We were recently facilitating a company meeting with a team of people, many of whom had worked for the company for their entire career. In the meeting, people were complaining about the challenges they faced and the hardships of the current financial environment in their industry.
They were feeling threatened, singled out, and personally beat up in this environment.
As we listened, we came to understand that this group had been together for so long and for so much of their careers that they had no idea how similar their experiences, challenges, and hardships were to the vast majority of other working people.
When we said to them, “Your experiences are the experiences of most people who are in the workforce”, they looked at us like we were out of our minds.
In the ensuing conversation, we talked about the workplaces and lives we’ve witnessed.
We talked about managers who had their entire next year’s plan ripped out from under them because of changes in their industry, professionals whose chosen career paths simply went away, needed resources that never arrived, long hours that were never recognized, and the range of experiences that are a norm of working, being part of a team, or functioning in a department within a company that has to create financial sustainability to stay afloat.
As we talked, you could see this group visibly relax. They came to understand that the kinds of challenges they were facing are the challenges most working people experience at some time or another, and they felt relief that they were not alone.
The shift in frame from “this is happening to me alone” to “this happens in many lives, perhaps even all lives” can change the experience from feeling victimized to feeling a part of the human race.
To help them see how much challenge is a norm, together we created a list of some of the things friends and colleagues were living with and through in their workplaces.
This is what they shared:
- A really challenging boss
- A new boss with entirely different priorities
- A cancer diagnosis and the need to still work
- Working two jobs to support the family
- Too much work for any one day and too little budget to hire someone else
- Layoffs to stabilize the budget – that then increased the workload
- Stock market volatility
- Regulatory updates that change the success of the whole industry
- Exciting work that is also high stress – higher stress then they imagined
- Sale of the company leading to everything changing
- A culture of fear
It’s such a gift to be alive and be able to work, yet it’s regularly (and at times overwhelmingly) difficult at the same time. And, when you believe that others have it easy, it erodes your ability to see difficulties as a part of life – not just a part of your life.
This week, as you encounter your most challenging moments, try shifting from a framework of “this is happening to me alone” to “this happens in many lives,” and then find ways to connect with others to get support for what’s going on in your life and work so that you know you are not alone.
We’re here for you!