well-being is firstly and absolutely our own responsibility? If we take this responsibility seriously, then we will be acutely aware of when it is being compromised or is likely to be.
We can then take steps to:
- speak up
- plan in advance for busy or demanding times
- nurture ourselves pre and post a hectic week or weeks at work
And in effect, do whatever is needed to bring a body into work that is ready to do the job at hand.
Wow! Imagine if workplaces were filled with workers like that! Yes it seems so different from what we experience at present, but doesn’t it start with us?
It may start for you with a self-care program or learning how to meditate to connect (and not escape)… or with exercising gently.
In the end, isn’t us becoming more responsible actually adding to our own true well-being? Surely that’s worth investing in ...
As Bernadette puts it:
"To grow in understanding of my self-responsibility and self-awareness is growing my own well-being and whilst it is important that this extends to and is supported at work, I have come to experience that I come first in caring for myself regardless of whether I am at work or not."
Bernadette continues, explaining the benefits that flow from this:
"The more I care for and love myself, the more confident I am at making choices that support me. Whilst this is a work in progress, I now know that the bottom line is self-responsibility and this will directly affect my well-being at work."
Now, doesn’t it sound like medicine to live like that?