I’ve just got off Skype with one of my coaching clients and she told me that she’s been having deeply uncomfortable experiences at work because of a horrible boss. She doesn’t know how to deal with the situation or how she feels.
On some occasions the boss can be really mean and on other occasions really pleasant. While I’m sure her boss is not consciously trying to manipulate; playing Jekyll and Hyde is straight out of the Effective Manipulation textbook. The outcome is that my client rationalizes away her uncomfortable emotions and does nothing to address the position she finds herself in.
In today’s session she told me that she was upset on 3 occasions last week about situations at work. Most of these instances involved feeling put-down or barked at in an angry and condescending way. She is experiencing an increase in self-doubt and a decrease in self-confidence. She feels that her performance at work is being impeded and is keen for the boss to think highly of her.
So what’s the solution? Should she just tell her boss to stop treating her unfairly? Will that work? In my view, probably not.
Here are some basic principles to begin with. The emotions triggered in my client come from inside her, and arise as a result of…
- her innate ‘wiring’
- her own self-perceptions
- the situation and environmental ‘energy’
- whatever else is happening emotionally for her that day
- other deeper beliefs and perceptions about life.
The point being that emotion is a complex interplay of biological and energetic factors all woven together moving throughout our body and brain. That being said, when the initial emotion is triggered what we do next is the most important thing. How we respond to the situation affects how we feel in the coming minutes and hours – our interaction with life creates our emotional experience. The purpose of emotion is to guide us back to our true self; it’s almost as if emotion is trying to nudge us back on track because we run the risk of deviating from our true selves, our core.
So what does my client need to do?
- Know that it’s what she does, her actions that create her emotional experience not what others do.
- Let go of the need for her boss to change…that’s just a resistance to what already exists out there in life. Her role is to be herself for herself.
- Let go of trying to impress her boss or have her boss like her…this requires a refocus of attention from outside to in. Being externally driven often results in problems. Shifting focus internally and allowing a drive and flow to come from the core results is a significant shift in self-esteem and performance.
- If my client choses a route where her focus is on trying to please her boss she is likely to try and defend herself and justify her actions which will send her spiraling into the ‘victim-vortex’. She will feel more negative emotion because she will be moving further away from her true self. The assumption being that her true self is an empowered being that doesn’t compromise its authenticity to please or placate others. She needs to move into a ‘space’ where she does not justify or defend herself, rather she articulates her thoughts and feelings in an authentic manner without trying to please or placate her boss. (I know that might sound slightly tricky in a work setting; however, our focus for this exercise is to improve my clients mood, emotional state, fulfillment and performance at work)
- She wants to appear smart and sometimes feels dumb (which she attributes to her boss). The refocus from outside to in, being driven by doing her best for her, rather than the boss will go a long way to alleviate this point. There is also the question of what is being smart? I’d argue that it’s adaptability; it’s not our existing behaviour or skill level. It’s our ability to recognise where we are, adapt to the circumstances, upskill when required, and get where we need to be. Being adaptable and flexible means we need to be self-driven and self-corrected. When motivation has an internal locus it’s much easier to be OK with being wrong. When we are externally focused and driven by our desire to please and impress others, it can be very hard to be wrong because we can become preoccupied with how others perceive us.
These were just a few points for us to start working with…next week we’ll see how much progress she’s made.