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Are people getting ruder everywhere, including at work?
I’ve just recorded an upcoming episode of the Working It podcast about divided workforces and political polarisation. Some of the frequently cited ways to resolve conflict seem to be wishful thinking.
Without going for an outright ban on political talk at work (which can lead to its own problems), one of my guests, Octavius Black of the behavioural science-based consultancy MindGym, suggests instead that “we need to get comfortable with conflict”, and that we should “encourage [staff] to debate different views that are work related. Should we launch this product? Should we move ahead with this investment?” It’s a good step toward productive conflict — and debating in a civil way.
But there’s a long way to go, and yes, it seems, people are just getting ruder everywhere. A report this week in Harvard Business Review showed that of 2,000 global frontline staff, 78 per cent of them think that rudeness from customers to staff is worse than it was five years ago. (Isabel Berwick)
PS The FT’s Fashion Matters newsletter, written by fashion editor Lauren Indvik, launches tomorrow. Click here to sign up.
Customise your approach to burnout
The most common tips for how to deal with burnout — set boundaries! Develop stress management techniques! Establish a support network! — are effective strategies. But people aren’t monolithic. Giving everyone the same advice assumes that we all experience burnout in the same way.
Gretchen Rubin, an author who studies happiness and productivity, is a big proponent of using personality categories to gain insight into what makes us tick. Just as social situations affect introverts and extroverts differently, Gretchen says that there are four types of people when it comes to how we respond to expectations — which in turn drive behaviours (like taking on too much work) that can cause burnout.
These personality types are defined by four “tendencies”. The majority of the 3.2mn people who have taken Gretchen’s Four Tendencies quiz are obligers: they are able to get things done when others have expectations of them — for example, when their boss asks them to file a report. Obligers struggle to hold themselves accountable, such as when they promise themselves to go for a run before work.
Obligers are prone to what Gretchen calls “obliger rebellion”, when the weight of others’ expectations causes so much stress that individuals begin to neglect their responsibilities. This defensive mechanism can be a symptom of burnout in this group.
Questioners, on the other hand, are able to meet both internal and external expectations as long as they understand the reason behind what’s being asked. Because questioners value justification and logic, they’re at risk of burnout if subjected to too many rules that feel arbitrary. For example, “questioners are maddened by the idea of being in the office three times a week,” says Gretchen, because they want to know why. Because they seek to optimise for efficiency, questioners are susceptible to decision fatigue and analysis paralysis. If you’re a questioner, let people know how much you benefit from understanding their decision-making process.
If you’re a rebel — that is, you’re able to meet expectations as long as they align with your personal identity — it can be helpful to reconnect with how your work contributes to your sense of self. Remember that you want to perform well at work because it contributes to your sense of being a responsible person, or well-respected, or because it will give you future opportunities and freedom.
Managers can use this framework too, to help support stressed staff in a way that’s appropriate for each person. If you manage a questioner, Gretchen suggests asking how you can provide them with all the information and resources that they need, and focusing on the “why” and “how” where possible. If you manage an obliger, remember that they respond best when others hold them accountable — they may not feel like they are able to step away from work because of their strong sense of obligation. Bosses can help obligers manage burnout by forcing them to take breaks. Follow up with them to make sure they schedule time off.
Regardless of your tendency, if you’re feeling burnt out, Gretchen suggests that identifying the problem should be your first priority. “‘Burnout’ is so general,” she says. “Are you burnt out because your best work friend left? Are you doing too much? If you don’t have a proper work set-up because you’re in a dining room chair, that’s very different from having a problem with your manager.” You can then get specific about tackling the issue — and use insight about your own personality to create better structures that set you up for success. (Sophia Smith)
Listen in: The war for talent
This week on the Working It podcast we are talking about the war for talent. How can managers find, recruit and keep the best people? We’ve had mass tech lay-offs in recent weeks but there are skill shortages in many sectors — and in-demand people will always have offers. I talk to Tyler Cowen, economist and author of Talent: How to Identify Energisers, Creatives and Winners Around the World, which was longlisted for the FT Business Book of the Year Award. Tyler gives us the best interview questions to ask (you’ll have to listen to find out). Then I talk to FT management editor Anjli Raval about hiring trends — and what companies are doing to hang on to their best staff.
Next week: what is the point of HR? During the pandemic, human resources teams focused on wellbeing support. But what is their role now? We hear from Jamie Fiore Higgins, author of Bully Market, a memoir of working for Goldman Sachs, and the FT’s senior business writer, Andrew Hill. (Isabel Berwick)
Do you think HR is necessary? Let us know in this week’s poll.
Elsewhere in the world of work:
Don’t be the office curmudgeon: In the workplace, nothing ages you more than complaining about entitled youth, writes Emma Jacobs. It can be tempting to believe young workers should experience the same struggles you did at their age, but beware — it makes you appear resistant to progress.
Executive pay is at an inflection point: As a show of pandemic-era solidarity, many companies cut or cancelled executive bonuses. Senior pay packets have recovered rather nicely, but as the energy and cost of living crises shock the economy, what happens to the bosses’ pay now?
Handing over power — with a mandate for change: Earlier this year Michael Murray took the reins from his father-in-law as chief executive of Frasers, a sportswear and luxury group. He’s since led the company through “a complete 360” to elevate the brand.
Working parents feel the strain of childcare costs: England has one of the costliest childcare systems in the world, causing many couples to begrudgingly accept that part-time work or reduced career progression are the only feasible options.
MBA students help Ukraine get back to business: As the world of business evolves before their eyes and crisis management becomes paramount, students at Kyiv’s International Management Institute are aiding efforts to keep the country’s economy afloat.
People over age 65 are increasingly returning to the workforce to pursue new opportunities and part-time jobs. The so-called “unretired” are motivated not only by financial concerns, but by the desire to socialise and belong to a team again. From ageism and class considerations to physical fitness, cultural pursuits and hobbies, FT readers sounded off on all aspects of the phenomenon.
Reader Meryem points out that returning to the workforce with the express desire to socialise begs a larger societal question:
People should work longer if they want and are healthy enough, but shouldn’t we have access to a community and a circle of friends outside of work? It seems a lack of investment in community spaces and urban planning is made most visible with the retired, but affects everyone in society.
Reader Dr Spock agreed with commenters who pointed out that retirement frees you up to spend more time on cultural activities like museums, music, film and reading — but identified some elements of work that you cannot necessarily find in cultural pursuits:
For many people work also helps to provide structure, motivation and social interaction, which cultural interests may not provide. You shouldn’t have to stop working just to read more, enjoy more cultural activities or to keep fit — it is possible to rebalance and get the benefits of both work and leisure.
Reader Heysham pointed out that actually being able to afford retirement is a significant issue that should not be overlooked:
There are a lot of less skilled people in poor health who will also be forced back into employment to make ends meet given the UK’s low pensions. They may find companionship but some will be exploited.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
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