Why Work (often) Sucks

September 17, 2014
As a therapist I talk to people on a daily basis who suffer from anxiety, depression, and general stress. Often this stress is related to work. According to statistics from the last decade and a half, the vast majority (about three quarters) of employees report experiencing some level of disengagement from their job. I believe that much of the disengagement and stress people experience at work is rooted in our assumptions and beliefs about the nature of business. 

In my latest article for elephant journal I discuss these assumptions and beliefs, and their negative impact on our mental and physical health, our society, and the environment. In a nutshell, the way most people currently view business is that it is all about profit. This is what I call the Profit-Centered Paradigm. For the past thirty to forty years, a belief has developed that the sole responsibility of a corporation is to maximize shareholder value. In order to maximize shareholder value in the short term, decisions are often made that undermine the real value and success of the business in the long term. One of the ways companies often attempt to maximize shareholder value is by cutting costs.

When companies are cutting cost, often what really matters in business—relationships--suffer. Employees are laid off or wages and benefits are cut, hours are increased without an increase in pay, mandatory unpaid overtime, working almost but not quite enough hours to receive benefits, all these circumstances result in resentment and a damaged relationship with employees.

The profit-centered paradigm also often includes a highly competitive work environment with steep hierarchical power structures. These competitive work environments cause much stress and undermine trust and collaboration. It also undermines a sense of purpose and forces workers to act only in their self-interest, rather than in the interest of the company as a whole.

Coupled with these types of work environments you frequently find a very authoritarian management style, which, in psychology jargon, is referred to as Type X management. In a Type X environment, it is assumed that employees are not really motivated to work, but need to be coerced, and constantly monitored. The lack of autonomy workers experience in these types of environments is lethal to their intrinsic motivation to give their best work.

It does not have to be this way. There is a much better way to do business. I describe an alternative business paradigm in this article in elephant journal. When companies focus on relationships instead of profit, they tend to thrive and profit tends to take care of itself. These types of companies are often horizontal in their power structure and foster autonomy and collaboration in their workers. Employees feel more fulfilled and aligned with the purpose of the business. Because of this, they feel engaged and give their best work. Not only does this type of business benefit the employees, it is also better for the company itself. It is a better business model overall. 
 

"Business Is All About Relationships"

August 25, 2014
As a therapist my business is clearly all about relationships. For the success of therapy the relationship between the therapist and client is essential. But could it be that this is the case for other types of business as well? It appears that if you get too wrapped up in thinking about profit, maximizing profit, and cutting cost, relationships fall by the wayside. This may actually undermine the value and success of a business in the long term.

In thinking about creating enlightened society...

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Creating A Better World Through Business

August 25, 2014
Wow, it's been a while since I last blogged. In my last post I discussed the book The Shambhala Principle which talks about creating an enlightened society, based on the recognition of humanity's basic goodness. Since I read this book I have been thinking a lot about how we can create an enlightened society in practical terms. I have come to the conclusion that business is going to be an essential ingredient. 

Here is an article I wrote for elephant journal that goes deeper into this topic. In...
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Basic Goodness

May 7, 2013
How do you feel about yourself? What are your beliefs about human nature? Are human beings inherently selfish, only concerned about their self interest and maybe those closest to them? Is humanity like a cancer, slowly destroying life on this planet? Or is there something deeper to our nature: Our ability to love, have compassion, our deep desire to connect with others, our vulnerability? Is it possible that despite all of the cruelty and destructive behavior, underneath it all humanity is ba...

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You Can Always Make a Fresh Start

January 2, 2013
At this time of year there are a lot of articles about new year's resolutions and why they are so difficult to keep and/or how to be successful in fulfilling them. With this article, I would like to take a slightly different approach: Why do we make new year's resolutions in the first place? It seems that we make new year's resolutions because beginning a new year gives a feeling of making a fresh start. At the heart of new year's resolutions are often the intention to make the best out of ou...
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Managing the Holiday Stress

December 23, 2012
Although this season is portrayed as a season of joy, the holidays are often a stressful time for many people. This time of year for many people involves travel, huge shopping lists, waiting in line, being stuck in traffic, groceries, family visits, and above all pressure. Many people experience stress, depression, and anxiety during this time of year. Here are four tips that I hope will help you lighten your mood, and manage your stress:
  • Remember to take care of yourself too. Because you are ...

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Gratitude and Happiness

November 21, 2012
It's Thanksgiving time, and this time of the year teachers all over the country ask their students: "What are you thankful for?" and they get the cutest and most hilarious answers. It may seem hokey, but reflecting on what you are grateful for in your life can actually increase your subjective experience of happiness and wellbeing in a meaningful way. Researchers have done experiments where they asked people to keep a gratitude journal. The assignment is simple: every day, write down three th...
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The Survival of the Kindest

October 25, 2012

The Survival of the KindestPosted by Dr. Iektje Stephens
Aug 13, 2010

When I was training at the Austin Child Guidance Center last year, my supervisors shared with me an article from Science Daily called “Social Scientists Build Case for ‘Survival of the Kindest’”. Evolution theory poses that species survive and evolve through the process of natural selection. This has often been translated as the “survival of  …Read More


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New Blog

October 25, 2012
Welcome to my new blog.  I will be posting here regularly.  My archived blog can be found here.
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