It’s not necessarily a groundbreaking revelation, but happier team members tend to be more productive and, dare we say it, actually enjoy their jobs. Ensuring everyone in your workplace is happy is far easier said than done and there are plenty of variables to consider: compensation and benefits, your office culture, and interpersonal relationships all play a part. However, there’s another factor that’s not as obvious—an individual’s way of thinking.
Our thought patterns, the actual way our brains go about making sense of the world, are just as individualistic as our personalities. However, these habitual thoughts aren’t always helpful, and can actually hurt us in the workplace. Sometimes we don’t even realize exactly how these unhelpful thoughts and thought patterns get in the way of workplace happiness. In other words, what seem like irrelevant or benign thoughts could play a much larger role than we think.
A single person, or even a collective's, thought patterns can indicate the overall sense of the team's workplace happiness. And, believe it or not, you can improve the happiness of the team by changing the way the team thinks. Yes, employee salary, benefits and perks are critical to our livelihood, but after a job meets these basic needs, we have to address how we can happily and actively thrive at work. There are a lot of factors that help one do just that, but today I want to address something that you may not have considered.
Recognizing Our Own Thought Patterns
Again, unhelpful thoughts as they pertain to workplace happiness shouldn’t come as a huge shock. The question is, what do these thought patterns look like? At Meddlers, we see unhelpful thoughts frequently play a role in the workplace. Of course, when we focus on something that seems important to us, it doesn’t always feel unhelpful: making sure the presentation is just right, motivating the team to work harder, or focusing on ensuring each step of the process is followed. Often, these patterns emerge when we are rewarded for this focus. Overused, these same areas of focus can look like perfectionism, micro-managing and lack of flexibility. We’ve entered the zone where it may not be serving us.
What’s more, the brain is like a muscle. The more we exercise any thought pattern, the easier it is to make that our “default setting.” It’s truly its own form of muscle memory. For example, if you prefer structure, you may view open ended discussions as a waste of time. If you’re a perfectionist, you will default to look for the ideal and see all the ways something could be better. If you are a natural risk taker, you will most often see the possibility in every idea (and overlook the risk). These become the default filter for your thinking, and thus the inner narrative you create to explain the world around you. Thinking in other ways becomes harder and harder.
Making a Positive Change
Only when we break down the routine and actively do the opposite can we begin to retrain our brains and build up new, stronger muscles. If we use the examples above, that might involve actively embracing no agenda as the agenda, focusing on the task at hand and letting it run its course. For a perfectionist, it might mean allowing your work to speak for itself and purposely identifying deliverables where 80% of perfect is good enough. We are not saying don’t be yourself, we are advocating that expanding your default thinking can open up new possibilities for you.
Addressing these manifestations is the first step. Not only in ourselves, but in our team and coworkers as well. This starts by developing a culture of honest feedback within your company. One way to ignite this change is by asking for feedback from those you work with every day. Whether that’s your peers, team members, or associates, invite others to share how they interpret your contributions and if they see you defaulting to certain perspectives or approaches.
Another way to do this at the team level might mean deliberately accounting for different points of view. Allow room for not only alternative ideas, but alternative thought patterns or ways of approaching a situation. If your the team leader, this means inviting and encouraging your team members to not only speak their mind, and letting them speak first! You’ve assembled a team with unique perspectives and thoughts. It’s time to hear them. You can add your own thoughts if and when they are necessary. The keyword there is add. If your thoughts aren’t amplifying what the team’s already said, are they really worth sharing?
Neuroscience and Workplace Happiness
We oftentimes don’t give enough credit to our own ability to change our thought patterns, but it’s possible. Both your conscious and subconscious thoughts are hardwired to elicit certain emotions in the face of every scenario you experience. For our purposes here, it’s a matter of changing the script and the way we think about things, to hopefully create a happier workplace.
Unfortunately, there’s no switch we can flip to do this. Retraining your brain requires constant attention and patience. It means actively avoiding some of the negative thought patterns that inhibit workplace happiness. Our brains come equipped with a powerful subconscious that governs our reactions and thoughts, whether we want it to or not. Psych Central’s Dr. Athena Stark asserts that we need to befriend our subconscious through our conscious minds. When we experience those unhelpful thoughts, we need to actively communicate to our subconscious to let it know we’re not going to have those reactions to workplace situations anymore.
Learn More About Your Thought Process with Meddlers
Retraining your brain and overall thought process isn’t easy. The good news is, Meddlers can help. When you invite us into the workplace, we work with you to help you figure out the best ways for your team to work together. Sometimes that means getting into the inner workings of our very own brains!
Looking for a place to start? Try taking the Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment to learn more about yourself and start your journey to creating a happier workplace. Want to learn more about neuroscience, the PI Behavioral Index, or how to build a happier workplace? Contact Meddlers to get the ball rolling.