Category: Productivity

Photo credit: Naional Geographic Kids

We all know that negative thoughts directly impact our happiness.  But did you know that negative thoughts are actually literally poisonous to our psychological and emotional health?

Case in Point

 Let’s imagine you are sitting in your family room after having watched the news on TV regarding the much anticipated hurricane Irma. You are by yourself and go to bed immediately after, with thoughts of worry and concern. Am I prepared? Did I buy what we needed? Is our home insulated well? Then all of a sudden, the rain starts outside and you hear drops of rain tapping on the window. Before you realize it, the sound magnifies and all you can hear are the water droplets on the window. You start by thinking “oh my gosh, what if that leaky faucet we’ve had in the kids bathroom doesn’t handle the pressure? “ “What if the pool overflows into the house? “What if Katie accidentally falls in the pool when she is out doing her business?” And on and on and on, your thoughts are racing. You have to wake up early the next day and you have now spent over an hour tossing and turning in bed, flooded with so many negative thoughts about a hurricane that has not even been determined to effect your area.

How Did You Get Here?   

All of this was triggered by the sound of rain. Something simple, was transformed into something very hazardous by your thoughts. Automatic Negative Thoughts are just exactly that. Slow, but consistent at first, and then turn by turn, they have the potential to form in to a category 5 hurricane if we allow them. Its possible to stop them, but very difficult.   Why? Because they have literally gotten your mind sick!

Here’s how thoughts grow into a phenomenon in our brain within the Limbic System. The two very serious illnesses of depression and anxiety are heavily caused by rumination, obsessions and the elaborate need for control of people and our environment. The need for control first begins with a single thought “what is going to happen?” Then it begins to take hold of our psyche and quickly turns in to fear, if it is not reasoned with. Why fear? Because the answer to “what is going to happen?” will always be “I don’t know”. If voluntarily stopped right away with a statement such as “I guess we will have to see” or “god knows” or “no one knows” or my personal favorite “let the chips fall where they may” we will ride through a few seconds of concern and then the gateway to fear will close. Otherwise, if the gate is opened and we answer “gosh, what if ….”, or “this is not good” , or “why did he say that and not …’, or “is it because I said,,,,”, we have now entered the land of chaos, despair, hopelessness, and self-doubt. There is a Liberian proverb that says: “ Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.”

What Are you Thinking?

Every time you have an angry, scary, sad or happy thought, your body releases chemicals that activate your brain’s limbic system. Dr. Mark George, M.D., from the National Institutes of Mental Health, demonstrated this in a significant study. He studied brain activity in 10 healthy women under three different laboratory conditions. Through Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), their brains were viewed as these women were illicitted to think happy, neutral and sad thoughts. During the happy thoughts, the women’s brains demonstrated a cooling of the deep limbic system. During the sad thoughts, there was a significant increase in deep limbic system activity. This is evidence that our thoughts tell our bodies what to do and hence we can tell our thoughts what to think. Polygraph and Lie detector tests, or what we actually believe to be most accurate here at the Center for Work Life, through Credibility assessment and Facial Action Coding, are based on this Limbic System response algorithm.

The Make Up of the Limbic System

The various parts of the the Limbic System, the Hypothalamus, the Amygdala, the Hippocampus, and the Cingulate Cortex all have different functions and hence different hormones associated. The hormones are impacted by our thoughts and set the tone for our emotional wellbeing. The more unhappy, fearful, anxious thoughts we have the more sick our brain will get and the more those thoughts will form within us.   The same way, our immune system weakens with lack of sleep, alcohol, poor diet etc. Happy, positive experiences and thoughts are like boosters and vitamins for the Limbic System.

Photo Credit: Think Tank Centre

 

 

To Be or Not to Be Following our Thoughts

Just the same way as our thoughts can work for us during a speaking presentation, when we are excited and a surge of adrenaline allows our brain to give the best performance, or when we meet someone, and know we are attracted to them because, butterflies form in our stomach and think we want to have a meaningful relationship with them, it can work against us. Many people believe just because it is a thought, it must be true. Well, that is not correct! Unless you consciously think about your thoughts, they can form pretty automatically. We can think of them as pimples. Yes, your skin can automatically form pimples, but with a good skincare regimen coupled with the proper water intake, and diet and exercise, your skin is constantly resurfaced and cleansed, training everyday to not have pimples.

Socio-cultural Influences

Our culture is one of future planning. College savings, Life Insurance Policies, 401K plans, Saving’s Bonds, Mutual Funds, and even Home Mortgages etc. are all designed tools for the future. Forget about the concept of Capitalism and who profits here, and let’s stay with the “what” part of it. As human beings, were we meant to be future oriented? Or did we become conditioned somewhere along the way to become that way? Well, looking at Research in to other mammalian species, the dog for example, could help us realize that, we could be perfectly content living in the moment. Now, we are not advocating going out and maxing out credit cards, and forgetting about saving for our future, but we are saying, we can plan for tomorrow but live for today. In other words, when we think about happenings around us, we can use our Emotional Intelligence and divide them in to three categories easily: 1. the plannable, 2. The unplannable, 3. Somewhere in between.

 Whether we are working a full-time job out there, or working full-time at home, as a home maker or parent, our work week is in The Somewhere in Between category. We can plan what activities we want to be engaged in, whom those activities will be involving, and even times those activities can be scheduled for. However, the outcomes of those activities, the length in real time it will take to complete the actitivities, the propellers vs. the hinderers will not be plannable. If you try to plan or analyze, or predict outcomes, you will spin yourself in to anxiety. The trick: You have to stop any future oriented, uncontrollable outcome related thoughts right away before they get hold of your brain. In other words, if they have already gotten to the 3rd scenario or “what if,” in this case, they are way too powerful to stop.

8 Everyday Exercises for a Healthy and Happy Brain at Work or in Life

  1. I am not in control; a power greater than me is.
  2. I surrender and accept whatever comes my way
  3. Uncertainty is a part of being alive
  4. When I am faced with an activity that worries me, I will imagine my favorite beach and I will get in, prepared but free to experience every wave.
  5. I will cross bridges as I arrive at them, and enjoy the process no matter what
  6. As soon as a negative thought enters my head, I treat it like a hurricane warning, I prepare, stay alert but calm, and use my support system.
  7. Keep record of my past trials and accomplishments and send empowering messages to my psyche
  8. I push myself to stay present in every task circumstance and tribulation.

 

 A very powerful quote by one of the most celebrated Persian Sufi Poets of the 14th Century Mahmud Shabistari said: “The past has flown away. The coming month and year do not exist. Ours only is the present’s tiny Point.”

 

Executive Time Performance Management

The culture of quick riches, and success by how much you own and how many people you know, has given life to a “more is better” mentality. Movie such as Equilibrium, and Limitless have portrayed the transformation of the human capacity with “miracle” prescription drugs that allow one to do more with their time; and without care.

 

What came to life as of lack of concerntration, possibly due to exposure to too much stimulation such as gaming and televion in the 70’s quickly transformed in to the labeling of ADHD in children. Since the diagnosis was first introduced, the use and prescription of stimulant drugs has overshadowed what in actuality was a result of proper time management. Today, there are millions and millions of Americans using and abusing and becoming addicted to drugs such as Adderall and Concerta because they feel they need a boost in their energy and performance and the nonmedical use of Adderall is a large part of what this accounts for. Since 2012, for the first time doctors have been writing more prescriptions for stimulants for adults than for children and one of the greatest at risk populations for Adderall use are professionals ages 25-44.

 

Executives and entrepreneurs often feel trapped because they are feeling overly stressed, or are faced with some realities that are alarming to them. May be they feel their job has no future, or that they simply are not able to do the things that are meaningful to them in the time they have. They feel their passion and drive for life and their work is not where it used to be. This is usually a precursor for high levels of stress, bodily symptoms, chronic fatigue, anxiety and depression.

 

Executives are often times perfectionist. They usually push themselves to the limit; racing against the clock with a thousand things to do in one day. It is very typical for them to plan too much in one day and feel exhausted and unsatisfied with their day’s accomplishments. Feeling dissatisfied, agitated, an run down is the breathing ground for a spiral of anxiety and depression.

 

A large part of Emotional Intelligence Training is self-management. Learning to say “No” and knowing when to give yourself a break is easier said than done. At the Center For Work Life, one of the first steps we introduce in the coaching process for stress and time management is the discovery of purpose and spirituality. We don’t call it Time Management, but Energy and Performance Management. Replacing old behaviors with new ones requires open space; open space to allow introspection and reality checking and questioning some of the programmed patterns that have become engrained in our psyche. Here, we start by thought provoking questions such as What am I all about? What in my life gives meaning to my existence? What are my passions and how am I feeding those today? Am I fulfilled in my career? Taking the time to answer these questions will open the door to nurturing your spirit and you then begin the healing and growth process.

 

So what about Time Management? At this point, it is “time” to note that in our book, time is not in our control.   It cannot be stopped or pushed around. So it isn’t time per say that we need to learn and focus on managing, but rather ourselves. Have you ever asked yourself “Am I allowing others to manage and direct my life or am I living My Life?

 

Here are ten questions you can answer to find out:

 

  1. Do you take on tasks as they come your way?
  2. Do you plan your day according to a set number of tasks ?
  3. Do you use caffeine, sugar and other stimulants throughout the day to keep alert and get through the day?
  1. Do you feel guilty saying “no” to other people’s demands on your time?
  2. Do you take on highly demanding days with rigor and push yourself?
  3. Do you feel you have to get through your list and do everything yourself?
  4. Do you have negative and irritating people around you that demand you  attention?
  1. When you feel tired, do you talk yourself through it and keep going?
  2. Do you constantly respond to emails, messages, calls, visits, and family without me time?
  1. Do you have a difficult time relaxing and feel guilty when you do nothing?

 

If you answered yes to at least four of these questions, you would be happy to know that you have lots of room for growth and recalibration of your stress management and time satisfaction techniques. You are probably someone who is not quite comfortable spending time with or on yourself. Performing at your best, does not mean running on high horsepower, 100 miles an hour. Learning to recognize your body signals, including your brains processing ability, and compassionately nurturing your inner learner to utilize your problem solving skills and critical thinking, will enable you confront something that none of us truly have control over; Time.

For more free tips and techniques for a better work life, visit our website at www.centerforworklife.com.

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Fact:  The more successful you are, the greater your risk of developing blind spots. Why?  Because we all suffer from Hubris to some various degrees.  If you have ever attended one of our workshops on Emotional Intelligence, you have undoubtedly heard Dr. Namin speak on Hubris and how the greatest Achilles for most CEOs is their inability to see that and other possible blind spots as they grow to be more successful.  The road from Good to Great means reinventing oneself and constantly discovering character defects and breaking bad habits that stand in our way.  One such habit, or what we like to call character defect, is perfectionism.  

 

Although it may seem that perfectionism may have served you well at certain points of life because it has pushed you to do your best, be more competitive, etc., in reality, it has not surmounted to you feeling more confident as a result of those wins, but has rather built you up to be more dependant on them. Complicated, we know. But what is not complicated is yet another fact. The fact, although seemingly counterintuitive, is that there is actually a very dangerous cycle; a Triad of psychological disorders that is given life and fed by perfectionism.

There’s a direct link between perfectionism, depression and anxiety; Crippling anxiety for that matter. The lowest level of the anxiety causes procrastination. One may think that perfectionists want everything done neatly, thoroughly and timely, which they do. However, more often than not, they feel such pressure to do things perfectly that they are overwhelmed before they even start. A soothing behavior is then to keep occupied with a million other tasks, so that they always have an excuse for why they’re unwilling to do; what actually needs to be done.

 

If you already know that are a perfectionist, you’ve probably already found it troublesome; possibly have even been majorly hurt by at some point in your life. Quick decision to write things or people off, disappointment in your own abilities and anguish in missed opportunities, not to mention impaired or lost interpersonal relationships.

 

In a recent coaching session, I was asked by a very well accomplished executive and perfectionist; “Based on what we’ve discussed and what you know about me, do you think I will be successful if I venture to doing….?”  I knew better than to say of course, or no you wouldn’t. You see, because I come from a school of thought that believes no one lives by the truth of others; even if they find that other person trustworthy and credible. Everyone lives by his or her own truth.

 

So, let’s get back. What is Perfectionism?

According to the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health, it is “a pathological pursuit of usually unobtainable high standards that is strongly linked to anxiety, depression (2), and eating disorders (3)”.

In other words, perfectionism is the idea that a state of complete flawlessness can is the only acceptable way. Perfectionists believe that any outcome anything less than perfect is not good enough and completely unacceptable.

 

Anyone having ever worked with a perfectionist boss knows the pain and anguish we are talking about here. Nothing is ever good enough. Unrealistic expectations, micromanaging characteristics, attacks on the employee’s character which leads to bullying, belittlement and the demise of the overall morale of the department/organization not to mention legal ramifications. Furthermore, let’s not forget perfectionist project managers. They get so sidetracked by going for perfection, that they end up halting the progress of the project, causing conflict and frustration among others, undermining collaboration and bringing about missed deadlines instead.

Perfectionism not only causes the individual undue levels of stress, hopelessness, frustration and anxiety, but can make other’s lives miserable leading to ostracizing just to keep sanity.

 

So what? What is wrong with striving for perfection?

 

  1. An obsessive and pathological concern with wanting to ‘be perfect’ can lead to worry, regret, and fear of the future.

     2.  Perfectionists tend to procrastinate, because of their unwillingness to begin projects for enjoyment and     

         good outcomes. They know deep in their hearts that starting the project will cause overwhelmingly high  

         levels of stress and pressure for them, because it has to end in absolute perfection.

    3.   The irony of it all is that perfectionism makes for less effectiveness, when the initial goal was more

          effectiveness. Because perfectionists “throw out the baby, with the bathwater”. Translation: quitting,

          complaining, or uprooting the process out of anxiousness, because perfection was not immediately

          forthcoming.

 

Where does perfectionism come from?

Before action, there is thought, and before, thought, there is attitude. And attitudes can be viral and pandemic. The attitude to see the wrong rather than the right is what feeds perfectionism. When a child is raised in an environment of perfectionist attitudes, they begin to model that attitude as their way of life. Some examples include:

Hyper -critical or demanding parents, parents/caregivers who were quick to point out mistakes and slow to give praise.

  • Having to perform under huge expectations and feeling valued purely
  • through achievements.
  • The sad concept is that these parents and caregivers where most likely

victims themselves.

So where does it all stop?

One of the best ways to get a clear understanding of whether you are a Perfectionist is to gather a 360 Feedback.  You can do this with your personal circle (three close people) or at your work environment (boss, coworker, employee) this is best done professionally.  The Feedback can be a tremendous gift; a tool and an immense opportunity to become aware, adjust your unwanted behaviors and create the balance necessary for joy and a sense of accomplishment to enter your life. 

 

Some sure tell signs of perfectionism are:

 

1) You obsessively play and replay a mistake you made

2) You are intensely competitive and can’t stand negative feedback

3) You are overly critical of others

4) You are constantly striving for independence and won’t ask for help

5) You find yourself very angry or sad or both a lot of the time when your expectation are not met

 

Our Five Tips for Keeping your Perfectionist in Check:

 

  1. Find and replace your “natural role models” (parents/caregivers) and find new role models. It doesn’t mean you are abandoning those you love, but rather rewiring your thoughts. Below are some examples of great role models.

 

  1.  Look to the past, but just as a planning tool not a self-Assessment/ identifying tool

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank did not have success out of the gate. Shortly after college, he was at rock bottom and living in his grandmother’s basement. However, he worked hard and persevered, and now uses the methods of his football playing days to build his business for the future. His managerial style is not unlike that of a captain of a sports team, and his company culture enforces a team-focused mindset that breaks into huddles for meetings, instead of having the typical round table discussion. The idea is to grow from past struggles and use those struggles in a different way to make future goals obtainable. In other words, learn from your mistakes.

 

  1.  Surround yourself by free spirited individuals

If you can’t find anyone like that in your circle of friends, then read about them or watch movies about dreamers and risk-takers. There are many examples of people who have failed or made huge mistakes only to overcome them and create an even better life than they could have imagined.

Stories are a great way to get inspired. This is exactly why religious books, and mythology were used to help people transition from one phase of life to another in many cultures. There is power in story and identifying with a character that has gone through many trials only to re-emerge as the hero.

 

  1.  Defy “Normalcy” and Strive to be Different

Break the binds and the shell that is dictated by society, norms, ideals, religion, or beauracracy. Define who you want to be by defining your boundaries instead.

Google CEO, Larry Page. Clearly, he’s intelligent and creative. He’s also driven, ambitious, and collaborative. All of these traits lead to his appreciation of innovation and his desire for others to bring innovative ideas and new thinking to the table, as evidenced in his work philosophy—“We should be building great things that don’t exist.” That thinking propels the company to take on radical-seeming projects (called “moon shots”) that push the boundaries of whatever is currently the “norm.” And that thinking drives his rigorously pushing employees to do their best, to set their own expectations for the moon.

 

  1.  Start, Fail, Repeat, Repeat Repeat

Working for Jeff Bezos isn’t always a walk in the park. He has high expectations for his employees, and doesn’t apologize for it. In a Wall Street Journal article, there is a story from the early days of Amazon, when the company was only a bookseller.  It is said that in those days, the company was so underequipped that they didn’t even have packing tables to pack the books, and employees had to pack thousands of books, long hours at a time, on their knees.  

But by 1999, Amazon had 500 employees for the sole task of answering emails. They were each expected to answer 12 emails per minute, and could possibly be fired when that number dropped below 7. Without his penchant for continuously raising the standard for his employees, this would have never been achieved.  

You see, what many people don’t know about Jeff Bezos is that he came from a farming background, not an MBA, executive culture. Having been raised on his grandfather’s farm and working there through his adulthood like, he was in the business of running and fixing tractors. Hence he began to be well versed in loving the process not just the end.  He is keen to the art of perseverance.  His fortitude and ability to accept failure, as a byproduct of creation is what sets him apart from perfectionist creators.  

 

His idea for Amazon was not a genius one, but he had a vision, and the vision was to turn Amazon into a machine. Over the years, he was so attuned to his customers, that he was able to continuously improve the process of procurement and shipment.  What was initially a small system, became a massive enterprise.  Amazon’s functioning and customer service, came alive like a machine, not unlike the tractors he had built and took apart years before.  By having patience with the process, not fearing failture but taking in lessons it taught, Bezos has now created an incredibly efficient machine. A machine, which is now famous for being able to make same day deliveries in over a dozen US cities.

 

This thing called Life

Sun Tzu, the Chinese Author and Philosopher in the Art of War said:  “If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things”.  We live in a culture of Win-Loose; a culture of immediate gratifications that tries to teach us and our children that what you have objectively is what and who you are.  Who we are is in our minds, and how we live our lives and touch those we come in contact with is what defines us.  Your life is not a snapshot bur rather a reel of film, with segments of many many trials and tribulations and that is why What you are is defined by the means and not by the end.

     Besides their good looks and the assortment of talents, what do Ryan Gosling, Woody Harrelson, Adam Levin, and Jim Caviezel have in common?

Well, although La La Land, the 2016 motion picture starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone delighted many audiences and brought home Oscar Awards in six categories, in our trivia quiz, it doesn’t get the cake. The answer is also not that they are all male actors, because in spite of his many talents, Adam Levin is a musician and not a Hollywood actor (yet). The answer is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.   Yes, all of the individuals listed above have received a formal diagnosis of ADHD or ADD at some point in their lives.

 

     In an era where psychological disorders are unfortunately still not a topic at the dinner table because of the various mental health care barriers such as limited availability and affordability of mental health care services, insufficient mental health care policies, lack of education about mental illness, and stigma, it is encouraging to know that successful public figures, are paving the way for this vicious trend to change. Mental disorders have been a true silent killer for decades also because they are not immediately fatal. Millions of people in the US alone are suffering in silence because our Individualistic society, encourages independence over asking for help. In developed countries, the treatment gap (the percentage of individuals who need mental health care but do not receive treatment) ranges from 44% to 70%). According to Unite for Sight, The World Health Organization cites a global lack of comprehensive mental health policies, which are crucial for implementing and coordinating mental health care services, as a key barrier to public access to mental health care. Among countries with mental health care policies in place, approximately 40% have not been revised since 1990 and do not address recent developments in mental health care. Furthermore, 22% of countries do not have laws that offer legal protection of the human and civil rights of people with mental illnesses. Let’s face it, if someone, especially an adult is already feeling helpless because their symptoms are inexplicable and are effecting their daily lives, including their employment, making them feel alone and different, they are already at odds with getting the attention they need. Now add to that the myriad of hurdles they are faced with as mentioned above and what you have is a lifetime of struggles, possible isolation and unmet potentials. Fortunately, in the U.S. there are a number of federal laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities, including mental health illnesses. The main one is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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     ADHD, one such psychological disorder is a common neurobiological condition, which is usually supposed to be diagnosed in childhood. Originally it was thought people would “outgrow” the condition as adults. However, 60% to 90% of adults continue to experience symptoms (Barkley et al; de Graaf et al). Both Emotion Management one of the four dimensions of Emotional Intelligence which aids in reading emotions in yourself and in others, and managing them effectively, as well as Executive Functioning (collectively referred to as executive function and cognitive control) are a set of cognitive processes, including attentional control, inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility, as well as reasoning, problem solving, and planning, that are necessary for the cognitive control of behavior. The selection and successfully monitoring of behaviors that facilitate the attainment of chosen goals are thought to be functions impaired by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder both in children and in adults and there various severe consequences to deficits in EI and Executive Functioning that negatively impact individuals including those with ADD or ADHD.

     Diagnosis of ADHD or children’s Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are now certainly more frequently noted, due hugely in part to the role of government funding of school support programs, involved parenting and teacher education. However, this wasn’t always the case. In some children, now adults, especially those belonging to the Xer generation , this diagnosis was delayed or perhaps never given. There are several explanations for this. One explanation is that especially in Generation Xers (those born between 1965-1980), because there was an increase in dual income parents, the prevalence of Latch Key Kids, or children who were raised with less adult supervision than prior generations increased, which meant psychological disorder like ADHD in children 5-13 were less likely to be noticed by parents at that time. Then of course, in adulthood years, an ADD diagnosis can easily be missed due to gender, and or comorbid depression, anxiety, substance abuse disorders, and/or other psychiatric conditions.

     Although ADD is still thought of as something that affects only men and boys, women are just as likely as men to have ADD. In fact, the latest research suggests that ADD causes women even greater emotional turmoil than their male counterparts. Consequently, ADD women are more likely to go undiagnosed (or misdiagnosed), and hence less likely to receive the appropriate treatment.

     According to Dr. Fred Reimherr, M.D., director of the University of Utah Mood Disorders Clinic, ADD has a disproportionate impact on women. “The women had a much more frequent history of having been diagnosed with other emotionally based psychiatric illnesses, such as depression or anxiety. A woman might come in presenting emotional symptoms, and the ADD that’s underneath might be missed.”

     Under-diagnosis of ADD in women could be having its roots in social norms in childhood. Because girls generally tend to try harder than their male counterparts, if they have symptoms of ADD, they will try to compensate for and cover them up. To keep up their grades, girls are often more willing to put in extra hours to study or to turn to others for help.

In addition, girls are more likely to be “people pleasers,” doing all they can to fit in, even when they feel they are “different.”

 

     Overall, whether male or female, according to the Mayo Clinic, “Signs and symptoms of ADHD in adults can be hard to spot and no single test can confirm the diagnosis”. Impulsivity, distractibility, disorganization, restlessness, emotional outbursts; in children, these symptoms would be recognized by a teacher, and the parents would be referred to a medical professional for an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) evaluation. However, in adults, these symptoms may lead to people getting fired, getting divorced, or simply being labeled as lazy or irrationally angry. Many people with ADHD struggle with controlling the outcome of their actions and then have to face the consequences.

     A recent World Health Organization (WHO) study estimated that 3% to 4% of adults worldwide have ADHD, with a rate of 4.5% in the United States (de Graaf et al, 2008). Of those, a large number—possibly 8 million to 10 million—are undiagnosed. Millions more do not receive appropriate treatment (Barkley, Murphy, & Fischer, 2008). The WHO study also reported that adults with ADHD miss an average of more than three weeks in workplace productivity yearly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2009) has estimated the costs of such work loss to be at $3.7 billion.

     Problems associated with ADD most commonly occur during college years, at work, and in interpersonal relationships. ADHD usually interferes with the individual’s sense of self-control and sense of self-efficacy, thereby affecting his or her ability to establish and follow-through on reasonable goals, deadlines and promises.   Small tasks considered simple to others, could be a cause for problems in adults with ADD that can lead to bigger problems in various life domains. Examples include procrastination, poor time-management, disorganization with space, thought formation, and even speaking, distractibility, and poor emotional regulation.

     At the Center for Work Life Within Dr. Namin’s practice, many work-life issues are intertwined. An employee may be self-referred because he or she feels overwhelmed with stress, or burned-out, or because they don’t feel productive anymore. Or they may be referred by their employer, because in spite of their incredible knowledge, skills and proficiencies of their specific jobs, their co-workers or worst yet, their direct reports don’t feel they have the interpersonal skills necessary for leadership. During initial discussions, it usually becomes apparent, that they have s messy work area, trouble initiating tasks at home or starting and finishing projects at home and/or work, chronic lateness, underestimating the time needed to complete tasks, an inability to focus and listen during discussions whether at home or at work, and forgetting or missing deadlines or previous engagements.

     However, in addition to these common symptoms of distractibility and impulsivity, ADD symptoms may manifest as problems in impaired ability to plan and prioritize tasks and jumping from one task to another and not completing either. These are what’s called executive functioning abilities.

Employees with ADHD are rated lower on work performance, are more prone to receiving disciplinary notices from supervisors, are paid lower salaries, and produce lower quality work (Barkley et al; Ramsay, 2010). The truth is that Adult ADHD is rarely recognized in the workplace, and those with the condition may be labeled as anti-social, or poor performing employees or horrible bosses, that are at best tolerated, and at worst terminated, depending what their skill-sets are, making career advancement or even maintaining consistent employment difficult.  According to the BMJ Journal, ADHD was associated with a statistically significant 22.1 annual days of excess lost role performance compared to otherwise similar respondents without ADHD.

 

       Considering we spend so many of our days and waking hours at work, our perceptions of life are hugely related to not only our performance but also our relationships at work. In a study measuring the effects of ADHD on perceptions of life satisfaction, among males, poor social functioning was the best predictor of dissatisfaction with life, whereas among females it was poor emotional control. Both ADHD symptoms and associated problems are significantly related to poorer satisfaction with life.

 

     It may be interesting but not surprising, when a top-performing employee or C-level executive with a tenure of 8-10 years is referred to the Center for Work Life for Interpersonal disconnection, or lack of empathy, or following. It is ironic that some adults with undiagnosed ADD may be viewed as hard-working or top performing, due to what is called hyper-focusing. This is where the undiagnosed individual over the years, has built a coping mechanism for distraction by self-training to be so focused, that they become overly absorbed in one task, causing the individual to become oblivious to his or her surroundings, losing track of time and neglecting other duties or more importantly significant members of their lives, such as supervisors, spouses, co-workers, children, etc. Hyperfocus at work may be viewed as productivity but in the overall scheme of life, if left unmanaged, can lead to social isolation, being perceived as a workaholic and a self-centered, emotion-less individual. We will come back to this specific topic later.  

 

     So why are many ADHD diagnosis given to males than females? In a study published in the MBJ Journal, ADHD was found to be more common among males than females and less common among professionals than other workers. These findings of course are parallel to the disparity in how ADD is diagnosed as mentioned above. In short, because ADHD symptoms in adults, include low self-esteem, memory problems, lack of motivation, difficulties with emotion regulation which depending on personal background display differently in genders; they can manifest as agitation or a short temper, depression, or reckless and risk taking behaviors. In other words, adult ADD can cause a major havoc, silently in all realms and facets of a person’s life and in both genders.

 

 

     In our conflict resolution practice, we have noted many clients who are directly impacted by the pressures of ADD on their marriage or relationship with a partner. The complaint of the non-ADD partner, that at the dinner table, their partner is either “playing with their device” or is “somewhere in la la land”. A partner with ADD may be forgetful, disorganized and distracted, and failing to meet their everyday responsibilities or obligations. They may not be attentive to expressions of feelings, or not be able to communicate effectively because they missed signs of discomfort, or frustration from their surroundings. They may be having difficulties with coping with work stress and hence not able to separate their work and life. They may be the overreacting partner or, they may feel the other partner is overreacting because they don’t realize they have missed the cues the non-ADD partner has been giving them prior to the escalation. Worst yet, the ADD partner may seek risk-taking behaviors that could be considered a huge breach of trust in the relationship. Over time, the non-ADD partner may interpret the ADD partner’s failure to carry out commitments, or their poor communication, lack of empathy, or conversely emotional outbursts as evidence that the ADD partner doesn’t care or love them. Unfortunately, without treatment, all other attempts to resolve the issues may fail, because the ADD partner “keeps making the same mistakes”. Consequentially and eventually, the partner may burn out and the marriage may fail.

 

     In the a study which researched the ADHD and coping and stressor reactivity in University students, ADHD and ODD symptoms were significantly related to a number of stressors and different patterns of coping strategies. University students with symptoms of both ADHD and ODD display a different pattern of stressors and different patterns of coping than those with symptoms of ADHD only.

     In the article, The Impact of ADHD on Marriage, the authors describe several measures to help aid the diagnosis and interventions process.

Furthermore, in studying martial adjustment and perceptions of marital dysfunction, a study revealed that married adults with ADHD reported poorer overall marital adjustment on the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS; Spanier, 1989) and more family dysfunction on the Family Assessment Device (FAD; Eptein, Baldwin, & Bishop, 1983) than control adults.

Moreover, in yet another study, adults with ADHD displayed greater self-reported psychological maladjustment, more driving risks (speeding violations), and more frequent changes in employment. Significantly more ADHD adults had experienced a suspension of their driver license, had performed poorly, quit, or been fired from their job, and had a history of poorer educational performance and more frequent school disciplinary actions against them than adults without ADHD. Multiple marriages were more likely in the ADHD group as well.

     According to the Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, in studying The Nature of Executive Function (EF) Deficits in Daily Life Activities in Adults with ADHD and Their Relationship to Performance on EF Tests, It was found that the ADHD group had more severe EF ratings than did the Clinical group and Community control groups on all 5 scales using both self and other-reported versions. The EF ratings were more highly associated with measures of deviant behavior (antisocial acts, crime diversity, negative driving outcomes) than the EF tests, most of which were unrelated to such behavior.

     It is a very sad thought to imagine the potential of a human being is limited because of lack of information, or misinformation. There is a strong feeling of loss and despair while the individual is grappling with what seems like a strong hold on their ability to make strides. They are constantly remorseful, yet helpless when they are faced with tasks that seem so easy for others and their confidence ever so flighty. On the other hand, there is nothing more frustrating than a co-worker, parent, a teacher, a supervisor or a spouse feeling that they are at their rope’s end because they are at odds with what is to be done when there is the respect and/or love they feel for an individual, which otherwise is so full of promise.

     But it doesn’t have to be this way. Among many psychological disorders, ADD is among the ones highly researched and various forms of therapy are available. It is neither wise nor healthy for an individual whether a child or an adult to be just in therapy or just on medication for ADHD. It is instead, recommended that a structured pragmatic, psycho-educative approach combining medication and cognitive-behavioral approaches be utilized. The aim will be the development of specific self-management skills, within a cognitive behavioral framework. Career, team, family, marital and group therapies are also discussed. Life is the hope of living one’s dream each and everyday, but it doesn’t mean it has to be lived in La La Land.  Furthermore, the EEOC laws governing disabilities, aka ADA, employers are now bounded by law to provide reasonable accommadations to employees that make them aware of their ADD.  It is a big controversy to tell or not to tell.  But in an era where mobility, ambition, and individualism are the norm, one has to weight the cost and benefits of privacy vs. trust, growth vs. tolerance, etc. It is our hope that the  laws of our country become even more empowering for workers in the near future, so that individual talents can truly and completely color with rainbows the immense possibilities.   

 

Courtesy of NBC Studios

Courtesy of NBC Studios

The most recent episode of America’s Got Talent was conducted in a different manner than usual and many attribute this difference to Howard Stern and his thinking out of the box mentality. In a nutshell and we will come back to this later, he referred to the delivery of results, but through engagement rather than the judgment. We all know them; the companies that thrive on the “threat factor”. This is when a highly beurocratic, top-down organization trains its executives and upper management to use the threat tactic in so called motivating their employees. Many such organization rely on a short-term satisfaction guarantee employee relations model. Which basically says, when it comes to front-line, Customer interface staff, be it sales, or customer service, the mantra of the company is not to keep its employees happy long-term. The company hopes to bank on short-term results. Getting the essence out of every employee in a short period of time, giving them the tools and training to do well but hit the ground running fast and furious, train others to do the same as fast as possible and then down the line, plan your exit. Some may believe, well how is this different than the old GE mentality. It may be at a glance that the two types of companies function under the same governance when it comes to talent development, except that in a very wicked, upside down way, the latter promises growth and success, while having no intentions on delivering it.

 

When Jack Welch introduced the concept of performance evaluations he would fire the bottom 10% of his managers, irrespective of absolute performance and rewarded those in the top 20% with bonuses and stock options. But At least we know with GE opportunities were ample. For example, Jack Welsh expanded the broadness of the stock options program at GE from just top executives to nearly one-third of all employees. His plan was never to have employees short-term but rather to create a clearly defined line for success. Understanding what criteria are necessary for success and creating trust for the employees to know that a certain applied behavior will get them the desired outcomes.

The companies aforementioned, have no interest in employee success. They are solely invested in the company’s success. The irony is that they don’t realize short-term success is the enemy of long-term success.   There is a great quote by Arthur Golden that says: “A mind troubled by doubt cannot focus on the course to victory”. The reason I love this quote is because it directly speaks to the power of psychology. Not only in a mind over matter way, but also from a spatial reasoning process. Our brain, by its make-up can only do one thing and one thing well at a given time. We can train ourselves to do more than one thing at a time, and we have done that. Nothing to be proud of because “multi-tasking” is actually not a good thing. But rather than a western concepts brought upon by our inability to respect the concept of here and now, and the quality of our achievements, rather than the quantity of our doings. The reason short-term success doesn’t work, is because people function based on virtues such as trust, loyalty, equity, and the internal need to achieve. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs precisely describes achievement as one of the higher needs, because security and our primary needs, need to be fulfilled first. Employees that are in constant defense mode, because they are constantly bombarded by negative feedback or more correctly names criticism, cannot be in a winning mindset, because they are too busy recovering their more basic needs, with the biggest being security. Insecurity, automatically pushes our brain in to fight or flight mode, and that is no place to be for achievement. From a spatial perspective also, for those that are more sensory thinkers, we cannot be in two places at the same time. If your mind is occupied by worry, it cannot be focused on your goal.

The concept of employee engagement goes much deeper than holding a red flag or bar over an employee and every time there is a little indiscretion or even a minor change in performance to dangle it and get a slap on the hand, followed by a verbal “score card” that basically yells, “you are doomed and can’t expect to get that raise, promotion, etc. that you had so dreamed of”. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, there was a specific large-scale study mentioned which discussed the concept of engagement . Bain & Company, in conjunction with Netsurvey, analyzed responses from 200,000 employees across 40 companies in 60 countries and found several troubling trends:

  • Engagement scores decline with employee tenure, meaning that employees with the deepest knowledge of the company typically are the least engaged.
  • Engagement scores decline as you go down the org chart, so highly engaged senior executives are likely to underestimate the discontent on the front lines.
  • Engagement levels are lowest among sales and service employees, who have the most interactions with customers.

Sometimes, it is encouragement, dialogue and problem solving that leads to the best results, rather than disciplinary action. I am not even referring to the concept of threat, because as discussed above, that is never a good strategy for success. As opposed to negative feedback, or judgment, employees sometimes are most receptive to a trusting, encouraging, and nurturing environment. I guess good old Howard Stern knows a bit more about business than we have given him credit for over the years. On America’s Got Talent he proclaimed that the judges didn’t have to be critics. They could be cheerleaders. How brilliant is that? Cheerleaders. Can you imagine the possibilities, if every organization could train its leaders and executives to lead with that voice and shape desired behaviors rather than trying to kill the spirit of employees who displayed performance troubles? There has to be a difference between intention of good performance and negligence and lack of motivation. What are we teaching our employees if we treat both the motivated and the unmotivated the same?

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