In his book FLOW, Csikszentmihalyi defines flow as “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” It is the same as the highest point on the inverted U on the over arousal curve. It’s the point that which your skills are challenged at their highest and the dopamine rush is at its highest too. Any more challenge will cause the individual to crash and burn.
In a class discussion someone brought up the example of the advertising industry and how creative people are often subjected to very tight deadlines and work days and nights at a stretch to make the client pitch. They are also known to thrive it such an environment, saying they are at their creative best under such pressure. In any other industry this may be unheard of, or not happen at such frequency. The issue here is that different people have different set points on the over arousal curve, and its possible that the advertising industry attracts people with a higher set point. Its akin to people who enjoy bungee jumping – they have a different set point of feeling thrilled than many others. These set points may differ within an industry, with an organization as well as within a function.
As talent professionals, it is important for us to understand this to be able to fine-tune a methodology to figure out where an individual’s set point lies in terms of professional challenge and skill. It would be a great way to segment employees in terms of career development and the sets of experiences they need to feel engaged and passionate about the work they do. If this is tailored to individual employees the organisation will see positive results in employee feedback relating to employee retention.
One of the critical challenges one faces during lay offs or letting people go, is dealing with the whole SARAH cycle. Shock, Anger, Resistance, Hope and Acceptance. I just had a call from an ex colleague who after a team meeting last week was called into his managers room and asked to leave. He said the conversation was barely five minutes long, with little explanation. We had a long conversation about faith in humanity and how he can learn to trust people after this incident.
In an organization that has good HR practices, it is imperative that there is a “case” that is built up for making anyone redundant. The “case” consists of feedback, rounds of counselling, putting the person on a performance improvement plan and being clear on what goals will be tracked over the next few months. This is done only to set the right expectations and to make sure that no one is taken by complete surprise. It’s a “minimize danger” strategy. Companies like these are keen to let people go the “right” way – pay fair severance, help with outplacement agencies only because they want to be known as an employer that cares. And the message clearly is one of, yes you are competent, but this is probably not the right fit. If it is a situation where the role has been made redundant then the organization makes itself responsible to find the person another role within the same organisations
Very clearly that was not the case with this colleague. Now as a result of this incident, other employees who have heard the story have their error detection sensors up – they keep feeling like they maybe let go in the same way. If companies do not make an effort to build a culture where they minimize danger and maximize reward, it will not just have impact on the talent they are able to attract and retain talent and but, to meet long-term business goals
Kalpana Sinha is a Leadership and Organisation Professional. Her blog has reflections from her work experiences of over 20 years.