Last week, I shared with you how a yoga instructor’s admonition “don’t just audit your practice” prompted me to consider how the act of auditing happens in all dimensions of life… including work.
But let’s be honest. Life and energy are in constant flux and flow. It’s only natural that some days we feel more engaged, passionate, and plugged in than others. The problem creeps in when we experience a sustained period of distancing ourselves from work, insulating ourselves from a sense of responsibility and accountability for what happens, and missing a visceral connection to the good, bad, or ugly of the job.
Auditing is a response to a variety of different workplace conditions:
- Being overwhelmed: When people are pulled in too many directions or see before them a mountain of work that exceeds what’s possible, they can’t be present for or energized by it all. Exhaustion (physical and/or mental) leads to self-preservation behaviors as they move into auditing mode.
- Experiencing disappointment: When effort or activities don’t produce the anticipated results, it’s hard for many people to sustain a high level of interest. They may continue to go through the ‘futile’ motions as they move into auditing mode.
- Feeling obligated: Out of a sense of responsibility, employees sometimes beat themselves up with ‘shoulds’. They feel compelled to keep commitments rather than renegotiating expectations as they move into auditing mode.
The choice to audit rather than fully participate is just that: a choice. If you find yourself auditing and want to return to your previous, actively engaged approach to work, you can choose again. Choose to try one of these actions designed to help you reconnect, revitalize, and recommit.
- Diagnose what’s moving you into auditing mode and take any obvious steps to address the causes. Examine and reconsider your workload, feelings about your results, and the ‘shoulds’ that might no longer serve you.
- Take on an entirely new task, duty, or deliverable. Novelty can be a powerful audit-buster.
- Sign up for a high-profile assignment. Doing something risky or scary forces presence and triggers emotions that make it nearly impossible to sit back and disengage.
- Offer to lead an initiative. It’s hard to lead – or for that matter to teach – without activating your own personal commitment to what you’re doing.
- Spend time with a customer or end-user. This is the quickest way to see the bigger picture and remember the value and importance of the work you do.
- Mentor a new employee. Enthusiasm is contagious. See things through someone else’s fresh eyes and remember the excitement and optimism with which you have approached work at other times.
- Take a break from it. Unplug and disconnect completely from the job. Frequently a time to re-charge is all that’s required to appreciate the work and feel energized again.
- Deepen your connection with co-workers. Organize lunch, dinner, or an outing. Relationships energize. Research indicates that having friends and supportive relationships at work drive greater engagement.
- Learn a new skill or system. Mixing things up a bit builds new neural networks, contributes to a sense of mastery and competence, and can bring greater enjoyment and interest to all tasks.
- If all else fails, make a change. Living on auto-pilot in audit mode is not living your best life. Get out and find something that activates your passion, captures your imagination, and keeps you engaged and present.
What about you? What causes you to move into auditing mode? What anti-auditing actions work for you?
Image: Liz Price
Julie, once again you’ve touched a nerve for everyone who is willing to be honest with themselves. I’ve already forwarded this to a number of friends and colleagues but most importantly to my adult children – now Sunday’s dinner conversation should be interesting.
You sounds like a wise dad, Pete. And what a good idea. If younger workers are aware of the dangers of being lulled into an auditing approach to work, maybe they’ll be less inclined to go there.