Post-Covid employees are evaluating work/life balance more than ever, with 65% rethinking their work life.
We live in a volatile, uncertain, complex world, filled with bewildering ambiguity and constant upgrades. Big Data algorithms and digital empires are part of our new reality. Covid has layered further complexity on top of this. Today we have higher anxiety levels and more people suffering from depression than ever.
Employees need purpose at work
Nearly two-thirds of US-based employees said that COVID has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life. And nearly half said they were reconsidering the work they did because of the pandemic. Finding meaning has become the quest of our time.
A study by Gartner Consulting found that post-pandemic, 65% of employees re-evaluated the role work of in life. More than 50% had started to question the purpose of their day-to-day job. The cry for meaning is echoing through the organisation up to the executive suites.
The Great Resignation is a local trend.
Old Mutual found evidence that global movements such as the Great Resignation are also taking shape in South Africa. Also known as the Big Quit and the Great Reshuffle, this is a trend in which unhappy employees are voluntarily resigning. But if you think this is a purely European or American trend, think again. Look around you and see how people are looking differently at work. People are evaluating the value of work-life balance like never before.
A study by BCG revealed that 85% of companies undertook transformation in the past decade – but 75% failed because hidden fears, insecurities and attitudes of the people involved were not addressed. A happy staff requires clarity of purpose and understanding of why they do what they do. The purpose at work has become the new frontier for building an engaged workforce.
We have a new pandemic.
If Covid has taught us anything, says a McKinsey report, it’s that employees are hungry for the human nature of work. Employees are mentally drained. They want interpersonal connections, a shared identity and a renewed sense of purpose. They want to feel valued and have meaningful interactions. Every executive knows that job performance is directly related to job satisfaction – and knowing one’s purpose is the modern-day criterion for job satisfaction.
Eighty-three per cent of employees ranked ‘meaning in day-to-day work’ as their most important value, reports PwC. “Employees see purpose as a way to bring meaning to their work and understand the contributions they are making to the company, as well as society,” said says Chief Purpose and Inclusion Officer, Shannon Schuyler. Notice that PwC regards purpose at work as important enough to have a designated Purpose Officer.
Poor mental health is affecting the bottom line
Someone working with you has poor mental health. Research by SADAG found that one in four employees have been diagnosed with depression, taking more than 18 days off from work due to the condition.
Dr Renata Schoeman, a psychiatrist and leadership lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), says, ‘More than 40% of all work-related illness is due to stress, depression, burnout and anxiety disorders.’
Research by South Africa’s HSRC on post-Covid mental health indicates that 33 percent% of employees are depressed, 45% afraid and 29% lonely.
Dr Marion Borcherds executive manager for Health and Awareness at Transnet calls for greater attention to our nation’s psyche and workforce.
In her address at the National Economic Development and Labour Council summit held in September this year, she stressed this point: ‘It is apparent that the country’s mental health burden has been amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic, and that workplaces could provide safe spaces to provide meaningful programmes and interventions.’
South Africa has the worst mental health in the world.
It gets worse. We may call ourselves the rainbow nation but the state of our nation’s mental health is not so rosy. Research in 2021 on the Mental state of the World, rated South Africa worst among 34 counties, ranking lower than war-torn Yemen, Iraq and the DRC.
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) paints a similarly gloomy picture, reporting that suicide rates in South Africa rank tenth worst in the world. There are 23 known cases of suicide in South Africa every day, and for every person who commits suicide, there are at least ten attempts.
Where does this leave us?
We live in a new reality. Having a strong purpose makes people feel motivated and energised. Purpose creates mental resilience to handle stress better. Research indicates that meaning at work is the bedrock for a fulfilled life.
All the above research points in the same direction: Employees need to find meaning in their daily tasks to stay fully engaged. Having a clear purpose at work instils commitment. Do you want engaged staff? Then give them purpose. Or watch them resign.
In this article we are
going to expand on some of the tools and techniques that could be used in a coaching
session. As an existential analysis that brings to awareness the Clients’
spiritual realities Logotherapy is future focussed emphasising the meaning in
our life that is yet to be fulfilled. Our most powerful motivating force is the
pursuit of meaning (more fundamental than the will to pleasure of power). We
are hardwired to express, do more, create things and shake the world. We are
strongly motivated to live with purpose and get frustrated when our quest for
meaning is hampered.
human existence in three domains of body, psyche and spirit. We see the client
in totality, as a complete human being recognising all three dimensions and the
tension that exists within those. Frankl speaks of a healthy noö-dynamism or
spiritual tension. A conscious field between what one has already achieved and
what ought to be done. Of what one has already accomplish and the new tasks
that awaits, what one is and what one ought to become. We don’t thrive in
tensionless states and flourish when we are striving for something worthy of
our attention. In any Logotherapy session, the spiritual domain presents the
strongest capacity for change. It is in the spiritual domain that we have the
power to stand up for what we believe in. Not to be confused will-power, our
spiritual power presents us with the capability to defy the odds. Referred to
in Logotherapy as our freedom of will, the defiant power of the human spirit
knows no boundaries. As Nietzsche said, “if you have a strong enough why, you
will overcome any how”.
There are five primary techniques
used in a Logotherapy intervention – the Socratic dialogue, Self-distancing, De-reflection,
Attitude modulation and Paradoxical intention. Any of these techniques are
likely to be more effective when the facilitator appeals to the clients’ spiritual
integrity. In this article we are going to pick one technique, the workhorse of
Logotherapy – the Socratic dialogue. In a Socratic dialogue the coach
facilitates the clients’ discovery of meaning by calling on his spiritual
knowing through provocative and challenging questioning.
Socrates (470 – 399 BC) claimed
to be ignorant and typically started a dialogue using what is now called
Socratic irony – by pretending to be ignorant and wait for some kind of
explanation. Socrates would then listen to the explanation and deliberately
cause confusion. Because he claimed to not know anything, he therefore didn’t
have to teach anything. “I do know that I do not know”. He didn’t have
(nor applied) positive knowledge in his dialogues but rather used negativity
paradoxically. Socrates introduced the concept of irony and used this
expensively in his dialogues. The most ironic question of all was probably
posed during his sentencing when he suggested that he should be given a free
meal and pay for the work he was doing.
Another of his concepts is
“aporia” or being at a loss not able to answer and then to ask for a specific
definition of something. His dialogues often didn’t end with any specific conclusion.
Socrates would call into question what he sees in front of him happy for the
dialogue to end without results. This he thought makes the listener self-active
A good Socratic dialogue moves
from the local to the universal and back. It moves between personal experience and
universal truth with the emphasis on how something was directly experienced.
Socrates tried to uncover true essence of the topic creating clarity between an
idea and the real experience. He was constantly looking for contradictions and
encouraged the individual to test the truth. A coach using the Socratic
dialogue plays the role of a midwife whereby the client comes to the truth by
themselves. By using leading questions, a client may come to a
Socrates proclaimed we each have
an inner voice, a divine will (daemon) deep within. Like the oracle of Delphi, we
each have an inner knowing. Frankl called this our pre-reflective ontological
self-understanding – our wisdom of the heart. The
Socratic dialogue is used in line with the core principles of Logotherapy
recognising that deep inside the spiritual core of every human being resides a
sense of knowing who we potentially can become and the motivation to discover
what we are born to do.
Socrates suggested one
should never pour information into a student, but rather extract from him what
he already knows. Frankl
believed it is the task of the logotherapist not to tell clients what the meaning in their lives are but rather to elicit the
wisdom that is hidden within the spiritual domain. Extracting
something that is unique to the client presupposes that we stay as close to the
clients’ spiritual core as possible. We recognise success when the client
experiences a meaning-moment which can range from a surge of positive energy,
in body posture, a verbal expression, a reflective moment or an outright
comment that they are experiencing a new insight into a situation at hand. The sensitivity with which this must be done is
similar than the work of an archaeologist brushing away sand to reveal
archaeological treasures that were already there. This is a reminder that
meaning is not something that can ever be created or prescribed to the client.
The client is helped to discover (or re-discover) his inner values.
Frankl felt that the
spiritual core can never become sick but can become buried, disconnected from
the psyche. That is why we need to not only work on the conscious level but also
with the subconscious intuitive knowledge of the client – self-knowledge as
well as knowledge about life.
Clients come to us when
they are in crisis. The nature of the crisis in Logotherapy is understood as a
crisis of meaning and the clients’ intuitive spiritual self-knowledge to grasp
meaning. Logos (meaning) is greater than logic. In other words, we cannot always
logically reason out for ourselves why something has happened. Meaning always
happens in the dance between self and life. Between what is, and what ought to
be according to the moral guidance of what is right.
Like the other logotherapeutic techniques a
Socratic dialogue requires a lot of improvisation and intuition. There are many
ways to probe a clients’ unconscious and hidden knowledge about personal
meanings. Consider the following:
- Recall of past meaningful
- Dream interpretations that
focus on unconscious hopes and wishes rather than on repressed traumas
- Guided and unguided fantasies to reveal what the client considers meaningful
- Meaningful experiences of people the client considers to be role models
- Recall of peak experiences showing that life does have meaning
Socratic dialogue uses five guideposts to probe the areas in which meaning is most likely to be
The more you find out about the real you behind all the masks you put on for self protection the
more meaning you will discover.
The more choices you see in your situation, the more meaning will become available.
You are most likely to find meaning in situations where you are not easily replaced by someone else.
Your life will be meaningful if you learn to take responsibility where you have freedom of choice
and if you learn to not feel
responsible where you face an unalterable fate.
- Self-transcendence: Meaning comes to you when you reach beyond your
egocentricity toward others.
To uncover meaning moments from the past the coach
could ask some broad questions such
- What works or projects have you done, or what goals
have you achieved by using your talents and skills which you are proud of?
Maybe some of these touched others in a meaningful way. Tell me about times
- What great
and meaningful experiences have you had in your past – like little gifts have
you received from life – through your relationships with loved ones, your
culture, from nature or maybe even your religion? Think back and tell me about
- What hardships have you withstood in the past – where
did you take a stand which left you feeling stronger and better than before?
Moments which were a test to your courage and perseverance? Tell me about times
you were victorious in the face of adversity.
Depending on the particular situation a coach may
want to de-demonise a life-crises by using imagery.
- When discussing death: The Grim Reaper makes us two
promises. I will come to you all, and I will come in my own time. How does this
impact on your life? How does it impact on your relationships with your loved
ones? Death closes doors. Are there any closed doors in your life? Death takes
away. Look around and see what you are left with after he has taken it away.
What do you see?
- In case
of guilt: If guilt had a voice, what would it say to you now? You have made a
mistake and the seeds of guilt were planted in the past. How may it bear positive
fruit in the present and in the future?
- In case
of pain and suffering: They say that diamonds are forged under pressure, gold
is extracted through the intense heat of a furnace. Might anything good come
out of this situation you are in? What hidden treasures could be uncovered by
- Dealing with great
setbacks and bitter disappointments: You say this problem is like a mountain in
front of you – but is it not so that the most beautiful meandering rivers flow
around mountains. Unstoppable. How will you not be stopped?
Socratic questions in a Logotherapy session work towards
logos (meaning) and do not rely on logic.
Through provocative questioning, seemingly walking with a white stick, the
coach prods around in the discovery of meaning. Pointing towards the intuitive
wisdom of the heart this technique can bring the client to self-realization and
a new understanding of the potentialities and responsibilities that exist.
After any Logotherapy session the client should leave with hope and
responsibility. The building blocks of a new outcome are the belief that it is
possible and the resolve to take action.