Dealing with end of summer burnout

I love fall!  I am not sure what it is about the season that I find so wonderful considering in Vancouver it rains most of the time!  But as summer nears its end, I start to feel exhilaration and a sense of renewal.  This is when I sit down and plan out my year, make goals for myself and start to feel revitalized.

Maybe it has to do with conditioning from childhood.  A new year at school, connecting with old friends and making new ones. The vibe on the street is energetic and makes you feel like you can take on the world.

But with the renewal of fall also comes the post summer burnout.  I read a great article on called Helping Employees Beat the Summer Blues that talks about ways to energize your team for the latter part of the year.

Here is a summary of the points to deal with mid-year burnout and revitalize your team:

  1. Ask employees how they feel about summer coming to an end.
  2. Ask employees what their goals are for the year.
  3. What motivates your employees?  Find out how to make them more productive.
  4. Help create a sense of accomplishment in your employees work.
  5. Praise people for a job well done… I don’t think we do this enough.
  6. Increase your employee recognition efforts.  If you don`t have an employee recognition program, start one.
  7. Talk about career paths to get people focused on their career goals again.
  8. Increase levels of responsibility if possible.
  9. Create some synergy in the workplace and do a team based project to get people working together.
  10.  Start a mentor program.  If you already have one, good for you!

Not all of these points may be relevant for you and your company, but I hope at least one helps your team work efficiently and productively through to the holiday season.

Dana Sebal has over 10 years Marketing and Human Resources experience.  Outside of her professional career, Dana’s passions include her family, rowing, running, tennis, skiing, yoga, and Beagles.


Employment is a master-servant relationship

I am self-employed.  My boss is really easy to work with and yet I have no work-life balance.  It’s all in the same bucket.  But, I like it that way.  No messy vacation requests.  No performance reviews.  No income security.  No banked overtime or nine day fortnight applications.  Not everyone would love it.  But, what if you worked in an environment where things were really flexible?

ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) is becoming a new buzzword in the world of work.  At the heart of it is a focus on performance rather than presence.  A cynic would say to allow the employer to take advantage of the employee and work them like dogs.  Hmm, seems to me when I talk to my “indentured” friends, this may already be happening (emails at all hours, vacations which are interrupted, etc).  A glass half-full type of person would say that it is because the employer trusts the employee to get their job done and treats them like a grown-up.

I think that we need to consider how to move the employment relationship from the master-servant realm to one that is more suited to the 21st century.  Heck, I’d even be ok with shifting to the 20th century!  Trends tell us, we’ll have fewer bodies to fill roles, continued demand for work-life balance (whatever that is), shifting economy (commoditized jobs moving to India/China), etc., etc.  But, we don’t seem to be doing anything about it.

HR has their head in the sand.  We let the lawyers dictate what we should and shouldn’t do.  The risk is managing us, not the other way around.  If we are going to help our organizations compete, we need to remove our heads from the sand and come up with some new alternatives.  Otherwise, we’ll all be fighting for the same shrinking talent pool and losing talented employees to the highest bidder, and continuing to pay escalating costs to manage the employment relationship.  Maybe ROWE isn’t it, but not everyone wants to work full-time.  Or be a servant.

Holly MacDonald is an independent consultant with well over 15 years of experience in the learning & development field.  Holly is a bit of a techno-geek and can often be found playing online.  When she steps away from her computer, she spends time outside: hiking, kayaking, gardening and of course walking the dog.  She lives on Saltspring Island and is a leader in the live/work revolution.

Creating stories, the bad ones

Today I was challenged with a tough conversation, and one I learned a lot about myself and all employees.  Terminations in general are pretty scary and can rock the boat.  But what we don’t usually see is the internal stories people create.  In my particular case, the person who was terminated was open, communicative, and willing to improve their performance.  When they were terminated, another employee who is also open, communicative, and willing (although not needing to) improve their performance felt their job security was in jeopardy.

The backlash was incomprehensible.  I saw tears in a typically strong and fun person.  I felt empathy for someone who usually challenges me.  I heard a word such as “being let go, fired, quitting” from what usually is a committed and loyal employee.

The outcome was good, we squashed the story created, but it took a while to dig to get where the fear was stemming from.  Once we both acknowledged what was the cause, we were able to see how a story can be bad.  Her personal learning was that she needs to continue to be outspoken, open, and willing as these are her strengths and natural, and that her coworkers termination is not the same path that she is on, even if they shared many similar characteristics.

Agata Zasada is a junior HR generalist in a fast-paced company no one in Vancouver ever has heard of, lululemon athletica.  She has three years of experience in HR supplemented by a BBA in HR. Outside of her love for her career, Agata has been learning to run as well as practicing yoga (mainly Savasana), and is known for her witty humour.

“Hey, you, you’re not doing your job”

Recently I have learned a lot about feedback. How darn empowering it can be, even if the feedback isn’t about how great someone is. In the last week I have been the feedback giver and recipient. Working at a dynamic company, where we get to do things quickly and waiting for someone to get their game up to speed isn’t an option. Here are my two personal take aways from each situation.

Giving. Do not under estimate how inspiring feedback can be. Sometimes telling someone they aren’t meeting expectations is exactly what they need to start exceeding expectations. I unfortunately didn’t give the feedback right away, because I couldn’t get my finger on what the problem was. Once I realized it wasn’t “one major thing” I was able to articulate what the negative impact someone had on a project. Since then, this key person has just blown me away.

Receiving. Being a recipient brought me down to reality, again. As much as I would like to believe that I am a high performer in everything I do, I am not. I was told I wasn’t doing my job right. I need to hear it in a way that literally gave me a verbal kick in the ass.

I urge those who have been holding in a piece of feedback (constructive or not) to put it to good use.  My closing thought: “feedback is the currency of performance. If you have feedback and don’t give it, you are being greedy. Giving feedback is always being charitable.”

Agata Zasada is a junior HR generalist in a fast-paced company no one in Vancouver ever has heard of, lululemon athletica.  She has three years of experience in HR supplemented by a BBA in HR. Outside of her love for her career, Agata has been learning to run as well as practicing yoga (mainly Savasana), and is known for her witty humour.

My beef with 360 feedback

Feedback. Done right, it’s a powerful tool for growth and development.  Other people can see things you don’t or might have different insight. Taken the right way, people can really reach new heights in their skills and ultimately, their careers.  It can also be tough.  It can be misconstrued; people can take things the wrong way.  It’s also impacted by other forces, like someone’s mood that day, or organizational politics.

We aren’t all good at it. I know I personally strive to tone down my tendency to sugar coat my message, as this can get in the way of being helpful. I also strive to take constructive feedback without feeling defensive or hurt personally. We all have something we are working on, and there are plenty of systems out there that try to make our task easier.

The concept of 360˚ feedback is one that I believe can be truly valuable for someone’s development. The idea of seeking feedback from multiple sources, who work with you in different ways and have different perspectives on your performance, sounds healthy and constructive. As an example, I’ve received feedback about my writing and speaking from many sources besides my manager that have truly helped me grow in these areas. So, what’s my beef?  I have very rarely seen 360˚ feedback that does this effectively.

I think the characteristic of 360˚ feedback systems that most undermines development and reaching true feedback is anonymity. I understand the intention behind creating a safe mechanism for saying what you really think, but, honestly, I think that’s the easy way out and it undermines the receiver’s ability to really use the information.  To me, feedback should be a two way conversation, a dialogue not only about one person’s performance, but a mutual ownership of the working relationship and how you can work together to be more effective.

I guess my opinion is a weird blend of scepticism and idealism.  I’m sceptical of anonymous feedback, perhaps because I’ve never received anything truly valuable for my development in that fashion.  However, I believe that people can work towards having real dialogue about performance, regardless of their working relationship.

What I’m really curious to hear about is what others have done to create an environment in which people feel safe providing true feedback or about your organization’s amazing (or not) 360 degree feedback systems.

Krysty Wideen is a learning and organizational development consultant with The Refinery Leadership Partners, based in Vancouver. Failing to leave her day job at work, she often finds herself relating every day, commonplace observations and activities to insights about leadership, business, human resources, and anything, really. Now she has a place to share her observations and insights.