Work is one of those topics, like money, politics and religion, that people often get worked up over very quickly!
This is true whether it is about work we are doing now, or work we did in the past and also true of paid or unpaid work.
A few weeks ago in our post about Work and Family, we talked about how part of the reason for this is that work can be one of the ways we get a lot of our needs met, so when we feel it is being threatened in some way, it can be very de-stabilizing.
Another reason is because we are always interpreting the present through the lens of our past experiences and this informs what we expect in the future.
This is part of what we do as humans that makes us such great learning machines- we are always building on and integrating new information. Here is the tricky part though, how we interact with new situations, changes how they go, so our past actually strongly influences our present by changing what we expect in the future, and it can become a self fulfilling prophecy.
For example, if we learned to stand up for ourselves, when we are being asked to take on more and more at work, we won’t shy away from the potential conflict and we ask for what we want and are more likely to actually get it and be able to keep meeting expectations. This allows us to continue to feel good about ourselves and when we make expectations and our needs clear, it reduces the chances of rejection by others because we are all on the same page. On top of that, all of the above reinforces that we deserve to be seen, heard and acknowledged and that standing up for ourselves is good.
If we learned to avoid conflict, to try to keep people happy because otherwise they become emotionally rejecting or intimidating, I will just keep saying yes to an increasing workload, feel unappreciated, not seen, not heard and not acknowledged. Eventually I will stop meeting expectations because I am burned out and upset. As a result my boss or co-workers will get upset with me and become rejecting- reinforcing my initial belief that people are dangerous unless I keep them happy and meeting expectations!
When we learn we are consistently worthy of attention, acknowledgement and respect, that is what we expect when we go to school from peers and teachers, and later when we go to work from co-workers and authority figures.
We bring what we learned about how to deal with uncertainty, mistakes, and power dynamics to work with us too! We often re-enact family power dynamics and coping styles with our bosses, co-workers and managers. Often trying to please, get their validation, be good enough etc. Or perhaps it just means we shut down when there is conflict or maybe we puff ourselves up and dump on those with less power than us. There are many variants of what we often learned at home that we re-enact at work.
This doesn’t happen 100% of the time, because as with everything, we can consciously over-ride past learning and also because sometimes our survival maps make a distinction between how we are allowed to act in close relationships (ie. be a doormat) and how we are allowed to be at work (ie. dominant, aggressive). However common things being common, it happens more than not!
For more information on how and what we bring with us emotionally to work- check out a webinar I did for the Not Myself Today campaign through Partners for Mental Health, earlier this year. This is a National campaign promoting workplace mental health and they have kindly allowed me to post the webinar here also!
If you don’t have the time to go through the whole thing (45 min), you can do it in chunks, as it is divided into topics, so you can do one topic at a time in 5 ish min increments if you want! The first part is a great review of the some of the basics we cover on our site, and how it relates to work is in the second half. Enjoy!
And remember that all change begins with awareness, so what baggage are you bringing with you to work? And if you are not working at the moment- what baggage are you bringing with you into your relationships?
So as you see, we don’t just have a bring your baggage to work day,
we bring it with us to work every day!
See you next week!