Dr Austin Tay

MUSING OF AN ORGANIZATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST

It has been a long time since I have written something in this blog. For those who have followed me, apologies for this long silence.

So what have I been doing for the past two years?

It has been a very tough two years for many, and I have, like, many people have gone through lots of upheavals. But I am somewhat of an optimist. I know that while we are still going through lots of uncertainties in the world, one thing I know is that I have a choice. I can choose to dwell on the negatives or use the time I have to do something.

That was precisely what I did. 2020 to 2021 was filled with incredible work, which I am very grateful for. Thanks to technology (particularly ZOOM), I could still do my work using my laptop and a couple of fancy apps.

What I have learned in the past two years are:

  1. Unexpected things are going to happen
  2. Not to dismiss the real emotions that I experienced, I am only human
  3. Learn to step out of the realm of emotions and look at how to move forward (it is not easy, but a little step is a good start)
  4. Be thankful for help and opportunities
  5. Be tenacious and push on towards the goal I have set myself (I completed a professional coaching program within the stipulated time I set for myself)
  6. To let go of things and people who are not going to serve me as I continue to develop and grow
  7. Every day is a new opportunity to learn
  8. Self-care is as critical as my work

What I shared might resonate with some of you. To some, I might come across as a positive person. I instead considered myself pragmatic because I know that while it is ok to feel sad, frustrated, and the plethora of ’not so good emotions’, I see them as normal emotions that all of us need to go through. However, because these emotions are often related to a context or situation, the way to help ourselves is to move away from the context and towards the context and situation that will make you thrive. So it is ok to feel not so good. However, the way to prevent yourself from dwelling on the ’not so good is to move towards the feeling of good.

I recently attended a webinar that advertised that the speaker is an expert in workplace toxicity. I was so looking forward to the webinar to listen to the speaker’s perspectives and research. I was all ears and ready to take notes. The webinar started with an introduction from the host and then the speaker. An anecdotal example was used by the speaker to elaborate on the circumstances of how workplace toxicity can take place. The story’s focus was how communication could create opportunities for toxicity in the workplace to happen.

Next, the speaker shared a qualitative study conducted with her clients about their toxicity experience in the workplace. There was also a slide on how the various parts of the brain will light up when someone has experienced toxicity in the workplace. If you are still reading and feeling a bit confused, well, this was how I felt on the webinar. I frantically wrote some questions and sent them to the host. I waited patiently for the speaker to answer. One of my questions was asked but not answered. I must confess that some of my questions might not be questions per se; instead, they were observations about what the speaker had said. I needed the speaker to clarify what was said and shared. I reckoned that some of my questions were unanswered because there was not enough time?

I went back to look at the webinar description for the session and the speaker’s profile and thought to myself that I might have registered for the wrong webinar. The speaker was supposed to have done years of research in this area, but I heard anecdotal evidence. There were questions I wanted answers to, such as, “How can communication cause workplace toxicity?”, “What is the relationship between workplace toxicity and brain activity?”

Sadly, the webinar, to me, did not satisfy my expectations. Perhaps I need to lower my expectations when I sign up for any other webinar. However, one question remains – “Is it right to call yourself an expert when what you shared did not demonstrate any expertise at all?”

 

 

 

3 As of Psychological Flexibility

 

It is very human of us to feel worried and be fearful because often we are caught up with ruminating the past and catastrophizing the future. When we are in such a state, we tend to lose ourselves in the present. Being caught up with our thoughts and emotions can result in us losing all sense of self-awareness. 

 

Creating Awareness

 

When we do not recognise how our behaviours are impacting us, we will be stuck in a rut, mulling over things over and over again. Such impact can result in us becoming depressed and frustrated. What should we do then? Take a step back, breathe and create a psychological distance from the thoughts or emotions, that is to do perspective-taking. In doing so, we allow ourselves to see the reasons why we think and feel a certain way, thus providing CLARITY. Next, we will need to notice how these thoughts or emotions can affect us. In doing so, we can decide as to whether we want to carry on allowing these thoughts and feelings control how we behave.

 

Learning To Accept 

 

It is awful to feel defeated or not being able to take control of our lives. The society imposes a standard, and we adhere religiously to it, believing that FAILURE is not an option. So we will create automatic defence mechanisms such as being positive, trying hard to find out what went wrong or simply not facing the failure. These defence mechanisms have their shortcomings. For example, when we are always positive when dealing with failures, we can become too cavalier and ignore the real causes of our failures. On the other hand, when we spend too much time fretting over details about how and why we fail, we only stop ourselves from moving forward. Similarly, when we run away and not face what is before us, it will catch up with us. What can we do then? Accept that failure is normal; all of us fail at one point in our lives. What matters is how we move forward from our failures.

 

Action

 

Now that we are aware how our thoughts and emotions can get in the way we function and accept that sometimes we do not have any control about the situation we are in, we need to put into action what to do next. We need to think about what are the important things in our lives. We need to have an action plan to help us move towards those important things and be mindful of potential hurdles that can waylay the plan. Remember, this is a process and not a straight point A to point B journey. We need to be agile and adaptable should change to the action plan is required.

 

Practice 

Just as it takes determination and tenacity to keep ourselves physically fit, it is not that dissimilar when it comes to our psychological health. The more we practice, the better we will become; similarly, when we become lax, we become unfit psychologically.

Being grateful

 

 

Reading news and articles about what is happening in the world, basing on the number of deaths and infection from COVID-19, there is no doubt that all countries are doing their best to slow down the spreading of the virus.

 

Most of us are very lucky to have a roof over our heads that we can isolate ourselves. Yes, we have to change our lifestyle to accommodate what we are all experiencing. Some lament about this new norm and flagrantly flout restriction measures in the name of freedom. We see how some celebrities are having meltdowns or behaving foolishly, trapped in their comfortable mansions while others are using their platform to encourage people to think about the needy.

 

I am grateful that the country that I live in has relatively low numbers of infections as compared to some other countries. While it is very easy to be caught up with news about which country is doing well and which country ought to have done better, the press often leaves out certain countries that are suffering worst than most but get little mention in the media. An essay written by Arundhati Roy in the Financial Times depicts how COVID-19 has impacted and is continuing to impact India.

 

Most of us have a choice, some don’t. Those who are immunosuppressed, vulnerable and sick at this present moment, do not have a choice. Should we not be grateful that we are still able to have the option to stay at home? Should we not be grateful to have a choice to be connected to the internet and be able to choose how we can be entertained, to learn, communicate and gain access to information. Perhaps next time when we feel that this whole isolation is getting too much for us, pause and think, what can we be grateful for?

 

Copy of Untitled

 

The world today is very different from what it was last year. It is inevitable to be bombarded by news about the impact of COVID-19 outbreak. Most of us are taking this opportunity to get used to this new way of working. They are some who are using this unprecedented situation to sell their services; some are offering free webinars and then we have politicians still squabbling about who should take the blame.

 

From news avenue, we can see most people will abide by whatever measures their countries have imposed to curb the spreading of the COVID-19 virus but similarly we are also seeing others who are blatantly flouting the imposed measures. Why do people do that? People want to feel social and be part of a group even in this time where the spreading of the COVID-19 virus is so rampant. To some, preventing them to socialize is infringing their freedom.

 

We all have a part to play during this unprecedented time. Many people are struggling through this new environment. Many have also lost their lives as they succumbed to this disease. We might all be experiencing this whole outbreak differently, but one similar thing is we are all fearful. Our fears stem from not knowing enough about this disease, especially when there is still so much the experts are trying to figure out about the disease, and a vaccine is still not in sight.  While most of us cannot do much about this disease, we can work collectively to reduce the spike in the spreading of the disease. Be responsible and think about how our actions can impact others.

 

What can we do?  We need to look at changing our habits. Adapt to the changes. Start to use different ways to communicate. Why not use this time to reconnect with friends, spend more time with your loved ones (keeping social distancing wherever required) and also take time to reflect and recharge. Keeping yourself psychologically and physically fit will be essential. Choose whatever works for you.

 

If you are looking for additional tips or advice, please do send your message to austintay@omnipsi.com

With the outbreak of Covid-19 increasing and spreading to many more countries, we are all advised to maintain hand hygiene to reduce the spread.  Prince Charles opted for a “namaste” instead of shaking hands at the Prince Trust’s Awards this week. This got me thinking. Since most of us are working from home and are continuing to collaborate with our colleagues through video conferencing, would it not be great to use another way to greet each other, since we are not able to shake hands. So instead of just a “Hello”, why not try something different.

 

Being based in Asia, I am exposed to three different ethnicities – Chinese, Malay and Indian. Each of these ethnicities has always used their own way to greet one another. The following are non-hand shaking greetings that you can try.

 

Chinese greeting

 

The half fist and palm salute is a standard greeting used by the Chinese. It is a form of greeting to show gratitude towards others and in traditional settings such as Chinese New Year. Although modern Chinese have started using handshakes, this type of Chinese greeting is a way to show respect towards others through distance (which I think is so appropriate at this time). There is a difference between men and women when it comes to the way this greeting is presented. For men, the left palm is placed over the right half fist, and for women, the right palm is placed over the left half fist.

 

chinese family greeting

 

Malay greeting

 

In the Malay tradition, the greeting is “Salam”. Both men and women will stretch their hands out, and you can lightly touch their hands and in return bring back one hand and place on your heart to indicate, ” I greet you with all my heart”.  Both men and women will offer their hands. It has to be noted that this greeting is not done towards the opposite sex (unless they are related). A simplified version is to use a hand on heart as a greeting which can be appropriate at this time.

 

Malay man greeting

 

Traditional Greeting

hand on heart

 

Simplified Greeting Version

 

Indian greeting

 

A standard greeting used by Indians is “Namaste”. This greeting is coupled with a slight bow and hands are pressed together and placed close to the heart. This gesture is also known as Anjali Mudra, a gesture also used in traditional ritual, yoga and dance.

 

namaste

 

 

As we are all trying our best to cope with the spread of the Covid-19, we should not forget to remain kind to one another.

Just as all of us are hoping that 2020 will be a good year, we are hit by the news of a 2019 novel coronavirus, that was first discovered in Wuhan, the epic centre of the outbreak. The outbreak has now gone beyond Wuhan, and many countries are not spared from the spreading of the virus. It has to be said that those found carrying the virus had been or were from Wuhan.  Individuals who have not been to Wuhan have also contracted the virus because of close contact with those infected. For example,  cases of human to human transmissions include the driver in Japan who drove a group of tourists from Wuhan, four cases of locally transmitted in Singapore and those who attended a conference in Singapore were found to have been tested positive for the virus.  To date, there are also two reported deaths, one in the Philippines and one in Hong Kong.

 

Since the outbreak,  people have been and continue to be worried about contracting the virus. Reports and scenes of people lining up to get surgical masks and hand sanitisers, especially in countries outside of Wuhan, are common and these have also resulted in countries struggling to meet the demands of their citizens wanting to get surgical masks for protection.

 

This is where I think perspective is essential. Human beings are social animals. We emulate or do things to feel, or to be, part of a group.  The influence of a group can be powerful as it can shift an individual’s behaviour and decision making. For example, when individuals hear that there is a shortage of surgical masks, they will collectively be lining up at pharmacies or shops in the hope to get a box of surgical masks. Even though, to date, there is no communicable spreading of the virus. Still, because everyone is lining up, an individual will consider that his or her action or behaviour is rational. This is where the problem lies. As more and more people start to think that their actions are justifiable, they have stopped to think rationally. Consult legitimate sources of information and advice on the issues and not to be overwhelmed by information that is exaggerated and hearsay.

 

I want to stress that I am not saying that people should not be worried about this new strand of virus. I am saying that one needs to take this situation in the right context. Being overly worried about what you cannot control will only increase your anxieties and fear. Instead, focus on what you can control, such as your personal health and personal hygiene.  See below infographics from WHO that is self-explanatory.