In his book on Anger, Thich Nhat Hanh is teaching me to overcome hurt and disappointment with compassion and forgiveness. In the Gospels, Jesus is moved with compassion and forgiveness. As a chaplain and consultant, I believe these teachings have a place in the workplace. These virtues are sometimes most needed in your area of work.
“Everything is possible when the door of communication is open. So we must invest ourselves in the practice of opening up and restoring communication. You have to express your willingness, your desire to make peace with the other person. Ask him to support you. Tell him, “Communication between us is the most important thing to me. Our relationship is the most precious thing, nothing is more important.” Make it clear and ask for support.
You have to start negotiating a strategy. No matter how much the other person can do, you have to do all that you are capable of doing yourself. You must give one hundred percent of yourself. Whatever you can do for yourself, you do for him, or for her. Don’t wait. Don’t put forth conditions, saying, “If you don’t make an effort to reconcile, then I won’t either.” This will not work. Peace, reconciliation, and happiness begin with you. It is wrong to think that if the other person does not change or improve, then nothing can be improved. There are always ways to create more joy, peace, and harmony, and you have access to them. The way you walk, the way you breathe, the way you smile, the way you react, all of this is very important. You must begin with this.”Except from Anger, by Thich Nhat Hanh
The moment we blame or shame another person is the moment we have lost our peace and ability to communicate with the other. “But what about my anger, the fire burning in my belly?!” You must nurture it with empathy because if you don’t, it will spoil your insides. It will rob you of the person you truly long to be.
I don’t ever want to dehumanize the workplace. It is filled with humans who have hearts and souls, who are working for a greater purpose than simply a paycheck. We are working towards relational awareness as well, becoming humans who love and serve our neighbors.
I remember someone telling me one day that they grew up with a very critical authority figure in their lives. The client described being publicly shamed and criticized, leading to anger and resentment. Over the years, the client became sensitive to criticism. When I asked if he saw any connections between the critical figure and present situations, he said that he felt voiceless in the previous relationship and promised himself he was never going to be mistreated again. Unfortunately, such a promise cannot be kept since there will be present and future circumstances where there will be conflict.
This is one reason why confronting someone most likely won’t work. But reframing the conversation and sharing with them how you feel and what you see may be more beneficial. In Chuck DeGroats book, “Toughest People to Love”, he says,
I find that a better approach entails sharing what I see and feel with the narcissist, modeling vulnerability. I see this as a kind of back-door approach, a way of getting around the defensive ego to the vulnerable heart beneath. I once said to a particular client, “I find myself wanting to admire you, but I feel disconnected from you. I feel like you’ve set us up to be competitive, but I don’t want to be. To be honest, I just want you to find one safe place where you don’t have to be ‘on.’ Maybe we can have that.” I’ve found often that men and women who struggle in these ways secretly long to shed the narcissistic posture for a taste of authentic connection.DeGroat, Chuck. Toughest People to Love (p. 52). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.
What DeGroat does is model vulnerability and empathy. He shows interest and care for the person, but also communicates how the actions makes him feel and perceive the situation.
I can hear someone saying, “Well that’s too touchy feely for me. I just like to be direct and to the point.” This tends to be a one directional, transactional conversation without involving dialogue, empathy, or understanding.
Not the Owner or the CEO? That’s okay. You still have influence. Here’s a way to “lead up”. I hear a lot of employees saying they wish things were “done different”. Here’s a way to influence that difference. It’s not a quick and easy answer but there are some practical ways to influence.
1. Understand your boss
Ask yourself, what makes your boss tick at work? Is it control and predictability, or exciting ideas and new initiatives?
“First, you have to understand what’s important to your boss, what they care about, and what they wake up in the night worrying about,” said Cohen.
But you don’t have to go foraging through your boss’s trash to find clues to their psychological makeup. What your boss says and does will tell you all you need to know.
“Pay attention to the person you work for, because that person is telling you an awful lot about how to work with them,” Edwards told CNN.
2. Lead from the middle
You many not be the boss, but that doesn’t mean you can’t think like one.
John Baldoni is a leadership development consultant and author of “Lead your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up.” He told CNN he prefers the term “leading up” to managing up.
“Leading up means adopting the perspective of a CEO with the authority of a middle manager,” said Baldoni.
“Look for opportunities to effect positive change, grow the business, or get more out of the team. Think holistically about how your actions as a middle manager can affect the whole organization.”
3. Build credibility
You won’t be able to influence your manager unless you are credible, and the way to build credibility is by being good at your job, says Cohen.
Baldoni told CNN, “If you are someone who can get things done and your colleagues and bosses trust you, they will know you are a positive influence and they will come to you.”
4. It’s not about you
Managing up may be good for your career, but it’s not about brown nosing — it’s about doing what’s right for your organization.
“Some people think managing up is sucking up, but it’s not,” Edwards told CNN. “Yes, it ends up having a tremendous impact on your own PR, but you have to put other people first, and that’s something a lot of people don’t understand.”
Cohen agrees. “People listen more to what you’re saying if they think you actually care about them and are interested in their general welfare,” he said.
5. Take action
It’s not enough to just turn up for work and wait for your manager to lead. You need to be proactive in your relationship towards your manager, and your organization as a whole.
“Act upon what it is that needs to be done,” said Baldoni. “Initiate a new program, take a lead in product development, perhaps the reorganization of a business.
“Be front and center on an issue that will benefit not simply yourself, but the whole organization.”
6. Dealing with a difficult boss
Edwards says that dealing with a difficult boss is sometimes just a matter of communicating in a way they understand. Technical people respond to hard data, creative types prefer hearing about big ideas. But some bosses just won’t respond to leadership from below.
The workplace can sometimes be a hotbed for accusation, gossip, and rumors to fly. Here’s a way to engage and respond to accusation. By the way, the primary title for the Evil One depicted in the Bible is “The Hasatan” which means accuser. Accusing others is evil.
- Accept that there is no way you can erase what has happened. Even though the accusations may be unfair and untrue, the situation is real. You need to get out of denial about that in order to deal with it in the here and now.
- Watch your catastrophic language. If you keep saying this is “horrible” and your life is “ruined,” you add to the stress. Put things in perspective. An innocent child in a burn unit of a hospital is horrible. Perhaps your situation isn’t as tragic. Perhaps your life isn’t ruined, but just damaged. Change your internal dialogue, and you will feel better.
- Life Law #2: You Create Your Own Experience. The first person you’ve got to repair your reputation with is you. Are you a bad guy? Are you a bad citizen? Do you hurt people? Do you commit crimes? The answer if probably no. Stop feeling guilty and being angry with yourself. Own your mistakes, forgive yourself for them but don’t continue to beat yourself up. Life is not a success-only journey. Learn from your bad decisions and move on.
- Ask yourself what you would like to see happen in order to clear your name. Is there anything that anyone — the authorities, your co-workers or someone in the community — can do that could ever make the situation better.
- Begin with your inner circle. Start rebuilding your reputation with your family, close friends and neighbors. You make sure they know the truth. When your inner circle knows who you really are, they will go out into the world with the truth, and it will create a ripple effect. And if you are confronted with these false accusations again, you look the person in the eye, and you tell your side of the story. You don’t need to bring this up the rest of your life, but in your immediate circle and in this immediate time, you want to step up and tell them the truth.
Understand that people might come forward to admit they were wrong. And they might not. It is up to you to put this behind you. Give yourself what you wish you could receive from others. You need to say to yourself, “I know I didn’t do this. And I will give myself what I wish the community, the authorities, etc., would give me.”
- Life Law #8: You Teach People How to Treat You. If you walk into the world, and you’re hanging your head, and you kind of don’t want to look anybody in the eye, and you’re shameful, then people will treat you that way. You have to be your own best friend, and you have to decide who you are at the core. Begin the process of closure by not reacting to what you think people are saying about you. If you allow yourself to be intimidated, feel guilty or shrink away because of what people think, you are putting yourself in a prison.
Don’t try to address every accusation. If you decide to start defending yourself, that will become your full-time job. If you answer every story, every piece of gossip, every allegation in your life, that’s all you will ever do. You will be completely consumed by this, and it will take over your life.
- Stop reacting to the rumors. You give it legs by reacting to it. Don’t draw attention to yourself defending the rumor. You need to give yourself permission to just live your life. If there are people out there who think something about you that you don’t like, then those won’t be your friends. There will be other people who will like and respect you for who you are, and they will be your friends.
- Stand up for yourself and say, “I’m taking my power back. I’m not going to give them the power to pick my feelings. They’re wrong, and I can look myself in the mirror knowing the truth.” You have to decide that you believe in who you are, what you stand for, and what you do, and you just need to go forth and do it. You need to walk forward from the situation. Who you are and what you do, that will win out in time.
- Know that it’s normal to feel a twinge of guilt even if you’re completely innocent. We always hear about guilt by association. But there is also guilt by accusation. People hear something negative and tend to believe it. If you accuse a person unfairly, he/she still has that twinge — just from having the finger pointed at him/her.
- Don’t fall into the trap of acting out with non-directional frustration. The stress that comes with being wrongly accused can lead a person to act out with those closest to them, like a spouse or child. Remember that the enemy isn’t your loved one; it’s an outside force.