25 Things I Love About Work

25 Things I Love About Work

This morning before I sat down to write, I was feeling stressed out because I got off to a late start and don't have as much time to write as I normally do. "What will I write about in such little time?!," I wondered. "I have to get this done ASAP so I can make those website updates today!," I thought.

Then, a sweet little ping of inspiration hit me: I can have fun with this.

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50 Reasons You Feel Like Shit at Work

50 Reasons You Feel Like Shit at Work

I hear from a lot of people who feel tired, stifled, belittled, overwhelmed, and patronized at work. They feel disrespected in meetings, put down by their "teammates," or are just exhausted to their core. So many of us put up with jobs and organizations that diminish who we fundamentally are.  We feel bad, heavy, or mixed up at work but tell ourselves that it's just because we're not tough enough to "hang." We become convinced that since we feel badly, something must be wrong with us.

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Dreams as Career Development Guides

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As a young Psychology student in college, I was taught that researchers still don't really understand dreams, but the predominant theory was that they're just how your brain processes information from the day - tossing out what's useless and keeping the knowledge you'll need in order to function tomorrow. No hidden meanings, no prophetic qualities - just an overnight update like the one your computer makes.

I felt sad and conflicted to learn this, and yet, I believed it for a very long time. I'd have dreams and hardly even pay attention to them because I figured that they were just nonsense.

That's unfortunate, because I think I could have avoided a lot of pain and heartache had I paid attention to this vast resource that we have access to every night. 

I don't believe that every dream I have holds some major "aha!" moment, but for me, it's this amazingly easy, simple way to stay aware of what's going on for me at a level below my consciousness.

Carl Jung, one of the most incredible thinkers (and feelers) of our time, believed that dreams were the process by which you become conscious of unconscious thoughts and feelings. He taught that dreams reveal much more than they conceal, and that their interpretation is highly personal - no one can tell you what your dream does or doesn't mean for you.

I think this is why we've poo-pooed dreams in our modern culture. Since we couldn't categorize, measure, and standardize their meanings, we tossed them aside as neurological waste.

That's nonsense, and I believe it's high time we included dreams in our personal and professional development work.

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Since I've reconnected with my own dream life, I've been able to understand personal changes I'm going through, have gained insight into my business, and have been able to process old pain that was keeping me stuck, all of which is pretty amazing.

At this point, I should note that for some people, dreams just don't really resonate with them, or they never remember their dreams when they wake up. That's totally fine, and those people have other ways to access their subconscious, intuitive sides. Jung taught that even if we don't remember our dreams, they're still working their magic and helping us become aware of what's going on beneath the surface.

If you're curious about the dreams you have and are wondering how you can start tapping into their wisdom (your wisdom), I've got one trick that I've found incredibly helpful.

The technique is attributed to Carl Jung's dream analysis method, but I wasn't able to find any hard evidence of that online (fear not: I've reserved almost all of his books at the library and will let you know what I find out later). Luckily, papa Jung encouraged people to just figure it out on their own and not overthink this, so here goes:

My version of a "cut to the heart of the symbolism in your dream" analysis technique:

Step one: When you wake up from a dream, it's helpful to do something that solidifies it in your consciousness since so often we fall back asleep or go about our day and forget the details that were so vivid while we were sleeping. Some people write in a dream journal that they keep by their bed, put a note in their phone, or just try to remember it once they're awake. Do whatever feels easy and light to you.

Step two: As you remember the dream, take any symbol or character from it (it can be a person, animal, stone - whatever interests you) and pretend you are that symbol.

As you take on that symbol's persona, pretend that symbol has a message for you, the dreamer. What does this symbol want you to know? What does the symbol say? What is that symbol trying to make you aware of?

That's it. That's the trick. And it's revolutionized the way I understand my dreams.

I'll give you an example that helped me understand where I was getting stuck in my business:

A few months ago, I had a dream that I was in charge of a downtown revitalization project, and one of the larger art pieces for the downtown square was an iron sculpture of an Orca whale. I watched sadly as workers welded on its rusty fins and tried to make it appear alive and majestic even though it was a sorry representation of the whale's true beauty in its natural state.

That was basically it - the rest didn't really feel important to me, so when I woke up, I just focused on that image of the steel Orca and how sad it made me feel (we don't have to conduct a 5-hour analysis on our dreams, we can just take the snippets that really speak to us).

As I sat remembering the dream, I pretended to be that iron Orca. I pretended it had a message for me, and the message came through clearly: the Orca represented my worklife, and while it wanted to be wild and alive, it was becoming a mechanical, stiff shadow of its real nature.

Message received: it was time to loosen the reins, step aside, and stop trying to force my career into a small, lifeless box. This totally resonated with me at the time, and it was exactly what I needed to be made aware of.

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Now, on another day, maybe the Orca would have meant something different to me. Maybe Orcas represent something else entirely to you. And that's all fine and well. You can scoff at this entire idea - part of me does sometimes, too - it goes against what we've been taught about external, "objective" truths, and it can feel silly to try and bring our dreamlives into the professional arena.

But give it a try - even if it's just once. Play around with analyzing a part of a dream you had and see what you find.

Learning how to remember and interpret your dreams is a skill, but it's not one you need to fret over or feel any sense of "not good enough" about.

Your dreamlife is yours, and it's simply a resource that's available to you if you want to tap into it. It will always be there, and if you can just be soft and playful with it, you'll gain the insights your consciousness needs. Trust yourself with this process - whatever feels like the right interpretation is the right interpretation...with one big caveat:

The right interpretation, the one stemming from your intuition, will feel good - it will feel peaceful, clarifying, and calming, even if you get the sense that you need to make some changes, like I did with my Orca dream. Interpretations that make you feel afraid, bad about yourself, or fearful are coming from your ego - the part of you that hates any kind of change.

So trust the sense you're getting, but try to make sure it's from your growth-oriented deeper self, not the fearful part of you that wants to stay exactly who and where you are forever.

I hope you'll give this a try if it fits for you, and I would love, love, LOVE to hear from you if you gain any insights about your career by using this technique!

A Vision for the Future of Work

A Vision for the Future of Work

We need a new vision for work - a vision that's more alive and more vibrant than the mechanical environments that most of us are offered in our jobs today.

Many of us still believe in old stories about work, stories that tell us things like: "you need a boss," "what matters is the bottom line," or "once you get to the top, you'll be happy."

Even if we know those things aren't true, we still cling to them and strive to fit into stories that don't serve us. We're hungry for something else, but we aren't quite sure what that is.

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I'm Taking Space to Re-invigorate

Hi lovely readers, I wanted to let you know that I'll be taking some time away from writing between now and December 27th to do two things: 1) rest and enjoy the season, and 2) think about how to re-invigorate The Integrated Workplace.

It's hard to believe that I've been writing two blog posts per week for over a year now, and to be honest, I'm feeling a bit tired. I also wonder how you're feeling and am thinking about how I can tweak the format, rhythm, and flow in a way that re-energizes things for all of us.

So, I will most definitely be back, I'm just not sure in what exact form :) My guess is that I'll mix the writing up with content in other mediums, but stay tuned!

If you're feeling a little worn down in an area of your work, this is the perfect time of year to take some space from it so that you can see it in a new light. Once you give yourself permission to look at things anew and make them work for you, the gifts flow much more easily.

You *might* hear from me on the Winter Solstice if I'm feeling inspired, but otherwise, keep an eye out for a post from me on Tuesday, December 27th!

I'll still be active in our Facebook community, A Wild New Work, and you're welcome to join me there!

Take good care of yourselves in this dark time before the sun starts to return next week!

xo,

Megan

Why Recruiting at Your Organization Might Be Doomed

LinkedIn just released their annual report, Small and Mid-Sized Business Recruiting Trends 2017. This report is a survey of about 2,600 small to mid-sized companies that includes data about what they're planning to do in recruiting for the next year. I'll give you some of the highlights of the report:

  • 57% of small and mid-sized (SMB) businesses plan to increase hiring next year
  • Most SMBs are focused on leveraging automation (those applicant tracking systems where you upload your resume) to speed things up and "decrease human bias"
  • SMBs report they're most focused on "quality of hire," which is measured by how long the new hire stays with the company, satisfaction of the hiring manager, and the time to fill (which they report should be <2 months, ideally)
  • 50% of SMBs will not increase their budgets
  • Their top concern: competition with other firms

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantSo, if I had to sum this all up in one sentence, it's this:

Businesses want to hire more people that are a good fit faster than they have before, but with even less human interaction. (Oh, and they're all planning on doing the same thing and are, rightfully, worried about competition).

The authors of the report wrote all of this without irony, but I felt confounded and sad while reading it.

When are organizations going to learn that the answer to hiring the right people doesn't lie in the old "pump and dump" recruiting model? 

I guess I can see why there's a wish to leverage automation - human bias is real and pervasive, and most candidates agree the process should be faster - but increased computer interaction is not the answer.

The need to hire for fit in an organization conflicts with our obsession with speed and efficiency.

Until companies think outside the old model of hiring, we will continue to hear about how there's "no talent," and amazing, gifted candidates will keep getting screened out because their resumes don't have all the right words in them.

The companies that will win "the war for talent" are the ones that make the effort to focus on human connection.

They will create people-centered recruiting practices that might take four months instead of two but will result in wildly better results.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThese are the organizations willing to look beyond the resume, invest in training their managers to limit hiring bias instead of outsourcing the problem to software, and who treat their current employees - and candidates - like people.

The "war for talent" is a farce created by organizations that don't want to change how they treat people.

Like Seth Godin wrote, "it's a lie because many organizations only pretend that they’re looking for talent."

Many organizations are just looking for someone who checks off the right boxes, follows instructions, and will keep their head down. For those people, maybe the transactional nature of recruiting today is the right fit.

But if you're looking for the imaginative people who will pour their heart into the work and up-level your organization, things have to change.

You already have everything you need to transform this empty, deathbed hiring game: you have real humans on your recruiting team who are capable of empathy, intuition, and relating to potential hires.

There are real people working at the company who can tell it like it is and, if they're treated well, will recruit their friends for you. There's money to pay the company's bills that can cover the cost of a lunch or coffee date with someone you hope will join the team one day.

You've got everything you need...you just have to choose to be different.

Choose to be different from all the other firms and recruiters who will continue to automate and scramble for the few qualified candidates who are still willing to play their tired old game.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantI work with individuals every day who are bright, creative, and ready to put the work in, but who get stalled by applicant tracking systems or recruiters who are programmed to look only for the people who have done the same work before.

The game is rigged, I tell them, and it is. If you're a recruiter or have anything to do with hiring in your organization, my guess is that you're frustrated with the game, too.

No one is pleased, but we keep playing it, even though it feels fake and doomed.

No matter whether you're someone who wants to be hired or someone looking to hire, I want to leave you with a nugget of advice:

Do whatever you can to make the process feel more authentic to you.

If you're recruiting for a company that totally sucks and that you can't honestly recommend to the candidates you're talking to, dial down the enthusiasm a little and find ways to have integrity while you're doing your job. Or leave - that company doesn't deserve you, anyway.

If you're applying for jobs and are discouraged by the black hole job search approach, find a new one. Talk to real people via informational interviews. Quit sending your resume out cold. Hire an innovative career coach. Do what you need to in order to do this with integrity.

If enough of us stop playing the game, the game will have to change and become human again.

Are Healthy Organizations the Unicorns of Modern Work?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantA couple of people have asked me lately if it's possible to find work in an organization that values people. Like, really values people - a place that encourages them to show up whole, makes space for bottom-up change, and does work based on connectedness, not fear. Someone asked specifically if I thought organizations like that were unicorns - legendary, fleeting creatures that may or may not have ever existed.

My immediate answer was "no," because there are organizations like that in today's workforce - organizations like Sounds True, Buurtzorg, and Morning Star. These are real-life places where employees are managing themselves, their work, and they're kicking ass in their industries.

But I want to take this analogy a little further and flesh out my response. Warning: you might think I'm crazy once I start talking about unicorn people at work, but try to just roll with the metaphor.

Many people believe that unicorn legends are based in reality - that in China and the Middle East, horned animals like rhinoceros and certain types of oxen were woven into various stories that eventually grew more and more magical.

Unicorns appear in art and stories across cultures, and some of their basic traits are that their horns could be used to heal sickness, aid in protection, and that they were wild, fleeting creatures that could only be caught by a virgin girl who sat quietly waiting in the woods.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantInterestingly, one scholar pointed out that unicorns are the only mythological creature that doesn't seem to have originated from human fears. They've been stripped of some of their darker traits as the years have gone on, but generally, it was believed that unicorns could only help and heal, and they could only be drawn in by someone "pure of heart" (let's assume that has nothing to do with whether someone is a virgin).

So if we're looking for unicorn-like organizations, then we're looking for places that are healing, helpful, a little hard to pin down, and drawn to people with a good heart.

Honestly, I think there are still only a few unicorn organizations in our modern world of work. That doesn't mean they don't exist, they're just harder to find.

There may only be a few unicorn organizations, but I know that there are a lot of unicorn people within organizations. Sweet, sensitive people with integrity who are trying to keep their unicorn-ness even though it's hard.

We can all be unicorns.

We are all wild, capable of healing, and drawn to others whose hearts are pure. We are those things already, we just get stuck in old belief systems and environments that can suffocate us.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThere's a whole community of unicorns out there, and as long as you choose to believe they exist, you can surround yourself with their hopefulness and innovation. You can find the unicorns of the working world in places like Enlivening Edge, the Reinventing Organizations Wiki page, and in our Facebook group.

To amp up your unicorn powers, all you have to do are the things that feel healing and that make you want to help others. To go even further, you can surround yourself with people who believe that unicorns exist, individually and as organizations.

For those of you who feel cynical and like these organizations just aren't real, or that change isn't possible, I'd leave you with this question:

Isn't life just a little brighter and more fun when you believe unicorns are real?

Why Our Work Has to Change

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantA lot of what I've been doing lately has been centered around this concept of "a wild new work." I think that term is appealing to folks because it sounds alive. And hopeful. Many people are hungry for work to be different - for it to be nourishing and adventurous instead of a source of depletion or fear. For others, it's easy to throw off this concept as frivolous, or optional - as if only privileged freelancers or white collar workers have the right to dream of something better.

From where I sit, this concept is not optional.

To work in a way that is life-giving is part of the next phase of our human evolution, if we choose to be brave and allow it to unfold. If you believe that the way we treat people in most organizations has no impact on how we treat the earth or the beings we share it with, then I'm sorry, but you are mistaken.

What does it do to a person to go to a stale office building every day to do meaningless work under the hum of fluorescent lights? How does monotony and micro-management change us over time?

According to psychologist Barry Schwartz, we are deeply shaped by the work that we do and the environments in which we do that work. (Check out his 10-minute TED Talk for more on this).

What does that mean for you? When you look around you at your work, does it strike you as an environment that you want to become?

For some of you, I think the immediate reaction would be "No!"

Some of the most troubling aspects of the way many of us work now are:

  • The systemic squashing of our own internal truth and integrity (e.g., our obsession with "experts," "objectivity," and productivity above all else)
  • The rampant disconnection: from the earth, from animals, from those we love, and, therefore, from our own humanity

photo-1461709444300-a6217cec3dffWhen we work in places where those things are true, we experience sickness, whether it's physical, mental, or spiritual.

In these environments, we forget who we are, which makes it easy for us to become desensitized to things like the systematic harm done to people of color or the literal pillaging of the earth (#nodapl). We fill our bank accounts or get to tell others about our fancy job, but meanwhile, something is closing off inside of us. As Viktor Frankl wrote, "Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for."

Because of what it does to us and our communities over time, the tightness and misalignment that's felt in so many workplaces by so many people is a serious issue. The tightness and misalignment you feel is a serious issue.

Things have to change.

The work we dedicate so much of our lives to should make us - and the world around us - healthier. And there are people who are making that a reality today. Tami Simon, founder of a company called Sounds True, shares her vision of how business can be different:

We have this idea about business--everything we do has to help us make more money, be more productive or whatever. But that's not my view of business. My view of business is that we are coming together as a community to fill a human need and actualize our lives.

I believe her vision is possible and have seen it happen for myself and others - including people working within organizations. There are always things you can do to nurture your spirit and your humanity, even in the midst of a mechanical workplace. If you feel interested in learning new ways to work and support yourself, I've got three ideas:

megan leatherman a wild new workYou can join our Facebook group, A Wild New Work, where we share resources and discuss issues coming up for working people.

You could register for the free webinar I'm offering tomorrow, September 14th at 10:00am. (If it's after September 14th and you're itching to view the recording, let me know).

If you're a working woman in Portland, you could check out the four-week group I'm offering starting October 29th, where we will get very real about all of this and shake things up in our worklives.

If any of those ideas resonate with you, I hope you'll take a step forward.

Your relationship to work, how you're treated in your worklife, and how you treat yourself in your worklife are so important, and I hope that, no matter what, you at least give yourself permission to want what's best for you and your gifts.

Combating Silence in Organizations

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantI was really afraid to publish a post called 50 Reasons You Feel Like Shit at Work, and I was fearful in large part because it was so critical of common organizational practices. For a long time, I was worried about coming across as too negative, too anti-organization, and so I wrote more mild posts in an effort to support readers while also keeping a door open to do work within organizations. I thought that if I played nice enough, I could continue writing while also working to make change inside of companies, even though when I'd tried, it felt totally draining.

We need innovative, forward-thinking people inside of organizations to drive change. Absolutely. For sure. And we also need people on the fringes noticing and giving voice to the things that are harmful and need to stop, which is where I feel more aligned with who I really am.

We need both kinds of people if we're going to create organizations that allow people to show up as wholly themselves.

There is an unhealthy amount of silence around our organizations and their practices today. I felt afraid to post what I did because it still feels taboo to me to be critical of companies or non-profit groups. And yet, they wield a lot of power, and because of that, need to be held to a higher level of accountability.

Why are so many of us uncomfortable talking about the lack of transparency and humanity in these places?

I think it's because for many of us, doing so has been labeled "unprofessional," and we're afraid of what could happen if we're critical of the very people who sign our paychecks.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantMany of our ancestors have either been part of a labor movement or were working adults while their peers were trying to form unions. I know how controversial unions can be, and some of them are just as crooked as the organizations they're "protecting" employees from, but their foundational purpose is pure: to publicly hold organizations accountable for how they treat their employees.

We need people to serve that function. We need to unveil harmful practices like hiding pay practices from employees, expecting salaried employees to work way more than 40 hours/week, and putting employees through patronizing disciplinary processes.

We need less silence and more accountability. Without bringing things out into the open, they stay secret and gnarly and more harmful than if we just looked at them and at least acknowledged that they were happening.

It breaks my heart when I hear about people who feel like they have no one they can talk to about an abusive boss, a total sense of overwork, or a suspicion that they're being paid less than their peers for the same work. These are real, serious issues, and while I know the people in power often feel just as isolated and afraid as those "below" them, they're kind of like politicians: they should be beholden to the people in their community.

Some organizational leaders will, for a long time to come, cling to the notion that they're actually only beholden to "the business," as if that's a real thing.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantThe social contract between workers and organizations is changing though, and the organizations that succeed will be the ones who stop trying to hide harmful practices and who humbly partner with their people to make things better.

Whether you work in an organization or without, I encourage you not to be silenced anymore. If you see something destructive, shed light on it. If you see something beautiful that needs more room to grow, do whatever you can to give it that.

You get to decide what kind of a place you want to work in, and you can effect real change by doing your part to hold the organization and its leaders accountable for their decisions and their treatment of you, the community, and the earth itself.

I know it's not always comfortable, but it is a requirement for those of us calling for a new, healthier, more authentic world of work.


If you'd like to join a community that's discussing some of these issues, I invite you to check out our Facebook group, A Wild New Work.

Performance Metrics for the Enlightened Professional

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantMoney. It's everywhere. It's involved in almost every part of our lives, and there is so much energy around it that it can define what we do, who we are, and how we spend our days.

If you are over the age of 17 or so, I'm sure you've been asked these kinds of questions numerous times by well-meaning adults:

How will you make a living?

How will you support yourself?

What will you do with that degree/trade/job/idea?

The word goddess Cheryl Strayed has a beautiful response to the pressure so many of us feel to have the "right" answer to these questions:

You don't have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don't have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don't have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don't have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts. You have to pay your own electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you've got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth.

But that's all. 

How would your life change if you simply focused on paying your bills, being kind, giving it all you've got, and loving truly?

I don't know about you, but that kind of life sounds pretty appealing to me, even though the socialized part of me clamors and clings to old ideas of "success."

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a mentor who helps me get real about money and my business, and when he asked me (like he usually does) about setting strategic monetary goals, I hit a wall. I told him how sick I was of focusing on the money. I told him that it felt yucky and gnarly, and like a poor use of energy. These were hard things to say to a financial mentor, but he was kind and gracious, and he met me where I was.

Instead of focusing on money, we agreed I'd set new goals - ones that felt good to me and that kept me going in the direction of where I want to go. This has changed the way I measure what I do each day, and it feels awesome. Instead of limiting myself to regular performance metrics like revenue and website traffic, I'm focused on two more enlightened ones:

How much fun am I having?

- and -

How much connection am I creating?

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant

Now, the importance of money is not lost on me. I know how much it matters, and frankly, I want more of it in my life. But I don't want money guiding my worklife - I want it to be an outcome of the fun I'm having and the connection I'm creating with and for others.

How would your career shift if you focused more on fun and connection?

When we're having fun and connecting with others in an authentic way, our work can actually heal and enliven us.

When I look at the things I'm having fun with and creating connection through, like the Facebook group and A Wild New Work course, I involuntary smile and feel so grateful to be doing this work. To me, that's a definite sign that I'm succeeding and performing at a level I'm proud of.

Forget about "how will you make a living?" for a minute and imagine what would make you feel more fun and connected. Do you see the value of those things?

Do you see how they support and nurture your success?