languishing

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The Languishing Issue: Help Employees Move from Struck to Strong [Podcast]

Ever get that blah feeling? That surge of listlessness you can’t explain? The thing that keeps you in bed watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer until 8:13 am when you have a work Zoom meeting at 8:15? Well, that blah feeling is called languishing, and it’s what some are calling the dominant feeling of 2021.

Languishing is a newly discovered mental health state that encompasses a sensation characterized by apathy, dissatisfaction, and loss of interest in most things. And it can dramatically affect your success at work.

With 85 percent of employees reporting that they’d take a $5,000 pay cut to feel happier at work, and with so many employees leaving companies at a rapid rate–employers and employees both need to take languishing seriously.

Our Guest: Maya Garza, VP of Solution Consulting and Behavioral Science at BetterUp

On this week’s episode of #WorkTrends I was excited to talk to Maya Garza, vice president of solution consulting and behavioral science at BetterUp, about the languishing phenomenon. Maya leads the team of behavioral scientists who serve as executive advisors to our partners. With over 15 years of experience working with Fortune 500 organizations to implement human-capital solutions, she’s an expert at maximizing human potential.

I asked Maya what she thinks the most overlooked employee issue is to date. Unequivocally, she said, it’s mental health and well-being. And that is due in part to a widespread misunderstanding of mental health issues.

This lack of understanding can hurt the company, Maya explained, because BetterUp research shows that 55 percent of employees are languishing.

“Those who are languishing experience heightened stress and physical and mental exhaustion,” Maya said. “Employees at work might feel overwhelmed, down on themselves, or uninspired … They might even put off what used to be a challenging or an exciting task. That turns into a snowball effect that then leads to stress and burnout and lack of innovation.”

How can everyone deal with the experience of languishing?

The first step to managing the experience is to admit that you’re languishing. 

“Simply asking yourself where you are mentally is actually a helpful diagnostic tool. And next you might want to think about, well, gosh, how do I get myself out of that?”

Maya suggests celebrating small wins and reminding yourself what you’re grateful for. Research shows that these practices help improve mental health. Of course, Maya says, it will take more than individual employee actions to help with organization-wide mental health issues.

“Moving yourself from stuck or languishing to truly flourishing is really hard to do. You don’t solve it by one walk or one talk with yourself. You really do need systemic intervention. And I think this is where HR can really be that thought partner for managers and for leaders,” Maya says.

“What it really comes down to is: Is the leadership at your organization being intentional? Are they really deeply thinking about aligning their words and their actions? So remember, we are humans first, we are employees second … Change is accelerated from the bottom up and we need to invest in the potential for every employee to really be at their best.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends sponsored by BetterUp. I think we could all benefit from imagining what our teams can do if they’re feeling their best, and how we can make that so. You can learn more about this topic by connecting with our guest, Maya Garza, on LinkedIn.