Summary: The work hard culture takes a toll on the resilience of their professionals, the teams and the organization as a whole. How to challenge this culture, build resilience, and change from surviving to thriving?
The culture of working hard is not an easy environment to thrive in. Many individuals personally endure the challenges of this harsh environment, and the toll it takes on them. The demands of greater efficiency and productivity are exceedingly high. Still, many organizations keep pushing their employees for greater efficiency and productivity.
The work-hard culture envisions the perfect employee as someone with an extensive workload (often exceeding 60 hours per week), maintains round-the-clock availability and prioritizes work above all else in their lives. Examples are corporates with an ideology of a market culture, adhocracy culture or hierarchy culture. Their primary ethical frameworks have a focus on utility maximization of human resources. To justify their culture they ask questions such as: “What does it yield, what do I gain, what can I achieve?”.
Less appealing than expected?
In the work-hard culture salaries are frequently quite appealing, what makes them an attractive option for young professionals. However, entering such a culture in the recruitment process is not easy. The beginning of the new job can be challenging, as the newly hired professional must demonstrate that he/she is indeed such an ideal employee who works diligently.
Many who have been working in such a culture for several years, often experience that it is relatively easy to be dismissed or let go. In other words: hard to get in, and easy to get out. These distressing experiences prompt employees to reflect on what it means to be human and to acknowledge their personal human natural needs. Unfortunately, these conversations are not held in their teams, so everyone is struggling alone. And someday, these young professionals come to the realization that their personal energy is finite.
When you look at this closely, it is odd how employees embrace a culture damaging their own and co-workers well-being.
My personal experience
I personally went through this. I was employed as a trainer/consultant for organizational development in the field of career development and competency management. After five years, I decided to leave behind the demanding organizational culture and quitted. I started my own business, to support leaders and organizations suffering from stress and burnout. That happened 20 years ago.
But quitting the company wasn’t merely a straightforward and speedy solution for altering my own behavioral patterns. When I look back, it has been just the start of a deep ongoing transformational journey that I am dedicated to since then.
I now think it is weird that high performing employees allow the company to regulate their personal work-life balance and other rhythms such as sleep-wake rhythm, time for physical exercising, time for social connectedness, eating patterns etcetera. The rhythms of such a work culture are in fact undermining health and sustainability. And we can see how well-educated professionals do not steer their lives, nor grow their resilience, ironically because they have become part and belong to that work hard culture. It is really difficult to get out of any culture that one belongs to.
Nowadays, I support leaders, teams, and organizations to boost their resilience, based on evidence based insights and tools, and on my own experiences.
In these organization free time is scarce. There is no time for personal reflection, conversations about personal resilience or supervision. This necessitates employees to find clever ways for their survival, which frequently leads to conflicts with colleagues and strains their relationships with their loved ones and families at home.
Lastly, individuals who work hard but are unable to maintain a relaxed physiological state, will experience stress, fall ill and eventually suffer from burnout. We all know this, and we all have seen examples of the detrimental long-lasting effects of a work hard culture. Data for example from a global study confirm that 50 % of employees in 25 countries suffer from severe stress and burnout (Adecco, Global Workforce of the Future, 2022). Other studies add to this that high stress in teams does not just means low productivity but also leads to high attrition.
Numerous employees seek an escape from the treadmill of this unhealthy organizational culture. Most of them see two options: They may choose to fight and confront the culture (and being dismissed or risk their health) or they opt to leave the company (and often repeat the same struggle in a new job). Fortunately, there is a third way and that is the best alternative: building resilience at the levels of the individual, team, and organization.
When intentionally cultivating resilience, we discuss with leaders “what-if questions” such as:
- What if you could stop and reverse these sick making behavioral patterns?
- What if your organization would adopt a proven strategy to grow resilience?
- What if you would allocate resources in such a way that you ensure that all employees survive, become healthy and thrive in their work and life?
We believe that these conversations will become even more relevant in the future. But many organizations do not know how to address these questions and are now searching for evidence-based practices
How to start?
We support leaders and discuss how to address these questions.
Our approach integrates the Neurozone toolkit for measuring resilience and providing scientifically based insights. It is our mission to support you, your team, and your organization to change from a detrimental work hard culture to a healthy and thriving high performing culture.
For more information, please send an email or schedule a zoom-meeting: https://calendly.com/sonja-vlaar/