If you encounter personal conflicts at work – I think I may have stumbled upon a major contributing factor and how to solve most (or at least some) of these challenges.
Ready for the root cause of most of your work issues? Here it is:
You (or the people you work with) forget why you go to work.
This may sound overly simplistic but let me share a story that will illustrate how powerful this really can be.
Tim, an old friend of mine has a long history of short stints at work. That frustrates me. He is a super-qualified, high-profile media guy. He’s personable, intelligent and……can’t keep a job.
He’s been married for 2 years. His wife Patti is working her tail off trying to keep them afloat and she’s just about had enough. She sees how qualified Tim is but thinks he gets himself fired (on purpose or subconsciously) because he’s lazy. She doesn’t want another 40 years of this kind of life. She’s threatened to leave if Tim doesn’t get it together. If that wasn’t enough pressure, the couple is just about to lose their home to foreclosure.
You can imagine that Tim was really relieved two weeks ago when he got hired at one of the most prestigious media companies in the world.
I asked him how it was going when we spoke a few days ago. His answer knocked me out of my chair.
He told me that his boss made a slight “remark” and it really made Tim angry. He was already complaining about his new boss and was “re-thinking” his decision to take the job.
Tim may have had a justifiable gripe but I didn’t think it mattered. I just couldn’t believe he was complaining. Here he had an opportunity to work again – and the alternative was foreclosure and divorce.
It occurred to me that Tim was either completely insane or he was going to work for the wrong reasons.
I asked him to tell me why he goes work and this is what he came up with:
a. To support his family.
b. To be of service to the company he works for.
c. To contribute to the world.
Intellectually…very nice. But to me, his answer wasn’t complete.
I asked him if there were other reasons. He couldn’t come up with any so I suggested he also goes to work to be:
d. Looked up to
e. Taken care of
f. Powerful and strong
I gave him examples of how he sought out those payoffs time and time again.
For example, I asked why he reacted so strongly to the remark his boss made.
I suggested that it was because we wasn’t getting what he wanted – which was to be important, strong, looked up to etc..
If all he wanted to do was to take care of his family and contribute to his new firm and the world, he would have let that remark made by the employer roll off his back…right?
Tim takes what other people do and say personally – especially at his job. As a result, work… doesn’t work. That’s why he usually finds himself unemployed shortly after he lands a job.
I suggested that he has a real opportunity to turn this situation around once and for all. If you struggle with the people at work, this exercise can help you too:
1. Write down why you think you go to work.
Like Tim, this list probably includes paying your bills, taking care of your family, doing a good job for your employer, advancement etc.
2. Write down all the social and psychological payoffs that you don’t want to admit to.
This is show time. You have to be honest. Part of the reason you go to work is because you have social and personal needs that have nothing to do with money. Nothing wrong with that.
You probably want to enjoy yourself. Why not? You spend more of your waking time at work than any other place….right? You want to be liked and respected…..who doesn’t?
In moderation, these are all just human needs and they won’t get you into trouble. The real rough water starts when you want to be “important”.
This is something you may not want to admit to – I certainly don’t. But if you find yourself at odds with others, it may be something you need to look at.
This is all about ego. It has nothing to do with why you are really go to work. If you allow your ego to call the shots at work – always looking for a way to be revered by your co-workers or employer, you’ll alienate everyone around you. Just don’t be surprised when you don’t have a job.
Even if you are the smart one, it doesn’t matter.
If you go looking for worshipers at work, you’re going to tick people off.
You may not realize what you are doing but other people do. Need proof?
When the guy in the next office is positioning….you see what he’s up to…right?
Well…guess what……he knows it when you are doing the same thing.
3. Keep this list on your desk at all times.
You’re only human. You aren’t perfect. You have character flaws; everyone does. Review this list often and it will help you remain aware and “awake”.
Don’t beat yourself up – but it’s time to put a leash on your ego.
When you catch yourself trying to flex your muscles for all the wrong reasons, call it out. Laugh at yourself and tell your co-workers that your ego must have gotten the better of you – then get back on track. Don’t have a 3-day seminar on the subject but don’t try to cover it up either. If you make a mistake, be honest about it and then move on. Believe me, the people you work with will be amazed and appreciate your honesty.
4. Don’t expect the world to be perfect.
Believe it or not, not everyone is going to read this post. Your boss might be a huge ego freak and you can’t change it.
Realize that it’s not about you. If she’s looking for ego strokes and by so doing, puts you down, she probably does that to other people too. Don’t take it personally. I know that’s easy to say and hard to do.
If it gets to be too much, you’ll need to look for a different boss somehow. I’ll leave that part to you. Just don’t allow someone else to push your buttons if you can.
What make me such an expert on this subject?
I spent years trying to make sure everyone know how smart I was. When I didn’t get what I wanted, I went ballistic. I had to do a lot of work on myself in order to stop doing that. I’m not perfect…but I do it considerably less now.
That old behavior cost me so much time, life and love. It almost cost me everything.
That’s why this is such a hot button for me.
I still blow it from time to time. When I do, I try to call it out and move on. When people at work try to prove how important they are, I just try to remember that I have the same character flaw and it helps me stay calm.
Pardon me. After all the years I spent making this mistake, I just think it’s really dumb to struggle when you don’t have to. If you are clear about why you go to work and get back on track when you forget……..most of your work challenges will disappear.
How about you. What do you think is the main cause of trouble at work? How does it impact you? What have you done about it?