How do you like to work? How do you like to be managed at work? What do you need at work to perform at your best, to fulfill your potential?
These should be standard questions when recruiting a person and in staff development and management meetings. A good employee, a good manager wants to ensure they are getting the best out of their people. And that means accepting that people need different working environments and management styles. A good boss doesn’t try to apply his or her style to all the staff but adapts his/her own management style to bring out the best in the people. Not an easy task to do but one that’s essential if employees are wanted to keep happy, motivated and enabled.
The key word in that is enabled. All people are different and whereas many are neutral and can easily adapt to many different types of work environments, there are a whole lot of others who get the best out of themselves only in a certain type of environment. Some need to talk to themselves while typing or thinking, some like music on the background, others need peace and quiet. Needless to say, when such people are put into one and same open room, not everyone will get their optimal working environment. In fact, none might if all are asked to compromise.
I’m of the latter type. I need peace and quiet to perform at my best – when I’m thinking and writing. And big part of my job requires both. I get distracted by a lot of sounds around me. I’m a highly-sensitive person which in my case typically means that “distractions” which for many others would be minor and insignificant, are intensified in my feelings and thoughts. I get distracted, and there’s nothing minor about it. Listening to a colleague mumbling to herself, having a phone beeping for all messages, typing loudly and even eating a crunchy apple trigger a major headache for me. For a “normal person” I understand this sounding crazy and something that I should just learn to “adapt to and compromise with”. I get that. But what if I just can’t. Because I just can’t. It’s not something I can control or change – it’s not a mere preference or liking. It’s a trait. Now, I can control the consequences, or my reaction to these external disturbances. But it requires a lot of energy. If I were to try and control it completely, not letting the anxiety caused to show at all, I would not be able to do anything else but focus on the control. Which would obviously not enable me to get any work done.
That’s where the problems come in. I’m forced to choose between being completely controlled in my reactions (not showing being disturbed) and not getting any work done, or get my work done as much as possible but with the cost of letting the anxiety “out” at peak times. Neither is optimal. All this could be avoided if I were able to work in a quiet(er) environment. I can thrive, I can be great at my work, I can be a nice and supporting colleague – I can be the best me. But only if I’m given the space for it.
This is my story, and I know there are many similar ones out there. Some might never have thought of it – unintentionally suppressing their anxieties at the office with great energy and wondering why they are always so tired, why they snap at seemingly small things and why their moods alter so much. Some know of their special requirements and have succeeded in defining a way to work and handle it that let’s them thrive and excel at what they do. Some have needed a career change, become entrepreneurs, or those with excellent supervisors have been able to identify a suitable working environment.
I’ve had many kinds of bosses and gotten along with them all. All have required a specific approach from me to succeed in the friendly and efficient work relations. What I’ve learned is how important it is to put the employees benefits first, to know your staff and understand how to get the best out of each of them. Not in terms of working hours or quantity of work but in terms of the quality of the work and their potential. A happy, motivated, enabled employee contributes in so many more ways to their employer than does one who needs to use part of their energy to something irrelevant to the business. This all is rather simple and must be clear to the employers – but why is it then so difficult to implement? Why are so many managers thinking of themselves, managing with their style, asking the employees to do things their way? (I’m not referring to my manager/s here, just a clarification).
As in personal life, equally at work we are all responsible for our own happiness. It won’t ever come given from outside, we have to know who we are, what we want and take the needed steps to get there. Our struggles and obstacles can be solved, one way or another. But if you are a manager, I’d encourage you to think what you expect from your staff – and how you expect it. I’d encourage you to ask whether you should be the one compromising? If you want the best out of your employees – why not ask them how they can give that to you? And if you are an employee without an optimal work environment, consider what could make it better, and how that can be done. No one’s energy should be wasted on something irrelevant and avoidable. We need to define what can be compromised, where compromises are possible – and what and where improvements and changes are required.