Category Archives: Glow at Work

Lean-In by Sheryl Sandberg-Apprehensively Approached

Glow at Work invited Elisa Harca, global client partner/regional director at Red Ant to be our guest blogger this month.  She shares her personal experiences on the new book ‘Lean-In’ written by Sheryl Sandberg , Chief Operating Officer at Facebook.

As a young-ish female, who is ambitious, but not cut-throat; who likes to feel she can be oneself in the ‘work’ environment and not be forced to morph into an alpha-female, come sudo-male; but is also not what I would have deemed a feminist, I read Sheryl Sandberg’s book with apprehension.

But, as a curious person, I was most certainly intrigued. The amount of press about the book, made it impossible for me to avoid. But, had it not been bought as a gift for me, I am not sure I would have taken the plunge. Sheryl undoubtedly is an uber-smart woman who has absolutely ‘made-it’ (a few times over), but having read an article about her in Stylist Magazine, where she talked about it being ‘ok to cry at work’ I must admit, I was a bit sceptical as to whether Sheryl and I would be on the same page. You see, I feel that there are certain emotions that you need to keep under wraps in the office, and crying is one of them. This probably makes me sound heartless, but as a highly emotional person, believe me it’s not. I feel that unless there has been a family crisis, something that really breaks your heart, you should be able to control the crying and at least take it behind closed doors (a bathroom, go for a walk ….). I feel quite strongly about this, and having worked in high-pressured advertising agencies for the most part of my career, I know it’s possible. Crying for me at work immediately creates a negative environment for the person crying and the person witnessing. It’s not fair for the crier, to make the witness’s day unbalanced. Believe me I have cried many times about work (even in a Pilates class which was beyond embarrassing), but I have only cried in the office, in front of colleagues when my cousin committed suicide.


Anyway, I tell you this story as I wanted to give you context of how I approached Sheryl’s book. It was with apprehension about our value commonality. And, as a regular reader of personal development, self-help, business books, I was a bit jaded about reading another book, that looks good on the cover, but leaves you feeling empty at the end (I won’t name any here, but frustratingly, there are far too many).

So, for me, I was delighted that as soon as I started reading Sherly’s book, I couldn’t put it down and consumed it within two days (which for me was pretty impressive as I was in the middle of a huge move from London to Hong Kong by way of Shanghai, moving seven years of stuff, plus a boyfriend and leaving behind amazing family and friends, to embark on a new career and life journey).

The reason I was able to read Sherly’s book so quickly was that I found it straight-forward; it was like having a chat with her over tea. There is no superfluous content that makes you need to skip a chapter forward. The way it’s written, anecdotally makes it accessible, believable and useful. The key take away’s for me are:

  • Push aside that inferiority complex – annoyingly us ladies tend to have a pre-disposition to doubting our ability, whereas alpha-men tend to have the opposite (I distinguish alpha-men here from other men as I know a lot of super smart men, who possess this stifling trait, and they tend to lean-out this way). This lack of self-belief can hold us back unduly, but we can use it to our advantage, as Sheryl has done in her career. She has used her curiosity and determination to ‘go-for-it’. It’s like the age old tale, if you want the role act the role. You need to make employers, employees, colleagues and the like believe you can do it, work hard at it, and although you may come across challenges, the odds are you will make it work. Let’s stop saying ‘well I can’t do 30% of the role, so I won’t go for it’ and instead say ‘well I can do 70% of the role and go for it’.
  • Don’t feel you have to conform to expectations – more than men woman are judged. Kids, no kids, married not married, male-like, cunning etc. I like the way Sheryl has always been open to challenging perceptions. Yes, she has had kids, but she has found a way to maintain her career not by being super woman, but by reassigning the way to make it work in partnership, with her husband. The way she describes the role responsibilities is more like a job share, where you look at your collective goal as two people and work out how to make it work best, for all. For me, my job tends to take the lead over my partners, and as we get older and ‘more successful’ I think we have both found this challenging as we have been thinking about ‘me’ not ‘we’. Sheryl’s book has made us readdress this thinking, and work more as a team.
  • Standing strong as women, together – I’ve always been slightly cautious of people that deem themselves feminist as I felt it was unnecessary in this day and age to intentionally segregate ourselves as women. But, it seems that women of power, like Sheryl and like the women who took part in the Woman of the World (WOW) event in London earlier this year, are redefining feminism as something that is supportive vs. divisive (men are even behind it!). And, I now realise, this is what I have been doing since I was a child, just not knowing it. It’s simple actions that Sheryl describes that I truly believe in and do innately. For example, if I meet women who are highly able, successful, I openly praise them and admire them vs. labelling them as the proverbial devil. I find women who make things happen inspiring to be around personally and professionally, and I loathe other woman who make these women that lean-in, feel alienated. We should support one another, and, instead of envy have admiration. I have worked with a few too many females, who are smart and successful, and when they lose this camaraderie, they pretty soon make enemies not allies and I think ultimately lose their positions of power, and most importantly lose friends.  So, I still wouldn’t call myself a feminist (I just don’t like labels, hence why I am not married, but had the same partner for 17 years), but I definitely am a woman of women power! But, ladies, let’s not forget we have to support the guys too, especially as a manager, a mixed sex team is not only beneficial but necessary. And, boys, I think it’s worthwhile you read this for yourselves or for the women in your lives.

Having read Sheryl’s book, I now know we share similar values, and should I have the opportunity to meet her, I have no-doubt I’d learn a lot (especially when it comes to time management – wow!). And, just to take it back to the initial barrier, her acceptance of crying in the work place, through the book, I think she shows balance especially the way she talks about people looking for help and support via mentorship. It’s clear that Sheryl is very generous with her time, and gives recognition where recognition is due, but she is also no walk over, her whole premise is, if you want something, show some initiative and don’t expect someone, like a mentor, to wave a magic wand and deliver your dreams to you. You need to have some guts and gumption and LEAN-IN! I support that concept whole heartedly, but still say, leave the crying outside.

Follow me on twitter @harcagypsy


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What is mindfulness? And why more people are becoming interested in this practice – my mindful March experience

g055-tnh-mindfulness-is-a-source-of-happiness-09_largeIn the last couple of weeks, I have been practicing mindfulness during my daily life. I have been recently attending a weekly mindfulness group in Richmond, which has encouraged me to practice mindfulness during the two hour group meeting and in between the meetings.  They say when you set an intention and focus on a particular area, you become surrounded by information in that area.  This is certainly true in my case for mindfulness.  Glow at work ran a masterclass on Mindfulness at Work with Gary Born, where we gave some people an opportunity to practice mindfulness for the first time and explore ways to apply mindfulness to the workplace.  In the weekly mindfulness group I have been attending, the number of people interested in attending has doubled, which has resulted in another group being set up in Twickenham.  There definitely is more information out there for the general public on mindfulness and its application’s are being seen in Government, Schools, Prisons, Workplaces and Healthcare settings.  My week ended with a mindful birthday dinner with Maneesh who I connected with at the first Mindfulness at Work conference and Shamash who has written the Mindfulness for Dummies book; the applications are endless.

Jon Kabat-Zinn was in London and I was really excited to see him, with approximately a 1,000 other people.  The queue outside Friends House was similar to a concert queue, everybody eager to hear Jon speak about Mindfulness.  The evening with Jon Kabat-Zinn was sponsored by Action for Happiness.  Baron Layard shared that he recently took the first mindfulness course for parliamentarians from the Oxford Centre for Mindfulness.

Jon is famous for bringing mindfulness in a non-secular form, from the east to the west 30 years ago.  His definition of mindfulness is regularly quoted:

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way;

On purpose,

in the present moment, and


The setting was Friends House in London Euston, where all the chairs face each other and famous people like Gandhi have also spoken.  Jon wanted the evening to be about communication and connection. He said mindfulness has the potential to move the bell curve of world wellbeing. It allows us to have a wise relationship with suffering and happiness in the world.  Suffering and happiness are a part of life and mindfulness helps us to acknowledge and accept this.  Mindfulness gives us the tools, for example the focus on our breath, which we carry  everywhere we go and we can learn to use more consciously.  It grounds us into our present reality and gives us regular opportunities to practise mindfulness.  He said it is a muscle that cannot grow without a certain amount of resistance.  It involves a certain  amount of discipline and hard work.  The beauty is that we can use anything that arises in our lives to grow these muscles and allow it to shape and develop us.  It is important to recognise that it involves daily practice, similar to how we eat , brush our teeth and shower each and every day.  We can even use these daily activities to practice, it is as simple as saying to yourself I am eating, thinking about the process of eating, I am brushing my teeth, I am in the shower (your mind may have wandered to already being at work).  These daily mundane activities, can easily reconnect and train our minds to check in and practice mindfulness.

When you look at people meditating you may think they are wasting their time doing nothing when there are so many useful things they could be doing.  In reality it is a process of ‘non-doing’ (waking up, being present, not trying to get anywhere) that can help us in so many ways with our health and wellbeing.  In the last decade there have been 1,000’s of studies demonstrating the science behind the positive changes that occur in our brains when we meditate. For example, neuroscience findings show us the benefits of mindfulness for focus and concentration.  A lack of focus and concentration can really undermine your work performance.  Practicing mindfulness can improve your focus and concentration, even when in a busy or stressful environment.

  • Research into mindfulness in a work context suggests that mindfulness widens your attentional breadth, allowing you to be aware of a lot of things simultaneously (Dane, E, 2010).
  • A recent study conducted in the US Marine Crops investigated the impact of mindfulness training on working memory capacity.  The study suggests that mindfulness training may improve working memory in a stressful environment (Jha Ap et al, 2010).
  • Researchers at Harvard used MRI scans to look at the brains of people who had practised mindfulness meditation for many years, and found that areas of the brain associated with attention and sensory processing were thicker than in people who had never meditated. (Lazar S et al, 2005).

In all Asian languages the word for mind and heart is the same, the chinese character for ‘mindfulness’ combines the ideograms for presence and heart.  In the west we separate the two words and worlds.  The eastern definition is about attention, that you can call affectionate attention.


Jon came to mindfulness at 22; “Wow this is what I have been looking for my whole life. It’s a way of being, a technique, that involves practice and cultivation.”

He shared his daily practice with us, this involves taking his seat early in the morning,  to check in and cultivate the seeds for the day. He see’s it as a radical act of love not just a discipline. It is a time for ‘being’ and not ‘doing’. We live in a world of to do lists that are endless. And mindfulness helps us to stop and take a moment to get away from this never ending treadmill of actions and tasks, to focus on who we really are, providing insight to work on what is really important to us as human beings.

Endless words of wisdom from Jon on mindfulness:

– It’s a radical act of love and self compassion.

– It is much about nothing but it is just about everything.

– The thinking mind cannot understand it.

– You can turn the sound down and watch the thoughts – become transparent to your thoughts, they come and they go, like weather patterns

– You’re perfect already – when did you thank your liver for what’s it’s doing right now?

– There are many things we have to live to learn with.

– Do not take things personally, there is very little that is personal.

– Happiness and sorrow go together – they are intimately related and how the heart and mind are related.

photoThe best reason he says to meditate is that you feel integrated, we call ourselves human beings and we act more like human doings. If you want to create anxiety, just think about your emails or constant connection with your smartphone.  Maybe we need to apply this connection or obsession we have with being connected to the external world (I struggle without WiFi) to how we connect with ourselves, like GPS for the soul, how regularly do you check in with yourself?  Say where am I? Who am I with?  Am I paying attention? Is my breathing relaxed or stressed?  Just noticing your surroundings.

I will end with closing words from Jon: “Live life as if it really matters. Real meditation is how you live your life, moment to moment with huge self compassion.”

Written by Harpal Dhatt, CEO & Occupational Psychologist  @Glowatwork

More information on the science of mindfulness-

– The science is showing us when we mediate, we are becoming more compassionate and it is changing the structure of our brains.  There are 600 research studies into mindfulness on the mindfulnet website, they have also produced a business case for mindfulness document.  Mindfulness in the workplace case studies can also be viewed on the Mindfulnet website

– John Teasdale, the founder of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, has done a lot of work on how mindfulness transforms suffering. There is 1000’s of years of wisdom behind mindfulness, you do not have to be a Buddhist to do this. The Buddha was not even a Buddhist, it is a European term. It’s a practise open to all.


Action for Happiness- (watch video of an evening with Jon Kabat-Zinn)

Business case for mindfulness in the workplace

Dane, E. (2010)  Paying attention to mindfulness and its effect on task performance in the workplace.  Journal of Management.

Davidson, R, Kabat-Zinn, J et al (2003).  Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation.

Jha Ap, Stanley EA, Kiyonaga A, Wong L, Gelfand, L. (2010)  Examining the protcetive effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience.  Emption 2010.

Hunter, J & McCormick, D (2008).  “Mindfulness in the Workplace:  An Exploratory Study”  Paper presented at the meeting of the 2008 Academy of Management Annual Meeting.  Anaheim, CA.

Lazer S et al. (2005) ‘Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness’, Neuroreport 16 (17): 1893- 97

‘Citizens and Governance in a Knowledge Based Society’: Understanding and Responding to Societal Demands on Corporate Responsibility (RESPONSE)

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WOW- Women of the world festival 2013- “every day should be women’s day” – Malala Yousafzai

I was lucky to be walking past the Royal Festival Hall on the south bank, when I stumbled across Jude Kelly’s talk on the WOW festival in January.  I was hooked from this point on, and knew I wanted to attend the WOW festival and it truly was WOW, thank you Jude Kelly and the Arts Council for funding this important festival.

Reflections on WOW-

During the WOW festival I heard the word feminism/feminist, a number of times. What is it? Am I a feminist? What does this word mean and how has it evolved?

Wikipedia defines feminism as: “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”  If you called yourself a feminist you used to be seen as a man-hater.  Going to WOW I realised that things have moved on and feminism is described today as:

“ the radical realisation that women are people.” Jude Kelly

“ about equality and opportunities for girls and women, with both men and women trying to achieve this.” Sarah Brown

I was drawn to the ‘where feminism is now’ and ‘how men are also part of the movement’ talks. Two inspirational speakers on the topic, Gordon Brown and Ziauddin Yousafzai, talking about feminism and how they are trying to change the perception of girls and women in the world, being just as good or even better than men.  Ziauddin said for far too long women have been happy to be the strength behind men (behind every great man is a great women) but we should be side by side.

The many highlights from WOW- 

Hearing from Savita Patel (CEO) & Jamuben Ayer (Artisan & craft leader) from the Self Employed Women’s Association (Sewa) in India, discussing women’s role in shaping the economy.  SEWA was developed to form a collective for women suffering violence and poverty to support women who work in 90% of the black market.  They shared stories of empowerment in action, they call it ‘embroidery that empowers’.  Through SEWA 60% of the returns from the products (which are truly beautiful and can take 2 months to make by hand) you buy, go to the artisans and bring dignity and self-reliance for their families.  We also heard how Jamuben was the first person in her village to send her daughter to school, through her hard work at SEWA and her daughter can now go on to achieve her aspiration, of becoming a doctor.  I have heard from Plan UK and a lot of other people that the single most important economic thing you can do is to educate a girl.  For a couple of years I have been sponsoring a girl in India.

Jude Kelly’s leadership skills were on full display, founding WOW and chairing so many of the events so skillfully.  Bringing together people like Alice Walker, Jessye Norman, Naomi Wolf, Angelique Kidjo to name only a few people, made the event an inspiring one.

Ruby Wax, the poster girl for mental illness on why you need your brains.  She spoke about how her whole life has been about reinvention.  She has the drive of a Rottweiler and yet she warned of the very real potential to become swollen with narcissism in the celebrity show business world.  She studied neuroscience, because she wanted to know how to handle her brain and learn how this machine works.  She shared that she always had depression since she was a kid, it was a “waking hibernation, it takes over like a tsunami.”  She has just finished her new book on the brain and neuroscience.  She has also been studying mindfulness to help manage her condition.  This has helped her to develop wisdom which is, “when you let go of the envy, narcissism and bitterness, and now that the world will be ok without me, that is what I am aiming for.”

Ahdaf Soueif on the function of women in Egypt’s revolution – 11th Feb Mubarak stepped down and the revolution was unable to put forward a government.  Women were active and heading campaigns and institutions that carried on in the revolution. Revolution was unable to put forward a body to say we are now in charge of the country, therefore the military stepped up and said they would look after the country and oversee the peaceful transition.  Instead the military started killing people. Men and women were detained.  Women taken and given virginity tests, military said they did not want people to say they were raped in jail.  Forms of sexual abuse were used as a political tool to deter women to take part in protests. Samira Ibrahim took the military to court and the process was ruled illegal and the military were prevented from doing this again.  She created a change in the way people responded to this incident, by not being shamed by it and internalising it and society responded to her by giving her a hero’s welcome.  The graffiti that represented this in the street showed the doctor’s name and phone number to shame him.  There was brutality to women on the streets, beating and ripping the shirts of innocent women.  On Dec 2011, the army started doing the same thing as the regime, the revolution showed this through street art.  It was shocking when a mother who bought the revolution sandwiches to eat was beaten up. A young women’s image started popping up and she became an icon with a name similar to snow white.  Her features were not known and she was given the gas mark, she appears everywhere, her blue bra becomes a powerful icon of the revolution, someone adds to it, “no to the stripping of the people”, “long live the revolution” and that spreads everywhere.  People were also talking about who is veiled and not veiled, graffiti appeared saying don’t classify me, we are all human.  She said because of what they did to women it was possible to discredit them and everybody became gender sensitive.  Mother’s of the martyrs, 1600 people have been killed, who went out in peace to change things, one of the mother’s who was looking for her son for 30 days said: “I have lost my son and gained a million sons, you have to bring the revolution home.”

Philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock and politician Baroness Shirley Williams are described as two of the most brilliant minds in Britain. They candidly shared what life was like in their early days, and the sexism they faced and how they managed and protected themselves and went on to achieve success.  They shared stories of mild abuse, being chased by the filing cabinet by a cabinet minister.  Dealing with man handling and inappropriate behaviour.  “Why are women so bad at saying F… O…now?”  There was a time she was seriously pinched, and as a group of women they stamped backwards on the pincher.  Baroness Shirley Williams said: “Very quick reproach is very effective.  Say something very wounding and tough when it happens.”  Or Baroness Mary Warnock said: “you can get to know their wives and say I am sure your wife would be interested in you grabbing my tits.”

Space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, the brain behind the Thinking Woman’s guide to the Universe, shared her passion for Science and having more gender balance especially in the physical sciences, where 30% are female and in engineering only 10% are qualified as engineers.  This has an impact on the type of innovations in the world, the ideas that men and women come up with are different.  For example, A New Hampshire 14-year-old has won America’s Top Young Scientist prize for her innovative clean water system, which has great potential for people suffering natural disasters and those living in war zones.  Ninth grader Deepika Kurup’s very green technology could help the more than 1.1 billion people throughout the world without access to clean water. Her prototype takes solar energy and uses it to disinfect contaminated water in an innovative, cost-effective, and sustainable system.

Inspiration for me came from-

1) The story of Malala Yousafzai the 15-year-old girl who was shot in the head and neck in an assassination  attempt by Taliban gunman while returning home on a school bus.  She has now become an education activist and wants to become a politician to ensure all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015.  She has started a worldwide revolution for the education of girls and girls all across the world are using the slogan “I am Malala.” There will be a national Malala day on July the 12th to support her work on education and equality, she say’s: “I want to serve the people. I want every girl, every child, to be educated.”  Jude Kelly said on the Saturday night that Malala was also backstage at the WOW festival on Saturday.

MALALA-YOUSAFZAI1-e13506602997542) The women I met during the speed mentoring, over 3 days that wanted to be mentored. It was a privilege to meet a number of women from different walks of life wanting to develop.  I learnt a lot from the mentee’s, about different job roles, industries, ideas they have and the contributions they are making to society.

3) The many women and men manning the stalls at the festival.  The talents were impressive from all the stall holders mentioned towards the end of the blog. ‘Who made your pants?’ was one of them, a campaigning lingerie brand based in Southampton, UK. They buy fabrics that have been sold on by big underwear companies at the end of season, stop them ending up as waste and turn them into gorgeous new pants that have a great start in life. They create jobs for women who’ve had a hard time. The first job everyone learns is making the pants.  The women who make the pants are part of a huge refugee population in Southampton, some of the women previously were isolated and not feeling able to go and have fun.  Another story of empowerment through pants, where you know that you are directly improving people’s lives by the choices that you make.  So I bought my most expensive purchase of pants and will now think differently about where I buy my pants from.  Each pant has the name of the person that made them on the label.  This is the handmade revolution of quality products.  By knowing more about how things are made and where they come from, you can feel good by buying quality products rather than a quick Primark purchase that you will throw away in a few months time.

WOW opened up my eyes to what is happening in the world for men and women and how I can now educate others about this and be part of a more ethical movement to help women at the ground roots to be in control of their destiny.

Save the date for next year’s WOW festival which will be from the 7th to 9th March 2014.

Keep glowing,

Harpal- @Glowatwork

More information:

WOW festival videos of the talks

Plan UK


America’s Top Young Scientist

WOW stall’s:

Who made your pants? -

Video’s of women across the world- What I see project –

Women’s networking organisation-

Hats made to measure-

Beautiful handmade jewellery

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“Doing more, with less” – The Association of Business Psychologists (ABP) Conference 2013

ABP logo

Having just attended the BPS Division of Occupational Psychology conference earlier this month, the Glow at work team are very much looking forward to the ABP Conference in April. The core essence of the ABP is “to enable growth and impact by making psychology accessible to business” and this is represented by the theme of this year’s conference – “Doing more with less”.

This motto, as it has now become, against the backdrop of trying economic times is at the top of organisational leaders’ strategic agendas. But what does this actually mean? It fundamentally revolves around a drive for efficiency and maximising the impact that interventions have. Glow at Work’s experience within a number of NHS Trusts is testament to this. As such a huge public sector organisation, maximising resources and accelerating implementation is extremely important. Hence our Leadership Empowerment Programme, an intensive leadership development course has helped employees within NHS Trusts to provide higher-quality patient care in a relatively short space of time.

Hence, doing more, with less is all about making the most of what you have, yet still delivering to an expected industry standard, and beyond (if you ask your clients!). This message resonates with the values of the ABP; Accessibility, Expertise, Capability, Resourcefulness. Resourcefulness is the key here, as the need to demonstrate value as Business or Occupational Psychologists within organisations is of paramount importance if we as a profession are to gain a larger market penetration, or accessibility. So we come full circle, and observe the value of spotlighting this particular topic at the conference, as it has consequences for all of us.

Such consequences are of course influenced by the economic environment. And despite some positive signs of economic recovery in the UK, albeit tentative and minimal, we face a tricky road ahead of us. If truth be told, for many graduates entering the workplace for the first time, as Business Psychologists or in any other industry, we have not known a more prosperous time in our careers. Hence, these are the only external conditions we (I include myself in this group) have known, so surely it can only get better. This is of course is the optimist in me speaking.

However, as big high street names continue to fall victim to the recession, most recently HMV, Jessops and Blockbuster, organisations are still in survival mode. This will likely persist, at least for the foreseeable future, until factors such as the pledge by the Chancellor to reduce corporate tax to 21% by 2014, have a chance to have an impact on organisational bottom lines.  

We therefore must flex, adapt and be resilient in the face of such challenges. This involves working with organisations, according to their agendas. Glow at work strives to share knowledge and provide a forum to address current people issues that organisations face, in our monthly Masterclasses. These network evenings with respective experts, focus on issues such as creativity and innovation in the workplace, resilience and management competence. All of these factors, when managed effectively demonstrate a return on investment for organisations. Hence, as Business Psychologists, we must be able to articulate and demonstrate our knowledge and capability in these areas, as it is through our expertise in these niches along with our commercial awareness and grasp of business realities that we can add value to organisations.

There is also a need to get the correct balance between commercial/customer needs and rigorous and effective interventions. This application of Psychological principles, frameworks and theory in the workplace is essentially our USP. And it is being able to express this USP and how this can ultimately help the organisations we work with to achieve their strategic objectives which will allow us to be efficient as consultants.

The ABP conference promises to deliver best practice advice for practitioners, ranging from Business Psychologists to HR specialists, to Management Consultants, as the range of impact that applied psychology has in an organisational setting is large. We’ll keenly be watching the ABP space, for announcements of their keynote speakers, who will be highlights amongst the wealth of practical workshops, case study sessions and symposiums, not to mention the chance to meet and socialise with many interesting and like-minded individuals.

Please follow this link to the ABP website for more information about the conference and how to book a place:

Keep glowing,


Trainee Occupational Psychologist

Follow us on twitter @Glowatwork & @Raj_Glowatwork

LinkedIn: Rajesh Chopra & Harpal Dhatt

The art of generosity – Is giving better than receiving?

It’s the festive period, everybody is busy buying something for the people who are important to them. But, is giving better than receiving? Are you someone who prefers to give or are you someone who prefers to receive?

I came across David Freemantle’s book called ‘How to become the  most wanted employee’, recommended to me by Grace Vanterpool, a guest speaker on the Leadership Empowerment Programme I regularly deliver. One of the suggested tips was to:

“Give something away each day” – my take away was to implement this one action. I began to consciously think about giving something away each day, be this knowledge, time, an item or just saying thank you.

Today the glow at work team had their first Christmas lunch at Dishoom. I want to thank all the team for their contributions – they have all demonstrated the concept of giving without asking for anything in return (all working as interns). We have been developing our strategy and come up with a mission we are all working towards.


Our mission is to: “empower people from within and transform organisations, in order to help the working population achieve more meaningful, satisfying and glowing careers. In doing so, we believe we can also have a positive impact on other areas of people’s lives, helping to achieve a society with a better quality of life. Hence, we are serving a purpose that is greater than ourselves by building strong collaborative partnerships in order to effectively meet this very important objective.”

The research also shows us 5 Ways that Giving Is Good for You (from Jason Marsh, editor in chief of Greater Good & Jill Suttie, Greater Good’s book review editor)

1. Giving makes us feel happy. A 2008 study by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton and colleagues, found that giving money to someone else lifted participants’ happiness more that spending it on themselves (despite participants’ prediction that spending on themselves would make them happier). Happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, saw similar results when she asked people to perform five acts of kindness each week for six weeks.

These good feelings are reflected in our biology. In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect. Scientists also believe that altruistic behaviour releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.”

2. Giving is good for our health. A wide range of research has linked different forms of generosity to better health, even among the sick and elderly. In his book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People, Stephen Post, a professor of preventative medicine at Stony Brook University, reports that giving to others has been shown to increase health benefits in people with chronic illness, including HIV and multiple sclerosis.

A 1999 study led by Doug Oman of the University of California, Berkeley, found that elderly people who volunteered for two or more organizations were 44 percent less likely to die over a five-year period than were non-volunteers. This effect remained even after controlling for their age, exercise habits, general health, and negative health habits like smoking. Stephanie Brown of the University of Michigan saw similar results in a 2003 study on elderly couples. She and her colleagues found that those individuals who provided practical help to friends, relatives, or neighbours, or gave emotional support to their spouses, had a lower risk of dying over a five-year period than those who didn’t. Interestingly, receiving help wasn’t linked to a reduced death risk.

Researchers suggest that one reason giving may improve physical health and longevity is that it helps decrease stress, which is associated with a variety of health problems. In a 2006 study by Rachel Piferi of Johns Hopkins University and Kathleen Lawler of the University of Tennessee, people who provided social support to others had lower blood pressure than participants who didn’t, suggesting a direct physiological benefit to those who give of themselves.

3. Giving promotes cooperation and social connection. When you give, you’re more likely to get back. Several studies, including work by sociologists Brent Simpson and Robb Willer, have suggested that when you give to others, your generosity is likely to be rewarded by others down the line—sometimes by the person you gave to, sometimes by someone else.

These exchanges promote a sense of trust and cooperation that strengthens our ties to others—and research has shown that having positive social interactions is central to good mental and physical health. As researcher John Cacioppo writes in his book, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, “The more extensive the reciprocal altruism born of social connection . . . the greater the advance toward health, wealth, and happiness.”

What’s more, when we give to others, we don’t only make them feel closer to us; we also feel closer to them. “Being kind and generous leads you to perceive others more positively and more charitably,” writes Lyubomirsky in her book, The How of Happiness.  This “fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in your social community.”

4. Giving evokes gratitude. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of a gift, that gift can elicit feelings of gratitude—it can be a way of expressing gratitude or instilling gratitude in the recipient. And research has found that gratitude is integral to happiness, health, and social bonds.

Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, co-directors of the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness, found that teaching college students to “count their blessings” and cultivate gratitude caused them to exercise more, be more optimistic, and feel better about their lives overall. A recent study led by Nathaniel Lambert at Florida State University found that expressing gratitude to a close friend or romantic partner strengthens our sense of connection to that person.

Barbara Fredrickson, a pioneering happiness researcher, suggests that cultivating gratitude in everyday life is one of the keys to increasing personal happiness. “When you express your gratitude in words or actions, you not only boost your own positivity but [other people’s] as well,” she writes in her book, Positivity. She goes on to write, “and in the process you reinforce their kindness and strengthen your bond to one another.”

5. Giving is contagious. When we give, we don’t only help the immediate recipient of our gift. We also spur a ripple effect of generosity through our community.
A study by James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that when one person behaves generously, it inspires observers to behave generously later, toward different people. In fact, the researchers found that altruism could spread by three degrees—from person to person to person to person. “As a result,” they write, “each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.”

Giving has also been linked to the release of oxytocin, a hormone (also released during sex and breast feeding) that induces feelings of warmth, euphoria, and connection to others. In laboratory studies, Paul Zak, the director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, has found that a dose of oxytocin will cause people to give more generously and to feel more empathy towards others, with “symptoms” lasting up to two hours. And those people on an “oxytocin high” can potentially jumpstart a “virtuous circle, where one person’s generous behavior triggers another’s,” says Zak.

What small thing can you give away today to help someone else? An ancient Ubuntu saying from Africa can help us to reframe our thinking about who we are; “I am what I am because of who we all are.” Most successful people have a team of supporters around them. If we all acknowledged each other a bit more and showed compassion for others at work, we could achieve so much more.

If you are looking for more suggestions, go to the acts of kindness advent calendar…because it’s better to give than receive

Happy Christmas & New Year to you all from the Glow at Work team

Harpal Dhatt- Chief Executive Glow at Work

Follow me on twitter @Glowatwork

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DOP Awards Evening 2012; Celebrating Excellence in Occupational Psychology

The Glow at Work team turned out in full force to support its Commander-in-chief, Harpal Dhatt as she was nominated for the Practitioner of the Year award. The nomination was based on her outstanding work with BME employees within the NHS, as part of the Leadership Empowerment Programme. Despite narrowly missing out on the award, we were extremely proud to be representing Glow at Work at one of the DOP’s flagship events.

The awards evening was held at the British Medical Association in Tavistock Square, London, a wonderfully elegant and historical venue.  And a fitting venue it was, as the community of Occupational Psychologists recognised the lifetime achievements of the great Dr Pat Lindley and the academic contribution to practice by the inspirational Professor Michael West. What really stood out to me was the sheer breadth of achievement that both of these great academics and practitioners had accumulated. Yet, they were humble, genuine and gave so much credit to their collaborators. Hence, the lesson for me; for lack of a better cliché – there’s no I in Team. The importance of collaboration and building not only multi-skilled teams but inter-disciplinary groups was clear for me to see. I particularly agreed with Professor West’s view that we need to cross disciplinary boundaries both within Psychology and externally, with other fields of study/industries all together to be more holistic, hence successful. And perhaps, in doing so we can nurture more commercially aware, yet academically grounded OP practitioners and organisations.

Once the business end of the evening was complete, of course there was networking over drinks and canapés. And more importantly, it was a chance for an emerging Trainee Occ Psych to meet with many interesting individuals from the industry. From MSc students who were excited to be getting a first glimpse into the industry to seasoned veterans, the conversations flowed as effortlessly as the wine. Having such a vast range of expertise, experience and personalities in one room was a refreshing change of pace from project work which can at times become isolating. Talking with fellow newbies to the industry, there was a general consensus that we have entered into a profession that by its very nature is full of empathic, helpful and genuinely good people, who also happen to have  awe-inspiring ambition and razor sharp intellect. I hope these feelings continue to be reinforced, as I meet and connect with many other members of the Occupational Psychology community, something which I relish and always look forward to. Overall, the whole team agreed that it was a great evening. A big thank you to the organising team and all those that made the evening so pleasant.

Keep glowing,

Raj and the entire Glow at Work Team.


Glowing because you’re Flowing: The predisposing factors of ‘Flow’

The concept of Flow is an extremely interesting and idyllic one. It’s a state in which we experience a subjective high or enjoyment, extreme concentration and loss of self-awareness, but with an effortless feeling (Csikszentmihalyi & Csikszentmihalyi, 1988). Being in our Flow is truly working ‘in the zone’. I believe we have all, at some point or other experienced this feeling of being wholly absorbed and immersed in our work, leisure or human interactions. Time flies and we instinctively swat away distractions with only the completion, involvement or progress of a particular task or interaction in mind.  But for most of us, this state of Flow just doesn’t occur enough.  At Glow at work, we believe that achieving this state is a matter or surrounding yourself with the right people, stimulating work experiences and opportunities to get your Glow through Flow.

But interesting research has also highlighted that perhaps there are factors involved in achieving Flow which we are not in control of. As Psychologists, objectively, this is something which we must be aware of too. Personality is one of these factors. If one buys into the construct of innate personality traits, a link between these traits and Flow proneness would predispose certain personalities to achieving this optimal state. Research by Ullen et al (2012) did in fact find that there was a negative association between Neuroticism and flow proneness, stemming from the fact that High N’s typically exhibit high negative affectivity, which directly combats the Flow state. Additionally, Consciousness was associated with Flow proneness, suggesting that High C’s are more capable of switching into ‘the zone’. This was attributed to active problem coping, both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and positive affect.  Genetic influences were further investigated by Mosing et al (2012), who found ‘moderate’ heritabilities (0.29 – 0.35) for Flow across various domains including work, maintenance and leisure. There was conclusive evidence that the same genes influence Flow proneness independently of context. They accredit some of this genetic proneness to personality traits. But importantly, a majority of the Flow proneness is non-genetic. More interestingly, environmental influence seems to differ between domains. Hence, we must emphasise the importance of a specific, targeted approach to unleashing Flow within work and within our personal lives.

An interesting finding in Ullen’s study was that intelligence did not have any influence over Flow proneness. This is encouraging as there may well be some factors which are beyond our control,  but there is a large amount of influence we can have when it comes to creating an optimal state of work and life productivity, enjoyment and fulfilment. This reinforces what we believe in at Glow at work. The power of our cognitions and behaviours in transforming ourselves and our organisations is immense. Changing our mindset and in turn changing our behaviours can go a long way to achieving our state of Flow. And so, we can begin to enjoy and be better at what we do, every single day.

Blog by Raj Chopra, Trainee Occupational Psychologist, Glow at work. Follow me on Twitter – @Raj_Glowatwork.


Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Csikszentmihalyi, I. (1988). Optimal experience. Psychological studies of flow in consciousness. Cambridge Univ Press.

Mosing, M.A. et al (2012) Heritability of proneness for psychological flow experiences. Personality and Individual Differences, 53, 699-704.

Ullen, F. Et al (2012). Proneness for psychological flow in everyday life: Associations with personality and intelligence. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, 167-172.