After a great run, I recently decided to resign from my monthly Globe and Mail column. I had many reasons. In part, it was time to move on (more on this below). This was coupled with a growing dissatisfaction with how the column was being edited; changing content expectations; and word-count restrictions. This doesn’t mean I am ending my relationship with the Globe altogether, simply that I will no longer be writing my regular column.
Writing the column was a great experience. It provided a wonderful opportunity to think about interesting topics from a psychological slant, an approach that is not typical in most writing about careers. I also loved my interaction with readers. I hope, based on your feedback, that I touched your lives by providing a framework from which to understand work-life problems, and how to manage them.
I plan to continue writing, but in the form of a blog. Why a blog? For starters, I really enjoy the craft of writing – thinking of the most succinct way of expressing something which people ruminate about but can’t necessarily put into words, but once they have the words to describe it, they can manage it better.
I also love turning my mind to subjects that move beyond what I do professionally. For example, in my columns I rarely wrote about career planning or self-assessment which have been a key part of my career; I preferred, instead, topics about how parents are not necessarily helping their adult kids when they become overly involved in their career management, how to deal with the allergy inducer in the next cubicle, disturbing work trends, and meaningless corporate jargon.
I also love the freedom to write about what personally interests me and what I think will be helpful to readers, and to draw conclusions about effects beyond work life. And with a blog I can do it in as few, or as many, words as required. In other words, I like the fact that I am not working for anyone other than my readers. In moving from a column to a blog, what I gain is that freedom.
Expect content similar to what I have offered in the past, but not necessarily restricted to work life, whether I look at how personality characteristics or demographics play out in different arenas of life, the impact of pressures at work on peoples’ well-being, gender matters or, as I, myself have done, knowing when it is time to move on and how to deal with the struggle involved in making a move – giving up my Globe’s real estate was not an easy decision!
In the meantime, I welcome any feedback, suggestions for subjects to tackle, or questions you would like to see me address.
For your own mental health, beware of what you share at work
Almost half of working Canadians cite work as the most stressful part of their lives, with a significant percentage suffering from psychological problems, such as anxiety and depression, according to a recent study commissioned by Partners for Mental Health. The results aren’t surprising. Almost every worker can tell you that their work is killing them and the effects of stress are seeping into every area of their life, undermining their effectiveness as a worker, parent, partner, and friend.
The organization’s solution? It is stewarding “Not Myself Day@Work,” a campaign to promote employer awareness and support for mental health issues in the workplace. You may have recently seen its ads on TV.
“Even though about 44% of workers have or had mental health issues,” people still do not talk openly about these challenges, the organization says in a recent news release. They want companies to host a day in which people can talk about mental health at work.
But will lunch-and-learn events during which employees share personal stories, for example, really help to create healthier workplaces? Should employees discuss psychological difficulties with colleagues and bosses?
Certainly, understanding that you aren’t alone in finding work demands overwhelming can be a source of comfort, but it’s not a solution to the problem. Your boss and co-workers are not shrinks; friends, family and a therapist should be your pillars of support.
Staffers who confide their difficulties to employers and colleagues are often ultimately punished for their confidences by being gossiped about or marginalized. “Psst,” colleagues will say. “Don’t take her seriously, I hear she has psychological problems.”
More importantly, gab fests and happy talk will not do much to change the sources of stress: overwhelming and unrealistic work expectations. If so many workers suffer mental health problems as a result of work stressors, this begs the obvious question: What needs to be changed – workers or the unhealthy demands they face?
Awareness programs can start to alleviate this stigmatization, but it won’t happen overnight. In the meantime employees should be wary about what they share at work.
Instead of hosting employee confessionals about their anxieties, organizations should be urged to have open dialogues focused on the actual stressors that their employees face, and how employers’ expectations can be modified to be more in tune with what their employees can, and cannot, cope with.
Instead of calling it Not Myself @Work, let’s call it: I’m Only a Human@Work.
Can you teach an old dog new tricks?
Last year my 60 year old cousin, who holds a Ph.D. in clinical and experimental psychology and has had a successful career as an operations executive asked my husband, a science fiction author, and me, to read a manuscript of a psychological thriller he had just completed. He had never written any fiction before.
Those of you familiar with my columns and books know I am not a huge believer in people suddenly discovering latent talents they were unaware of at mid or later life stages – most of us do not wake up one morning with the ability to write the great Canadian novel or take an award winning photograph if we have had no previous indication of outstanding literary or photographic capabilities.
So you can imagine us squirming, dreading the awkward author’s question he would ask once we read it: “What did you think of it?” We thought it would be awful.
We were both wrong. In fact, it was a compelling read, a genuine page turner.
I was humbled. Maybe you can and should turn your hand to something outrageous that you never thought you could do and achieve something outstanding. If nothing else, I promise it will be a great adventure.