How To Be a Better Person at Work
By Jude Bijou
One of the most common ways to invite problems at work is by allowing destructive thinking to influence our attitudes and behaviors. For example, when overloaded with work, we may think, “This isn’t fair!” Or when a coworker is unpleasant, we jump right into “He’s a jerk.”
We can’t always control negative thinking, but learning to recognize when we’re doing it is the first step to changing thought patterns so we don’t end up alienating our coworkers and making the workplace unpleasant.
Learn to recognize destructive thought and replace it with a simple positive statement that contradicts it and is true. This “truth” will help to neutralize the underlying anger, sadness or fear that triggers destructive thought.
Here are some examples of destructive thought — and the truth that can counteract it.
Destructive Thought: When faced with a challenging task, a big workload and a tight deadline, you feel overwhelmed and defeated. You think: “I can’t do it.” Once you say this to yourself, you feel even worse. Your energy wanes, your mood plummets, and your productivity slumps.
Truth: “I’ll do the best I can. One thing at a time.” Notice how this statement has no negative emotions attached to it? This irrefutable statement has the immediate effect of boosting your energy and motivation.
Destructive Thought: At a team meeting, when asked to give your opinion of a new initiative, you go off on a mini-rant about how it’s taking too long to learn and distracting you from more important work. Then you think, “I shouldn’t have said that,” and you spend the rest of the day beating yourself up, cringing, and hiding in your cubicle.
Truth: “It’s human to make mistakes.” Saying this truth to yourself automatically gives you permission to forgive yourself, move on, and talk to your teammates about how you’ve undergone an attitude shift and you’re going to be a model of resilience for others.
Destructive Thought: A coworker you collaborated with on a project made a presentation to the department head behind your back — and got all the credit. You’re furious, and your first thought is, “How could he do that to me?”
Truth: Holding on to all that anger and frustration — and possibly ranting and making accusations — won’t serve you well. A better way is to come up with a truth: “People are the way they are, not the way I want them to be.” From this position, you will be clear-headed enough to talk to him and let him know how his actions affected you.
Destructive Thought: Almost every job — especially those that are lower down on the power hierarchy — requires that you sometimes do tedious, boring, or seemingly senseless tasks. Your reaction might be, “Why do I have to do this?”
Truth: “This is an opportunity to learn something new.” This statement helps you stop feeling sorry for yourself. Once you lose the resistance and the resentment, you may be able to see the task as an essential part of a bigger process. Or perhaps you will be able to figure out a better or quicker way to do it.
Destructive Thought: You’re part of a pool of new workers who seem less capable or experienced than you, and you’re eager to differentiate yourself from this pack of newbies and get noticed. Your thought is along the lines of “Me, me, me — I’m special.”
Truth: If you don’t want to alienate yourself from your fellow workers and be seen as arrogant, change this destructive thought into a truth that neutralizes the negativity: “I can help others.” This simple truth, when acted upon, will make you the most popular, desirable new hire.
Be a better person. Get in the habit of recognizing a destructive thought before you act on it. Then learn to neutralize it with a simple truth. If you use this simple behavioral technique in the workplace, people will see you as cooperative, thoughtful, respectful, kind and balanced.
Jude Bijou has spent more than 30 years as a licensed marriage and family therapist. She is the author of Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. Learn more at www.attitudereconstruction.com.
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