8 Ways To Spark Inspiration In The Workplace

Monday, 19 April 2021

For an organization to succeed, it needs to have a workforce that is inspired to contribute to the overall objectives of that company.

Creating a workplace that sparks inspiration and breeds positivity brings many advantages to the organization. That’s because employees who are inspired become more productive and they are genuinely inspired to contribute more to the company beyond what is expected of them.

Ways to spark inspiration in the office

8 Ways To Spark Inspiration In The Workplace


    Spreading inspiration among employees for the overall good of the organization is not a new concept. In fact, if you search the internet, there is so much available literature related to this topic. Many companies have good employee programs in place to keep their people motivated to perform.

    Honesty and fairness


    Nonetheless, I still couldn’t help but ask why companies still fail or lag behind with regard to this area. Could it be because the sole objective is one-sided? Meaning, the focus is still the organization’s bottom line at the end of the day. I think what most employees want is to experience honesty and fairness from their supervisors.

    Here in the Philippines, most local companies can still be considered young in terms of impactful employee programs. Employees don’t just complain for the sake of complaining. I’ve heard colleagues complain because they were treated unfairly by a supervisor.

    It’s just so sad how other organizations paint their employees to be greedy individuals who complain at the slightest provocation. Well, I hope they open their eyes to what really goes on within their office spaces.

    Bullying in the office is still prevalent but it’s a sensitive topic that is most often discussed in hushed tones by the affected employees. Yes, in secret, for fear of retaliation from their supervisors.

    A supervisor who labels or calls his subordinates names is a bully. A higher-up who makes fun of a colleague’s looks or style is a bully. A boss who makes false accusations about his subordinate is a bully.

    However, Filipino culture dictates that the boss is always right, so most employees choose to keep silent. Or if they do decide to speak up, they are not taken seriously. I’ve had moments in my previous two companies when I chose to speak and to stand up, with reservations, of course, but nobody listened to me.

    The ideal employee


    The ideal employee is someone who doesn’t complain, is 100% efficient all the time, doesn’t commit mistakes, rakes in income for the company, is never late or absent, and so on. In short, they don’t really exist unless you want to hire robots or computers in your organization.

    Employees are humans. They have feelings and emotions, they get tired, they get hurt, they have fears and worries, and they have personal challenges. They won’t apply for a job in a company just to make friends but it still wouldn’t hurt to foster harmonious relationships between people.

    I’m far from being the ideal employee. I’m not personable; I’m not the type of magnetic person who can charm his way towards his supervisor’s and colleague’s hearts.

    I have social anxiety, so I dread talking to my bosses as well as to people such as in meetings. I have a hard time during presentations because I honestly feel like I’m going to pass out when I speak in front of a crowd.

    I’m not the smartest person around and I’m not the fastest learner. Whatever I know in my current job, it took me more than a decade to learn them. I also miss details because the multi-tasking style of most organizations doesn’t work for me.

    In spite of the challenges that I faced and continue to face, I’m proud to say that I’m an honest and hardworking employee. I don’t lie because I know my supervisors will catch me, that’s how transparent I am. So, I’d rather admit a fault than be caught lying about it and be penalized with an even graver offense.

    I’m sure a lot of you can also relate to these things. I’m sure you also have your struggles and that’s valid. You don’t have to feel that everything is your fault.

    Humanity in the workplace


    I’ve seen how companies tried to spark inspiration among their employees but it’s mostly one-way. Think of those endless employee announcements about the company’s performance, a news item featuring an executive, those endless volumes of books donated by the business to schools, and so forth.

    On the other hand, if these companies listened well to their employees, they’ll find out that these are not the only things that they need. Above anything else, people need to feel that they are valued. They are not merely foot soldiers who have to right to complain because they are being paid anyway.

    Here’s how I think companies can make a difference when it comes to people management:

    1. It’s ok to be kind


    Yes, it’s ok for supervisors to be kind to their subordinates. Again, we have feelings so we get hurt by harsh words or insensitive treatments.

    I’ve had a supervisor before who told me that, “We are not here to make friends. Why should you care about how they will feel? They need to give you what you are asking from them.” That’s after I reported to her that the information we were requesting was not yet available and that the person was asking for more time. She also added that I was too kind with my words and I shouldn’t mind too much what other people thought when it came to doing our job.

    As I’ve said, we are not machines. We get tired and we get overloaded. In an ideal situation, we get things in a timely manner but that is not the case. We are humans so we get tired, we get delays, and we forget things. Based on my experience, most of my peers don’t intentionally hold out information or delay a project. They just find it challenging to balance things. So, I choose to be kind.

    In a previous post, I said that we should be careful with our words so that’s what I do. I don’t know how my words can affect a person so I’m always selective with my words.

    Furthermore, supervisors should also respect other people’s time beyond the office.

    I remember another unforgettable instance with that same supervisor. One Sunday, I was home in Nueva Ecija happily talking to my father and just exchanging stories about the previous week. If you know me, I go home only on weekends and spend the rest of the week in Manila because of work.

    Anyway, in the middle of my conversation with my father, I got a call from that supervisor. She was panicking because, apparently, I sent the wrong PR to the reporters. Although the information is accurate, it was the wrong version because there was an item in there that needed disclosure before it was to be issued out.

    That call, which was less than 5 minutes, was enough to ruin my mood and cut the conversation with my father short. Throughout the day, until I got to the office the next day, I was anxious. To cut the long story short, everything turned out to be fine.

    I remember one instance from another company. This time, we were working on a New Year event for our media friends. It needed a media kit but the information had to be disclosed first to PSE. I was already shaken after days of getting harsh words from our boss.

    On the day of the event, the PR agency asked me if they can distribute the media kit, I unknowingly cleared it with my immediate supervisor, who gave the go signal for the release. The kits were distributed to the guests and our boss was appalled to see it because it had not yet been disclosed.

    Long story short, I received more berating from our boss. He talked to me in a corner and I could see his eyes blazing and threatening me regarding my employment. We found a solution for it but that event dictated his treatment of me for the rest of my stay with the group. No matter what I did after that, it was just never enough.

    2. Be supportive of new ideas


    “Great things start from small beginnings,” says the popular powdered chocolate drink brand. Great talent is nurtured and supported because it’s not born without flaws. It needs years of honing and polishing to address those imperfections.

    That’s also true in the workplace. No big idea is born overnight. As such, I hope supervisors would encourage their subordinates to share their ideas when it comes to product and service delivery. It’s also a good way to make them feel that they are valued and that they have a voice in the company.

    3. Take time to listen


    We all have an innate need to be heard. Thus, a good way to also spark inspiration among employees is to take time to listen to them. Listen to their struggles and their needs. What could be hindering them from performing well or from succeeding in their tasks?

    You don’t necessarily have to promise action with regard to their challenges but you can at least give some advice on how to overcome their obstacles.

    If you are being a little generous, you can also ask them to share a bit about their personal stories. That’s a quick way to get to know a person better and understand why they are that way.

    4. Don’t compare


    Comparison between employees is guaranteed to cause division among colleagues as well as dissatisfaction. It will likewise promote a loss of confidence in the supervisor.

    If you must mention the name of another person, make sure that it’s something constructive to the individual you are talking to. Making comparisons creates unhealthy competition between the people involved. It can create chaos and may lead to one person eventually leaving the organization.

    5. Employees are not the punching bags of supervisors


    Employees have their own problems so they don’t need any additional onslaught of negativity from their supervisors anymore.

    This brings back memories of another superior in my first bank. He would easily lose his temper over the smallest and most trivial of things.

    Then he would gather us in a room and then subject us to a litany of the things that irk him for hours on end. There was even an instance when we were forced to stay in the office until midnight (yes, 12 AM!) just to listen to him rant over and over again about how inefficient we were. 

    He even had the gall to challenge us to report him to HR because if we did that, he would build a case against us, which he was sure we’d lose because he knew people inside.

    6. Spread only the truth


    Ah, truthfulness. It’s a rarity in the office. But above anybody else, those in power should be the one spreading the truth and not false stories.

    More so, supervisors shouldn’t be the ones twisting information about their colleagues just to make up deceitful narratives. It will only promote loss of confidence and general dissent within the team.

    I’ve encountered one person who was living in her own fantasy world. She’d tell stories about her previous colleagues and even our own colleagues. I found out later on that what she told were the exact opposites of what really happened.

    7. Give an employee what is due him


    I distinctly remember one former colleague about her opinion when it comes to giving a rating. Unless a person is deliberately disregarding or not making an effort to better his job, it’s not right to give him a failing rating.

    An office is a dynamic setting, things happen that are beyond our control, even if plans and strategies are in place. As such, we can’t always expect a person to be able to do everything listed in his KRA sheet. On the other hand, supervisors should be flexible to recognize a person who has given his time and effort to perform his duties.

    I remember another story, a time when I had to pitch in for a colleague. He had to be on sick leave for weeks before a major operation. A big project was coming up because our company was going public. The task was assigned to me because it was somehow related to my job function. I did everything almost singlehandedly but I lost a lot of sleep and several weekends because of it. It was successful and I was quite satisfied with it.

    When the rating season came though, the weights of my tasks were adjusted on the spot. That project was assigned a meager percentage and a bigger fraction was allocated to another project. my supervisor’s reason was that it wasn’t my primary KRA. It was just assigned to me because my colleague was on leave.

    Because of that, I couldn’t take credit for it. I argued, even asked why it was assigned to me in the first place when it will cause me to fail. My boss just reasoned out that things like that happen in the office and I just had to live with that. In the end, my rating plummeted because of that adjustment.

    I kept thinking of all the sleepless nights and missed weekends and still, not a single peso was added to my salary.

    8. Try to get to know a person better


    It’s true that we don’t necessarily have to make friends with our colleagues. It’s our prerogative, anyway. However, I still believe that we should exert an effort to know a person better to understand where they are coming from or what caused them to act in a certain way.

    I have had many challenges in the office because I interpret things differently. As a matter of fact, I can be very literal and that happens to me almost all the time. This brings to mind another story that got me in big trouble one time.

    On one seemingly innocent afternoon, my manager burst out of his office panicking that a report has not yet been posted on the website and that Mr. Big Boss would surely look for it and reprimand the team for the infraction.

    Out of nervousness, I interpreted that the instruction to post the report was from Mr. Big Boss himself so I called and emailed the department that is responsible for technical support and told them exactly that – Mr. Big Boss was looking for the item in question.

    It turned out that my manager didn’t mean it that way; he meant that he was just foreseeing Mr. Big Boss to be furious if he found out about that report’s unavailability on the website. The technical team then asked me for documentation, which was non-existent in the first place.

    Anyway, the words of my boss were along the lines of “Bahala ka d’yan. Hindi kita kayang sagutin d’yan.” I could understand his frustrations, honestly. However, I wish he talked to me well regarding what happened.

    Eventually, I got a three-day suspension because of that incident. They wouldn’t listen to my explanation and what’s even worse was that my immediate supervisor accused me of lying and insisted that I lied even if I was explaining that they totally misunderstood what I said.

    My point is, I wished they took the effort to listen to me or reach out to me to get to know me better. We were a team and a person should be given equal opportunities unless that individual is intentionally making an effort to disregard their duties or pull the team down.

    Close to the end of my tenure in that organization, I was glad because I was able to transfer to another department. I was with a supervisor who gave me the opportunity to grow, succeed and believe in my abilities again. I was also to redeem myself before I finally made an exit.

    Epilogue


    People who are working in a company are not machines. They have feelings, they have dreams, and they have emotions. While it’s true that we don’t always have to be friends with our colleagues, it still wouldn’t hurt to treat each other fairly and with civility.

    It’s just sad that many supervisors, when given authority, have the tendency to abuse their power. With these stories, I wanted to highlight that bullying and abuse exist in the office. I just wish human resource executives would also take the time to listen.

    In many instances, the saying that “when there’s smoke, there’s fire” is true. I hope executives would use their influence to inspire their subordinates instead of causing them to suffer.

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    How to spark inspiration in the office

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