Pause for a moment and reflect. When you think of your workplace culture, what comes to mind?
Was it an open and relaxed response -- or did you tense up a little? If you became anxious at the thought, know that your experience is not uncommon.
From an evolutionary perspective, our brains have been wired to remain alert to dangers for the purpose of survival. These days, our fast paced culture can trigger this old system. Our brains don’t really distinguish between a wild animal attack and a questionable email from a colleague. The result is that many of us live with some degree of low-level fear. This might take the form of not feeling psychologically safe at work, feeling worried, or having anxiety - in general, or about a specific situation or colleague.
The problem is, if we’re not actively working to create inner safety each day, we might be unknowingly activating well-travelled neural pathways that walk us through negative thoughts and feelings (e.g., That colleague’s email, again. Those kids. Oh, that parent. That policy. It’s terrible, and that’s just the way things are).
Notice the fixed mindset voice? It freezes our perceptions of reality, and can become a self-fulfilling prophesy that continually threatens our sense of safety. This fixed mindset voice essentially communicates to ourselves: "My workplace culture is against me --- and I don’t feel safe."
Here’s why we need to make a change:
We spend the majority of our daylight hours at work. This amounts to a good portion of our life experience. Our Life.
In the end, I believe we want to say that we lived well - with a relative sense of safety, stability and fulfillment.
So - chin up, chest open, big breath in and out! It’s time to surrender our fear-based fixed mindset to our growth mindset song. Empower yourself to dream big. You know it’s possible to feel safe, stable and fulfilled at work. By purposefully choosing a growth mindset lens, there are 3 possible outcomes:
- Quit our jobs and find a “better” workplace. This might not be a realistic option. More interestingly, we might observe that we've had struggles in most work places. Hmm, what is the common factor here?
- Take personal responsibility for being a Changemaker in our teams. Do the work to create a safe environment within ourselves. As a byproduct of our efforts, we might just role model something great that spreads.
- Seek to understand that we can’t make other people create a safe space for us. Independent of their actions, we must be brave and go first. By doing our own work, at the very least, we'll be living the positive change within ourselves. That inner sense of safety, stability and confidence will be our day to day reality that no one can mess with.
With option 2 or 3, there will only be a net increase in a positively lived reality. It does, however, take continued work in self-awareness, self-management, and effective effort. It takes time and skill to unwire and rewire our baseline experiences from one of anxiety to one of inner ease.
To this end, here are two simple strategies as options for practice:
- Wire your “positive” lens of how you see your workspace - with Gratitude. Send a colleague a short email that let’s them know something you appreciate about them. List out your gratitudes at work each morning to build the habit that creates the positive neural roadways in your own brain.
- When you see the "negative" arising, like anxiety, slow down and pause. Use a strategy to self-regulate. And, pro-actively use this strategy to establish a reserve level of inner stability and safety. For example, try Square Breathing before a meeting to deactivate the fight/flight system and activate the rest/digest system in your own brain.
What is the result of shifting from an external to internal orientation, setting your bar high, and consistently doing the work to get there? The next time we ask, perhaps in three months from now, you might say that you’re enroute to a workplace culture and a daily life that you love.
Remember, The Secret to lasting change is in the doing.
Talk with us! Which strategy will you try at work this week? Or what strategy will you continue in your own life, that you know is already working?