As a workplace speaker, author, and consultant, I seek to bring light, peace, and understanding to the complex relationships in today’s workplace. Sadly, today’s workplace is a web of egos battling and competing for power and validation, including managers who disempower employees, and co-workers who hurt and sabotage one another. The culture is fraught with gossip, insecurity, one-upmanship, rivalry, internal competition, and most insidious of all, fear. When I say these words to audiences of all sizes and industries, there is a sigh of relief, as most people are aware of the situation but are afraid to admit it. If you doubt this, ask anyone sincerely, if they have drama in their workplace. The answer is always the same. But I believe we don’t have to remain this way.
Numerous studies, including Gallup, report year after year, that approximately 70% of employees are disengaged, which means only 30% are actually fully present at work. As we emerge from a 2 year plus pandemic, many employees have had time to reflect on their work life balance and have decided they prefer happiness and less stress. They are tired of feeling insecure and overworked in what has felt like invisible prisons. Before the pandemic, people were so dependent on their jobs for financial security, even when they felt lack of respect and emotional insecurity, they were afraid to make a change or speak up for fear of retaliation.
However, that has changed and people who have been working remotely from home do not want to return to the on-site workplace on a full-time basis. Many employees want hybrid situations and flexible hours. This shift in workplace preferences has led to what many are calling The Great Resignation or The Quietly Quitting movements. Employees describe feeling more productive, less stressed, and happier in hybrid or remote settings. In addition, they are reducing hours in commute time, which in Seattle, where I live, can be hours in a day. Seattle Times just reported that 47% of employees are now working remotely, making it second only to Washington DC.
This change in the desired workplace has caused a sellers’ market. Employees now hold more power than ever before, and companies are having to compete for good and qualified employees. This is causing leaders to recognize the need for a new workplace culture in which people actually want to work.
For twenty years I have been describing the problem of egoic leadership in workplace culture to audiences throughout the U.S. and Canada. Ego-driven leaders have used fear and artificial power to control and manage employees. This strategy is becoming obsolete even if not every leader recognizes it. I recently gave a talk to an administrative office of a global company that has required all employees to return to the 40-hour, on-site work week. The recruiters told me privately that it was making it difficult for them to recruit new employees even though they pay very well. I would then guess that some current employees are quietly looking for new jobs.
How leaders can heal the workplace
The steps for healing and bringing light and understanding to the workplace start with leaders who are willing to give up the need to appear superior. They must also release their requirement for external validation and sense of entitlement. Enlightened leaders operate from humility and authentic strength. A shift in culture begins with a shift in consciousness. I recommend the following steps for leaders and employees to unravel reactive drama and to shine light on their culture:
- Become introspective and practice self-awareness. Looking within for internal guidance is essential for becoming an enlightened leader. Truly great leaders are willing to see their own fears and weaknesses. Self-realization is an on-going process. If you cannot recognize your own faults and blocks, you will project them onto others.
- Give up defensiveness and blame. When issues arise, be willing to pause, to reflect, and understand what is being triggered in you. When you face the pain and fear that arise when your ego is challenged, you connect with your higher self, your true nature, and you make it safe for others to give up their fears. This is the hallmark of authentic leadership–personal responsibility and “the buck stops here” attitude.
- Operate from the Be Love model of leadership which is what I call the basis and foundation of enlightened leadership. The Be Love model operates from the power of Universal Love, the power that sustains all life, the source of all life, and the reason we exist.
- Treat employees with trust and compassion. When we can honor the spirit within ourselves and others, residing beneath our ego roles that battle for power, we bring about a shift in consciousness. We become accessible and authentic which leads to open and honest communication.
- Be willing to apologize and admit when you are wrong. You do not have to have all the answers. In fact, your requests for feedback and contribution will create a better workplace culture through collaboration, teamwork, cooperation, and respect for one another.
- Learn to practice deep listening. Most all of us are guilty of not fully listening to others. When leaders truly listen with full attention, they give positive energy to employees and gain sincere commitment and trust.
- Take action on contributions and goals based on the cooperative feedback of everyone. Give recognition and validate the suggestions, making sure each person or team feels valued and honored.
- Practice mindfulness and meditation to unclutter your own constant ego narration so that your innate wisdom can emerge. Slowing down and being meditative actually brings more clarity and accomplishes greater feats than anything the ego is attempting to do.
When individuals take personal responsibility for their words and actions, the drama begins to unwind and unravel. The reactions and counter-reactions stop, and people communicate without fear. Leaders operating from authentic power instead of artificial, ego-driven power, elevate their workplace culture to one of trust and compassion. As leaders restore themselves to their true selves, their inner spiritual greatness, they bring light to the workplace culture. Leaders unwilling to recognize these necessary changes will lose their ability to compete in the labor market.