Interpersonal EDGE: Workplace Suffering Can Result in Enlightenment
Sunday, September 12, 2010

By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services

Q. There are so many things wrong with my current job that it would take a book to list them all. I know a lot of people these days are saying it is good for my peace of mind and spiritual development to be in the now. How do you "be in the now" when reality sucks?

A. Show me a person that can't make a list of what is wrong with their life in and out of the workplace and I'll show you a person who is lying. You can be in the now when reality bites but only if you stop biting back when you disagree with your circumstances.

Most of us have considered that reality is not a democracy. Most days we don't even feel we have a vote on how life is turning out for us. We wake up and are surprised every day at what happens next.

However, our debate with reality is about as effective as arguing with gravity when you step out a third floor window. You may not like the results, but the results will affect you whether you agree or not.

Many of my clients start out believing that if they don't like some aspect of their workplace situation, they are somehow condoning a problem by not fighting against what they don't like. Unfortunately, what you don't like about your workplace is not going to change because you don't like it.

The martial art of aikido is an excellent model for how to work with what we don't like at work. Aikido is particularly useful for a smaller person who is fighting a larger foe (how many of us feel at work), as its techniques encourage you to surrender to the attack of your adversary and to use the energy of the attack to move him away from you.

After 30 years of helping people navigate the workplace jungle, I've noticed insight and judgment just can't coexist in the same mental space. When we are spending all of time criticizing our current circumstances, it is nearly impossible to think outside the box about how to change our experience.

The reason so many current teachers emphasize "being here now" is the now is the only place we have any power. We can bemoan our past and worry about our future but this moment is the only place you can actually do anything to get what you want.

The good news is that, no matter how much we don't like the current moment, we can still bring all of our physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual resources into creatively solving what makes us mad. Don't be afraid to use your anger as an ally. Your anger is a finger pointing at what you need to fix. Just remember that the energy of anger is there to energize you to take a risk not to beat people up on the job.

If you think your current job sucks, start by making a short list of the things that make you the maddest on the job. Now beside each item, write down how you react. Now for each item write down 10 different ways you could react.

Be aware that even Buddha thought life was suffering. We can figure he was just being a pessimist or had a point. If we can use our suffering in the workplace to grow us up and make us more creative, the cost of a little pain will be worth what we gain.   

The Last Word(s)

Q. I have a very talented employee who simply won't step up to the higher visibility projects where she could work with management. What is her reluctance?

A. She may have considered that when you soar with the eagles you may get sucked into jet engines and decided to keep a low profile. If you want her to take more risks, you need to reduce her anxiety.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.INTERPERSONAL EDGE. DISTRIBUTED BY TMS

This column was originally printed in the September 12, 2010 - September 25, 2010 edition.



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