Workplaces: Which one sums up yours?


1 Hostage syndromeOrganisations shouldn’t tell employees “you’re lucky to have a job” as it makes them feel like “hostages”, psychologist Alan Lyons says. It also creates resentment, and when economic conditions improve people will leave. But people can also make prisoners of themselves and careers coach John Deely says there are opportunities to “reinvent” even in times of recession.

2 On-the-job absenteeismSome workers are viewed in their organisations as resistant to change “but it’s not that they are resistant but they’re overwhelmed”, argues Lyons. This is called “learned helplessness” in psychology, and it comes from a feeling that you are powerless to change anything. It’s usually accompanied by a gloomy attitude, whereby every setback is seen as more severe, more permanent and more personal than in reality.

3 Identity crisisThe recession has forced many people to change their roles. “If, for example, you worked in sales and then have to switch to debt collection you’re suddenly dealing with people who could be very angry or upset,” says Lyons. As well as playing with your emotions, it can challenge your sense of values. “You can’t really change your personality. You can’t suddenly stop empathising – if you are an empathetic person.”

4 Slave to technology“People are like Pavlov’s dogs when an email comes in. Immediately, they open it – but that’s the technology controlling you,” says Lyons. He recommends people who use Microsoft Outlook to always open it in “calendar” rather than email mode “to get a bit of control back, little by little”.

5 Over-tasked“We have more choice today but people are taking less action,” says Lyons. “Technology and social media has had an impact. We chip away at things. We start a lot but finish very little.” Studies of white collar workers show they can only take on two-three tasks a day and finish them “with excellence”. Any more and standards starts to slip.