Do You Have to be Friends with Your Coworkers?

It can be difficult to know how to navigate workplace relationships. We all put too much emphasis on the need to be friends with our coworkers, but it’s not for everyone. Some psychologists would actually argue against having true friends in the workplace, aside from maybe a few people whom you would likely be friends with outside of work if you didn’t work there. Why is this? 

Having friends at work can have many downsides, the biggest one being a significant decrease in productivity.

One of the top sources of distractions in the workplace is from having coworkers in close proximity. Layer in being friends with these coworkers and that can be disastrous to your work efficiency and productivity.  Close friends will want to catch up on personal and work gossip and that tends to take priority over deadlines or getting work done. This can be especially difficult in an open workplace environment where you share work space.

In order to make progress in the workplace, there is a need to have disagreements. It’s important that coworkers bring different viewpoints to the table and are able to have a healthy dialogue of opinions and innovative solutions. When there are nothing but close friends having this conversation it’s likely that everyone shares a similar mindset, which kills creativity. And when there happens to be a difference of opinions, people will without a doubt take work disagreements personally and then likely gossip about it later. Moreover, friends are not able to confront issues head on, because they are afraid of offending the other person or upsetting them. This all spells workplace disaster.

So, if you’re wondering if you have to be friends with your coworkers, the answer is No. Sure, there is a need to be accountable, communicate effectively, and be sincere, but it never has to cross the line into a true friendship. In fact, by being these things, but no true friends, you are able to separate your personal life from your professional life. This way small things like someone’s coldness or attitude can be ignored or looked past, but tangible work problems like not getting a task done or not answering an email, cannot.

There is a need to be accountable, communicate effectively, and be sincere, but it never has to cross the line into a true friendship.

Being emotionally removed from your coworkers makes it that much easier for you to put your best career interests first. If there is a tangible work problem that is affecting your work, you’re able to take action to resolve that without being too emotionally invested in the situation or feeling uncomfortable. It allows you to see the workplace exactly what it is meant to be, which is a workplace. And if and when you want to move on to new exciting opportunities, you won’t have to consider how your friends will feel if you leave. There will be no internal workplace influences over your decision making.

It’s also really nice to leave work at work and leave home at home. In many close friendships that are formed at work, chatting about work outside of work and chatting about personal life at work, is inevitable. There is typically no clear set of boundaries when you both share the common ground of work, so those conversations always creep up in your time away from work. This can make you feel as though you never truly get a break from work.

Not having close friends at work also allows you to form healthy professional relationships. Have you ever been in a situation where you may be senior to your coworkers, but because you have close friendships with them, they likely don’t see you or treat you as a senior? The days are filled with them making jokes, gossiping about workplace issues, or trying to just socialize or plan for outside of work events with you – which would otherwise be unacceptable workplace behavior with someone who is their senior. It would then be hard for you to keep that line of professionalism and authority with the team because they know too much about you personally, or because they feel you are one of them.

Coworkers may mean well when they try and pull you into the latest gossip or ask probing questions about your life, but it may not be appropriate or welcomed. Think about if workplace friendships are right for you and if you decide they are not, there are ways you can keep your relationships friendly and professional, without needing to be invested into a true friendship. And even if right now you are a little more close to your coworkers than you’d like, you can change it without coming across as rude or anti-social. By working to set some healthy boundaries for your workplace relationships, you can free your time and your mind to do what you’re there to do, which is work. 

Instead of Looking to Others, Look to Yourself

The relationship you have with yourself sets the tone for the relationship you have with others.

Ever realize that so often you look externally for specific characteristics and qualities in others – whether it’s in a close friend, a spouse, a partner, a relative, or even a coworker – instead of being those things for yourself? We’re looking for specific things that we don’t possess or rather, that we want others to possess for us. Instead of finding the right person or friend, you can be that person to yourself. This is one of the biggest gifts you could possibly give to yourself.

Just like you would do these with or for a friend or partner, add the following things into your daily life to create and maintain a healthy relationship with yourself.

Treat Yourself to Some ‘Me’ Time

You don’t need to fill your time up with social events. It might seem scary or difficult at first, but work to spend some quality time alone – staying in or even going out. It doesn’t have to be extravagant with a solo vacation or an expensive shopping splurge. Just pencil in some time to do those activities that you keep thinking about but always pass off. Those things that you keep meaning to do or starting up again, but continually sacrifice. Having dedicated time regularly to yourself to do whatever it is that brings you joy is crucial to having a solid relationship with yourself. It allows you to explore your passions and interests and to invest in yourself, which in turn creates more happiness and satisfaction in your life. And bonus, if you go out alone and make that a regular habit, that really kicks butt in empowering your independent spirit. Warning: you might really like it.

Check-In Every Once and A While

If you’re finding yourself wondering who am I and what am I doing with my life or something similar, chances are you’re not asking yourself frequently enough. This is a sign that you’re a little out of touch with your self. Take some time to sit in a peaceful area where you’re most comfortable and check in with yourself from what thoughts are surfacing on your mind lately to how your body has been physically feeling. Ask yourself questions that you would ask to a friend whom you’re catching up with.

Truly Listen to Your Self and Take Your Own Advice

When you are consoling a friend in despair, it’s likely that you don’t interrupt with criticism or negative talk, so don’t do it to yourself. When you’re having a rough go, don’t let your inner bully try and dismiss your feelings or make you feel unworthy of feeling upset. We can be ultra hard on ourselves, never allowing ourselves to fully feel and process our feelings and emotions, making it difficult to move on from whatever it was that caused them to begin with.

Listening is only part of it though, you have to then carry out that conversation and give sound feedback and advice to yourself, but then also listen to that advice – without judging it, without shooting it down. Give yourself time to think through how you would help a relative in this situation or how you would help your best friend. You can be this friend to yourself, and in fact, it’s important that you do so. Being able to guide yourself through difficult times gives you the strength and abilities to be mentally present to help and guide others through theirs. Otherwise you’ll relate whatever your friend is going through to something you are personally experiencing and haven’t figured out yet – and that won’t be very helpful at all.

Evaluate What You Seek In Others and Why

Self-reflection is a major component into having a good relationship with yourself. This goes a little deeper than the am I happy with where I am questions and dives further into the why am I seeking xxx in others, what is it that I am truly missing or not experiencing that will allow me to feel fuller and more satisfied in my life? These can be terrifying questions for some that may not regularly work through these with themselves, but it’s really no different than doing this exercise for someone else. If it helps, write in a journal or even on a sheet of paper that you then throw out (hey, it doesn’t matter if you keep it, just that you do it).

Be Self-Serving, Not Self-Consumed

Essentially this means that we need to not spend so much time looking for ways that other people can serve us or help us, but rather, turn our energies onto helping ourselves and then helping others. So many people are losing what it means to have deep and valuable relationships because people are looking to others for the wrong things. Instead of seeking out relationships that we want to be a part of and nurture with support and compassion, most people look to find relationships that will serve them or benefit themselves individually. Ever notice how most relationships, although sad, tend to sway in the favor of one individual? Or at the very least, it’s very rare that both people in the relationship are elevated in equal amounts at the same time. You have the power to change this in your relationships by focusing your energy into being the person you need, for yourself. And then being that person for others, too. This is the more rewarding path.

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The Power of Thought on Self

A Man is but a product of his thoughts – what he thinks, he becomes. – Mahatma Ghandi

The Link Between Thoughts, Feelings, & Your Behaviors

What we think and continue to nurture with repetition and emotion, will become our reality. When your thoughts are in control of Self, it’s important to understand the link and recognize harmful patterns so you can work to correct them. What you think directly affects how you feel. How you feel directly affects how you behave. And then how you behave is a reinforcement on the initial thought. So, if you think you’re not good enough, you’ll feel like you’re not good enough, and then you will behave like you’re not good enough (missing out on potentially amazing opportunities and experiences). What that cycle does is reinforce that you must then, not be good enough.

The Implications of Bad Thought Patterns on the Self

If we then don’t feel good enough, we continue down the dark path of self-limitation. Our brains will likely continue to look for ways to reinforce this thought or we will not listen to anything (thought or verbal) that is contradictory to this original thought. Think of times when you’ve gone through these patterns. You might have a day where you tell yourself you’re a failure. Immediately, that follows with a strong negative emotion. You then look for other instances in your collective memory in which you’ve “failed”, or at least deemed yourself a failure. That spirals into I must be a failure. I failed today, I’ve failed at these other 5 things, I will continue to fail. This on repeat becomes toxic to our Self and will ultimately lead to our defined reality.

If in those times you’ve had a friend, family member, or even boss reassure you “Hey, don’t worry about it, we all make mistakes, you are not a failure“, how many of those times have you listened? How many times has what they said changed your reality of your Self? Likely none. This is because our thoughts have more control over our realities than anything anyone else can say. If you think it, you believe it, you become it.

How to Gain Control and Change Thought Behavior

Although this can be disheartening to many at times, especially when those thoughts feel uncontrollable, the negative patterns of bad thought – bad emotion – repetition – reality, are completely within our power to change. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to change the thoughts were having, or at least control how we view those thoughts.

Dissociating Feelings of Thought with Self

When you have a thought such as I am a failure, one of the first steps we can take is to remove our Self from the thought, lessening the opportunity for us to define ourselves with these thoughts. Instead, replace it with a feeling thought. So I am a failure becomes I feel as though that project was a failure. It helps shift the perspective unto something else and away from the Self. Only then can we truly analyze the why something felt that way. I was in charge of the project and I didn’t do a good enough job leading my team to complete it on time, so the project was scrapped. This isn’t a good thought either you’re still associating the feeling of failure as a direct result of something YOU did, which puts the Self at risk of being defined as a failure, keep digging. The project was not a top priority for our department so another path was followed. That really is what is at the root isn’t it? The project simply was a no-go not because you are a failure. It just simply didn’t happen.  Why does everything have to have a reason behind it? Why do we have to analyze everything and tie it back to ourselves? We don’t and you can control whether or not you do so.

Feelings are just visitors, let them come and go.

Replacing the Bad with the Good

It’s also very important that we practice telling ourselves good stories. Ultimately, if we are going to define our own realities, why would we ever want to choose something so terrible for ourselves? Surely, that is not what we’d prefer. So we must work at having good thoughts with good feelings and repeating that process until that becomes what we believe and ultimately our realities.

Not all Thoughts are Created Equal

It’s important to remember that the power of these thoughts on Self is determined by not only how often you have the thoughts, but also the strength of the emotion tied to those thoughts. It does no good to you if you have one-off good passing thoughts throughout the day, but then continue to have habitual negative thoughts for the rest of the day. Essentially thoughts cancel themselves out and your reality is a sum of all of your thoughts plus the strength of each. If your emotions and frequencies are higher for negative thoughts, those good thoughts will be of little help.

The key is to start with simple awareness. Just entering a state of awareness of all of the thoughts passing through on a daily basis will give you insights into which types of thoughts you’re experiencing more of (negative vs positive), the frequency in which you have them (daily or often each day), and the emotional strength of those thoughts (scale of 1-10 on how they make you feel). 

Then build to replacing those unwanted thoughts. If the disassociation process is a little too difficult right now (it will get easier), start with replacing a bad thought with it’s positive equivalent. For every I am a failure and will always be a failure, replace it with I am successful and will continue to work hard at my success. Then, think of specific instances in which you did work hard, accomplished something you were proud of, and allow yourself to feel those strong positive emotions in thinking about it. If this process is repeated, you’ll begin to notice a change in how you shape your own reality and what that reality looks like.

Your mind is a powerful thing. When you fill it with positive thoughts, your life will start to change.

 

 

Single-Tasking at Work

Multitasking splits your brain!

I had to research this to see what happens, scientifically speaking, when I try to multi-task. Whenever I try to do it, I may feel like a temporary powerhouse – oooh, look at what I am doing, so many tasks at once – but that feeling is quickly and always replaced with stress and an intense feeling of unproductivity. I end up leaving work thinking of all of the things I kind of, sort of worked on today, but how very little of them, or anything is actually completed. Sometimes, I can’t even think of something I accomplished that day. These are not good feelings.

Back to the Brain when it’s multitasking…

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Your brain has halves, which I think we all knew. They’re most commonly referenced in one half is responsible for logical thinking and the other, creative. Well, you also have sections or compartments of the brain. Part of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, is the frontal section of your brain (still has a right and left side). Essentially when you carry out a task, both sides of the prefrontal cortex work in harmony to carry out that task. But when I try to work on a report, respond to an email, and finish up saving and fixing that other report, I force those sides of the prefrontal cortex to work independently of one another. In some studies, scientists have found that in doing so, we forget details and make 3 times more mistakes. So, not only does it lower our productivity, but could also be lowering our IQ, and definitely negatively impacts our productivity.

So what’s a girl to do? As chaotic of a world I work in being in Digital Advertising, I am determined to master the art of single-tasking. For whatever reason, we tell ourselves that we’re more productive when we work on a multitude of things in a day, vs finishing 1 or 2 things completely. But, I know that truly, the day is productive when I leave work feeling accomplished, calmer, focused, and can actually name something I completed that day. This is sort of a new approach for me, but I have been testing out a few strategies to make my work-life feel more controllable than it has been lately. Here are a few of my tips and findings that I can share with you!

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My tips for single-tasking mastery:

  1. Set your goals for tomorrow, today before you leave work. You know exactly where you left off, so now you can set and plan out your tomorrow with things you need to get done by the end of the next day. Many successful people (what is success, anyways) will tell you not to check email first thing in the morning or last thing at night. I agree with that, but also will add that setting your tomorrow up, today while you’re still at work is probably the best gift you can give yourself. While your mind is already in work-mode and you are about to head out, it’s the best time to effectively plan tomorrow without forgetting anything. Plus, it’s the perfect way to wind down the day, leaving you in a good mental place knowing you have a plan to attack tomorrow.
  2. Plan for only one day ahead. Instead of trying to plan what I was going to do tomorrow, this weekend, and even Wednesday of next week, I changed my approach to only plan tomorrow’s day. This doesn’t mean I am not thinking ahead. I am very aware of projects that I have a week out, by by focusing on just the next day, I strategically stay focused on the tasks at hand and then everything falls into place perfectly. This is because I know exactly what I need to do today to set the next day up for success, and on it goes.
  3. Do not put off roadblocks that prevent you from accomplishing your day’s priorities. Today, I had a goal of completing a specific client presentation. In reading the tasks and the information I was asked to report on, I didn’t agree with some of the specific details I was asked to provide. The person I needed to chat with was off-site for the rest of the day. Instead of waiting or putting it off, I booked a quick chat with my Manager, chatted through a game plan or some options and completed the presentation to what I felt was a better way to display the information. I sent a followup email to the original requester and laid out the reasons as to why I disagreed and then presented the alternative solution, including a link to the modified presentation. Chances are, they aren’t going to want to change it all after I’ve completed it.
  4. Block out your time and designate parts of your things to specific tasks. Nothing sets you up for failure like failing to plan out your day – not just what you’ll do, but when. Every evening before I leave work, I take a look at the next day’s calendar and my task list. I then block off chunks of my available time and designate them to specific tasks (10-11:30 AM, work on client presentation, 3-3:30 check emails last time for the day & respond immediately to urgent ones). In the times when  I am pinged on Google Hangouts, Slack or in-person for something that requires my attention and wasn’t planned for, I try to ask the urgency level and push it off until the next day when I can plan time to designate to that specific need/ask, etc. I can’t always do this because some things are just URGENT, but I am trying to get better about respecting my time and priorities and putting off things that can wait until the following day when I am clear headed and can focus on those items.
  5. Listen to classical music. This is a completely acceptable distraction that contrarily has proven to help increase focus on tasks, believe it or not. Not only that, but it helps eliminate environmental distractions like coworkers chatting, dogs barking, music playing from the loud speakers, laughter, etc.
  6. Speaking of distractions – silence them all, if you can. Slack, Hangouts, etc. Turn off your phone notifications or better yet, put the phone away. I just started recently keeping my phone in my purse in my filing cabinet when I have tasks that need all of my mental energy, and it completely helps! Even when my phone is out, but I don’t check it, it’s still such a mental distraction knowing it’s there, seeing it there, and wondering if I am potentially missing some urgent message.

What are your thoughts on these? Have you found any that help you stay focused and commit to one task at a time? Feel free to share and comment below, would love to hear how others are working this strategy into their daily work lives!

Stay focused, my friends.

 

What is Happiness?

Happiness is a state of being and it’s also a choice. And everyone has the same desire to be happy.

Stay with me, here.

Happiness means different things to different people. Happiness feels different to different people. Happiness looks different to different people. This difference is everyone’s personal state of happiness. It’s completely open to interpretation. But it’s not difficult to understand what your own personal state of happiness is.

How do I find my “state of happiness”?

Most people will give you a list of questions to help to define your own happiness such as “what makes you genuinely happy?” Yeah, that’s no help. I believe that if you are given a specific set of questions such as the one above, or the famous “what would you do if you could not fail”, your brain won’t explore any other questions or possibilities that might help you shape your own happiness. Not to mention, who cares what you would do if you could not fail. That ruins the point of doing it in the first place. No one truly wants to be perfect because then what’s left after that?

I think it’s important to reflect on specific moments when you felt satisfied or fulfilled. That simple. From there, go through the basic 5 questions of who, what, where, when, and why to truly understand and start mapping out your personal state of happiness. That may look something like this:

  • What were you doing? Be as specific as possible. Really think back onto what is was that you were doing that made the activity so satisfying or so fulfilling.
  • Who were you doing this with? Were you alone, with a specific person, or perhaps even a group of people?
  • Where were you? What was around you? Sometimes we may have felt joy curled on the couch reading a book, but the reason on why is was so satisying is because there was a storm outside and the rainfall and thunder made us feel more joy than had it been sunny and warm. Or maybe you were in the grocery store and decided to break out into singing when your favorite song came on the radio. Happiness can be felt anywhere.
  • When did this take place? Was it first thing in the morning, during a work break, or even at 11:00 PM during your only free time? Recognizing the things that make us feel happiness is important, but the when we do them, can make all the difference.
  • Why were you doing what you were doing? I think this piece is extremely important. Most people fail to spend time thinking of why (“oh, I don’t know”, they’ll say, or “because that’s what I normally do”, but this is fundamentally important to understand if we are choosing to do things because we ourselves truly want to, or if there is some type of external influence to our decisions (which happens more often than not).

Through my own findings from this exercise, I found that I was not filling my days with enough of my own moments of happiness, but also when I was, the timing was completely misaligned. The two biggest issues were my lack of physical activity (and when I was it was at at the wrong time, doing the wrong type of activity). And I worked much longer than I was willing to work which meant that I was choosing every day to sacrifice time with loved ones, my own creative time, and time I loved to spend cooking fresh meals.

Two immediate changes I made were to switch the time of my workouts and to change the structure of my work days. I can’t always change the fact that I have to work more than 8 hours sometimes, but I can choose everything that happens in those 8 hours and sometimes that makes a huge difference to the amount that gets done (lessening the need to work so long all of the time). These alone have opened up more opportunities to fill in time with happy moments.

Ok, but you said it’s also a choice. Where does that fit in?

Would you get mad if I said “all of the time!”? Really though, you get to choose every day, every hour and every second whether or not you want to be happy or feel happy. I can just see the eyes rolling right now and hear the protests – right, so I’m getting divorced, so let me just be soooo happy about thatYeah, and I hate my job and don’t get paid enough to deal with what I have to deal with every day.

Ok, ok. So let me just say this.

To you, who is in the middle of a terrible and difficult divorce – why can you not choose to be happy each day? Even though the divorce process may be difficult beyond imagination, are you choosing to continue to fill your days with those moments that you found bring you satisfaction and fulfillment as found in the exercise above? Or perhaps you are viewing this one part of your life as your whole life and are letting it define you, even though it is something you are going through, not something that you ARE. You can still take control of so much else in your life and choose to fill it with satisfying moments and fulfillment. Maybe even more so now than you could before.

And to you, the job hater –  I get it. I may find myself in the same boat sometimes. Think of your work day in moments. Do you typically have more happy moments than not happy moments? Reflect on the tasks you do each day and write them out if it helps. Which ones bring you joy (do not think of external factors, meaning no “oh I would be happier doing this if so-and-so would get their act together and just do this”).

No, just think whether or not the specific job tasks make you feel personally satisfied or fulfilled. If they do, then your job isn’t what is bothering you, it must be something about the job that is misaligned with your personal values. If that is the case, you have to make the choice to either continue to live misaligned to personal values, or to find happiness and peace in your workdays knowing that you truly love what you do and by filling the days with more of your state of happy moments.

Think of it this way – If you ask someone “Are you happy” and they respond “yes”, that means that they understand their own state of happiness and also have chosen to feel happy in moments more often than not choosing to be happy in moments. If their answer is “no”, they may not have figured out their own personal state of happy and need to, or they are not making the choices each day to live their personal state of happiness.

Have you ever had a friend tell you that they aren’t happy for one reason or another, but they never seem to do anything about it? That’s the choice we’re talking about here. You have a daily choice to choose happiness and continue living in your own happiness. You just need to start mapping out what happiness means for you.

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Photos by Andre Furtado from Pexels