Re-imagining messages about work-habits.

Traditional New Zealand work-ethics were built on the tenets of humility and hard-work. This built resiliency, self-discipline and self-motivation. 
Going over and beyond, and working long hours were esteemed traits that saw people regarded as being of ‘good character’.
Over subsequent generations, these traits continue to be valued in some of our workplaces and sayings: 
  • Arriving early and leaving late is often connected with one’s level of commitment “The early bird gets the worm”. 
  • Taking on too-much is admired; “Give a busy person a job and it will get done”. 
  • Underestimating one’s skills is seen as being humble: “The kumara never talks about how sweet it is”.
  • There’s always someone better waiting to take your position. “Competition breeds excellence and stamps-out complacency”.
A study by Laura Empson for the Harvard Review identified a group of people for whom these traits became compounded: the “Insecure Overachievers”. Their traits include:
  • Someone who under-estimates their skills
  • Is driven to succeed by the fear of inadequacy
  • Has a feeling success might not be deserved or they got lucky
  • Worries they might not be as smart or capable as people think and that could get discovered
What behaviour do these traits lead to?
  • Limited work-life balance, but a high sense of commitment
  • You’re always willing to shift your social commitments to accommodate work demands
  • You defend your employer because you have autonomy and are choosing to do the long hours
  • Your hours feel normal and justified, because chronic over-work is the culture
  • You accepted the pressure early in your career and now you’re in a leadership role, you continue to expect the same
  • Acceptance that other people’s burn out, is part of the weeding out process
So what might you do if you find yourself or your organisation aligning-with or exploiting these traits? 
  • Stop and smell the roses! Acknowledge the successes along the journey.
  • Get a life beyond work! Force yourself to take time out to do something pleasurable besides work….even if it means getting someone to hold you to account until it becomes a habit.
  • Only work longer hours when you urgently have to; boundaries baby!
  • Set tasks to complete within realistic timeframes (don’t snooker yourself!)
  • Seek a coach to work-through deeper issues that might be driving your behaviour.
  • (Re)consider leaders espoused and enacted values around work-habits
  • How do you ensure the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of your employees?
  • What are your feedback loops like, and how often do people receive feedback?
  • What are you trying to achieve and in what timeframe?
  • What languaging is used in your organisation around work-habits (Your words are a window to your world).
I’d love to hear your experiences, so feel free to drop me a line.
Go well this week amazing one 🙂


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