When the lines between work and social life are blurred, the likelihood of relational dysfunction, substance abuse, or depression among work team members increases. The pressure to be viewed as “always available” can be intense and may result in stress that’s sometimes debilitating. As a manager at several large companies, I saw team members who became unable to cope with their work responsibilities, and in order to protect my team and help the employee, I referred them to our employee assistance program to get help.
When even one member of your office team falls into dysfunction, it impairs the productivity of the entire team. Sometimes the team becomes distracted to the point where they abandon best practices and are unable to solve daily work-related challenges. They enter a time of “team emergency” where some members try to help or protect the affected staff member, while other team members develop distrust or resentment and become angry. Either way, the team leader has to find ways to cope with the chaos created by the physical or mental loss of a key member.
Dr. Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania believes that depression is the most common problem behind the slide of an individual and their work team into dysfunction. His recent research on well-being and happiness suggests that we broaden the definition of “workplace success” to encompass not only high levels of productivity, but also measures of increased well-being among individuals on work teams.
After spending 20 years studying methods to treat depression, Dr. Seligman found that little progress was being made, and he began to study the opposite – what makes people happiest? His work over the past two decades has proven that we can learn to be happier, to increase our well-being, escape depression and dysfunction, and achieve “learned optimism”.
Applying Seligman’s learned optimism or happiness theory to today’s workplace, he proposes that we’re happiest when we live a balanced life – one where we can set aside our work without guilt, and have time to focus exclusively on our families and social lives. It’s interesting that this is the same work-life-balance environment that’s most sought by today’s millennials. They don’t want pets or game rooms, they want to be able to go home. Many corporate environments in today’s economy understand this, and have removed work-life-blurring policies in favor of promoting a “work is for work, then you go home and rest” philosophy.
The younger generation want to be happier, and we can all learn something from them. But it will take more than removing the policies of the past. It will take retraining of some management teams to not only “accommodate” but to “embrace” a balanced-life culture, and help people achieve what Dr. Seligman calls “flourishing.”
A flourishing workplace, must have these features: positive relationships, engagement, meaning, purpose, and optimism. Given how much time we spend at work, striving to achieve a flourishing workplace is a critical component to achieving a life free of debilitating depression. Work teams that succeed in achieving increased measures of well-being, and are able to repeatedly succeed in their objectives, are what I call Surging Teams. Leaders of Surging Teams embrace methods of increasing feelings of well-being among team members, in part by providing them a worthy and common goal (a bold purpose) and then by helping them understand and use their most highly developed character traits to pursue that goal. While most HR practices focus on identifying and correcting weaknesses, Surging Teams focus on identifying and using our strengths as often as possible when we’re working.
People working in today’s “intelligent service economy” will be more creative in performing their work, achieve a higher degree of mental and physical health, and repeatedly experience team success in difficult and complex objectives, if their corporate culture and their team leader embraces a Surging Team philosophy. This is the societal trend we are at the beginning of today, and one that our millennial generation is especially passionate about.
BOLDbreak has one purpose, and that is to provide team leaders and company owners the tools and training they need, to develop an unstoppable Surging Team, a team that repeatedly succeeds in achieving difficult and important company objectives. When teams win, increased company profitability follows! Contact me today and let’s discuss the actions that you as the team leader or company owner can take, to pro-actively reduce incidents of dysfunction among your team.
Until then, Keep Winning!