Reality Check: Rise or Sink?

Much like a community or a family, a workplace has its own atmosphere and culture. Some places are productive, filled with industrious people who are happy at their work. Other workplaces seem angry or sullen, where even simple tasks take enormous effort.

Fred has always been a keen worker, and he used to be confident that he could be successful anywhere. Although happily employed, he decided to move to another company, based on his understanding of the great opportunities offered there. He set his sights on becoming a top performer, working hard to get noticed and to advance.

A few years later, his view of this new workplace has dimmed. He sees people whom he views as less qualified promoted instead of him. He sees his ideas brushed aside, even though he knows they are valuable. And he sees that his contributions are generally not appreciated, or at least, not appreciated to the extent that he would like.

The most recent setback for Fred came when Bob, his supervisor, promoted another to a job that Fred had applied for. When questioned, Bob said simply, “I didn’t promote you because you’re too hard to get along with.”

In reality therapy, we use active language to emphasize the idea that we choose our behaviours. So, for example, instead of saying, “I feel anxious,” we could say, “I am anxiety-ing.” Instead of, “I am angry,” we could go with, “I am anger-ing.” And instead of “I’m depressed,” we could say, “I am depress-ing.”

When compared with how we usually express emotional states, these words seem strange! However, saying “anger-ing,” “anxiety-ing,” or “depress-ing” highlights the existence of our choices. The idea is that we have control over our behaviour, even when that behaviour seems to be a reaction that’s outside our control. Thus, “anger-ing,” for example, is a choice that we make.

Now, back to Fred. As he explained to his wife, “I’m an easy-going guy. How could Bob think I’m hard to get along with? That can’t be the real reason. Buddy who got the promotion was probably one of Bob’s relatives; that’s how things work here.”

Fred has chosen to perceive that the condition for success is nepotism. Thus, he can never get ahead, no matter what he does. He may as well give up trying and mimic what he perceives as the behaviour of people around him—those who do the bare minimum. Fred is choosing “discourage-ing.”

Now, the truth may indeed be that promotions depend on who you know, that Fred is in fact an even-tempered guy, and that reality stinks.

However, let’s look at the situation purely from this perspective: what behavioural choice is most effective for Fred? Will his life be better or worse if he chooses to sink to the level of those around him by discourage-ing?

Or will Fred’s life be more satisfying if he continues to strive in a positive way to make his mark on his workplace, despite this rejection? I’d suggest Fred will be best served by rising above it and working with calm persistence toward his goals. What do you think?

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