Back to the Drawing Board: Surviving Career Setbacks
Career setbacks can be pretty brutal. When everything seems to be going right, sometimes we are faced with unexpected challenges that change the course of our careers and our lives. So what do you do if you’re laid off, didn’t get promoted, or didn’t make the cut? A new article by Marks, Mirvis, and Ashkenas (2014) has highlighted three scientifically supported steps that you can take:
- Determine why you failed or lost.
- Identify new paths and goals.
- Be ready to seize the right opportunity.
DETERMINE WHY YOU FAILED
Unexpected changes are usually perceived as unfair and lead to a period of shock, denial, anger, and self-doubt. Research in psychology has shown that people, especially high achievers, tend to exhibit attribution bias. This is a method of protecting self-esteem by taking all the credit for success and none of the blame for failure. This bias stands in the way of your success by encouraging you to ignore your role in failure and by making it difficult for you to learn from your mistakes.
A change in behavior and mindset is one of the most important indicators of a successful turnaround. Communication and honest feedback from supervisors and colleagues can help you realize some specific behavior that may be holding you back. Changing your mindset and using coping strategies can help change that behavior. This will help you move forward and be prepared to meet your goals and the goals of your organization.
IDENTIFY NEW PATHS
It has been said that if one door closes, another door opens. A failed opportunity can sometimes be a wake-up call to change paths. Failures are learning experiences and can lead to new, better opportunities in the future. Sometimes the path deviates a little and sometimes it deviates a lot, whether it’s changing jobs within a company, changing careers, or even moving to a whole different state. Being open to change and actively thinking about possibilities will reveal many opportunities that may help things turn out even better than they were before. Studies show that people tend to avoid the problems that come from unexpected career changes instead of thinking of losses as new opportunities.
SEIZE THE MOMENT
Finally, once you have a course of action, go with it. Uncertainty is normal when trying new things, but if you accomplished and believed in the last two steps, you have nowhere to go but up and forward. Even though we cannot foresee unexpected failures, we can always be ready for unexpected opportunities for success.
ADVICE FOR ORGANIZATIONS
Organizations and their employees should be prepared for possible future failures, successes, and new opportunities. This will help them be better equipped to adapt to change. Employees can work on improving themselves by examining their role within the organization as well as the things that they can change or do better as preemptive measures for the unexpected. Organizations should always be thinking of new goals, so as to always be moving forward. Employees should be ready to change roles in response to the evolving goals of the organization. By following these steps, individuals and organizations should perform better, and be better equipped to handle failure.
How a Sense of Calling Can Affect Career Decisions
What helps determine whether people pursue their sense of “calling”? The advice I always got was, “Work hard, get a respectable job in a stable industry and then pursue your passion on the side.” This shaped my extrinsic motivation, or the type of motivation that comes from outside a person, when pursuing a career. Others take to heart advice from notable public figures like the late Steve Jobs who said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” This kind of advice fosters intrinsic motivation, or the type that comes from within a person, when pursuing a career. The pursuit of a career that meets at the intersection of these two approaches would be ideal, but often economic realities deter many. Recently, two researchers sought to understand what influences career decisions when these approaches clash.
INTRINSIC AND EXTRINSIC VALUES
Career theory posits that intrinsic and extrinsic values are both important in understanding career choice and development. Extrinsic values are more objective and measurable, and relate to wanting higher pay, prestige, and job security. For this paper, researchers were interested in intrinsic characteristics, which are more subjective and can be summed up as a calling, meaning, “a consuming, meaningful passion people experience toward a domain.” This is an interesting concept because it is linked to positive work outcomes such as work engagement, job satisfaction and clarity of professional identity. However, little is known about how people pursue careers when these aspects are misaligned within an individual.
RESEARCH ON SENSE OF CALLING
This study was longitudinal in nature, meaning it was done over a lengthy time period, and examined people with varying degrees of a sense of calling (strong vs. weak) within the music domain. The study also noted the extent to which an individual’s perceived ability (what they thought of their own ability) and actual ability (measured as recognition from others) affected their pursuit of their calling in music.
The results suggest that a sense of calling early in life (intrinsic motivation) is a particularly important factor in helping resolve career decisions later on, and in determining the trajectory of one’s career pursuits. A strong and early calling made it more likely that a person would get a degree in that area and be professionally involved. They also showed that participants with stronger early callings were likely to perceive their ability more favorably, which made them more likely to pursue music professionally. The implication is that actual ability was not as strong a determinant in pursuing a passion as one would expect.
IMPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS
Apart from the numerous applications for individuals, from an organizational perspective, it may be worthwhile for managers to investigate how to harness the passion of those who may feel a strong sense of calling, yet have chosen to pursue more extrinsic values. For example, some companies allow employees to start small side projects, whether social or technical, and are reaping the benefits of this approach. This could have an impact on positive organizational outcomes, such as improving work engagement and job satisfaction.
Developmental Job Experience Might Not Be for Everyone
Organizations often give top performing employees developmental job experience in order to prepare them for the next level. These experiences are useful for enhancing managerial skills, and employees with a preference for learning new things are likely to reap more benefits from them. However, research on the benefits of developmental experience shows mixed results.
WHAT IS DEVELOPMENTAL JOB EXPERIENCE?
The authors defined developmental job experience (DJE) as an individual’s experience of taking on demanding assignments that offer opportunity for learning and leadership. The extent to which an assignment brings DJE can depend on how the particular employee views the opportunity in his or her own mind. Developmental assignments usually share some common features: unfamiliar responsibilities, opportunity to create change, high levels of responsibility, working across boundaries, and managing diversity.
DJE is associated with growth and future benefits as well as with substantial risks and uncertainty. Depending on whether an individual perceives the assignment as a challenge or a threat, combined with their ability to use coping skills, he or she will experience pleasant or unpleasant feelings. These feelings lead to an overall positive or negative outcome. The authors examined advancement potential as a positive outcome and turnover intention as a negative outcome in the study. The authors explained that because DJE can contribute to both pleasant and unpleasant feelings at the same time, both positive and negative outcomes can occur.
WHAT DOES DEVELOPMENTAL EXPERIENCE DO TO EMPLOYEES?
Results confirmed that when employees perceive that their job contains more developmental features, they also experience higher levels of both pleasant and unpleasant feelings. Pleasant feelings promote engagement (or how dedicated employees are to their work) and creativity, and it’s actually because of these resulting pleasant feelings that developmental experiences are associated with higher advancement potential. The authors also found that when employees experience pleasant feelings, they also have lower levels of turnover intention. In the opposite direction, unpleasant feelings lead to defensive behavior and ineffective coping and were associated with higher turnover intention. In fact, it’s because of these negative feelings that developmental experience is associated with turnover intention.
The researchers also studied the role that emotional intelligence plays in developmental experience. They found that when employees had higher levels of emotional intelligence, unpleasant feelings did not lead to higher turnover intention, as it did when employees had lower levels of emotional intelligence.
TAKEAWAYS FOR ORGANIZATIONS
First, it is recommended to have organizational practices in place to support those carrying out developmental assignments. This will help promote pleasant feelings in employees.
Similarly, organizations should develop a climate where errors and risk-taking are tolerated. Thus, employees are likely to experience fewer unpleasant feelings.
Also, organizations can identify employees with high emotional intelligence and give them more opportunities for developmental experience. Employees with low emotional intelligence can be trained to improve their emotional intelligence by enhancing their interpersonal skills regarding recognition and control of emotions.
Last but not least, it is important to monitor the amount and degree of developmental experience that employees are receiving, in order to make sure no one is overwhelmed by the challenges associated with developmental assignments.
Why Organizations Should Invest in Executive Coaching
Executive coaching has received considerable attention in the academic world in recent years. Articles on this topic have more than tripled since 2006.
But, in comparison to opinion articles, empirical studies have been rare, with few conducted in organizational settings.
In his new research on the subject, Anthony M. Grant evaluated the effects of a coaching program in an international engineering consulting company that had recently gone through multiple disruptive organizational changes.
EXECUTIVE COACHING IN TIMES OF ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGES
Grant suggested that organizational changes call for leaders who can engage in strategic thinking and solution-focused thinking while also having good personal insight and high self-efficacy.
Executive coaching has been shown to facilitate strategic thinking and increase personal insight by providing a supportive space for reflection. Self-efficacy can be enhanced through the process of setting goals and working to achieve them.
So, in general, executive coaching is considered to be effective in enhancing leaders’ capacity to cope with changes and their attainment of organizational goals.
COACHING PROGRAM DESIGN
The coaching program examined in the study involved 14 experienced executive coaches with backgrounds in business psychology. The participants were 38 executives and senior and middle level managers in 14 different locations in the world (seven of which didn’t complete the program).
The coaching program consisted of a pre-coaching assessment, followed by four one-on-one coaching sessions over four months. The participants set their own individual goals for the program and for each session. Common goals include ones designed to enhance impact, communication and professional development opportunities.
The coaching sessions used “a cognitive-behavioral, solution-focused framework.” During each session, the coaching team reviewed progress, discussed current situations, explored potential action steps, and determined which steps should be taken next.
THE BENEFITS OF EXECUTIVE COACHING PROGRAMS
After participating in the coaching program, the participants largely reported significant progress towards achieving their goals, better engagement in solution-focused thinking, increased capacity to cope with change, enhanced leadership self-efficacy and resilience, and less depression.
In general, the participants perceived that the coaching program helped them most in areas of self-awareness, leadership skills, and work-family balance.
TAKEAWAYS ON EXECUTIVE COACHING
The study found that the involvement of qualified executive coaches is essential to program success. A solid background in psychology, International Coach Federation accreditation, and years of experience in the relevant field can all be good indicators of qualification.
It also determined that the use of individual assessment tools helps increase self-awareness, and clearly defined goals ensure that the coaching is focused. Giving participants the freedom to set individual goals also increases their personal investment in the program. Lastly, the action planning and progress review components enhanced the accountability.
In conclusion, research shows that executive coaching is a worthy investment, particularly in times of organizational change. A well-designed coaching program can bring about multifaceted benefits to both leaders and the organization on the whole.
Working Abroad- How to Help Employees Weather the Storm
More and more organizations these days are sending employees on international assignments. This can have many benefits for these organizations, and can be exciting for the individual.
But not everyone proves successful in integrating into foreign cultures, which affects their work and can ultimately lead to major losses for organizations.
The research paper under review looked at the relationship between work adjustment and performance. Interestingly, the researchers cite various authors who say that very little research has been done to examine expatriate experiences over time.
INITIAL ADJUSTMENT TO WORKING ABROAD
The researchers highlighted motivation and stress-related states as being important in the process of adjustment
Cross-cultural motivation (being able to adapt to other cultures, as well as taking an active interest in their customs) and psychological empowerment (including feelings of competence, freedom and purpose) were identified as being particularly important for high initial adjustment.
Psychological empowerment has a unique impact on motivation, helping expats adjust quicker. Highly motivated individuals seek out social support, are more proactive at work, and consequently show better initial coping skills and overall performance. But despite high initial levels of work adjustment, this group can experience a decline over time. Research suggests that this is because the workers recalibrate their efforts in line with their experiences.
THE STRESS TEST
Higher levels of early work adjustment have various outcomes over time, depending on other factors such as experiencing challenge or hindrance stressors.
These stressors reflect work conditions. But– as the name suggests– the challenge stressors are more positive, providing better outcomes (such as promotions or raises), which garner greater engagement and performance. Challenge stressors can actually help maintain high levels of adjustment over time.
Hindrance stressors such as work-related conflict or organizational unfairness, on the other hand, can derail and stifle an employee’s efforts at growth and achievement. Coping with such stressors takes away resources necessary for adjustment and high performance.
BENEFITS OF THIS RESEARCH
For organizations sending employees abroad, these findings could be very beneficial.
The results lend support to the idea of screening individuals for high cross-cultural motivation and psychological empowerment levels, which were some of the indicators for high work adjustment abilities. These findings could also help organizations target and improve these aspects within individuals chosen for international assignments so that they are empowered before they even begin working abroad.
This study can aid in the development of programs for those already working abroad to help them reach and maintain satisfactory levels of adjustment, and also help raise managers’ awareness to maintain initial motivation levels and perhaps re-design work tasks where necessary so as to lessen the influence of hindrance stressors.
Thriving At Work Rather Than Just Going Through the Motions
Are there times where you feel like you’re just “going through the motions” at work? If so, there’s good news: Instead of continuing with your daily tasks like a preprogrammed robot, you can thrive at work!
THRIVING AT WORK: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
A new study from T.A. Paterson, F. Luthans and W. Jeung examines thriving at work, which involves an employee’s experience of both learning and vitality in the workplace.
Specifically, this study looked at how supervisor support and employees’ levels of hope, efficacy, resiliency and optimism (i.e., psychological capital) ultimately influence their success in the workplace.
Additionally, these authors explored the influence thriving at work has on employees’ job performance and self-development.
EXAMINING THE RESULTS
The “Thriving At Work” study’s results revealed that employees who were more hopeful, efficacious, resilient, and optimistic at work were more likely to thrive, leading to employees who were more focused on their assigned tasks.
Similarly, employees with very supportive supervisors were also more likely to thrive at work and be more focused.
Furthermore, these employees who thrived at work engaged in more work-related self-development and had higher levels of job performance (as rated by their supervisors).
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR HR PROFESSIONALS
Collectively, these results indicate that employers and organizations should seek to promote “thriving at work” and not just “going through the motions” on a daily basis. Not only because employees who thrive at work perform better than their robotic coworkers, but also because the experience of thriving at work promotes employees’ self-development initiatives.
This discovery is especially important for organizations. Today’s workplace continues to evolve rapidly, and companies need employees who can easily adapt and develop along with the ever-changing work environment.
Therefore, organizations should strive to create supportive work environments, which provide employees with enhanced opportunities for thriving at work!
This post was brought to you in part by CIPHR an HR Intranet Software Provider
How Organizations Can Fast-Track Transitioning Leaders
New job roles can be a daunting prospect for anyone. There are contrasts with old responsibilities, new expectations, and all sorts of surprises that pop up along the way. Adjusting quickly to the demands of a new position is important for productivity. But how can organizations fast-track transitioning leaders to help them gain the knowledge and skills they need?
In “Show and Tell: How Supervisors Facilitate Leader Development Among Transitioning Leaders,” authors L. Dragoni, H. Park, J. Soltis and S. Forte-Trammell suggest that supervisors can play a key role in leadership development.
The study points towards the need for supervisors and mentors to not only tell transitioning employees how to lead effectively, but to show them how effective leadership looks in practice. This increases the chance of a smooth transition, and frees individuals up to focus on leading others.
“Telling” deals with effectively communicating the knowledge-based components of the job, which include areas of responsibility, reporting channels and the like.
By giving transitioning leaders this necessary information up front, you can reduce the potential for future mistakes and free them up to focus on other important aspects of the job.
The study suggests that leaving them to figure these things out on their own, through trial and error, will impact their overall job efficiency in the initial stages, as well as the quality of their leadership over others.
The study also suggests that the “showing” aspect of helping to develop new leaders is critical in their success.
Employees who have been lucky enough to work with a great leader may require less “show and tell.” When new leaders who have had this benefit in the past are paired with supervisors who don’t put in the proper time and effort in training, they bounce back better than those who haven’t ever worked with great leaders.
But don’t be despondent if the person you’re training has not had this benefit of working with a great leader before. The research shows that these employees often see the greatest gains from working with a “show and tell” supervisor.
WALK THE TALK
In conclusion, training that provides both showing and telling gives transitioning leaders the greatest chance for success. Showing without telling leaves the new leader navigating the occasionally rough waters of organizational structures and processes alone. Telling without showing often leaves the new leader struggling to figure out appropriate behavioral responses to organizational situations.
If you’re involved in training and developing leaders for a new role, the big take-away is that you need to spend time telling them the ins and outs of the job and showing them effective leadership in context. Be the leader you want them to be, and give them a head start by telling them inside information that will help them navigate their new job role. It will save everyone time, and allow them to focus their attention on the people they’re leading.
It’s Not All About the Money? The Role of Career Values in the Engagement of Recent College Graduates
As many college seniors wrap up their final year of college and prepare to enter the “real world”, many of them panic at the frequently asked question, “what are your plans for after graduation?” This question, which subsequently implies “do you have a job lined up after graduation?” presents an almost existential challenge. After all, who are we without school or work?
However, it is possible that sending out tons of resumes in the hopes of landing a job, isn’t the only thing new college graduates need to consider. The transition from college life to working life is also worthy of examination, particularly when it comes to identifying your career values before you land a job that may not be right for you. Recent research has examined the influence of college students’ career values and the fit of these values with the organization’s values on their subsequent work engagement once they enter the workforce.
Specifically, these authors were interested in examining how work engagement was affected by career values that were intrinsic (arising from inside the individual) versus extrinsic (arising from outside forces). Both intrinsic and extrinsic career values drive an employee’s motivation to pursue work goals. However, intrinsic career values are rewards that come from the actual experience of working, such as employees’ interest in their work, while extrinsic career values are rewards that arise from external work experiences, such as income. To explore the role of college students’ intrinsic and extrinsic career values in the transition from college to the workplace, this study followed individuals from their final years in college to their entry into the workforce, two years later.
The study revealed that intrinsic career values held by individuals in their final years of college were tied to their engagement in their work later on, while extrinsic career values that individuals’ held in college did not continue to hold much sway. When working within an organization with career values that fit well with their own, employees were more engaged than individuals whose career values fit poorly with the organization’s values.
This is exciting news. It means that organizations can and should turn their focus from extrinsic rewards, like salary and big offices, and instead focus more on rewards that motivate employees through intrinsic engagement in challenging tasks. Additionally, soon-to-be college graduates should focus, not only on finding a job when they graduate, but also on finding a job within an organization whose career values align with their own.
Be in Charge of Your Workplace Well-being
As working professionals, the better part of our days are spent at the office. Naturally then, workplace well-being plays an important role in the overall well-being of a working professional. So what does workplace well-being really mean, and what are the factors that influence it?
Unlike what most people believe, recent research reveals that workplace well-being is not solely dependent on conditions prevalent within an organization, such as policies and structure. This has profound implications. It suggests that workplace well-being is not controlled by management alone; instead, it is greatly affected by individual traits and behavior that can be nurtured to an organization’s advantage.
Well-being can be understood in terms of an interplay between individual characteristics (personality and behavior) and the organization. The rules within an organization will be well received, if an individual perceives a certain level of transparency. This will enable employees to be more open and involved in the overall well-being of the organization and also with each other. Some structural factors within an organization are related to employee satisfaction. Aspects like salary and job content contribute toward workplace well-being, but affect different individuals differently. Therefore workplace well-being is a product of both a good fit between an individual and an organization, and high quality relationships between colleagues.
Factors like organizational functions, physical environment, and communication are objective features that also affect workplace well-being and must be controlled in order to create a great place to work. However, it may come as a surprise to many that these are only the objective elements that we know affect workplace well-being. While more subjective individual characteristics, like being positive, good self-esteem, intrinsic motivation, openness, and resilience, among various other factors, greatly affect well-being overall.
The good news is that training programs can be designed to nurture these desirable traits and to control unwanted behavior, effectively complementing the organization’s positive features. With suitable training and development programs behavior can be molded, creating well-being by empowering each individual to seek positive attitudes and behaviors that guarantee greater success. Additionally, HR personnel can use this information for selection purposes, seeking out both the correct skill set for a position and a good fit between the candidate and the organization.
It is imperative that individuals working within an organization realize that they are as vitally responsible for the well-being of the firm, as any manager or company policy. However, despite these discoveries, management should remain responsible for creating an environment that will bring out the best in their employees.
So the next time you are sitting at your desk feeling blocked, trapped or stuck, do not resort to blaming factors like management and your office structure. Rather remember that you are largely responsible for your current situation, and you can change it by embracing the right characteristics to create well-being at your office.
Middle Skills Gap: Why are employers struggling to fill certain positions?
While Americans are searching high and low for work, knocking on every recruiter’s door, struggling to land a job, there are open positions right under their noses for which employers just can’t find enough qualified candidates. In fact, shortages of qualified applicants for “middle skills jobs” (jobs that require postsecondary technical training and education) are a growing problem the nation. Some companies have even resorted to contracting their work abroad – a solution with many logistical downsides.
What’s the best fix to this predicament? Instead of waiting for candidates with the appropriate skills to come along, organizations can develop training programs to fill this “middle skills gap.” Unfortunately many organizations hesitate to invest in such training. After all, what if competitors decide to save time and money by simply snatching these skilled employees away? Why invest in training and developing your workforce, if it makes your employees more attractive to other firms and enables your employees to jump ship, taking the skills you’ve taught them and the valuable human capital they’ve acquired at your firm to your competitor?
No need to panic just yet, Kochan, Finegold & Osterman have a couple of suggestions for employers tackling this difficult situation. For starters, employers and unions in the same regions and industries should band together and combine forces to train and produce top candidates. Also, a shift in the traditional approach to education must be made. Lessons should be taken from the classroom to the boardroom. Students need simulated work situations and opportunities like internships and cooperative degree programs, or “co-ops,” which allow them hands-on experience and real world application of the concepts they learn in class. Employers should partner with universities and institutions of higher education to not only show students what a career in these fields and at their firm would look like, but also to encourage these student to visualize this as their own future.
How valuable are co-ops and internships? Have you ever participated in a co-op or internship program? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.