Writing recently in the Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwartz , President and CEO of The Energy Project, asked readers to think of the last time they felt ‘triggered’ or pushed into negative emotions by someone or something. Schwartz revealed that we experience negative emotions when we feel a sense of threat or danger. The trigger can usually be traced to the same cause: the feeling of being devalued or diminished by someone else’s words or behaviour.
The struggle to feel valued is one of the strongest and least acknowledged issues in society – and that includes organisations. Most employees are expected to leave their feelings at the door when they get to work.
But we can’t do this. How we’re feeling influences our behaviour, consumes our energy and affects our decisions, whether we’re aware of it or not.
Our core emotional need is to feel valued. Without a stable sense of value, we don’t know who we are and we don’t feel safe. Over 200 studies on the effects of stress have found that the highest rises in cortisol levels – the ‘fight or flight’ response – are prompted by ‘threats to one’s social acceptance, esteem and status’.
The more our value feels at risk, the more preoccupied we become with defending and restoring it – and the less value we’re capable of creating in the world.
So if you don’t feel valued, realised that what matters is not the other person’s behaviour but, rather, the way you interpret that behaviour and how it makes you feel about yourself.
When you feel triggered, turn your attention inwards, rather than focus on the other person. Quieten your body and defuse the trigger by taking a deep breath. Ask yourself: “Why am I feeling my value is at stake here – and is it really?” Then decide how you can keep your value without attacking the value of the person you feel threatened by. Blame merely keeps the trigger and the negative emotion alive.
Our challenge is to reconnect to our own core value, even when criticism cuts deep. What that requires is compassion for ourselves.
Comment: Schwartz’s thoughts are similar to those of EPI Compassion in Change (EPICC) – part of Workplace Matters, the St Albans-based ecumenical charity which takes Christian values into the workplace. Like Schwartz, EPICC has identified that many people in the modern world feel that their work is not valued; that work itself has lost its value, and there is a growing tension between material dependency and an inner spiritual desire.
With this has come a growing desire to find work where people can be themselves in body, mind and spirit.
Research – such as that by Gallup – reveals a strong link between employee engagement, motivation and productivity. It suggests that financial results will be better, customers will be delighted and staff will thrive where the business can find the right balance between two management paradigms: the dominant economic – finance based, short term, zero-sum, process, rational, controlling – and the emerging social paradigm based around relationships, ethics and inspiration.
Unashamedly Christian but open to listen to, and learn from, other faiths, EPICC’s team of research and business specialists helps organisations wanting to make the workplace a better place to be; where people want to work because it gives them real meaning and purpose; which enables people to develop to their full potential in body, mind and spirit, and come to work as their complete selves.
EPICC is looking for further opportunities to carry out organisation-based research. If you’d like to invite EPICC to improve your workplace, contact Workplace Matters: firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)1727 818144.