Henry sits tensely in the office of his department head, Aaron, waiting for him to finish his phone call. Henry knows he used bad judgment when he avoided reporting his accident, and he is afraid that Aaron will be angry, accusatory, and may recommend disciplinary action. “Anxietying” behaviours are largely in charge of Henry as he waits, and he’d like to change that.
This article is one in a series about the workplace. You can find the first article in the series here.
However, Henry has some understanding of Choice Theory, and he knows it won’t be effective to simply “choose” to stop worrying. He’ll be more effective if he chooses to act to calm his physiology (halt his foot-tapping) and choose to think of options rather than speculate about what he’ll hear.
As Henry waits, he deliberately chooses to think: “What are the consequences of what I did?”
When Aaron finally turns his attention to Henry, rather than deliver an angry diatribe, he expresses disappointment. “Henry, you seemed to have integrity, a great attitude, and seemed genuinely interested in doing things right. I thought I could trust you. I’m shocked that you would mislead me by not reporting this incident.”
Henry has choices in how to respond. If he were still in a state where anxietying and frantic physiology were in charge, he might respond defensively and blurt out excuses: “It wasn’t my fault. I wanted to tell you but Bill said I shouldn’t.”
Can Henry correct his error? No, the time for that has passed. Can Henry choose to blame Bill? He could, but he recognizes that it won’t excuse his own poor judgment, and will simply reflect unwillingness to be responsible for his own decisions.
Instead, by choosing to take control over what he is doing (sitting quietly) and thinking (of company consequences rather than blame), Henry is in a better position to actually hear Aaron and respond.
Henry deliberately chooses to direct his thinking toward ways in which he can show he has learned his lesson, make amends, and improve the situation.
“I recognize that by not seeing the nurse, my injury could have gotten infected and then I would have been off work. That doesn’t help the company.”
“And because I didn’t tell anyone, the accident is still out there, waiting to happen again. The latch needs to be repositioned so someone else doesn’t get hurt. After all, I’m not the only short person who works here. By not saying anything, nothing will improve. I realize that what I did was exactly the wrong way to handle the situation.”
What can Henry do now? He can recognize that he really is responsible for how he chooses to approach his work. With his new “grown-up” perspective, he could choose to volunteer on the safety committee to talk specifically about accident reporting, to ensure that no other new hire faces the uncertainty that he had.
Have you found that choosing your actions and thinking can affect your feelings and physiology in a positive way?