Transforming work and workplaces

By on May 11, 2015
For more than 25 years now,  I have worked with individuals and organizations to transform their work and their workplaces. In many ways the situation has improved. Technology has made it possible for people to work from anywhere, giving rise to more flexible work arrangements that accommodate different lifestyles and schedules. Hierarchies have flattened and transparency has increased, giving employees at all levels the opportunity to have more impact at work.    Silicon Valley giants like Apple and Google have made jeans, bean bag chairs, ping pong tables, and vegan cafeteria food seem like normal parts of the office environment. An abundance of research on how workplace wellness, ethical leadership, values alignment, and employee engagement link to better bottom line profits has made these topics regular visitors at the executive table.

But how well are we really doing? The average worker today will have 15-20 jobs where they only had 1-3 in past generations. In the United States, depression is said to cause 200 million lost workdays each year. Despite efforts to curb overtime and increase work-life balance, karoshi – death by overwork – remains an all too common fixture of Japanese work life. A 2013 Regus Group survey of 1000 corporations in 16 countries showed 6 in 10 people experienced an increase in workplace stress in the past year. The 2012 Gallup State of the Global Workplace report found that only 13% of employees worldwide are truly engaged in their work, 63% are just going through the motions, and 24% are actively looking to share their misery.           Clearly workplaces worldwide continue to be in need of transformation.

So where do we start? Individuals can start by finding their purpose, discovering their strengths, aligning with their values and taking action to create a career that energizes and inspires them. But after 25 years of coaching people to find meaningful work, I know that no matter how well your job aligns with your strengths, the real key to transforming work rests on the shoulders of one group, bosses. Unfortunately most bosses are missing the mark. A recent Inc. Magazine infographic gives us the following stats to chew on:
• 3 out of 4 employees report that their boss is the worst and most stressful part of their job.
• 65% of employees would take a new boss over a pay raise.
• Bad bosses cost the U.S. alone $360 billion/year in lost productivity.

But just as bosses have tremendous power to make work a living hell, they also hold the key to making work fun and building workplaces that excite, energize, inspire, and challenge everyone in them to reach their full potential. The key rests in becoming aware of and consciously shifting out of the old mindsets that lead bosses – and those that work for them – to propagate the kind of culture that limits people’s ability to do work that will amaze themselves and the world.

The first mindset shift leaders must make to transform work for themselves and their organizations is from survival to thriving.

You have a Survival mindset if you tend to keep your nose to the grindstone, uphold the status quo, waste a lot of energy trying to ensure you don’t screw up and try to blame others when you do. People with a Survive Mindset are driven by the desire to stay safe and comfortable.

People with a Thrive Mindset, by contrast, are excited about pushing the envelope, and figuring out ways to add value to the company, their own lives, and even to the world. This mindset welcomes mistakes as learning opportunities, encourages people to make them, and creates a culture where it is safe, and even expected, to challenge the status quo.

Even though the Survival Mindset seeks safety and comfort, it is inherently more stressful because it is fear based and focused on avoiding problems. This reactive stance leads to small problems turning into big stress over time as they are ignored. The Thrive mindset, by contrast, is excited to engage with problems, take risks, and explore possibilities, so they proactively seek out challenges to address, ensuring that fewer molehills turn into mountains.

Take some time this month to become aware of where you are operating from a survival mindset, make the choice to act from a thrive mindset, and then join me over the next several issues as I explore the remaining 10 key mindset shifts that employees at all levels can make to lead workplace transformation.

Read part 2

About Andrea Jacques

Andrea Jacques is the founder of Kyosei Consulting and the author of Wabi-Sabi Wisdom: Inspiration for an Authentic Life (available on She has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of people and businesses worldwide, five of which were in Japan. A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work integrates spiritual insight with top-tier leadership, wellness and sustainability consulting to help individuals and organizations build thriving, purpose-driven cultures where employees know their work truly matters. She can be contacted through her website at