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ATD Blog

Making It Personal

By and

Tue Sep 03 2013

Making It Personal

Creating rapid change is personal because changes at work affect employees personally. In this blog article we highlight two personal topics, which always emerge when we’re involved in rapid retooling:

  1. Am I ready for the new job demands?

  2. How can I cope with a rapidly changing work world?

We also offer a three-question self-assessment tool to plan actions and improve the situation.


Am I ready for the new job demands?

Currently we are working with a client to integrate three legacy companies into one. Many of the management team members of the acquired companies perceive the change as a demotion. Prior to the change, they were used to being more involved in decision making and enjoyed an entrepreneurial spirit. Now decision-making centers are thousands of miles away, and decision making itself seems to be taking much longer. It all feels very “corporate.” At the same time, some employees realize that the stability and additional resources of an established successful corporation has advantages.

These different views boil down to very personal answers to very personal questions. They get to the heart of employee values, goals, and desires: “Am I a start-up person who thrives in the ad-hoc and hands-on start-up climate? Can I only give my best in such an environment, or do I see advantages in the new corporate setting as well? And am I patient enough to wait until the dust settles?”

As in many similar rapid retooling situations, ultimately the result is very personal: Keep the same job and get a new attitude, or get a new job!

How can I cope with the increasing demands of a rapidly changing work world?


The changing face of work now requires that we work when we are away from the place we call “work.” This is due to several factors: the need to have quality (thinking) time when not at work; the global workplace, which has made working in multiple time zones a given; and technology, which has contributed to blurring the boundaries between our work and personal lives.

We recently spoke to a director of training who summed it up pretty well: “There is no work-life balance. I’m never shut off from work. Emails, text messages, and phone calls can always reach me. Managing my email is a full-time job in itself. I’m just trying to keep my emails under 400 in any given day. My vice president sends me emails at 11 o'clock at night. Obviously I have the choice of responding or not responding. But my experience is that if I don’t respond immediately, they pile up, and I’ve got more to take care of first thing in the morning.”

Michael, a senior HR executive in a global manufacturing company challenges the work-life balance concept: “People talk about work-life balance because they feel they have too much work, and not enough play—too much time in the office, and not enough time at home. I think it is more about work-life integration, not balance. I’m not aware of a single case of burnout at management level in our company, which is actually surprising. This is not because there is not a lot of work! My opinion is that burnout occurs when there is a mismatch between an employee’s expectations and capabilities, and the expectations of the boss or company. That is when there is a problem.”

Take personal action

To stay on top of your own changing work situation, and ahead of these challenging personal situations, be proactive. Many of us fear losing control—or even worse, becoming a victim of the system. To stay in the driver’s seat, use the self-assessment tool below. Here’s how:

  1. For each of the questions, rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5.

  2. In the far right column, define actions, which would bring you up on the continuum, closer to the optimum.

  3. Then, based on your answer, discuss with others: trusted colleagues, your boss, HR, your spouse, and so forth.

  4. Start implementing each of the improvement options, one at a time.

A last comment before you take the assessment: This is neither a test nor a scientific instrument. Don’t dwell on the answers. Be bold. Be spontaneous. Spend the majority of your time with the far right (actions) column, looking for improvements, and asking yourself what could bring you from where you are to a 5. (And if you are already at a 5, enjoy it!)


Rating Definition

**Your **


**Actions (or changes) ****that could bring you **

from where you are to a 5

**A. Your Job **


5 = This is my dream job. 1 = I am interviewing for a job elsewhere and ready to leave as soon as possible.



B. Your Potential

You know yourself best. Is your employer taking full advantage of what you have to offer? Are all of your talents, experience, skills, and so forth being put to work? 5 = My employer is taking full advantage of what I have to offer. 1 = If I did not come to work, nobody would notice.



**C. Your Stress **


We all have our optimum stress level. This is the stress level that allows us to be at our optimum performance. There many reasons you may grade yourself below a 5: too much work, too little work, workplace conflict, a toxic work environment, fears, or perceptions of not having the right skills. 5 = My stress level is optimum. 1 = I cannot imagine being more stressed.


With Gallup reporting that only 3 in 10 employees are truly engaged in their work, there is a lot to be learned through the above three questions. Here are some real examples of how this tool is a catalyst for positive personal results:

  • When employees on a (reorganized) team in Poland were asked these questions, the consensus was: “That’s ridiculous. No one loves his job.” Further probing showed these employees simply wanted stable jobs that were interesting and allowed for cross training and new project opportunities. Leaders were able to provide such opportunities.

  • A business leader in the Philippines asked her team the assessment questions, and the answers were quite revealing. She began to see that if she could swap responsibilities across the team, then she could better match employee interest and skills with business needs. People started doing more of what they liked, which created more engagement and better results.

  • The leader of a technical team in New York City asked herself the questions. She realized that her job was not a good fit. No wonder her boss was on her case, or that her efforts to create positive team results were failing. She left her job soon after to follow her real interests.

It’s not so hard. Just start the process. The goal is not a perfect score, but rather an ongoing personal conversation about making work meaningful and productive for each employee.

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