Your Definition of a Team Player May Be Off (at Home and in the Office)

Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Career, Marriage | 0 comments

Team Player

There is significant room for journalistic gossip about the precipitous exit a few months ago of Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows operating system division at Microsoft. Rumor has it that Microsoft had growing concern about Sinofsky’s inability to get along well with other senior managers, including CEO Steve Ballmer. What does this have to do with my practice as a marriage and family therapist? A lot.

As the economy continues in its precarious state, I see in my practice that more and more stress and anxiety present themselves around job-related issues. Even what may be a relatively secure job is now coated with the ominous “what if” layer of uncertainty surrounding potential lay-offs, re-orgs, and rapidly changing market demands.

Add to the mix the personal characteristics and behavioral habits we bring to the office, and it is a veritable pressure cooker for stress and anxiety. What used to be, for some, a haven from the interpersonal challenges faced at home with a spouse, partner, child, or friend, has become a source of psychic pain rather than an escape from it.

It is becoming clear (and you can see more about this on the home page) that struggles we have at home are often a microcosm for struggles at work, and struggles at work may be a macrocosm for struggles at home.  More time is spent at work and work/life barriers are further blurred thanks to telecommuting, social media, long hours and colleagues as friends. It is paramount that we learn to increasingly improve and manage our behavior, reactions, actions and emotions as it is less possible to compartmentalize work performance and interpersonal performance.

This can be a blessing in disguise. I have found clients who come to me with “work issues” discover better work AND home outcomes; and likewise, clients who come to me with “personal” issues typically experience better outcomes at home AND at work. An example:

Without compromising confidentiality, I can tell you that a recent client came to me for help with relationship issues she was having at home with her spouse. The biggest hurdle to her communication with him was a short-fuse temper that sprang forth whenever he disagreed with her—about anything.

An aside about my approach: As a former hard-charging corporate sales professional, my clients would tell you I am a safe, empathic, albeit hard-charging therapist. I focus on identifying behaviors and attitudes that are not working and helping clients replace them with tools that do. “Find What Works” is one of my mottos.

So with this client we immediately identified what was working and what was not and explored methods that might work for her to recognize and re-channel her anger to more effectively and honestly communicate with her husband. Anger in this case represented her fear of losing her identity, loss of relevance, loss of self. The tools we identified allowed her to move forward as more balanced and respectful during disagreements.

Within a few sessions of identifying what worked at home, this same client reported colleagues and higher-ups at work had noted a marked reduction in the anger she carried and expressed at work. Her supervisor asked if she were taking anger management classes. The most interesting part? She hadn’t even been aware she was carrying anger at work. To my client, she was simply doing her job—expressing what she thought was an honest opinion and/or approach to share in a given situation.

Upon further discussion of the change in her behavior noted by her supervisor (and colleagues), she learned subsequently learned she had been passed over for advancement in the past due to concerns about her ability to deal collaboratively with others—in particular, those with whom she disagreed.

In this increasingly collaborative world of living and working (think crowd sourcing, open source programming, social media, telecommuting, cross-product coordination) it is critical for many of us to identify barriers to collaboration and communication—at home and at work. And though relationship challenges may be most prominent at home, it would be fairly safe to assume they are also present at work, and vice versa.

A word of advise on addressing the marriage of home and work relationship issues: As you consider options for guidance in this area, it is helpful to understand what it is YOU need. Career therapy (what I provide to clients who need it) is different from career coaching. The latter provides a step-by-step action plan for getting from Point A to Point B, or for getting from Career A to Career B. The former—career therapy—addresses underlying behavioral patterns that are preventing success in career life (and perhaps home life). Many of my clients engage in career therapy to ready themselves for career coaching. I would liken the process to getting the right fit in running shoes before attempting a marathon.

Whether your most pressing relational issues appear to be at work or at home, know that both are intimately linked and that learning to play well in one sandbox lends itself to playing well in the other sandbox. I can help you find tools that will work for YOU and help you to achieve your longer term goals and objectives.

Who knows? With a concentrated effort and investment in your innate skills and abilities, you may well be the future (and/or next) Steve Ballmer, CEO, Microsoft and/or Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo.

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