Reuben Abati (23rd April 2008) If DSP Alamiyeseigha, the embattled Governor of Bayelsa state knows what is good for him, he should call his lawyers and advisers and draft a sober, apologetic letter of resignation, and give up the fight. He has lost whatever moral ground he may have occupied before now, the conspiracy theory […]
It’s no surprise that Michelle Obama was named Best Dressed Woman by The Sunday Times. Our first lady of fashion is constantly praised for what’s in her closet and we’re always watching to find out how to get her look. From her infamous inauguration ball gowns, to her J.Crew boots–Michelle is setting the standard for women’s fashion.
The accelerated pace of work due to expanding technology can feed stress and anxiety in the workplace, but depression is a different animal. It’s a clinical diagnosis “with specific criteria, which severely impact a person’s ability to function.” It can thwart an employees’ ability to concentrate, be effective and stay healthy enough to hold down a job.
Getting messages across to employees that help is available, is the first step. Such communication is a crucial part of workplace culture in a competitive global marketplace, says Fran Melmed of Context Communication Consulting. She specializes in workplace health communications, and is well aware of the challenge.
“If you look at the stressors employees face, downsizings, job insecurity, economic insecurity, doing more with less, doing jobs we’re not fully trained for, etc.; emotional well-being doesn’t get the necessary attention it needs,” says Melmed.
Melmed says when depression or another emotional stress comes knocking at the door, employees might be unaware that the company offers professional and confidential counseling service.
“Building employees’ capability to make smart, healthy choices about their health and healthcare can only be accomplished by committing to on-going health communications,” says Melmed.
And on-going communications means implementing year-round strategies to help employees handle mental health, beyond the typical annual healthcare coverage review. With the “new normal” of an unsustainable pace in a global marketplace, Clare Miller, Director of the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health says, “there seems to be more openness to addressing stress and depression.”
Miller says there are two important fundamental reasons for companies for look at depression,”First and foremost is the human impact of this serious illness. Second is the huge financial impact of untreated (or poorly treated) depression.”
Due to the stigma of seeking help, Miller adds that it behooves companies to encourage help-seeking behavior. When workers finally seek help, she says, it’s generally in the eleventh hour, after a decade or more of delays.
Is employee depression on the radar of big business? Should it be?
1) “It’s not fair.”
She got a raise, you didn’t. He was
recognized, you weren’t. “Some people have food to eat while others starve,” Price says. “Injustices happen on the job and in the world every day. Whether it’s a troubling issue at work or a serious problem for the planet, the point in avoiding this phrase is to be proactive about the issues versus complaining, or worse, passively whining.” Instead, document the facts, build a case, and present an intelligent argument to the person or group who can help you.
2) “That’s not my problem,” “That’s not my job,” or “I don’t get paid enough for this.”
If you asked someone for help, and the person replied with one of the above phrases, how would you feel? “As importantly, what would it say about him or her?” Price says. “Regardless of how inconvenient or inappropriate a request may be, it is likely important to the other person or they would not have asked. Therefore, as a contributing member of the team, a top priority is to care about the success of others (or at least act as though you do).” An unconcerned, detached and self-serving attitude quickly limits career advancement.
“This doesn’t mean you have to say yes; it does mean you need to be articulate and thoughtful when saying no,” she adds. “For example, if your boss issues an unreasonable request, rather than saying, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. I don’t get paid enough for this,’ instead say, ‘I’ll be glad to help. Given my current tasks of A, B, and C, which one of these shall I place on hold while I work on this new assignment?’ This clearly communicates teamwork and helpfulness, while reminding your boss of your current work load and the need to set realistic expectations.”
3) “I think…”
Which of these two statements sounds
more authoritative?: “I think our company might be a good partner for you.” Or, “I believe…” “I know…” or “I am confident that our company will be a good partner for you.”
“There is a slight difference in the wording, however the conviction communicated to your customer is profound,” she says. “You may have noticed, the first phrase contains two weak words, ‘think’ and ‘might.’ They risk making you sound unsure or insecure about the message. Conversely, the second sentence is assertive and certain. To convey a command of content and passion for your subject, substitute the word ‘think’ with ‘believe’ and replace ‘might’ with ‘will.’”
4) “No problem.”
When someone thanks you, the courteous and polite reply is, “You’re welcome.”
“The meaning implies that it was a pleasure for you to help the person, and that you receive their appreciation,” Price says. “Though the casual laid-back phrase, ‘no problem’ may intend to communicate this, it falls short. It actually negates the person’s appreciation and implies the situation could have been a problem under other circumstances.” In business and social situations, if you want to be perceived as well-mannered and considerate, respond to thank you’s with, “You’re welcome.”
5) “I’ll try.”
“Imagine it’s April 15th and you ask a friend to mail your tax returns before 5pm on his way to the post office,” Price says. “If he replies, ‘Okay, I’ll try,’ you’ll likely feel the need to mail them yourself.” Why? Because that phrase implies the possibility of failure.
“In your speech, especially with senior leaders, replace the word ‘try’ with the word and intention of ‘will.’ This seemingly small change speaks volumes,” she adds.
6)“He’s a jerk,” or “She’s lazy,” or “My job stinks,” or “I hate this company.”
Nothing tanks a career faster than name-calling, Price says. “Not only does it reveal juvenile school-yard immaturity, it’s language that is liable and fire-able.”
Avoid making unkind, judgmental statements that will inevitably reflect poorly on you. If you have a genuine complaint about someone or something, communicate the issue with tact, consideration and neutrality.
7) “But we’ve always done it that way.”
“The most effective leaders value innovation, creative thinking and problem solving skills in their employees,” Price says. In one fell swoop, this phrase reveals you are the opposite: stuck in the past, inflexible, and closed-minded. “Instead say, ‘Wow, that’s an interesting idea. How would that work?’ Or, ‘That’s a different approach. Let’s discuss the pros and cons.’”
“That’s impossible” or “There’s nothing I can do.”
Really? Are you sure you’ve considered every single possible solution and the list is now exhausted? “When you make the mistake of saying these negative phrases, your words convey a pessimistic, passive, even hopeless outlook,” Price says. “This approach is seldom valued in the workplace. Employers notice, recognize and promote a can-do attitude. Despite the glum circumstances, communicate through your words what you can contribute to the situation.”
Instead, try something like, “I’ll be glad to check on it again,” “Let’s discuss what’s possible under these circumstances,” or, “What I can do is this.”
9) “You should have…” or “You could have…”
You probably wouldn’t be thrilled if someone said: “You should have told me about this sooner!” Or, “You could have tried a little harder.” “Chances are, these fault-finding words inflict feelings of blame and finger-pointing,” Price says. “Ideally, the workplace fosters equality, collaboration and teamwork. Instead of making someone feel guilty (even if they are), take a more productive non-judgmental approach.” Say, “Next time, to ensure proper planning, please bring this to my attention immediately.” Or, “In the future, I recommend…”
10) “You guys.”
Reserve the phrase “you guys” for friendly casual conversations and avoid using it in business. “Referring to a group of people as ‘you guys’ is not only inaccurate if women are present, it is slang and lowers your level of professionalism,” Price explains. With fellow professionals such as your boss, co-workers and clients, substitute “you guys” with terms such as “your organization” or “your team” or simply “you.”
11) “I may be wrong, but…” or “This may be a silly idea, but…”
These phrases are known as discounting, Price explains. They diminish the impact of what follows and reduce your credibility. “Remember that your spoken words reveal to the world how much value you place on yourself and your message. For this reason, eliminate any prefacing phrase that demeans the importance of who you are or lessens the significance of what you contribute.”
Don’t say, “This may be a silly idea, but I was thinking that maybe we might conduct the quarterly meeting online instead, okay?” Instead, assert your recommendation: “To reduce travel costs and increase time efficiency, I recommend we conduct the quarterly meeting online.”
12) “Don’t you think?” or “Okay?”
These phrases are commonly known as hedging—seeking validation through the use of overly cautious or non-committal words, she says. “If you truly are seeking approval or looking for validation, these phrases may well apply. However, if your goal is to communicate a confident commanding message and persuade people to see it your way, instead of hedging make your statement or recommendation with certainty.”
Imagine an investment banker saying, “This is a good way to invest your money, don’t you think? I’ll proceed, if that’s okay with you.” Instead, you’d probably want to hear something like: “This strategy is a wise investment that provides long-term benefits. With your approval, I’ll wire the money by 5pm today.”
13 “I don’t have time for this right now,” or “I’m too busy.”
“Even if these statements are true, no one wants to feel less important than something or someone else,” Price says. To foster positive relations and convey empathy, say instead: I’d be happy to discuss this with you after my morning meetings. May I stop by your office around 1pm?”
These are common phrases that might be difficult to eliminate completely from your everyday conversations—but the trick is to gain awareness of the language you’re using. “As is often the case with bad habits, we are unconscious of the fact we’re saying career-limiting words and phrases,” Price says.
Here are a few tips to build self-awareness and eradicate the phrases from your conversations:
Record yourself. . When you’re on the phone in a business setting, record your side of the conversation, she suggests. “Listen carefully to the recording afterward (on the way home from work). Did you use any of the phrases on this list, or any other words or phrases that may be perceived as limiting or negative? Write down the phrase you used, mark through it, and beside it construct an alternate phrase that more positively communicates your message.” Keep this list handy, by your phone or next to your computer monitor, and review it daily.
Enlist a buddy. When you’re in meetings (and may not be able to record), ask a trusted co-worker to listen carefully to your language. “Ask them to write down any career-limiting words, phrases, actions or attitudes they perceive to be negative,” she says. “Treat them to lunch, check your ego at the door, and let them tell you what they heard.”
Listen for these phrases when others speak. When you hear how jeopardizing these phrases actually sound when spoken by another, it sends a powerful message to your brain heightening your own self awareness. Price says you should ask yourself, “How could she have phrased that idea in a different way?” Or, “What words would have communicated his point more positively?”
I have discovered that most people are not happy at their work place, and the truth is that you cannot be 100% satisfied with your work and its environment. So, when I came across this article online, I decided to share it on this forum, I believe it will be of immense help. Enjoy!
1. Don’t compare yourself to others.
Everybody, and I mean everybody, starts out in a different place and is headed on their own journey. You have NO idea where someone else’s journey might lead them, so drawing comparisons is a complete waste of time.
2. Never obsess over things you cannot control.
While it’s often important to know about other things–like the economy, the markets that you sell to, the actions that others might take, your focus should remain on what you actually control, which is 1) your own thoughts and 2) your own actions.
3. Know and keep your personal limits and boundaries.
While your job might sometimes seem like the most important thing in your world, you’re killing a part of yourself if you let work situations push you into places that violate your privacy and your integrity.
4. Don’t over commit yourself or your team.
It’s great to be enthusiastic and willing to go the “extra mile,” but making promises that you (or your team) can’t reasonably keep is simply a way to create failure and disappointment.
5. Remember you get the same amount of time every day as everyone else.
You may feel you’re short on time and that you need more of it, but the simple truth is that when the day started, you got your fair share: 24 hours. Nobody got any more than you did, so stop complaining.
6. Don’t take yourself so seriously; nobody else does.
The ability to laugh at your foibles not only makes you happier as a person, it makes you more powerful, more influential and more attractive to others. If you can’t laugh at yourself, everyone else will be laughing behind your back.
7. Daydream more rather than less.
The idea that daydreaming and working are mutually exclusive belongs back in the 20th century. It’s when you let your thoughts wander that you’re more likely to have the insights that will make you both unique and more competitive.
8. Don’t bother with hate; it’s not worth the effort.
Hate is an emotional parasite that eats away at your energy and health. If something is wrong with the world and you can change it, take action. If you can’t take action, you’re better off to forgive and forget.
9. Make peace with your past lest it create your future.
Focusing on past mistakes or wrongs inflicted on you is exactly like driving a car while looking in the rear view mirror. You’ll keep heading in the same direction until you collide with something solid.
10. Don’t try to “win” every argument.
Some battles aren’t worth fighting, and many people are easier to handle when they think they’ve won the argument. What’s important isn’t “winning,” but what you, and the other people involved, plan to do next.
11. Remember that nobody is in charge of your happiness except you.
While some work environments are inherently difficult, if you’re consistently miserable it’s your fault. You owe it to yourself and your coworkers to either find a job that makes you happy or make the best of the job you’ve got.
12. Smile and laugh more frequently.
Contrary to popular belief, smiling and laughter are not the RESULT of being happy; they’re part of a cycle that both creates and reinforces happiness. Find reasons to smile. Never, ever suppress a laugh.
13. Don’t waste precious energy on malice and gossip.
Before you tell a story about anybody else, or listen to such a story, ask yourself four questions: 1) Is it true? 2) Is it kind? 3) Is it necessary? and 4) Would I want somebody telling a similar story about me?
14. Don’t worry what others think about you; it’s none of your business.
You can’t mind read and you don’t have everyone else wired into a lie detector. Truly, you really have NO IDEA what anyone is REALLY thinking about you. It’s a total waste of time and energy to try.
15. Remember that however bad (or good) a situation is, it will inevitably change.
The nature of the physical universe is change. Nothing remains the same; everything is, as the gurus say, transitory. Whether you’re celebrating or mourning or something in between, this, too, will pass.
16. Trash everything in your work area that isn’t useful or beautiful.
Think about it: you’re going to spend about a third of your waking adult life at work. Why would you want to fill your work environment–and that part of your life–with objects that are useless and ugly?
17. Believe that the best is yet to come, no matter what.
When my grandmother was widowed in her 70s, she went back to college, traveled across Europe in youth hostels, and learned Japanese painting, among many other activities. The last thing she told me was: “You know, Geoffers, life begins at 90.”
I had not intended to come back to the Africa Rising debate for a while. But on my recent trip to Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda I was shocked at how angry the young professionals are. These are highly educated, ambitious young men and women who could be found working in the corporate sector anywhere in the world. They should be taking Africa to the Promised Land. Instead, I found them frustrated and furious with many calling for coups and revolutions.
Coming from London where we had been basking in a warm bath of Afro-optimism, I had expected to find a similar feeling in Africa itself. Growth has remained strong despite the economic problems in Europe, Africa’s biggest trading partner, and the prices for the continent’s abundant commodities have remained high. Governance is said to be improving.
There is no doubt that Africa has come a very long way from where it was in the 1980s and 90s. My prime piece of evidence for that is traffic jams. At that time you could drive into Nairobi, Kampala or Johannesburg at any hour and rarely be held up by anything except a red light. Now, you have to leave hours earlier to be sure of getting into the city centre on time. Outside the towns and cities you can now actually drive in a straight line on many roads. As they used to say of the potholes in Uganda: “if you see a man driving in a straight line, you know he must be drunk.”
But the questions about Africa’s dozen years of strong economic growth remain:
Firstly, has Africa’s growth been driven by a long commodity boom or is it now self-sustaining? Where is the large scale manufacturing?
Secondly, has governance really improved? Are the figures about numbers in school, clinics being built, power, water and sanitation delivered true?
Thirdly, are there two Africas? One in a bubble of western-style wealth inhabited by the rich and powerful and another Africa on the other side of the security fence – barefoot, one torn shirt, no money, no prospect of a job – “suffering and smiling” as Afro Beat musician Fela Kuti sang, but with big and increasingly angry eyes.
What shocked me in Lagos, Kampala and Nairobi was the fury of the young middle classes – the very people who are supposed to be driving the new Africa into the 21st Century. They were angry about the poor levels of education, about the lack of electricity, but above all about corruption at the very top. And they see the growing ranks of ill-educated, unemployable young people being churned out of badly-managed state education systems.
In Nigeria, they have all but given up on the government. But what about people such as Lamido Sanusi, the Governor of the Central Bank, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Finance Minister? I pleaded. Their reply was: Of course, they do what they can but their space is limited. They are not allowed anywhere near the real money – the oil. That, I was told, was managed in complete secrecy by President Goodluck Jonathan and the Vice-President and the oil minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke. They are filling a huge war chest so that Jonathan can run for president again in 2015.
Two remarks struck me. One was how utterly out of touch the President is. When street protests broke out a year ago in reaction to the sudden removal of the fuel subsidy, he claimed that people were being paid to demonstrate. My informant pointed out that all the evidence was that people had reacted in spontaneous fury to the government’s removal of the only benefit it delivers to the Nigerian people. Yes, the only one.
One said: “I am extremely optimistic about the future of Nigeria – once there has been a revolution and the current ruling elite is removed”. No one in the room showed dissent or even surprise.
In Uganda, the entire middle class – except for those in government – realises that the country is heading for a crash or a coup. Even President Yoweri Museveni himself warned that if his own ruling party does not stop bickering, the army may step in. That is the most extraordinary statement I have ever heard from an African president. The reaction of many Ugandans (under their breath) was: “Bring it on”.
Museveni has stayed too long and he has cultivated no obvious successor. He is trapped, talking now about installing his deeply unpopular wife and or his son in his place. Twenty seven years ago he did a good job and ruled well (except in the north) and this lasted for a decade. But now he has turned into the very president he criticised so severely as a young man – the one who stays too long in power.
Meanwhile, in Nairobi the population is battening down the hatches for the election next month. Most are optimistic that their new constitution will curtail the worst excesses of the professional politicians, although these people still made up about 80 per cent of the winners in the recent party primaries.
So, where exactly is The New Africa flourishing? Botswana? But it was always successful and never suffered from the political and economic catastrophes that hit Africa in the 20th Century.
The fact is that the five big African countries: Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo are in political turmoil or stasis. None of their governments has the vision or the capacity to position their countries to develop rapidly and sustainably as Indonesia, Malaysia and China have. The good things that are happening in many African countries – with the possible exception of South Africa – are happening in spite of their governments, not because of them.
Secondly, two of the most successful countries in terms of human development – Ethiopia and Rwanda – are dictatorships which allow minimum democracy and freedom of speech. This makes it difficult for Western governments to support them. Aid has been cut to Rwanda and if the next election in Ethiopia is not free and transparent, Western allies and donors may have to turn a blind eye or step away.
Some countries are doing reasonably well: Ghana, Senegal, Namibia and Zambia are OK. Cameroon and Gabon are quiet but not dynamic, still run by small wealthy elites who do not spread the new wealth. Cote d’Ivoire has emerged from its civil war and Somalia may bounce back quickly if the new government is strong enough to crush al-Shabaab and smart enough to manage clan politics. But meanwhile, Mali, a former favourite of western countries, has imploded and both Sudans are in an increasingly bad way. It is hard to imagine Mauritania, Niger and Chad will not also be affected by Islamic militancy.
China has been the main player in Africa’s economic transformation, but how long will it be before Africans react against the growing power and exclusive behaviour of the Chinese and their total disregard for Africa’s environment and culture?
Africa rising? Bits of it yes, but watch out for Africans’ rising anger.
Culled from African Argument
- Dowden is Director of the Royal African Society.