Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Emotional rescue

Don't let loss in workplace send you on downward spiral

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While I haven't engaged in curling for a number of years, my ears always perk up when I hear the curling sports news, especially when I learn that one of the big-name professionals is experiencing a losing streak. It's certainly no fun being in a loss position as it takes a great deal of stamina to retain the kind of positive attitude required to keep your team energized and motivated. And believe me; I've seen many a situation where one individual team member personally hits a sour note, continues to sing sad songs and in turn poisons the entire team.

Yet, losing a game in sports is very similar to suffering a personal loss in the workplace. Perhaps your favourite boss or a close friend at work has moved on or perhaps you've lost your most recent bid for promotion. Or, horror of horrors, perhaps you've just lost your job.

All of these types of job-related losses create strong emotional reactions. However, if an individual inadvertently gets trapped into the roller-coaster emotions of that well-known losing streak, they then start to exude negativity in everything they do or say. If they're not careful, their entire career will soon spiral out of control. That's because they can't concentrate, they no longer participate or interact with colleagues as they used to, they are more often late with assignments and they begin to be erratic in their decision making. Unfortunately, by this time, their behaviour has frequently begun to taint those around them.

In fact, your negative attitude in the workplace will be noticeable to such an extent that your manager may have even drawn you aside for a little discussion about what is troubling you. After all, no manager wants to see an employee suffer to that extent, but at the same time you are the only person in charge of your well-being and career. So, how can you get yourself untangled from the negative emotions that often accompany the perception of a losing streak at work?

Take charge -- firstly, it's important to acknowledge that your work-related loss is hitting harder than you realized. But stop telling your sad story over and over and stop living your life through a bad memory. Instead, take charge; define your pain by examining whether or not you are angry, anxious, stressed or resentful. Write it down. Read it, see it, feel it.

Examine your feelings -- next, take a look at why you're experiencing such overwhelming negative feelings. Are your feelings linked to some past experience? Is your self-esteem distorting how you view the situation? Are you being overly self-critical? Are you putting yourself down?

Cost benefit analysis -- now it's time to conduct a simple review of the advantages and disadvantages of your negative feelings. It's certainly a sensitive assessment as individuals don't want to believe there might be perceived advantages to being angry or sad. But, you'll be surprised at what you find. However, once the results stare you straight in the face, you can take action to overcome your negativity.

See through twisted thinking -- bad feelings often arise from distorted thoughts. This occurs when we think a situation is "all or nothing," we over-generalize or we simply jump to conclusions. Often as well, we get tangled up with those parental commands that say, "you should, you should." Take a moment to replay your own thoughts, take notice of your distorted negative thoughts and determine if you have fallen into the trap of twisted thinking.

Recognize game playing -- most people don't realize they engage in communication or relationship games. Popular games include "yes but" where no matter what solution is presented, the listener rejects it. Another game, "if it wasn't for you" sees an individual who feels victimized and who continually blames everyone else for what happens. Are you playing these popular relationship destroying games? You'll be surprised. Stop now!

Compare and contrast -- take time to identify what you see as the negatives in a situation and then identify what positives could possibly arise. For instance, you may not have received a promotion at this time but other opportunities might exist. Perhaps you can learn something from a new boss, there may be transfer options or, let's face it, you might realize that you wouldn't have wanted to deal with the high stress levels that were attached to that new job.

Recognize the symptoms of burnout -- once again take time to learn about and recognize that if you are feeling loss of interest in your job and/or your life in general, are experiencing loss of sleep or if you are always anxious and experiencing panic, you may well be at the stage of burnout.

Avoid avoidance -- most people find it hard to accept the fact they're in a downward spiral until someone points it out to them. While they've been struggling personally, they also don't realize how their attitude and behaviour impacts others around them. Take personal responsibility and reach out to seek help as early as you can.

Think twice before jumping ship -- many troubled employees will chose to change jobs without truly examining what's causing their negativity. As you might expect, their fresh start doesn't last long. Before you jump ship and flee to another job, take time to analyze what you are best at, what you like to do and how you can take a lead role in creating the best work environment for you.

Create a future vision -- overall, it's important for individuals to keep in mind that hope is not a solution for overcoming a negative work situation. Thus, it's important that you take an active role in examining your current challenges, build up your emotional intelligence and take charge of your career.

It's no fun when someone encounters what they perceive as a losing streak and it takes a great deal of stamina to retain the kind of positive attitude required to keep yourself and your team energized and motivated. Perhaps those curlers will have some advice for us. Plan for your next big win!

Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, CCP is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 16, 2013 H1

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