Symbols of serenity, ducks glide along the water effortlessly, getting to the other side with no struggle. But if the water is clear enough, one can see the duck’s feet, paddling away desperately, expending all energy to traverse the water, and get ahead.
Does this ring a bell? Do you ever feel that you are perceived as having everything under control? Seemingly breezing through life, from team meetings to client meetings, to evening parties and social meetings. All this on the outside, when in fact you are struggling to balance various aspects of life. Anxious about meetings, forcing yourself to stay socially engaged even when you are too saturated by work, feeling unable to turn down work to reduce your tremendous workload? And above all, no space to voice these concerns! This isn’t a problem in people management.
This. Is. Duck. Syndrome. And there’s a lot that can be done about it.
Although not a formal mental-health diagnosis, The Stanford Duck Syndrome refers to the situation in which the sufferer looks completely calm on a superficial level while in reality they are frantically trying to keep up with the demands of their life.
Pretending that nothing is wrong does not make the problem disappear. Anything bothering you at work is worth addressing. Whether it’s interpersonal relationships with colleagues or work stress stemming from lack of clarity, unreasonable work-loads or insufficient remuneration, nothing should be tolerated at the cost of one’s happiness. Yes, it is often doubtful whether we will find a sympathetic ear, but addressing concerns is the first step to conquering stress. Going with the flow indefinitely, will lead to burn out, which will help neither you nor your employer.
Learn to say no
Yes, you can say no. There are phases in every company’s life where the workload exceeds the capacity of the employees. This is when work requests start flooding you, both within your job role and much beyond it. The deadlines become unreasonable, and the expectations, astronomical. The next time you are reluctant to turn down extra work for fear of disappointing someone, consider that not only will saying “no” lower your impending stress levels, but it will also ensure that you remain productive. That’s not all, saying no when asked for favours that make you uncomfortable, is imperative to retaining your integrity. At the workplace, and in life.
Learn to deal with criticism
Feedback is a part of life. It helps you grow and evolve into a better professional, moulding your talents and capabilities. We all need to learn to take feedback and criticism with this in mind – that it is only furthering us, not deterring us. Once we come to a healthy acceptance of criticism, we are able to work on it and are unaffected by it personally. This leads us to work on the areas we lack in and improve ourselves, without getting upset or hurt. An attitude that helps in better accepting criticism is learning to acknowledge one’s own mistakes. Failure is just a stepping stone to success – it teaches more than it prevents, if we allow it to.
“With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend.”
This is the definition of self-compassion given by Dr Kristin Neff, a scholar in Buddhist psychology, who advocates that we should extend to ourselves the empathy and kindness that we strive to give those around us. Being aware of our own suffering is as important as being sensitive to others. Once we realize we are in pain, we can sympathize and not judge ourselves harshly for our shortcomings, but instead, work towards becoming a better, happier person. We must learn to internalize compassion just as much as we practice it externally.
Applaud efforts, not just results
“Every effort counts,” they say. But do all bosses practice what they preach? Appreciation and acknowledgement of efforts is as, if not more, important than giving credit for results. The more encouragement employees receive, without simply focusing on the end result, the more they strive to work harder and smarter. When the process itself goes unnoticed, the entire load of the result, whether positive or negative, falls on the person in question, and if this ultimate result ends up being negative, the repercussions are unfair, because the efforts were never considered. Applauding effort is a key quality of good leadership and can drive people to great heights.
Yes, it seems like this is all easier said than done, but such is the fact with most efforts to better ourselves. It’s time we stopped scrambling under water and actually voiced our concerns. Appearing to glide along in life creates the perfect picture, but an entirely imperfect life and work culture.
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