• Tara Howard

Did You Leave Your Soul At Home Today?

In London, someone has written graffiti on a wall saying: “I wonder what my soul does all day when I am at work”. Few people are in the fortunate minority to challenge this statement by saying: “my soul was thriving when I was work”. According to a global Gallup poll, about 80 percent of workers don’t feel that they can be their best at work (1), and 70 percent of workers are not thriving at work (2). The numbers are alarming and means that the majority of people are leaving their souls at home when they go to work.

Research in organisational behaviour has identified that there are two components to achieving a thriving quality of work, where you are excited and feel your best at work. Firstly vitality; secondly learning (3). Vitality is an internally determined component that signifies the sense of feeling alive, positively challenged and energised at work. Learning, is an externally determined component driven by the extent to which there are adequate opportunities to learn and grow in the organisation. A person who is thriving is growing their professional abilities daily because they have the right amount of training and development, and they have the correct attitude and energy to supplement their learning opportunities. They are thriving because they have a balance between vitality and learning.

You yourself may be thriving at work, but there is guaranteed to be people working under you who are disengaged, and don’t view their work as meaningful. When working with organisations who are striving to achieve an operation where everyone is thriving, we build our programs to boost both the internal vitality of each individual, and the external responsibility of training and development opportunities. The equation is simple, but achieving the balance requires effort from both the individual employee and the organisational leadership and culture. The sad truth is that most of the people I coach, are desperate to thrive, but fail to do so because they have one component without the other. They can have vitality but no learning, or they have learning opportunities but no vitality. Here are real life examples: a management accountant feels energy and motivation towards his work and career, but is stagnated by the lack of learning opportunities which his organisation can offer. He cannot thrive. A graduate trainee is fortunate to have so much learning in her role, but cannot seem to sustain the energy and enthusiasm required to deliver on this training and has succumbed to a negative response to her work. Both of these cases are an unnecessary shame. The starting point for both of these professionals is to identify that there is a connection failure between their vitality and learning, which is deactivating their brains. To constructively address how to reconnect the two, they need to seek out new opportunities and experiences in their work in order to stimulate their vitality and learning. Their cases are similar to wild animals in captivity. They are not thriving because they do not have the opportunity to discover their abilities and hunt for their food. Curtesy of the Industrial Revolution, the employed majority, just as the lion at the zoo, are cemented in bureaucratic and narrow minded tasks which do not stimulate thriving responses such as energy, creativity and enthusiasm.

You can start today by assessing your vitality and your learning, and asking deep rooted questions about your experiences at work. “My soul was thriving when I was at work”, is not an illusion. We were designed to thrive.

Conference paper online Adkins, A. (2015, January). Majority of U.S Employees Not Engaged Despite Gains in 2014. Paper presented by Gallup, United States.

Buckingham, M., & Clifton, D.O. (2004). Happy Employees Outnumber Happy Ones by Two To One Worldwide. The Free Press New York.

Spreitzer, G., Porath, C.L., & Gibson, C. B. (2012). Toward human sustainability: How to enable more thriving at work. Organisational Dynamics, 41, 155- 162.

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