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GROUNDHOG DAY – BREAKING THE CYCLE

Written by Annette Cairns on .
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Why work can feel like Groundhog Day, and what leaders can do to change it

I've recently read a number of reports suggesting that the great resignation is slowing down, indicating a potential positive trend in workplace dynamics. The data seems to imply that employees are content, returning to the office, and embracing the 'return to normal' with a renewed appreciation for the connectiveness, and camaraderie of working alongside their colleagues.

However, I'm also picking up on the fact that burnout, working arrangement conflicts, and communication challenges are still making individuals feel trapped in a relentless cycle of Groundhog Day at work. Despite their efforts to reconcile their ideal work environment with reality, these issues persist. Now, with the added strain of the cost of living crisis, employees find themselves unable to simply quit their jobs without a well-thought-out plan.

What DO employees want work to look like?

Despite the cost of living crisis, there's more to job satisfaction than just the salary. Heading into 2024, the top three items on an employee's wish list go beyond financial compensation.

1) A great work-life balance

While individual preferences may vary, key factors include a role that not only offers flexible work arrangements but also ensures these practices are actively and effectively implemented. This encompasses clear communication, well-managed expectations, and leadership that exemplifies these flexible practices. Wellbeing is also crucial, extending beyond occasional office perks to a work culture that supports both physical and mental health, enabling employees to excel in their roles.

2) Stability and confidence

A stable organisation indeed provides financial security, which is essential for an employee's peace of mind. Yet, what's becoming increasingly evident is the desire for individuals to have faith in their organisation through transparent leadership, open communication, and an inclusive culture that recognizes employee value and ensures they feel acknowledged and respected.

3) Meaningful employment

One of the most critical factors for achieving employee satisfaction is finding purpose and meaningful work, coupled with the autonomy to execute it effectively. Often, employees don't recognize this gap until a pivotal moment occurs, sparking the realisation that their job lacks significance, or when a conflict in values prompts them to reconsider their current position.

Gallup’s recent report shows that remote workers in particular are reporting that they feel less connected to their organisation’s mission and purpose, and this in turn leads to disengagement in their roles.

So what has groundhog day got to do with it?

The tradition of Groundhog Day, with its roots in weather prediction, has taken on new meaning in the context of repetitive work, much like the 1990’s film where Bill Murray is caught in a time loop. This sense of being stuck, reliving the same day repeatedly, resonates with how some individuals currently perceive their work life.

Stress and burnout can transform the workplace into a monotonous cycle of repetitive tasks, meetings that lead nowhere, and projects that seem trivial. When motivation wanes, individuals often revert to operating at their lowest skill level, exacerbating their stress and guilt with each underperformance.

The consequence of this workplace monotony is a stifling of creativity, a struggle in decision making, and a reluctance to embrace challenges. This often leads to reduced colleague engagement and can trigger a detrimental spiral that impacts both personal well-being and team dynamics.

What role does leadership play?

Leadership responsibility in the workplace includes the duty to disrupt any cycle that contributes to a negative atmosphere. It's essential for leaders to actively work against such workplace cycles to foster a more positive environment.

Through self-reflection and open communication, leaders can identify clashes or missed opportunities for workplace alignment. By promoting professional development and meaningful work, they can establish a culture of growth, fulfilment, and collective purpose, where employees feel valued and are encouraged to contribute their ideas.

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan and guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”

 Jim Rohn

Leaders who prioritise work-life balance and demonstrate a healthy work environment can mitigate the risk of their teams feeling trapped in a Groundhog Day-like cycle. This approach also helps in embodying the values necessary for leaders to find enjoyment and satisfaction in their own roles and career paths.

How can leaders break the Groundhog Day cycle?

One insightful piece of advice suggests that we should prioritise our tasks rather than merely organising our schedules. This implies taking a step back for reflection and analysis, to understand the reasons behind the feeling of work being draining and to schedule priorities accordingly.

This leadership model can be used by leaders who are feeling unhappy in their own roles, or as a blueprint for the individuals in their teams.

It’s important to step away from work, and try to remove emotional elements in this process, broken down into these three steps:

  • Take time out for reflection. Away from the office, email, and distractions, describe how you are feeling about work.
  • Identify challenges that you are looking to avoid. These may be trigger moments, points of conflict (working hours, communication) or aspects of a role that are causing anxiety or discomfort.
  • Figure out what personal values and behaviours you want to work towards. Describe how you feel at your best, and what these values and behaviours look like in the workplace. This may include ways of working, or elements of personal growth and development that bring you joy.

Once the above has been done, a strategic action plan can be put into place, so that you can address the factors that cause discomfort, and work with purpose, towards personal growth and accomplishment as an individual and a team.

 

It’s no surprise that some of the core leadership skills that we know cause business challenges are those that are often missing at a leadership level. Like all skills, they have to be learnt, and then become habits through practice and ongoing behaviour change. There’s no shame in not knowing how to engage in challenging conversations, or how to effectively deliver feedback.

At Green Shed Talent, every project begins with an engaging conversation. If you're feeling trapped in a routine and uncertain about the initial steps, we're here to help. Reach out for a virtual or face-to-face coffee meeting, and discover the head space you need for some valuable self-reflection.

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