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Welcome to the August 2010 issue of Alignment Solutions! Here’s what’s going on:

  • We’ve been busy finalizing our new booklet on how to develop and administer effective surveys. It should be available in September. Watch for the announcement!
  • Part 3 of our 2010 teleseminar series, The Employee-centered Workplace™: The Key to Optimizing Business Results continues on September 15th. Click here for more details or to register.

Our article series called Research News You Can Use selects findings of academic research that are applicable in the workplace, and suggests how you might implement them in your organization.

August Topic: Job Offer Negotiations: Setting the Stage for Long-term Job Attitudes

Premise: Creating lasting positive job attitudes and retaining good employees may be as simple and low-cost as treating job candidates well during the job negotiation process. A recent study found that perceptions of subjective issues significantly influenced candidates’ subsequent job attitudes, whereas the economic outcomes of the negotiations did not. We list five suggestions for setting new workers up for a positive workplace experience.

This month’s theme is taking charge of your life. Employees often feel that people and things outside of their control are running their lives. The recent incident involving the JetBlue flight attendant who dramatically lost his cool is only one example of what happens when people reach their breaking points. While I cannot say what caused this individual’s very public meltdown, I can say that it didn’t need to happen. People have more control over their lives than they may think. This month we address how to help recognize and exert that control.

The Feature Article, “Taking Charge of Your Life: You DO Have a Choice,” explains the role that one’s mindset plays in determining one’s quality of life. It provides a quick exercise that illustrates the powerful impact of one’s perspective.

In “How to Help Your Employees Take Charge of Their Lives,” the Business Solutions section provides five suggestions for how managers can help employees dramatically improve their workplace experience.

In the Personal Solutions section, “Thriving Personally in Challenging Times Redux” updates a 2008 article that provides suggestions to help you maintain a sense of control in your life by focusing on ways to enhance your well-being.

I invite you to visit my newly re-designed web site at and my blog at to find other articles and resources that may be of value to you and your colleagues. I welcome your feedback!

Do you know someone who could benefit from the value we provide? If so, let’s create a win-win-win situation! Contact us about how we can make this happen.


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Taking Charge of Your Life: You DO Have Choices

Who is in charge of your life? Who makes the decisions that determine how you experience your life? Regardless of who you are, the true answer to both questions is, “You are.”

Often we feel as though others are controlling our lives: if we work for someone else, for example, we have to meet or exceed specified job requirements. We usually have to complete the designated tasks or achieve the results within a given time frame, and sometimes we have to do them a certain way. If we have a family, we often feel we have to do the things that they want or need even when we don’t want to do them. We may have church or community obligations. Given scenarios like these that make us feel as though we’re being pulled in way too many directions, is it any wonder we feel that life is out of control? The truth is, each of us gets to decide how we experience our life. Our decisions have to do with how we view our lives and frame our choices.

Being in charge of your life means that you are making choices about how you view your situation at any given time. Because your decisions frame how you experience your circumstances, they determine your quality of life. For example, people who lose their jobs through no fault of their own have a choice: they can see themselves as victims, or as being presented with an opportunity to find a job or career they love. While the perspective they choose does not change the circumstances, it does determine how people experience them. Those who choose to be victims will see misery and find it everywhere; those who choose to see opportunity will discover it all around them.

Here’s a quick and insightful exercise that illustrates the powerful impact that can result from a change in mindset from one of “victim” to one of being in control.

  1. Think about a specific situation in which you felt like a victim. Recall how being a victim made you feel. Write down five or six adjectives or phrases that describe how you felt.
  2. Think about a specific situation in which you felt like you were in control of your life and opportunities were all around you. Recall how being in control made you feel. Write down five or six adjectives or phrases that describe how you felt.
  3. Compare and contrast your two lists, then ask yourself this question: “Through which of these states of mind would I prefer to experience my life?”

You are the only person who can choose how you view the world and your specific situation. Making that choice is the first step to taking charge of your life. I invite you to do yourself a favor and learn to see your life as a series of choices for which you are the decision maker.

To learn some specific tools that managers can use to help employees take charge of their lives, please see our article How to Help Your Employees Take Charge of Their Lives. For tips on how to take control of your personal life, please see our article Thriving Personally in Challenging Times Redux.

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How to Help Your Employees Take Charge of Their Lives

Before this month (August 2010), if any of the executives at JetBlue airline had been asked what keeps them awake at night, I would be willing to bet that none of them would have mentioned having a flight attendant engage in a profanity-laced tirade over the public address system, grab some beer from the galley, and deploy and slide down the emergency exit slide. Though the exact cause of this episode remains under investigation, clearly that individual had had enough. What may be more noteworthy than his high-profile exit, however, is the public’s reaction to the story.

Why is it that this very public meltdown of an airline employee resonated with so many U.S. workers? How is it that someone who engaged in highly dangerous and possibly illegal behavior has become an instant folk hero to many? It may be partly because this individual acted out a fantasy that workers share when they feel that they are not in charge of their lives e.g., they tell the boss exactly what’s on their minds, leave their jobs behind, and head off into the sunset and a new life. In effect, they fantasize that they are taking control of their lives.

What’s wrong with this picture? For starters, having control of one’s life should be a reality rather than a fantasy. Yet workers often believe that other people and things are calling the shots. Viewing the world from this skewed perspective, it’s no wonder that they feel their lives are out of control. As a result, they are much more likely to “lose it” with customers than they would if they felt they did have some control. The good news is that managers can help workers mitigate the need for such a fantasy by providing tools and techniques that enable them to keep their cool and thereby maintain control over their behaviors. When people believe they are in charge of their lives, the world looks a whole lot different than if they feel that others are controlling them. Here are five ways that you can help employees dramatically improve their workplace experience by taking charge of their lives:

  1. Educate employees about their opportunities and choices.
    When people feel overwhelmed, they often believe, and then act as if, they are helpless. At those times they feel unable to help themselves, or even to consider the possibility that there are alternatives.
  2. Give people permission to take charge of their lives.
    Some individuals literally need to have someone tell them it’s okay to feel, see, or experience things differently than they have in the past.
  3. Communicate high expectations of workers’ performance and ability.
    Most people will try to live up (or down) to others’ expectations of them. Challenge employees in ways that enable them to realize their potential.
  4. Give employees the tools they need to respond appropriately. For example:
    A. Train them how to deal effectively with difficult customers.
    B. Back them up and reinforce their choices when they are appropriate.
    C. Identify the behavioral boundaries i.e., what’s in and what’s out of bounds for themselves and for customers (internal and external).
    D. Help them develop alternative stories about what’s going on so they can control their thoughts, beliefs, and actions/behavior.
    E. Invest them with the authority to act and to be pro-active in their work (e.g., handle customer complaints without having to go to a manager).
  5. Support employees when customers are wrong.
    The saying, “The customer is always right” is a workplace myth that has caused more damage than we ever will know. It’s not true, and it communicates a highly misleading message to both employees and customers.

For employees to keep their cool in the workplace, they must have a sense of control. This feeling will help them handle negative, annoying, and/or disruptive behaviors in ways that can result in a constructive ending for all concerned. The good news: most of the tools and techniques described above result in huge benefits at little or no financial cost.

Let us know what techniques you have used successfully to help your employees take control of their lives!


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Thriving Personally in Challenging Times Redux

One of the best ways to create or re-gain a feeling that you are in control of your situation i.e., your emotions, your actions - is to pay attention to how you view yourself and the world around you. Why? We tend to find the things that we seek. For example, those who see themselves as victims look for evidence that confirms their dismal state and they find it. Similarly, those who see themselves as healthy individuals find evidence that validates that perspective. In our article How to Help Your Employees Take Charge of Their Lives, we suggested five ways that employers can help workers take control of their work situations. Those suggestions work well in one’s personal life as well. In addition to those techniques, there are things that you can do to enhance your well-being that add to your sense of control of your life and/or help you feel more confident you can handle what life brings your way. Below is a 2008 article on this topic that addresses ways you can do this.

Especially during times of adversity it is critical that we pay close attention to our personal well-being. The analogy that comes to mind is the one that air travelers hear every time we fly: "In the event a change in altitude causes the oxygen masks to drop, put your own mask on first before you assist others." Similarly, we must be physically and mentally healthy in order for us to be most useful to ourselves and to others. Here are a few things we can do to ensure we take care of ourselves.

  • Look realistically at what is instead of what might be. Separate fact from fiction or speculation by seeking objective evidence.
  • Look realistically at your talents and strengths. While the environment may have changed, you - the person - have not. How can you leverage your talents and strengths?
  • Create realistic expectations for yourself and others.
  • Surround yourself with people who support you. Drop those who do not.
  • Use "down" time to build on your strengths. Doing so will boost your confidence and you will emerge stronger than before.
  • Look for life's rainbows - literal and figurative. They are there when you least expect them, sometimes even when logic suggests they shouldn't be there at all.
  • Be open to whatever life brings your way. If you are not looking, you will never see the possibilities.
  • Enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Take a walk on the beach or in nature. Watch how the colors in the sky change as the sun rises in the morning or sets in the evening. Go play in the rain and jump in the puddles it forms. Release your inner child!
  • Focus on the abundance in your life. If you seek it, you will find it.
  • Ask questions that lead you in positive directions for the answers. For example, instead of asking whether you can or should do something, ask how you can do it. You will find yourself a lot closer to where you want to go.
  • Remain confident by focusing on those things you can control
  • Keep the big picture and the long-term in mind when making short-term decisions. You can avoid getting lost in the details and the feelings of being overwhelmed by keeping the big picture in front of you at all times.
  • Make decisions that are consistent with your values.
  • Look for reasons to do things rather than for reasons not to do them.

Remember: while we sometimes are unable to control our situation, we always get to choose how we experience it. By exercising that option, we choose to make healthy choices that will see us through even the most challenging of times.

What quality of life do you choose?


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Date of Publication: August 2010 | 562.985.0333
Copyright 2010 - All rights reserved, Pat Lynch