You show up at work one day, and your colleague is promoted instead of you. Your boss, who was mentoring you, is suddenly fired. There is a freeze on hiring while the workload doubles. What do you do?
"Dealing with dilemmas in the workplace is crucial to ensure smooth functioning and everyone's well-being".
The workplace poses many challenges and dilemmas while bringing together different kinds of people with varying motivations, strengths, and weaknesses. This becomes the hotbed for a mixed bag of dilemmas. These could range from personality conflicts to struggling to make that next jump up the corporate ladder. Dealing with dilemmas in the workplace is crucial to ensure smooth functioning and everyone's well-being.
But most of the time, these dilemmas go unnoticed, unacknowledged, and unarticulated. Sometimes it is because the individual is unaware of its presence or is unable to label the nagging feeling in his mind. At other times, it is because, as a leader, you don't want to show your vulnerability and own up to it. You don't want anyone to know you are having a dilemma or even a remote doubt in your mind. When large teams of people are looking up at you, how can you afford to seem unsure? How will it drive confidence among them? In an attempt to appear strong, you think that it's best to subdue that feeling and sweep it under the carpet.
But nothing is more dangerous than ignoring the conflicting inner voices of our minds. This can have the power to make us lose sleep, make poor decisions, and opt to appear superior when, in fact, we feel vulnerable and unsure.
Before we delve into how to deal with workplace dilemmas, let us look at an example.
Kiran, Sudha, and Madhav are three friends who started their work journeys together. They are all from reputed institutions and have worked long and hard in leading organizations in various industries. Currently, they are all traveling in the same boat but are dealing with it differently.
Let us take a closer look.
Kiran is a senior executive for a large manufacturing company. He has an excellent track record and has given many years to this particular organization. And his efforts have been recognized and acknowledged as every few years, he has been consistently promoted and has been moving up the ladder. But over the last couple of years, he has started to feel stagnated. He is feeling stuck. He is wondering what will help him propel forward?
Do you think what got him here, will get him there?
"Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better". ~ Sydney J. Harris
Sudha is a Director of Design and Research for a large FMCG company. She has worked extremely hard to get to this position. She is passionate and loves her job but considers herself an introvert. She primarily works with a small group of research scientists and spends most of her time in the laboratory pouring over new product developments. Her management recognizes her effort and recommends her to be promoted to the level of Chief Product Officer, which requires a more people-centric approach. But she doesn't feel ready to lose the niche she carved out for herself. She is known for her expertise and is comfortable where she is. She wonders if she is the right person for the job as people skills are not her forte.
Can Sudha afford to hide behind her self perception of an introvert?
On the other hand, Madhav is a senior sales manager for a flourishing healthcare company. He started up as a sales representative and quickly climbed up to this position. He thinks he has been successful because he knows the region and markets very well. But to move to the next level, he has to travel and work out of the Head Quarters in a foreign land. He is unsure of himself as he is not familiar with the markets, the target audience, and their buying preferences. He is wondering how he can make this next jump.
Can Madhav take this leap of faith?
When Kiran, Sudha, and Madhav meet up for a chat, they realize that they are going through similar transitions. The first step in solving any dilemma is first to identify it. Though Kirna and Madhav have some sense of what they are going through, Sudha is still struggling to label her nagging emotion and is reluctant to accept the offer at hand.
While discussing tangible solutions, each of them suggests a different way of dealing with it.
Kiran thinks that he cannot lean on his colleagues to give him support or advice as it is a dog eat dog world out there. After much thought, he decides that he needs an external objective perspective to make sense of his dilemma. To this end, he chooses to go with a #coach who can work closely with him and help him emerge out of this current stagnation.
Sudha decides to stay with her dilemma for a while longer and maybe talk to her senior management on the way forward. She is keen on refusing the role offered and staying put where she is. She gives in to her fears instead of working through them.
Though Madhav can see Kiran's point of view, he thinks working with a coach is an expensive and unnecessary affair. He decides to opt for self-served psychometric tests to dig a little deeper into self-awareness, hoping that it will help him solve his current dilemma. He takes various tests and gathers a lot of data points about his personality. But he struggles to make sense of that data to provide insights that can become an actionable outcome.
"What would you do? Who do you think will successfully walk out of this dilemma while making a meaningful decision to affect their career path positively?"
Yes, you're right! Kiran most definitely will.
To draw a parallel, imagine that you are on a late-night flight with your toddler just before take-off. You are exhausted. To make things worse, your child gets fidgety and cranky. You try to soothe your child with chocolate so you can peacefully lose yourself in reading the newspaper while you reach home. As the flight starts to head toward the runway, the flight attendants begin giving the routine safety precautions. But you have heard this a thousand times and divert your attention to the interesting article you are reading. The flight takes off as you slip into a comfortable slumber with your child nestled comfortably next to you.
Suddenly, you experience a little turbulence and are woken up into a chaotic urgency that engulfs you. There is an unexpected loss of air, and automatically the oxygen masks are released. You look at your child. The mask is too high for him to reach, and you struggle to help him latch it on. You continue to wrestle with the mask. He starts to choke for air, as do you. In this mayhem, you have forgotten to strap on your mask. And you both start slipping into a black unconsciousness and turn blue.
You have comfortably forgotten that you must first place your mask before helping others in the event of an emergency. Like the renowned coaching expert, Marshall Goldsmith puts it, 'To help others develop, you start with yourself'.
"This is what dilemmas can do to you as a leader and hamper your teams and your entire organization's growth".
You are the leader, and the loss of air or oxygen is your dilemma. Sometimes it can be that apparent and urgent. At other times it can be hidden or blending in with the background noise, and you fail to recognize it. Your teams are like the child that needs your help and support. But first, you must take care of yourself - find your oxygen mask - find constructive ways of dealing with your dilemmas while working with a coach.
Dwelling in dilemmas without naming them, identifying them, and articulating them is a slippery slope. On the other hand, while self-served psychometric tests give one a decent analysis of certain personality traits and help create self-awareness, it isn't easy to connect the dots.
That is why having a coach can provide you with an objective way of looking at your current situation and provide you with rich insights into how you can propel forward. A coach is like a lifeline presented to you in a moment of confusion, uncertainty, and ambiguity. They can help you find clarity and figure out a sensible action plan. Rather than struggling with those dilemmas and continuing your career, you can work with an expert to further up your game.