Interpersonal EDGE: What to Do When Work Hands You Lemons?
Saturday, October 8, 2011
By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. I have had several really out of the blue work crises this year that have me feeling shocked and dismayed. I was raised to think good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. The worst part is that I've had smug coworkers with better fortune saying I must deserve my bad luck. Am I cursed, and how do I turn my work life around?
A. No, you are not cursed and you turn your work life around by not blaming yourself for the adversity that (like gravity) is simply part of the human experience. You can eat right, go to church, be kind to others, work hard and still have bad fortune land on you like an unexpected asteroid.
Your smug coworkers are simply not too bright and really scared of what they can't control. People who believe that bad things only happen to bad people can sleep easy at night and feel secure in arrogant omnipotence.
The trouble with the fantasy that we can control the universe is that work and life will eventually humble us all. What unites us and can help us work together is a keen awareness of our common vulnerability to unexpected suffering.
Regular readers of this column know I'm a big fan of exerting influence and control in every way you can to get what you want at work. But those who think superb interpersonal skills, keen intuition, a good heart, and hard work are a magic charm against adversity are bound to be sorely disappointed.
As a psychotherapist and executive coach for the last 30 years, I've heard every explanation my clients can come up with for bad luck. Some of my clients blame karma, God, themselves, or their obvious lack of spiritual development. I point out that this reaction just leads to feeling crappy about feeling crappy - which has never been shown to help people fix bad circumstances.
Realize there is a healing phase when we get hit by the unexpected asteroid of bad fortune:
1. Shock and denial (this isn't happening to me)
2. Bargaining (maybe I can make this go away)
3. Guilt (Boy! I must be bad to have this happen to me!)
4. Obsessing (there must have been some way to avoid this)
5. Rage (it must be someone's fault I'm suffering)
After people go through all these phases of shock, they finally stare off the cliff into the Grand Canyon of powerlessness we all experience sometimes in life and consider that they better get a plan together.
When you are struck like lightening by an unexpected adverse event, don't try to resist going through the normal phases of shock. Take the time to let these normal reactions pull you out to the ocean like a rip tide. The faster you surrender to working through your feelings, the sooner you'll have a clear head to find a new way to swim back to shore.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker.  She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.
This was printed in the October 9, 2011 - October 22, 2011 edition

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