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Managing yourself in the workplace

Managing yourself in the workplace has become more critical than ever before, as the workplace is constantly changing it brings about unexpected or unwelcome ambiguity as well as a complex working environment.

However, develop the ability to engage in a powerful rather than powerless way is to develop the ability to manage yourself. This means managing both your emotions as well as the practical situations you experience.

Changes in the environment: in society, the economy, politics and technology mean that we will be faced with unexpected or unwelcome ambiguity and complexity in the workplace where we may believe that outcomes are out of our immediate control. Equally, changes in the nature of work and in organisational structures have had a major impact on working roles and relationships. All these factors can lead to increased stress levels, lower tolerance of differences and conflicts between individuals, colleagues, teams or managers and subordinates.

To begin to engage in a powerful rather than powerless way is to develop the ability to manage yourself. This means managing both your emotions as well as the practical situations you experience. At the heart of Daniel Golemans EQ model is self-awareness and self-management. Therefore, a good self-leadership skill to acquire is to manage ourselves. Those that master this will have the opportunity to become the leaders of tomorrow and it is one way of creating a more meaningful and positive work experience today for yourself and others.  

Managing yourself means learning how to work with others in a productive and profitable way. We cannot control the behaviour of others but we can control our own. So what exactly does “managing yourself” imply; there are countless terms for self-management, however it is basically about ensuring your personal wellbeing across a range of experiences and situations in all aspects of your personal and working life.

Professor of Psychology Carol D. Ryff in 1989 already identified that psychological wellbeing encompassed six core dimensions:

1. Self-acceptance – An individual has a positive attitude towards themselves accepting both good and bad qualities.
2. Personal Growth – A feeling of continuous development and open to new experiences.
3. Purpose in Life – Having a sense of direction with aims and objectives for living.
4. Positive relations with others – having warm and trusting relationships with others as well as being concerned about the welfare of others.
5. Environmental mastery – the ability to choose and create suitable environments.
6. Autonomy – Have independence and self-determination.

To do this one must learn to maintain a good understanding of the changing organisational context and how their roles fits into it. Develop an idea of their role that is clear and closely linked to action. Manage the transitions between different roles and contexts, and exercise self-control (rather than looking to their line managers to impose control) understand themselves and their triggers and develop the ability to manage them appropriately.

It is up to you to keep yourself engaged and productive during your career. In Managing Oneself, Peter Drucker explains that the keys to doing this are: cultivating a deep understanding of yourself by identifying your most valuable strengths and most dangerous weaknesses; articulating how you learn and work with others and what your most deeply held values are; and describing the type of work environment where you can make the greatest contribution. Only when you operate with a combination of your strengths and self-knowledge can you achieve true and lasting excellence.

Coaching attempts to help individuals understand how their cognitive and emotional reactions interfere with their self-efficacy. Business coaching is more specific to the workplace in that it focusses on the present and future instead of the past and assists individuals and teams to identify their strengths, learn from past experience and leverage each opportunity.

Of importance is an openness to feedback which identifies the areas where intellectual arrogance causes disabling ignorance. Far too many people and especially people with a high level of knowledge in one specific area or high IQ are contemptuous of knowledge in other areas or believe that being “bright” is all that matters. Feedback can overcome intellectual arrogance and assist one to work on acquiring the skills and knowledge and attitude needed to make one’s strengths fully productive. Research shows that plans fail because of the lack of follow through or quite simply that brilliant work fails again and again as soon as it requires cooperation by others which may indicate a lack of people skills or well developed EQ. Manners are the “lubricating oil” of any organisation and can go a long way towards avoiding conflict.

Organisations are no longer built on power and force, Increasingly, they are built on trust, collaboration and relationships. Taking responsibility for one’s work relationships is therefore an absolute necessity. One owes relationship responsibility to everyone with whom one works, on whose work one depends and to those who, in turn, depend on one’s own work.  

Today, the great majority of people need work with others each contributing different elements to achieve the final outcome. It is a good idea to explore your values, strengths and ways of working early on with colleagues.

It’s up to you to carve out your place in the world and know when to change course. Being self-aware, accountable for yourself, open to being transformed and simply recognising when you have outrun your abilities can go a long way towards helping you to manage yourself in the workplace and avoiding conflict by doing so.

Susi Astengo is the Managing Director of CoachMatching.

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