How Alcohol Addiction Affect Your Marriage And Relationship

At a time when liquor stores have been deemed essential during the Covid-19 crisis, alcohol abuse can cause relationship problems that can destroy a family and leave lasting emotional scars for years to come. 

Alcohol addiction is an epidemic across the world. The CDC estimates that six people die every day from alcohol poisoning. Of the 15 million people that struggle with alcohol misuse, less than eight percent seek help for their addictions.

This can create a myriad of problems in a marriage. The decline of a partner’s health and experiencing belligerent, aggressive, and disrespectful behavior from a spouse is hurtful to experience.

Substance abuse is a serious threat to marriage that can affect partners in more ways than one. Here are the 6 ways that alcohol addiction causes serious relationship problems.

Emotional Distress 

When your spouse is sober, your relationship is wonderful. You have a great connection, a passionate sex life, and a deep emotional bond. But once your partner has a drink, your stomach sinks. The kind, compassionate, loving person you had just spent the day with is suddenly emotional, aggressive, and just plain mean.

Alcoholics may react to alcohol in different ways. They may become verbally insulting, emotionally abusive, may resort to crying and hosting pity-parties, or may be frequently unfaithful when under the influence.

Being the sober spouse of an alcoholic partner is an exhausting journey that can cause great emotional distress.

Neglecting the Marriage

An alcoholic is selfish when under the influence. They are only out for their own enjoyment. As stated above, this may result in infidelity and other blatant acts of disrespect towards the marriage.

In order to have a happy, healthy marriage, couples need to spend quality time together. They must work on communication and maintain emotional and physical intimacy. 

Studies show that the inability to communicate with a partner is one of the most common reasons for divorce. If you and your spouse can no longer communicate, sober or otherwise, it may be time for separation in marriage.

Negatively Effects Children

When a spouse is struggling with addiction, it is common for them to start neglecting their family responsibilities. Even something like having a game night with the children or watching a movie together becomes impossible and robs children of a loving household.

Statistics on children of alcoholics show that they are likely to

  • Seek romantic relationships with alcoholics or abusers
  • Be socially inept
  • Engage in dangerous or risky behavior
  • Fail in school
  • Have an unhealthy obsession with overachieving
  • Confuse sex with love
  • Have low self-esteem
  • Manifest a physical illness
  • Abuse drugs
  • Suffer from depression or other mental health issues

American Addiction Centers reports that children who grow up with at least one alcoholic parent are more likely to become an alcoholic themselves.

Living with an alcoholic can also be scary for a child. In some cases, they will be witness to the instability brought on by alcoholism. They are statistically more likely to experience physical, verbal, or sexual abuse while living in the home of an alcoholic. 

Children may also feel the effects of the financial ruin caused by alcohol addiction.

Financial Troubles

Alcoholics will do anything to feed their addiction. Some resort to prostitution in exchange for a drink, while others think nothing of draining the family banks accounts, savings, and piling up credit card debt all to get a fix.

Furthermore, alcohol acts as a depressant, which can cause an individual to have a poor judgment with regards to emotional and financial aspects of the marriage.

If you are experiencing relationship problems at the hands of an alcoholic spouse, but you do not want to consider separation in marriage, do your best to ensure all financial matters are in your care. Do not allow your spouse to have access to bank accounts or credit cards, as this could put your family in severe debt.

Abusive Patterns Form

Marital conflict is hard to live with on a daily basis. Abuse often occurs in a relationship with an alcoholic.

Research shows that each year, more than 10 million women and men will experience physical abuse at the hands of a romantic partner.  Physical violence may manifest itself when an intoxicated partner becomes aggressive or confused.

Verbal abuse can be just as painful as physical. Common side effects of an abuser include:

  • Control the spouse’s social life
  • Express severe jealousy and possessive behavior
  • Resort to physical aggression and abuse, resulting in damage to the home, car, or leave a spouse in the hospital
  • Verbally abuse and belittle 
  • Cause embarrassment and shame
  • Make a spouse believe they are worthless
  • Inflict severe stress to a marriage

These are deeply unhealthy behaviors that no one should tolerate. If you feel you are in an abusive or toxic relationship, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text 1-800-787-3224 for help to get out of that dangerous situation.

Unhealthy and Dangerous Behavior

Serious alcohol addiction can create troubling patterns of control that make it difficult for them to leave safely. In fact, most violence toward women occurs when she tries to leave an abusive situation. Other troubling behaviors that make it hard to separate from a spouse may include:

  • Severe guilting or blaming the victim for the drinker’s behavior
  • Threatening self-harm if a partner says they are considering separation in marriage
  • Unfairly using the children against a spouse, “Please, let’s keep our family together” or “You aren’t allowed to see the children if you’re willing to break up our family like this.”
  • Keeping finances, identification cards, and other material needs from a spouse to prevent their leaving 

Betty Jo Barrett, an associate professor at the University of Windsor says that, regarding intimate-partner violence, “the risk of domestic homicide becomes highest during the period of separation.” She goes on to say that this is a form of power and control.

Being with an alcoholic is bound to cause serious relationship problems. You deserve to be with someone who loves and appreciates you. If your spouse is unwilling to get help for their addictions, it may be in the best interest of you and any children to seek help apart from your spouse.

Good Mental Health Equals a Happy Marriage

Happily married couples enjoy better mental health status, according to researchers.  They fall sick less often, have fewer instances of depression and anxiety, and suffer less from loneliness and feelings of solitude.  A recent study in Sweden shows that mentally healthy married couples are less likely to get pneumonia, undergo surgeries, develop cancer or have heart attacks. It makes sense that the joy that is part of being part of a happy couple translates to mental and physical well-being.

What are some of the benefits to a marriage in which affects partners in possessing good mental health?

Security.  Mentally healthy people provide each other with a sense of security.  They don’t have to wonder if the person they are coming home to will be “up” or “down” or worry about leaving the children in their care.  They are free from the worry that their partner is secretly unhappy or hiding some big secret.  They don’t have the situation where one person plays the role of the parent, and the other one of a child.  It is truly a marriage of healthy equals.

Mutual support.  With two mentally healthy people, there is a built-in support system.  Each is invested in helping the other reach their goals, whether they are personal or professional.  Need someone to listen to a business pitch you’ll be presenting tomorrow?  Your partner is there.  Looking for a running partner?  Your spouse, may be eager to join you. Happy, stable people do not mind when their partners seek to improve themselves and are happy to be part of their transformations.  There is no jealousy or sense of competition.

Witnessing life’s events together.  Mentally healthy people embrace their roles as witnesses to each other’s lives.  They are there for each other as they go through the inevitable life stages with all the joy and challenges these stages can bring.  They accompany each other to life celebrations as well as doctors’ appointments and hospital procedures.  What a gift it is to know that “in sickness and in health” is not an idle phrase.

Goal-setting and accomplishing.  Mentally-sound couples have a higher chance of accomplishing a goal together, as they are excellent at collaborating.  They enjoy shared activities because they know that doing things together promotes a stronger relationship.

Eating together.  Mentally-healthy couples love to come together at mealtimes, as they provide an opportunity to share both food and conversation.  Additionally, they enjoy grocery shopping together, and deciding what the meal plan will look like.  This generally leads to healthier home menus.

Physical health mindfulness.  These couples seek to maintain and sustain good physical health, integrating new knowledge about wellness and urging each other in health-related activities.

Encouragement and Praise vs. Criticism and Nagging. Happy couples use encouragement and praise as communication tools rather than criticism and nagging their partner to do something.

Respect and Fairness. Both partners share the workload at home and there are no gender roles.  Both partners respect the work each contributes to keep the home happy and balanced.  They remember to express thanks and gratitude to each other.

There’s an understanding of each other’s love language.  Mentally sound couples understand where the other person is coming from. They understand how each expresses love. They do not seek to teach the other the “best” way to love.  Rather, they learn and appreciate each other’s unique style.  Whether it is physical touch, verbal affirmations, gifts, notes, surprises or just doing the dishes when it isn’t “their turn”, there is an understanding of each other’s manner of demonstrating their feelings.

Better sex, even into the golden years.  Happy, mentally stable couples have better sex.  These couples use good communication skills which help them keep their intimate lives active and evolving.  They do not use sex as a weapon, withholding it to punish or hurt a partner.  (They talk things out so issues don’t carry over to the bedroom.)

5 Motivational Books That Will Help Improve Your Relationships

Sometimes, motivation is necessary for students and teachers to enhance their relationship. In many cases, teachers criticize their students without understanding the challenges they face both at home and at school. During my school years, I was bullied because I was considered soft or not being a tough guy, and I never fought back. To be honest, it was some of the worst years of my life, but I endured it. I also experienced that some of my teachers couldn’t control their attitude towards students especially with me. Maybe you have a difficult relationship in your life, but how do you get through it or try to change the outcome?

Motivation to endure is what kept me going no matter what circumstances I was facing. Now that my school days are in the past, I still need motivation when it comes to facing barriers and challenges in my daily life. Reading inspirational books have given me insight into myself and others, and they help to give me the energy and excitement to continue my journey no matter how bad my situation is. Not only do they apply to improving teacher-student situations, but the lessons learned from these books can be applied to any relationship.

Without further ado, I would like to share five motivational books that would help build a long lasting relationship:

1 – Hit Your Life’s Reset Button by Marc V. Lopez

Marc V. Lopez is a guy who prioritizes God before anything else. He preaches and attends a Roman Catholic praise and worship group known as The Feast founded by Bro. Bo Sanchez. When I participated in a bible study session, he inserted himself promoting his book. I immediately bought it from him, with his signature on it. Marc and I are friends in real life, and I consider him as one of my mentors in life.

For those who lean towards spiritual guidance, this book may appeal to you more than the others. It focuses on improving your relationship with others by putting God at the center of everything. The book costs $4.99 on Amazon.

You can find out more about Marc’s book here.

2 – The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard

When it comes to personal power, Brendon Burchard is my man. Ever since my friend introduced me to Brendon Burchard, it changed the way I look at life. Sometimes it is easier to gain insight into oneself by reading their journey of someone else. I was inspired by Brendon Burchard’s story from his struggles to success. The main concept is how to look at every situation in a positive way, even if you’re at the worst point of your life.

The Motivation Manifesto is free of charge, and you only need to pay for shipping. I pay something around $7+ for shipping, and it arrived at the post office in less than a month.

You can find more about Brendon’s book here.

3 – Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Another motivational book that I want to recommend is Simon Sinek’s Starts With Why. I bought this book a couple of years ago, and it’s something that inspired me to develop my leadership skills. I firmly believe that this book would be great for anyone looking to become a better leader or manager. It shares inspiring stories from great leaders from the past on how they were able to lead their people to achieve success. If you want to become a better leader, start with this book.

The book itself cost around $10 in the bookstore. You can buy this on Amazon marketplace too. There’s paperback, hardcover, Kindle version and more.

You can find more about Simon’s book here.

4 – How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People teaches you how to navigate stressful relationships. Even if you meet difficult people, the book can teach you how to manage them very well. If you’re a teacher who has problems in handling difficult students, or a student who has an arrogant advisor, this book is for you to read.  If you want to learn how to have more success in your relationships and becoming influential in your social networks, this book will help start your journey.

The book cost you $9 in average. It may be only $9 to spare, but reading the whole thing might get you thinking that it’s worth millions.

You can find more about Dale’s book here.

5 – 25 Ways To Win With People by John C. Maxwell

John C. Maxwell’s 25 Ways To Win With People. It teaches you how to be a better communicator and help you learn skills to change the dynamics of your relationships. This book gives principles to guide you to better love and treat others well, and it also discusses leadership and how to understand different personalities. Once you are able to see your relationships from a different lens, it will be easier to develop and improve them.

For the price of this book, it’s around $15.99 for a paperback cover.

You can find more about John’s book here.

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. – Carl Jung

7 Scientifically-Baked Ways to Get Rid of Worries

When it comes to being a healthy person, most of us think about having a good physical health only. While it’s important to prevent illnesses, mental health also plays a significant role in your overall well-being that affects your mood and motivation. Believe it or not, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S these days, and the number of stress-inducers is growing rapidly: difficult work schedule, tough deadlines, a misunderstanding with friends and family, troubles at home, an imbalance between work and life, etc.

Balanced Healthy Nutrition

Proper nutrition guarantees a good number of vitamins that keep your body physically and mentally well. It also protects brain cells by increasing blood flow to your brain, and you start thinking better. When you’re about to burn out, your body may deny eating, but it’s important to keep a balanced diet to get all significant elements, minerals, and vitamins.

A list of products that help to remove stress and anxiety:

  • avocados
  • chamomile or green tea
  • walnuts
  • dark chocolate
  • blueberries

A healthy diet is not just about keeping fit; it’s also about enriching your organism with important vitamins to keep its proper work on fighting against various diseases, including mental ones.

Have Enough Sleep Daily

Sleep allows you to recharge the brain and let the body rest. It helps to reduce stress and keep your body energetic. If you’re about to burn out, your body has a set of signs to fight against this state. In fact, worries and anxiety cause sleep problems, but having enough sleep daily is a way out to prevent stress. It seems to be a closed circle. As most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per day, you need to ensure that your body gets a proper amount of rest daily.

Create a Perfect Environment at Work

You spend around 10.3 years of your life working, and that’s what matters. Your workplace has an impact on your well-being, and it’s important to create a perfect environment, an atmosphere that will stimulate and motivate you. To organize a good workplace, you need to think about everything, including the smallest details: the color of the walls, a comfortable office chair, well-organized table with shelves for keeping stuff, an inspirational corner, and much more.

Key takeaways:

  • blue and green are the most effective colors to diffuse anxiety
  • cactus and aloe are the most common plants for your office desk
  • keeping everything at its place enhances productivity
  • proper lighting at work reduces eyestrain and improves overall well-being
  • having motivational things at the workplace boosts inspirational

While most people try to create a comfortable house, just a few of us think about having a comfortable workplace at the office. To reduce the risks of burning out, create a perfect environment that is aimed at improving your physical and mental health.

Develop Self-Knowledge and Awareness

It goes without saying that all people are different, and every of us has habits that affect our normal life. If you know that it’s in your nature to think much about worries, you can work on it in order to get rid of a bad mood. The more you know your character and typical behavior, the better. To develop self-knowledge and awareness, you need to work hard by discovering more about yourself. If you know a lot about yourself, it’s easier to detect what worries are just a figment of your imagination.

Establish Deep and Reliable Relationships

Humans are social creatures, no matter what type of person you are. It’s in our nature to communicate with other people, and this process is important for your well-being. If you’re an introvert or extrovert, you need to have good relations with family, friends, and colleagues to feel safety as it’s a proof of being a member of a group. Once anxiety comes, communication with reliable people helps to identify the roots of this disorder and find solutions for fighting against it. Having deep and reliable relationships is a must for humans.

Own a Pet

Since ancient times, humans have had relationships with animals. Keeping a pet at home is a common practice nowadays, but it also lowers stress even if you don’t think about. One study finds that keeping dogs as pets help children reduce stress. At the same time, taking care of someone requires consideration, responsibility, and time. In other words, you stay focused on carrying about pets instead of thinking much about potential worries.

Take an Action

If you’re interested in finding out ways to get rid of worries, it’s a good sign that you’ve accepted this problem. Once you know that anxiety hits you, take an action. Although understanding the problem is good, the best way to solve it is to work on finding solutions. Many scientists claim that fears and problems are nowhere but in your head, and if you can accept this fact, you’re about to stop worrying once and for all. If any additional proof needed, pay attention to the fact that 85% of what you worry about never happens, a study reveals.

Mental health maintenance requires a lot of work, and to get rid of worries, you need to have a desire to do it. If you understand that worries prevent you from living a good and happy life, its high time to find what works well for you when it comes to staying calm and satisfied.

Five Reasons to Embrace Conflict

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Conflict — it’s easy to avoid. In fact, we often do anything we can to avoid it (well, I do) which often means not doing anything. However, within the last 24 hours, I was involved in a conflict situation with a colleague. I won’t go into the detail because it’s irrelevant.

But, the process the two of us went through — an action, a reaction by me that created conflict and then a conversation to come to a resolution — reminded me that, even though it is acutely uncomfortable when handled constructively, conflict can truly have a positive outcome.

Here are five reasons to embrace, rather than avoid, conflict.

1. YOU GET TO KNOW WHAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW

I discovered that, behind the action to which I had reacted, were circumstances I hadn’t been aware of. It’s possible that, had I not reacted, I may have not become aware of these circumstances as quickly as I did.

2. YOU DON’T HOLD GRUDGES

Reacting in real-time stopped me building up resentment and negative feelings that, in light of the circumstances, were illusions — unreality, not reality.

3. YOU LEARN (OR REMEMBER) STUFF

Through the conflict process, I learnt (or remembered) that there was another side to the situation that I hadn’t, for many reasons, been aware of. I remembered that, when someone acts differently, to say, “This is unexpected. What’s happened to create a different than usual action?”

4. YOU GET TO COMMUNICATE OPENLY AND BUILD A STRONGER RELATIONSHIP

Because I was open to resolve the conflict with my colleague and, fortunately, so were they, we had a wonderful conversation where we both apologised and accepted each other’s apology, talked about the wider context we were working in and, in my case, acknowledged projections (of past events and people) that triggered my reaction. This led to genuine tears and hugs — how often do you get those wholesome, healing gifts to become closer to someone in a day’s work?

5. YOU LEARN ABOUT DIVERSITY, COMPLEXITY, UNCERTAINTY AND CHANGE

In the course of our courageous conversation, we learnt about our own diversity more specifically the meanings and understandings we held that were common/similar and unique/different, the complexity of the environment in which we are working and our responses to that; the uncertainty in which we are both working (for us this is quite overt, but its presence is a possibility for everyone); and change (again, obvious for us but, as the adage goes, the one and only constant an every manifestation of our lives).

What can we learn from conflict?

It’s so easy to strive to keep the peace, chill out and not confront things. We see this as a way of creating harmony and getting along. But it’s not. Embracing conflict is not about petty in-fighting and unreasoned arguments. It’s about recognising schisms or differences in opinion or belief as early as possible and naming them in objective and non-affronting terms.

Most of all, constructively embracing conflict requires the desire and intent to foster closer relationships, rather than the fear or reluctance to build them.

How Close Are You To Your Workmates?

When I hear the word ‘relationships’ I most often think of those in life we are closest to; family, friends and romantic partners.  However in this article, I want to reflect on a kind of relationship that we don’t often hear too much about – and that’s the relationships we form with the people we work with in paid (or voluntary) employment.

Work relationships can be multi-faceted and complex.  We can form close bonds and friendships, spending time with colleagues outside of work hours and becoming quite close in our personal lives.  If we’re lucky, I think, we can find that our work and personal lives blur especially in a job we enjoy with people we like, going to work can feel like a pleasure rather than a chore and meetings can be a bit like a social occasion.

Or, we can be in the polar opposite situation. We might find we don’t really share the same values or interests as our workmates, and so keep our relationships simply professional.  Or worse, we can actively dislike someone we have to work with, and have to navigate this tricky dynamic day-in and day-out.  This can be incredibly difficult and stressful, particularly when you have to work closely on the same projects, or with the same clients.

When I add it up, I’ve worked in 20 or so different employment roles over the past 15 years, including full-time, part-time, contracting and volunteer roles.  This number is high partly because of all the part-time jobs I’ve had over the 10 years I studied at university, partly because I’m an independent contractor at times, and partly because in truth, I love variety in my work and having a number of projects on the go at any one time.

Having a lot of different jobs has meant that I’ve had to form working relationships with quite a large number of people.  Some have been wonderfully close and supportive people who I still maintain contact with now one of which has even become my partner of seven years.  Others sadly have been incredibly unpleasant, passive-aggressive, dysfunctional relationships that have caused a great deal of stress and sorrow.  Luckily, I can say with honesty that I don’t have any of those types of relationships in any of my current roles – although many people unfortunately do.

So what have I learned, through managing all of these different work relationships?  If anything, I think it would be that in any relationship, be it work or otherwise, the only person whose behaviour I realistically have any power to change is my own.  While I completely believe in healthy conversations and working things out wherever possible, I’ve had to accept at times that for whatever reason, I simply do not get along with a particular person.  In these cases I’ve learned that the best I can do is moderate my own behaviour and not let another person affect my personal and professional integrity.

Also, I think it’s important not to sweat the small stuff too much at work.  You can’t expect to get along with everyone, and even when you do, everyone has a bad day sometimes.  When you do have that question mark, it’s also okay to ask, “Hey, what’s up?  I might be totally wrong, but did I do something to annoy you?” Or, “Are you okay?  You seem not quite yourself today?”  If someone chooses to say, “I’m fine!” when obviously they are not, then at least you’ve done what you can to resolve any potential issue.

These small things might seem relatively obvious and straightforward, but I’ve found that simple does work.  Our work colleagues are often the people we spend the most time with, and how functional or healthy these relationships are can have a huge effect on our general stress levels and overall wellbeing.  For that reason alone I think it’s important to cultivate healthy relationships in the workplace as much as possible and, where we can’t, maybe even ask ourselves if it might be time to move on.

Helping Children Overcome Genetic Risk for Externalizing Disorders

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Imagine loving someone, having children with that person, and then realizing that you’ve gotten yourself involved in an abusive relationship.

Imagine suspecting that your partner, the mother or father of your children, has a personality disorder — and then hearing that personality disorders are highly genetic. If you’re a therapist, imagine this person is your client. What do you do?

I believe we can and should intervene in the lives of children who are at risk of developing externalizing disorders, such as ADHD, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and substance use disorders. If we do, we may be able to prevent these children from developing personality disorders as adults.

When we study large numbers of people affected by externalizing disorders and personality disorders in particular, we see that about 50 percent of the risk for these disorders is genetic. That means the environment children grow up in, including their interactions with parents, siblings, and peers, also strongly influences the development of the disorder.

With the right environmental influences, genetic risk may be mitigated. Most programs to support victims of partner abuse do not address the issue of genetic risk. If we start early, and if we put a little energy into helping children, both the child and the family can be spared a lot of anguish due to emotional and behavioral problems later on.

By and large, programs that teach parenting skills are good. But for this particular group of children, parenting approaches that emphasize rules, consequences, and discipline, may not be the most effective.

Research is finding that internalizing disorders, such as anxiety and depression, relate to the inhibition system of the brain, whereas externalizing disorders relate to the dopamine reward system.

What we want to do with this group of children is to train their brain reward system to respond to positive rewards — most importantly a loving family and affection. It’s very difficult to train a child to respond to affection in a good way when you’re punishing the child every five minutes for something the child is doing.

Still, love is not enough. We also have to train the child to enjoy doing things that are productive, like work — because life involves work — and hobbies, such as music and sports.

I advocate a two-pronged approach, although one of the prongs of my approach has not been thoroughly researched.

I believe in teaching the parents and the children — in developmentally appropriate language — what genetic risk is about. In the case of externalizing disorders, it involves difficulty with self-control. I think it’s important to teach children, when they show problems with self-control, to identify their issue, and to help them understand that it’s something they can work on. This teaching has not been well researched, but it is similar to cognitive behavioral therapies that are used for children.

The other part of my approach is teaching parents to interact with their children in a positive way and to enjoy their children. Now, I understand that this can be difficult when the children have issues with self-control. But we’re focusing on training that reward system, and if there’s no enjoyment, you cannot train the reward system.

Of course, sometimes the genes express themselves so strongly that no amount of loving parenting can overcome the genetic risk. But if we try, we may be able to save many children from a lifetime of disorder and antisocial behavior. I think the effort is worth it.

Resignations and Employment Relationships — I Quit?

I’ve been reflecting on the complex dynamics of employment relationships (ER) — let’s call them ERs because of the acronym’s somewhat appropriate onomatopoeia — and what it means when an employee resigns without giving notice.

i-quit-note-smallERs are tricky things, without a doubt. They are usually initially awkward, in that most ERs begin with a stranger needing to get to know others — at a more than leisurely pace — at least well enough to work toward common goals and outcomes.

An ER, unlike most relationships, is a legal relationship. It shares a latent litigiousness with two other common types of relationship: that between a client/customer and supplier; and, ironically, a marriage. Like the former but unlike the latter, an ER involves an exchange of money — although, well…no, let’s not go there.

Finally they are perilously unequal, though the inequality goes both ways, which many an employer may deny. Each party has what the other doesn’t — money on the one hand and skill, labour and attributes on the other.

ERs, if I may be as bold as to generalise, are an accident waiting to happen. They are deeply co-dependent, treacherously uncertain and whomever came up with the concept should be — or should have been — severely chastised and punished.

Having indulged myself in pragmatic scepticism, I should say I have been party to numerous (by a fair estimation, several dozen) ERs in my time. Albeit that I have only been in the so-thought less dominant role of employee three times, I have neither suffered nor, as far as I am aware inflicted, much if any ill effect.

By now, if you have read this far, you will have realised we are entering a veritable quagmire of complexity. As this is a blog post, not a thesis or doctorate, I should get to the point.

Why do employees quit and say see ya, I’m out of here right now — without working out the “legally” agreed notice time?

I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not offering a legal opinion. Nor am I, as I said, writing a thesis or doctorate, so I’m not citing research. Though I will allude to research I’ve read. If you want to verify it, Google is but a click away.

What I do offer is observation, experience and opinion: In short, the problem lies not with the E, but with the R.

We refer mostly to the E. We talk Employment, Employer and Employee. Seldom do we refer to the R: Relationship. But I’ve read about research that found that our overwhelming drive to work is social, not functional. So in any ER it’s the Relationship, not the Employment, that is crucial.

I also remember reading a blog post citing research findings that, when it came to job satisfaction, “acknowledgement” was what employees consider the most important. That’s another relationship-based need. In my experience, empathy, flexibility, appreciation, trustworthiness (competency, reliability and honesty), humour and well-boundaried but fun social interaction goes a long way to providing that acknowledgement.

When employees leave without giving notice, the ER has gone wrong. They need to leave quickly, I would proffer, because they have a strong discomfort with people or a particular person within the organisation, not the work they were employed to do. In my experience the discomfort usually builds over time, but can also be triggered quickly by a significant negative incident.

The lenses of leadership, diversity, complexity and change offer insight into how to minimise resignations without notice (RWNs) and enhance ERs and organisational culture. Capacity and clear intent in these four areas underlie the culture of any organisation.

Leadership

In my experience fair, transparent and generous leadership is crucial to maintaining healthy ERs. Not only from the top but also from throughout the organisation, leaders set the tone and guide the interaction between people and teams. When things go wrong and people leave, those in roles of leadership can only look to themselves, not to the resigning employee, and take responsibility for finding out where the cultural cracks are that caused the unresolvable conflict.

Leaders also need to be aware of the reciprocity of ERs, as I mentioned before. The attitude that “no one is irreplaceable” can very easily lead to an arrogance that values functions over people. A more useful attitude, which I keep in the front of my mind as an employer, is that people are, in fact, irreplaceable. It is jobs and their functions that are not irreplaceable. I have often applied flexibility to jobs because I place higher value on individuals than on a functional detail.

Diversity

I notice many organisations have a very narrow view of what diversity is. Usually it begins with acknowledging gender and ethnicity but, for the most part, stops there. Sexuality, age and religion may get a look in, but disability probably won’t, nor will more uncommon issues like transgenderism.

These issues and labels are not the true nature of diversity, as I’ve written about so many times before. They are mere categories that organisations choose either to represent or ignore. They may be the cause of conflict in ERs, but I think there are more subtle dynamics at play.

Differences in personal style, strengths, weaknesses, values and core beliefs are far more likely to create ER rifts, particularly if the organisational culture places more value on commonality than uniqueness. The unspoken “this is the way we do things around here” will soon marginalise anyone who doesn’t fit the cultural mould, eroding the ER.

Complexity

Relationships are neither simple nor complicated — they are complex. They are never-endingly dynamic and uncertain. They need constant nurture and attention.

My observation is that few organisations put time and value on relationship maintenance, particularly amongst groups. Meetings are only about work (Employment) and seldom about the people working (Relationships).

The organisations I’ve worked with over the years with the best cultures and ERs build regular personal sharing into meeting times and value social interaction outside of work.

Change

They say the only constant is change, yet most believe it happens only when intended. “Let’s change this, that or the other system, structure or procedure,” they say, “and, what’s more, let’s manage the change.”

No offence to any change managers reading, but managing change is like instructing the wind to blow in a certain direction. It’s futile. Whether it is intentional or the organic result of the passage of time, change needs to be acknowledged, observed and negotiated.

Responses to intentional or organic change will vary from individual to individual and from team to team. These responses need to be valued and respected, particularly the response that differs from the majority. Careful communication is needed to work through fears, disagreements and misunderstandings.

Conclusion

I am not naïve enough to believe RWNs can be eliminated. There will always be circumstances in which employees will choose to resign and leave immediately.

However, I do think RWNs are an important indicator of the healthiness of ERs and organisational culture. Anyone in a leadership position who dismisses it as the fault of the employee does so at their own — and their organisation’s — peril.

Fundraising: The Skill that Stands Out

Students and college graduates across the country know that finding a job, and especially finding a job you like, can be a taxing and difficult process. The problem is the competitiveness of the job markets can put stress and limitations on the opportunities students can obtain. In addition, the social welfare field has strains such as limited job opening, overwhelming responsibilities, and not enough financial resources. Social work students work hard to obtain the necessary qualifications to get that perfect job come graduation. We as students are trying to figure out what experiences and skills are going to attract potential employers and stand out over our competition. One of the most valuable skills that any student looking to go into the human services field should learn is fundraising.

fundraisingFirst, it is important to clarify what fundraising is and the benefits from it. If you think fundraising is simply raising funds, then you do not fully understand it. Many students and professionals dislike fundraising because they are not comfortable asking for money or do not think it is important. Well I do agree that our society sometimes has an unhealthy relationship with money and wealth, fundraising is not just about the money. Fundraising is developing relationships with community members to obtain the necessary support for your organization.

I absolutely love fundraising. My social work cohort does not completely understand why, but I love it. I get the opportunity to connect with various community members, build relationships, and then offer the opportunity that is mutually beneficial. There are opportunities to help businesses market their brand, foundations impact the community, individuals feel a sense of reward, and communities feel the difference they are making. Fundraising has more purposes than making revenue, thus making it a vital skill for many organizations.

Fundraising has been a low priority for many human service agencies since the majority of funding can come from government grants or insurance reimbursements. Even though the amount of money from fundraising initiatives may be a small percentage of the total organizational revenue, it is still important to put effort into it, but could be hard to financial restraints. If social workers knew how to fundraise as well as provide direct care, they become a double asset for their agency. Even if their primary job is providing services, assisting the development team with initiatives can be have a huge impact for the agency. Program staffs that know how to fundraise are valuable and highly honored by nonprofit professionals. Program staffs also have a stronger connection to the agency that fundraising staff at times, making their contributions stronger.

As students, we have the opportunity to expand beyond our roles at times and assist in fundraising efforts. While we volunteer for special events or campaigns, we also develop important skills that will benefit us in our career paths. Fundraising is a valuable skill to know and social work students interested in the nonprofit world should explore options to learn more about it. I am currently a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (Afpnet.org) and it is a great resource for professional fundraisers. I recommend looking into programs provided by the local chapter, or any other professional resources that will help develop necessary fundraising skills. Taking a course while in school or attending some training programs can be payoff as well. Learning to fundraise and learning to enjoy it will make a student stand out.

The Language of Effective Social Work

I find it fascinating that we, as social workers, proclaim we want to help people make better choices and choose healthier behaviors on their own, but then we speak to them as though they don’t have any power. In the past, I have noticed some of my colleagues experience trouble connecting with those we serve due to their language. The language portrayed two completely false ideas as if it was the honest truth such as our clients had no options/say-so in their own lives or we are psychic and know exactly what was going to happen to them at any given moment in the future.

We tell them that they have to do something or need to be somewhere. As Morgan Freeman/Joe Clark proclaimed in the movie Lean on Me, “I don’t have to do nothin’ but stay [insert your race here] and die!” Some of us may still talk to our clients in the exact same way. Whatever we choose to call this pattern of speech  ‘aggressive’, ‘controlling’, even ‘male’, I’ve found that I am much more successful and a more effective practitioner (and a healthier wife, sibling, child, friend, and co-worker) when I lean towards making a few simple changes in the way I talk to others.

Try to Avoid Telling People What They Can and Can’t Do

notlisteningDoes anyone have to go to treatment? No.  Do people need counseling? Not at all.

However, these things could be very helpful, may have some benefit, and could help people achieve their goals in life.Can you see the difference between “You have to go to treatment or you’ll never get better” and “You might want to consider entering treatment. I’ve seen it help a lot of people get their lives back on track.”?Let’s listen to ourselves, our clients, and our peers for the following phrases in bold, and see if we can start using (and encouraging others to use) the words and phrases in italics:

You have to   –   You might like to…, You might want to consider…

She should   –   It might have been more helpful to…, Maybe a better choice would have been…

You can’t   –   You might run into some problems if you…, I haven’t seen people be very successful when they…

I know   –   I get the impression that…, It seems as though…, I can understand if…

He always   –   I often see him…, I’ve noticed that he usually…, I can’t remember a time when he didn’t…

Addicts never   –   People suffering from an addiction often don’t…, Alcoholics generally don’t…

I’ve especially noticed a resistance to more aggressive language from people who have issues with authority figures, due to their past experiences with them. However, when we interact with them with an attitude that expresses the fact that they have all the power, and every right, in the world to get up and walk out our door, they seem to feel less of an urge to actually do that. They don’t have an overly controlling figure to “rebel” against. Think about how it takes two to tango, just like it takes two to argue. Let’s try to steer clear of being that opposing force that they use to push themselves away from us and, in many cases, a healthier lifestyle.

Being someone that is there to help, versus someone who is there to control someone else’s life, can be really helpful in building stronger, more effective helping relationships with the people we assist. As a bonus, speaking in a less controlling manner to our spouses, family members, and co-workers can often have a similar effect. The relationship becomes more open, more relaxed, and people feel more comfortable sharing their problems (and successes) with us.

Steer Clear of the Habit of Prophesizing

I’ve found it helpful to avoid telling people what is going to happen to them. Sharing what I have seen or experienced in the past, or even giving them and idea of my fears for them should they make a certain choice is one thing. However, I’ve seen many a practitioner guarantee (they sometimes even literally use that word) that something catastrophic or fantastic is going to happen to someone if they make a certain choice.

“If you don’t go to treatment, you’ll die.”

“If you try to live independently, you’ll fail. Schizophrenics need assisted living–it’s a fact!”

“If you stay in treatment for 30 days, you’ll live a happy, healthy rest of your life.”

“If you don’t go to the therapy group for help, your wife’s gonna leave you–plain and simple.”

“If you quit using heroin, you’re going to have so much more money!”

“You don’t stand a chance without Narcotics Anonymous.”

“If you start a business, you’ll just shoot all the profits up your arm.”

While I understand that most of us have been in the field long enough to have seen multiple examples of people struggling with addiction after leaving treatment or having a hard time living independently with a mental illness, there are (many) exceptions to those situations. So, if we decide to essentially promise someone that something will happen, when we really have no way of knowing, the second that terrible thing doesn’t happen to them, or it doesn’t happen to someone who our client knows, we become somebody who has no credibility. It’s hard to trust somebody without credibility, so we have just severely injured our relationship with that person. Try using phrases like “I’ve never seen,” “It’s not impossible, however,” and “Feel free to try, but I’ve never heard of” in order to express humility. We can still give the person the caring warning and advice that we want to offer without delivering it like Ms. Cleo.

Here are some tweaks to the above example sentences to make them more realistic:

“I’ve seen lots of people avoid going to treatment and it often leads to them living a really hard, chaotic life, or even dying. I’d hate to see that happen to you.”

“Trying to live independently can be hard for people who don’t have any mental health concerns. I’m worried about you wanting to live on your own, but let’s look at some ways we might be able to make that more feasible, such as hiring an aide to check in on you or getting you on some medications.”

“Though there are no guarantees, I’ve seen people do a lot better in their recovery when they have some form of formal treatment.”

“I know your wife threatened to leave if you didn’t get help, and I can’t predict what she’s going to do, but her and I both are encouraging you to attend a bipolar support group. Is not going really worth the possibility that she might actually divorce you?”

“Stopping your heroin use can really increase the amount of money you have left to save or spend as you please.”

“I’ve seen kicking a habit be a real struggle for some people, but they often seem to do a lot better when they have the support of the people at Narcotics Anonymous.”

“It’s not impossible, however, I have witnessed several incidences in which people suffering from addiction who do actually gain a profit from running a business slip back into using because they have large sums of money that they’re handling on a daily basis.”

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