By Laura Huygens, Rehabilitation Consultant – Occupational Therapist
No, I’m not talking about getting a stronger core by sitting on an 80’s aerobics ball at work.
I’m talking about the core of who you are, what your world view is, and most importantly, what your values are. If you’re wondering whether I’ve just been on a yoga retreat or swallowed a philosophy book, you are mistaken. Instead, I’ve gotten a dose of vitamin ACT – Acceptance Commitment Therapy.
As a new graduate OT, I am fortunate to engage in professional development sessions at my workplace. Recently, I have started learning about ACT. To summarise, this is a therapeutic style that focuses on accepting our thoughts, emotions, and feelings as neutral, and then using strategies to unhook from these thoughts, emotions and feelings so they don’t consume us. ACT has several concepts all rolled into one therapeutic approach. One of the key concepts of using ACT and ACT strategies comes from first connecting with your core values. Whilst values are only one part of ACT, it is something that I personally really like the idea of, as everyone’s values ultimately shape who they are as a person.
At our workplace, we often use ACT to help resolve workplace conflicts or when providing support to employees within their workplace. The reason for this is quite simple: most often, there is a disconnect between the values of an employee and the values of either another employee, their company, or even their work.
I must admit, when I was first introduced to ACT being used as a tool for workplace conflicts, I didn’t quite get it. However, once I read and learnt more about it, ACT is just the thing for this type of workplace dilemma.
Let’s break this down. When a disagreement or challenging situation occurs at work, what is the primary reason for this? It is usually because something within us has been challenged. Think about when you hear something on the news that makes you feel upset, angry or frustrated. These feelings and thoughts of “that’s not fair” or “I can’t believe something like this happened”, it is because your values (for example, of human rights or equality) have been challenged. Maybe it’s your value of kindness or generosity. Whatever it may be, something within you that makes up your core is at conflict with what is around you.
Translate this to our workplace, and we begin to see how easily conflict or challenging situations can occur if we don’t know what makes up the core of each person we work with.
Something that can be quite simple but highly effective in any workplace is to ask each person what their top 2-3 values are, and to communicate this in an open forum so everyone can begin to appreciate what makes up the core of their colleagues. Not only does this assist with greater team dynamics and open communication in the workplace, it can help to prevent conflict from arising.
I may be biased but I really like the way my workplace displays everyone’s top two values on a wall in the office. It’s not only a nice way to add some décor to an otherwise blank wall, but it can become a helpful reminder to all who walk past as to the values of their colleagues.
If you’re having difficulty pin-pointing your top values, try and describe what brings you joy or what brings success to your day/week/month. Often times, there will be a common theme amongst these that can take the form of your values. For me, I really struggled to narrow down my top two values. However, when I asked myself what brings me joy, my top answers were “spending time with my family, goofing around with my pets, and helping my parents, siblings and friends”. So, the common themes emerged and led me to my top two values: family and kindness.
Now that my workplace knows this about me, they can understand me better and how to best communicate with me, support me, and to give me feedback. I also can now appreciate what makes my colleagues who they are and how I can best communicate with them so we can work cohesively as a well-oiled machine.
If you haven’t found your core at work yet, then now is the perfect time! Maybe at your next staff meeting, give out some homework and then re-convene next meeting to discuss everyone’s core values. I guarantee it’ll make for a stronger workplace.