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Emotional bandwidth and how it impacts job satisfaction

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

In 2017, I was ready to quit a job I loved and use my savings for as long as they’d last me. At the time, I didn’t understand a lot about leadership overwhelm. I thought that loving what you do was enough to move through life successfully. I took a month off pooling all of my sick and vacation time. I used that time to regroup and to focus on what I needed to change in my life to flow at a different pace with the demands at the new level. I quickly found out I wasn’t alone. A significant number of people my age were quitting the safety of their jobs because it was the job or their mental health. Some were trying better options and some were simply jumping without a safety net. This wasn’t a random occurrence, but a pronounced pattern in the professional world.

Will Ferrel throwing hands up in gesture of quitting

Increase in complexity in the professional realm requires new organization and communication skills. And it requires a different management of emotional bandwidth. When we see people performing at a really high rate and enjoying themselves, we are seeing people who have acquired the skills to manage their emotional budget in a way that matches the demands of their life. But if you’re in a perpetual overwhelm loop, it’s very hard to perform at a higher level. It’s not that they are smarter than you. They just have the support that is appropriate for the time of their lives.

The pandemic decimated our emotional bandwidth and left most of us in a perpetual survival mode. The Harvard Business Review was already pointing to this problem before COVID changed the world, “The cognitive impact of feeling perpetually overwhelmed can range from mental slowness, forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating or thinking logically, to a racing mind or an impaired ability to problem solve. When we have too many demands on our thinking over an extended period of time, cognitive fatigue can also happen, making us more prone to distractions and our thinking less agile. Any of these effects, alone, can make us less effective and leave us feeling even more overwhelmed.” Now more than ever, people who have strategies to thrive and keep overwhelm at bay are the most resilient and setting the pace as leaders.

"So, what do we do?" in script font

Getting familiar with the symptoms of cognitive overwhelm is the first step. The negative impact in personal and professional life accumulates exponentially. This is why we decided to launch the series Busting Through Leadership Overwhelm. These workshops are designed to be taken together, but can also be valuable individually if one of them piques your interest in particular.

The first session, “From Hot Mess to Finesse,” is designed to help you open up space on your plate. Many professionals roll their eyes when someone says that they need to delegate. It’s not that they don’t want to. It’s that they don’t have the time to train and explain how to do a job well. Maybe in the past they have delegated and they ended up with more work than if they had done it themselves. That is because effective delegation is a compilation of skills that have to work together so that you actually end up with less work and more support. This workshop helps you navigate how to navigate recognizing when someone is ready to deliver on a workshop and how to set that person up for success with 1:1 check ins.

The second workshop focuses on the individual aspect of overwhelm. We equip people with tools to understand how to stay regulated and when to use each different tool. Sometimes, overwhelm won’t let you focus on the work in front of you even though you made time to work on it. But if you understand the symptoms of burnout, and understand how to employ the necessary skills to come back to center, you can bounce back from stressful situations. Because when you are outside of the window of regulation, it is impossible to remain curious and collaborative. Anyone in a position of leadership knows just how much emotional energy it takes to navigate the work week.

Leadership requires constant collaboration and sometimes it requires that you give feedback and direction. During the third workshop, we demystify the steps to approach a difficult conversation and turn it into an opportunity for deeper understanding and connection. Using the core skills of conflict resolution, we practice how to have a conversation that is affirming when coaching someone through a mistake or poor performance at work. These are necessary skills when managing a team of staff. Knowing how to immediately learn the other person’s communication style and adapt how we verbally communicate so they can hear us, is almost like having a superpower. A lot of the tension that occurs in the workplace is breakdown in communication; two people speaking at each other but unable to understand each other.

Our hope in creating these series is that leaders will walk with confidence that they can turn difficult situations into opportunities for growth and collaboration. The main contributors to overwhelm in the workplace can be handled with the skills we teach in each workshop. Sometimes the solution is to learn how to upgrade your soft skills to handle hard situations, rather than quitting a job you love. Because more often than not, it is not the job in itself that is creating stress and anxiety. Most of the time, the source of stress that makes you not want to go back to the office is a dysfunctional dynamic. It can seem really big but maybe, after knowing how to handle it and make it turn on your favor, it’s not so big and it’s not so hard to come to work.

If you're interested in finding out more about the workshops, check out the link below to get on the waitlist for our next series.

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