Am I the only idiot?

Am I the only idiot?

Internationally certified team coach Angela van Dorssen talks about her daily practice.

I’ve been working with young professionals for years. It’s a nice group of people to work with. They’re ambitious, eager to learn, curious and have big dreams with a passion for the future. The downside to just starting out in your career is not yet having a professional internal compass. Questions that come up include: Who am I? What are my strengths? What direction do I want to go in? Am I good enough?

Copying from someone else is not an option

W We, adults, have forgotten what it’s like when you’ve just started working. How much is unclear, and how insecure we were about that ourselves when we just started. Before the coronavirus, they wondered what everyone was doing at their computers all day, and whether they should also tag along when everyone else went out to lunch. And what exactly is an action plan, anyway?

When we all started working from home, they went through a major change. They were no longer able to copy from others. They have no idea what’s considered normal. When are you productive enough? At times, they end up feeling confused after an online call. They didn’t want to ask a certain question during the meeting, for fear of sounding stupid. The consequence? Burn-out lurking. They keep working, constantly. Think that work means churning out documents and products 8 hours a day (or more). Feel guilty for taking a break. Say they can’t stop their thoughts from racing. In many cases, they have trouble sleeping, experience physical and mental issues caused by stress and they judge themselves.

I = We

What is striking is how much they appreciate hearing that others struggle with this, too. Especially their own managers. I hear responses like: “I thought I was the only one”, “I felt so stupid” and “I feel 10 pounds lighter”. Followed by a heavy sigh, full of ideas about what they can do themselves. They’ve regained control. I = We. What you’re going through, others are going through too. For your employees and your team, that’s an important starting point for growth.

Start the conversation

I see things improving now that employees have switched to hybrid working. Social contact makes people feel connected. At the water cooler, they can ask things like: how do things really work at the company? and who’s who? In the meantime, here are three tips for managers:

Share your own struggles and normalise having those struggles
Define what you see as productivity and your views on working hours
Start the conversation with young professionals. Be curious, and ask follow-up questions. They won’t tell you unless they think you won’t judge them for it.

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