Dr. Erica Brown is an educator and the author of ten books, mostly on the themes of spirituality and leadership. Her new book, Take Your Soul To Work is published by Simon & Schuster, a sister company of CBS. She lives with her husband, four children and two dogs just outside of Washington, DC.
So you’re a high-energy person? You thrive on positive feedback and get charged by good will. That’s great, but it’s also a problem. You look around your office and notice that some employees are working hard at one thing: stealing your joy at work. You came into the office packaged in optimism and ready to make the day great, but then bump into the grump on the fifth floor in the elevator who can barely lift his head to say hello. And don’t forget about your supervisor, who seems to always find something to complain about every time you meet.
That expansive heart you pumped up when you opened the day is quickly shriveling, and it’s not even noon. So how can you protect yourself? Here are five ways to keep yourself whole in a work environment where you heart, mind and soul are fragmented.
Identify Office Optimists
It might take a bit of sniffing and snooping, but know you are not alone, even if you think you are. There may be people just like you– behind the next cubicle wall – who want to live boldly and unapologetically in their joy. They aren’t afraid to say they love their jobs, and they never mind a rainy day. They might also be lonely. If misery loves company, so does optimism.
One of the great soul killers at work is the endless chatter of office politics. Beware. Gossip ultimately makes everyone emotionally unsafe. One day, your boss is the object of biting conversation, but guess what? Tomorrow you’re the target. It may be time to clean up the office. Change the conversation. Turn away from a cluster that spells moral danger. That’s not who you are. Next time someone invites you into a closed-door conversation, let them know you’re busy or find something to say that redeems the person being criticized or the conversation.
Keep A Compliment Journal
Praise generously. People enjoy being around those who make them feel good. In some office spaces, compliments are an endangered species. Light compliments about what someone is wearing or about office décor are a good start, but dig deeper. The more substantial compliments about character, work ethic and solid decision-making need to be given more often if we want to create successful and loving work environments. By giving meaningful compliments, you’ll probably make more office friends than you’ve ever had.
Keep a stack of personalized cards, stamps and pens in your top drawer where they are easily accessible. Make it easy to acknowledge the gifts and talents of others. Notice the small details and be grateful for them. Make it a daily discipline to start off your day writing to a client, customer, co-worker or neighbor. Keep it to three punchy sentences so that it takes no longer than a few minutes to write, stamp and send off.
Get Your Love At Home
No matter how close you are with people at work, remember that you get your love and should expect your love out of the office. Sometimes we demand that work nourish an emotional part of ourselves that it can never reach. The less personal work is, the more likely you will maintain grace and composure when it gets hard. Work hard. Work fair. Work happy.