You know that feeling of déjà vu? As though the conversation you’re having or the place you are is playing on repeat? This is what I call the Groundhog Day Effect and it occurs often in the workplace in the form of repeated challenges with little or similar solutions to no avail. Can you relate? In the 90s hit movie titled with the holiday’s namesake, the main character played by Bill Murray wakes up each morning and it’s February 2nd (Groundhog Day) over and over and over again. The people he interacts with have no idea that his life is a reiteration of the day prior. Eventually, Bill goes a little nutty because no matter what extreme actions he takes or offensive words he says, each subsequent day yields the same people, behaviors, and results.
Recently, I’ve been experiencing the Groundhog Day Effect. At a meeting, when I eventually got over the fact that I was not being punk’d, I asked myself, “Why are we still discussing the same issue for the umpteenth time AND repeating a viable solution that we came up with already?”
From my personal experience, I think there are two simplistic reasons the Groundhog Day Effect occurs at work:
1. People do not create viable solutions to issues.
2. People do not follow-through with the solutions to the issues.
My fear is that my team is not alone and this situation is all too familiar for many people and companies. This déjà vu is the birthplace of disengagement, lack of trust between colleagues and leaders, and overall lack of productivity because one cannot move forward while continuously backtracking the work.
How do teams start making moves towards solving problems and finding sustainable answers for these issues that remain constant? How can teams have more productive conversations around the solutions and hold themselves and each other accountable to follow-through?
We can go back to the movie, Groundhog Day, and learn from Bill Murray’s character on how to break free of the loop that prevents us from achieving positive impact and feeling successful, innovative, and productive.
Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connors, eventually recognized that what he was doing wasn’t working. He woke up each day more miserable and frustrated and began to test the boundaries of offensiveness, inappropriateness, and dysfunction to see how far he could go. These behaviors continued to make him miserable and not feel better about his circumstances. He woke up on one particular February 2nd and decided to make a change. He began with a single behavior, then a response, and finally his overall approach to Groundhog Day. Even though Phil was still miserable at the beginning of the changes, he eventually began to feel the positive effects of his modifications.
At work, we can accept that our old way of doing things isn’t the right way anymore. The phrase “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” works until it’s broke or less effective. How can we innovate now before working with less effective solutions? When we change the way we communicate, approach challenges, and how we listen, we can break ourselves of old habits and mindsets that hold us back from progressing forward.
In the movie, Phil Connors turns over a new leaf when he decides to make changes in his actions. Once he adopts a servant attitude, performs acts of kindness for the townspeople, and focuses less on himself, he began making connections with people. Before you know it, he’s the town celebrity which motivated him to do more gestures for people. Once he demonstrated compassion, empathy, and put others first, he became more engaged with his life on loop. During this process, he uncovers his authentic self and begins enjoying life and those around him. He also gets the woman in the end, lucky guy!
When we find meaning in our connections with people around us and purpose in our shared vision and goals, we become more fulfilled. Serving others creates a catalyst that sparks innovation, creativity, and significance in our work.
At the beginning of Phil Connor’s Groundhog Days, he fell victim to the situations that occurred throughout the day – the blizzard that prevented him from leaving town, no hot water in his B&B, and annoying encounters with ‘incompetent’ people. He chose to let these encounters frustrate him and affect the way he interacted with people along his path. His attitude grew more negative which could be the reason he fell into the Groundhog Day Effect in the first place.
No matter what life throws us, only we have the choice on how to carry out our day. You can choose to press the reset button when you walk in (or log in) to work. If yesterday sucked (mine did, I hit someone’s car), the choice is up to you to leave it in yesterday and begin fresh today. Think about ways you can modify your attitude, approach, and daily goal. Many people fall victim to what the day has in store but if you remain in control of positive choices, you attempt to stay ahead of the fires.
If the Groundhog Day Effect is (in your opinion) due to a team member not following through, I challenge you to choose to have the courage to let your leader or their leader know. Go directly to that person and ask how you can work together to support them in their responsibilities.
Author’s Note: When I wrote this post, I got very excited that I cleverly coined the term “Groundhog Day Effect.” A quick Google search proved that not only had Urban Dictionary beat me to the punch, Paul Hannam wrote a book called, “The Wisdom of Groundhog Day.” At least I’m not too far off!