Thursday, 17 May 2018

How to stop absorbing the emotions of those around you

It’s one thing to act as an empath in the workplace - having an appreciation of how other people in your team feel is a rare gift that can help you motivate and get the best out of people - but when you work in a team environment it can be hard not to be impacted by the moods and emotions of your colleagues and team mates from time to time.

When the emotions are positive – happiness, excitement, pride – it’s easy to get carried along with the emotion and often this is a great motivator which drives us to be more productive. However, if your colleagues are in a negative or fragile emotional state, it can have a detrimental effect on your own work and the performance of the rest of the team.

This article from Psychcentral outlines six ways for you to ensure that you acknowledge, rather than absorb, the feelings and emotions of those around you. It includes recognising and labelling what you are feeling so that you can make rational rather than emotional decisions and consciously passing back the feelings to your colleague, leaving you emotionally free to focus on your own goals.

If you do find yourself getting wrapped up in the emotions of those around you, we want you to ask yourself the following questions:

Is this feeling mine?

Once you have acknowledged the emotion you are dealing with, you need to ask yourself, honestly, whether you have a reason to own it as your own. If the fear, anger, anxiety is yours, you can then get to the bottom of what is causing it – only when you have established why you are feeling that way can you take the steps necessary to get through it. Accept ownership, then deal with the cause.

Does distance help?

Often, absorbed feelings lessen once you have gained some physical distance from the suspected source. When you start to feel overcome with emotion, but are not sure why, move yourself into another office or take a short walk around the block. Does the feeling remain? If yes, you can accept the feeling as your own and deal with it. If distance brings you some relief, chances are the feeling belongs to someone else and it’s just rubbing off on you.

Am I still centred?

Stress and negative emotions can often be felt in your stomach, rather than your head. When you feel the stress and negativity starts to build, we want you to take a few moments to concentrate on your breathing. Exhale your stress and inhale only calm. This will quickly make you feel better and able to identify your true feelings.

Can I find a positive?

If you find yourself getting bogged down with a colleague’s emotional state, seek out for positive influence from other people around you. Call a friend or family member who is known for their positivity and use their emotions to help you find the positivity you need. Hope, faith and optimism are contagious – use it to help prevent absorption of the negative feelings of your team mates.


In a close knit team it can be hard not to take the knocks felt by those around us, but we hope that by acknowledging and recognising when this happens, you can easily get your emotions back on track and remain empathic towards your colleagues, but not be led by what they are feeling.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

How to cope with negative feedback

Let’s face it, none of us likes dealing with bad news – giving it, or receiving it. But when we’re in a work situation, negative feedback from customers and colleagues is pretty much inevitable. Knowing how to cope with adverse comments when we’re faced with them, helps ensure we use the feedback as a catalyst for positive change, rather than allowing it to overshadow our work, dampen our spirit and dent our confidence and self-belief.

The first hurdle to overcome is how to manage the occasion when the negative feedback is delivered to you. Chances are the feedback will come out of the blue when you’re least expecting it, but when it does happen, we want you to try and remember to do these three things:

Stop for a second

Our natural instinct when someone says something negative is to defend ourselves and to come back fighting! So much so that we often don’t actually take in what people are saying. Our first piece of advice is to take a moment to process what you've been told. This helps your response to be measured rather than emotional, which will lead to a better outcome, solution or action plan.

Reverse the lens

Whenever anyone shares negative feedback try to take a look at what’s been said from the other person’s point of view. What is it that has made sharing the feedback necessary? Be honest with yourself – could there be some basis in what they're saying? If you choose to ignore what is said, then you are cutting off the opportunity to find out what the basis for the feedback is, and that means there’s a likelihood that you may be missing out on an opportunity for self-improvement and growth.

Respond with kindness

Regardless of the news you’ve been given, thank the person for taking the time to share their feedback with you; summarise what they've said to you, so they know that you've heard their concerns; then reassure them that you'll consider the points raised. Letting someone know that you’ve listened to their views goes a long way to resolving whatever issues you’re facing – and it will definitely buy you some time to think about the feedback and what you’re going to do about it.


Once you’ve done all this, it’s time to think about how to actually deal with the feedback you’ve been given. The first thing to remember is that, in the vast majority of cases, people only give feedback because they care and want to see an improvement in the situation. This is a good basis to work from. By recognising this fact, we can start to reframe our thinking and see negative feedback as a positive opportunity for growth.

This blog post by Psychology Today contains some useful strategies for dealing with bad news, such as contextualising the situation and using it to effect transformative change. It’s especially important for you to take care of yourself during times of emotional upset. Eat well, avoid alcohol and get some exercise. Looking after your physical and mental health will help you navigate through your emotions to reach a positive conclusion to the feedback received.

And remember, you are not defined by this feedback. It is just one person’s view of a particular issue or situation. At the end of the day it is up to you to decide whether – on reflection and after examining the evidence – you choose to agree with them, or not.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

How to boost productivity within your team

Businesses deliver better results when people work together as a team. Anything that upsets motivation or productivity can have a massive impact on organisational performance and so, as managers, it’s important to make sure that each member of your team is positive and productive.

Often, the constant pressure to focus on results and the bottom line can mean that it’s easy to forget about the people behind delivering these results, so we’ve developed a few simple ways of keeping your team motivated so that they can give their best at work.

To do, or done?

As a manager chances are you have a ‘to do’ list as long as your arm. It’s easy to concentrate on what needs to be done, when in reality employees really need to focus on what they’ve done well, in order to keep on delivering. Giving – and receiving – recognition and praise for work already completed provides a great confidence boost which motivates us to go above and beyond what is expected of us. So, if you feel your team’s motivation is waning, spend some time to focus on their achievements, rather than the tasks that remain ahead.

Work matters

Most people like to feel as though they're working towards a greater good, it’s a great motivation boost to know that your actions are having a positive impact on society and this leads to greater productivity – you only have to look at big businesses like Unilever or P&G to see how they’re linking brands to a wider community benefit. If your business or organisation doesn’t have a community benefit that's easily identifiable, consider creating a volunteering or fundraising initiative for your team to get involved in and see how their positivity translates into greater productivity in their day to day work.

Flexibility pays

In today’s digital age it’s easier than ever to provide more flexibility to your team – and often the more flexible working environments are, the more productive the employees - as it enables everyone to have a better work/life balance. Advances in technology mean that employees can access the files and tools they need from anywhere, so if you're looking to boost productivity, look for ways to offer your team more flexibility in how they work. You can read our previous blog post on flexible working for ideas and inspiration: https://firstpsychologyassistance.blogspot.co.uk/2018/03/flexible-working-making-it-work.html


Spending some extra time looking for ways to better support your team, might mean that you need to establish some working practices that maximise your own productivity – besides, leading by example is often the most effective way of coaching others.

This blog post - https://firstpsychologyassistance.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/how-to-motivate-yourself-and-others.html - covers the basics of how to keep yourself motivated. Some simple tips that you can start straight away include:

  • Set blocks of time aside to tackle basic admin tasks – or emails - rather than spreading them through the day/week.
  • Set aside certain periods (a day,  an afternoon a week, etc) for meetings, leaving the rest of the week clear to get on with tasks.
  • Give yourself ten minutes each morning to steam through small tasks that would otherwise sit on your to-do list for days or more.


Remember, positivity and productivity go hand in hand, so lead with the enthusiasm and energy that allows your team to shine.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

What to do when you lose the joy out of your job

What to do if you’re not satisfied at work – ways to reduce stress, look for another job, address issues within your team

For many of us, work takes up a large proportion of our working lives – over a lifetime it amounts to literally years spent away from home, family and friends. So, if you’re not happy at work, this can seem like a massive waste of time. This blog outlines the personal benefits that come when we are satisfied at work and, given that we’re all only here once, it’s important that we strive to gain some sense of joy out of our working lives.

This YouGov survey gives some excellent insight into what drives us at work. It estimates that around 16% are dissatisfied at work. If this sounds like you, the first thing to do is identify which aspect of your job is getting you down. Failure to do this upfront, will mean that you could struggle to rectify the issues in the future.

There are many reasons why people don’t get what they’re looking for at work. Common themes include:

Money

If you don’t feel you get paid fairly for what you do, or that others doing a similar job are paid more, this can cause significant upset.

Insecurity

If you believe your job is unstable or you’re worried about being laid off or fired, this can cause excessive stress in your life.

Promotion

If you don’t see any opportunity for future advancement, you can start to feel as though you are outgrowing your job and this can lead to dissatisfaction.

Colleagues

Who you work with can make or break a job. If you don't like the people you work with, or you’re not working with people that you get along with or respect, this can lead to unhappiness.


The first thing to do is to try and recognise the difference between fleeting episodes of unhappiness at work and ongoing dissatisfaction. We all have bad days and – sometimes weeks – when we can’t seem to do anything right. Try to put your emotions to one side and establish whether it’s a temporary situation that will right itself given time, or evidence of a deeper problem that needs addressing before it affects your well-being.

There are a number of ‘self-help’ ideas you can try to ensure you get the most out of your job.

Make positive changes

Take control of your situation and try to change whatever you can on your own. Speak to managers and colleagues about your worries and work with them to develop strategies that will help better the situation. Ask for a pay rise if money is the issue; speak to your line manager or HR about mediation if the problem lies within your team; make a formal request for flexible working if your work/life balance is adrift. Often dissatisfaction arises when we feel powerless to change things, addressing issues face-on really helps.

Establish the true source of your unhappiness

Not many people can claim their job is perfect and everyone has days when they wished they'd stayed in bed. Try to establish whether your dissatisfaction is definitely linked to your work - it could be that work has become a focus for your unhappiness. Have a good look at all aspects of your life and make sure that it is your job that is causing your unhappiness, rather than your home or personal life. Be honest with yourself: will your dissatisfaction follow you into a new job?

Look what else is out there

Once you're sure your job is the issue and have tried to address the problems you’re experiencing, it might be time to do some research and find out what else is out there for you, job-wise. Look for employers who could be a better match your needs, prepare your CV and submit some applications. It may seem drastic, especially if you have been with your employer for a long time, but sometimes it can really help to see what else is out there – and give you a real confidence boost when you see that your skills and experience are in demand. Even if you decide not to take a new job, there is no harm in conducting a proper assessment of the job market and being prepared.


If a change of job is what you need, have a read of this blog on career planning, so that you are clear about what you want so you don’t get stuck in a similar situation in the future.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Overcoming adversity to achieve your goals

Life is full of ups and downs. Indeed some people say we need to experience the lows to really appreciate the highs; but what happens if we have trouble bouncing back when something bad happens?

The good news is that we have all we need within ourselves to get our lives back on track!

The recent Paralympics are a great reminder of the resilience we all have within us to overcome most of the problems that life throws our way. They show what we can achieve when we believe in ourselves and refuse to be constrained by other people’s expectations of us.

Often we feel inhibited by what other people think, or what they say about us and our abilities and -let's face it - there always seems to be somebody with a critical eye when we're lacking in confidence. However, there are ways to keep going to achieve your goals. Read our tips below.

Positive mental attitude

Positivity is key when it comes to achieving our goals. We have to believe we can do something – truly trust in ourselves and our own ability – in order for us to accomplish what we set out to. Self-doubt has no place in our psyche. Unfortunately, in times of disappointment or when faced with adversity, the self-doubt can become consuming. When this happens, it’s time to reframe your thinking and focus only on the positives.

Be prepared to try harder

All of our lives we have faced challenges. It starts as a child, at school, when we are asked to try something new or given a new topic to learn. We managed the situation then without thinking about it too deeply, but do you remember how our parents and carers helped us through at the time? By telling us to try harder. They weren’t far wrong. We get used to putting in only the minimum level of effort needed to get us through our adult life. The truth is when we’re faced with adversity we do need to dig a bit deeper.

Let go of things you can’t control

It’s common during difficult times to focus on what’s going wrong and hone in on the negative aspects of our lives, rather than look at the big picture. We lose sight of our goals and get stuck in negative thought patterns which are not helpful. We need to be become aware of the aspects of our lives that we can control and consciously free ourselves from those that we can’t. Worrying about something uses up valuable energy – and this energy should be redirected to take us closer to our goals, rather than pontificating about things we have absolutely no influence over.

Stop being your own worst enemy

Be honest, who is it that is really stopping you from achieving your goals? Chances are you have a big part to play. Self-sabotage is not unusual – it manifests in the excuses we tell ourselves to justify our situation, especially during times of stress. When we break these excuses down – really examine them – we usually find that they are ungrounded and the biggest hurdle we have to overcome to achieve our goals is ourselves. Whatever you tell yourself, often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Overcoming adversity is nigh-on impossible until you stop making excuses and start to be your own champion.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Flexible working – making it work

It’s International Women’s Day tomorrow (8th March) and the theme of this year’s campaign is to #PledgeforProgress. It’s about joining together in the fight for gender equality at work and supporting the continuing global movement towards gender parity.

The theme of this year’s campaign got us thinking about how much things are changing in the work place for women and how employers can better support people at work.

For a range of reasons, although often parenting related, many people choose to apply for flexible working. Flexible working can help enable people to manage the different demands in their lives. Indeed many women (and men) apply for flexible working when they have childcare needs to consider. It can be difficult to balance the needs of children or dependants with a full-time 9-5 job and this can lead to employees feeling stressed out or 'torn' between different demands on their time and attention. 

When it works well, flexible working can help employees manage their time and the expectations of their employers and this can lead to reduced stress and improved wellbeing. 

And there are multiple direct benefits for employers too. Flexible working has been shown to lead to an increase in staff morale, lower absenteeism and better staff retention rates.

If you're thinking of applying for flexible working, whatever your reasons, here are some tips to consider:

Think about your personality and your working style

Research carried out by First Psychology in 2015 on work-life balance, concluded that not all styles of working suit everyone. Some people find it helpful to be  'contactable' during their time off, while others find it stressful. Make sure you tailor your request around your working style. Don't say in your request that you're happy to check emails on your 'days off' if this stresses you out. The whole point of applying for flexible working is to help you manage your life better.


Do your research

Find out if your company already has a policy for flexible working. If they do, have a look and see what it says. There are lots of different definitions around flexible working, they include different shift patterns, cutting your hours, term-time only working and the option of working from home. Do any of your colleagues work flexibly already? Does it work well? 

Be clear about what you want

Be clear about what you want and the impact it will have on you and your employers. Think about what you want to get out of flexible working, the hours you want to work, how you want to work them, and how the impact on your employer can be minimised. Make sure you are realistic about what you can do and understand how that will affect your take-home pay and your other benefits. Once your request has been accepted it will be more difficult to make changes so think everything through carefully.

Draw up a plan

Once you know what you're asking for, develop a business plan for your employer in support of your request. Demonstrate to your employer that you have thought about the impact your request could have on the business and outline a plan to minimise this. For example, you could outline aspects of your job that could be done better at home with no other distractions around or you could identify peaks and troughs in your workload and tie these in with your working schedule. Your employer has the right to refuse your request if they have a genuine business reason for doing so, it’s up to you to state your case positively.

Bring out the benefits

As we’ve already said, there is lots of research that shows the benefits of flexible working. Build those into your request and help your employer see that approving your request will not only help you, but also foster a more positive, agile work environment for the rest of your colleagues too.


You’ll find the official guidance on applying for flexible working here. You can also find some useful additional information from ACAS here

Friday, 2 March 2018

Evaluating your self-worth

Talking up our skills to other people and shouting about our achievements is not very British! As a nation we have a tendency to be understated and reserved. However, it's important that we have a reliable appreciation of what we're capable of so that we have a fair evaluation of our self-worth.

As this article in PsychAlive outlines, the key to appreciating your self-worth lies in not comparing your journey to that of others. It talks about the difference between self-worth and self-esteem and how they’re intrinsically linked. In a work situation, having a realistic view of your own self-worth is key to getting the recognition you deserve.

We all have some sort of measuring stick that we use to determine our value. We feel good when we feel we’re measuring up, but our self-worth can plummet if we feel we’ve fallen short. There are different measures that people use to measure their self-worth at work – and they’re often very different to how we measure ourselves in our personal lives.

The people we mix with

If you’re someone who needs the validation and praise from others to feel successful, your choice of who you associate with can have a big bearing on your own self-worth. Measuring your own self-worth on the basis of other people’s opinions is a risky situation. You can’t control other people and you can’t please everyone all the time. If you base your self-worth entirely upon how others perceive you, you’ll never be able to receive enough praise or positive reinforcement to feel good about yourself.

The title we connect with

Basing your self-worth on the job you do is also a big risk. Have you noticed how some people focus on job titles? Perhaps you're one of them? But just think about it. All it takes is a health problem or unexpected shift in the job market before your self-worth takes a hit. Even a planned retirement or career break, to have a child for example, could wreak havoc on your self-worth if your identity is wholly tied to your job title.

The achievements we’re associated with

Sometimes people want to be known solely for their accomplishments. Conversely, other people can’t stop beating themselves up about the one time they failed or didn’t achieve what they set out to do. It’s normal to want to celebrate and share our accomplishments with colleagues, however, basing our entire self-worth on them is a shaky practice. You’ll need to repeat success in order to feel good about yourself – and that’s hard to maintain.


The Rosenberg self-esteem scale (RSES), developed by sociologist Dr. Morris Rosenberg is a measure widely used in social-science research. It uses a scale of 0-30 where a score less than 15 may indicate a problematic low self-worth. You can try a free version of it here.

Regardless of your results, the best advice would always be to measure yourself according to who you are, not what you do or your external actions. That’s the only way to ensure consistency and make sure that you stay in control. We like the tips shared in this Psychology Today article to boost self-esteem.