Under a cloud at work - again? Could be the weather you're bringing with you!

Have you ever changed jobs to escape what felt like an unbearable situation, only to find yourself in a similar fix 6 months down the track in the new job? Did it feel like you were still under the same cloud? Here's a story that might help you make sense of this:

A participant in an Adaptiv resilience building workshop appeared to be frustrated and angry during a paired practice activity. They said that their manager was loading them up with tasks that should have gone to a more senior person. They were upset because they had taken a job in a new company that was a level below their last position, but it looked like there would be more opportunities to advance in this larger organization. Now they felt like they were being treated unfairly. Their activity partner asked if they had spoken with their boss about their concern. The participant said that would be a waste of time, because the boss knew they had taken a step back and was knowingly taking advantage to save time and money. After less than a year in the job, they were thinking about updating their resume and walking away. 

I asked the participant if they had ever faced a similar situation in the past. It turns out they had left their last position for similar reasons. They were being blocked from promotion by a manager who felt threatened by their ability. I asked if there was anything else that could have gotten in the way of their advancement or if there was anything they could have done to improve their standing. They said no. I asked them to consider the possibility that they might be bringing the bad weather with them. They got mad at me! I apologized and encouraged them to continue working through the situation with their activity partner and during the rest of the class.

In our resilience training and coaching practices, we see this behavior pattern quite often. A person hits a career roadblock, assumes that it's caused by others or circumstances, gets frustrated and angry and leaves - only to find themselves a similar situation at a different organization. The mechanism causing this non-resilient behavior is fairly simple to explain. However, it can be a challenge to change. Here's why:

Habitually jumping to the conclusion that someone or something else is responsible for our problem - career or otherwise - is caused by what we call "Not Me" thinking. Not Me thinkers instinctively point the finger of blame away from themselves, especially when what's at the root of their problem isn't immediately obvious. Because Not Me thinkers are somewhat blind to their contribution to a situation, they resist attempts to coach them around their habitual thinking - even when their Not Me thinking leads to bad outcomes. 

If you find yourself constantly looking anywhere but in the mirror to explain why something's going wrong, getting frustrated or angry more than you'd like, and dead-ending on problem solving, try at least one of these tips to work around your Not Me thinking:

  • Get off autopilot - Tune into your thinking and see if you can capture exactly what you're saying to yourself in the midst of adversity. Chances are it's got a Not Me flavor.
  • Take a break - Breathe. Count slowly to 10. Meditate. You're working against years of habitual thinking and you need to start breaking the cycle.
  • Be skeptical of your thinking - Just because you think it doesn't make it true. 
  • Reframe - Look for just one possible way that you might be causing the problem. (Expect this to be hard.)
  • Talk to a "Me" thinker - Find someone you trust who's more likely to look in the mirror when things go wrong. They will always help you find ways to be accountable that your Not Me style will hide from you

I'm happy to report that our workshop participant recently reached out to me to thank us for the class. They kept an open mind, listened, applied the above techniques and are now having productive discussions with their manager. Hearing this truly made my day!

Have you found ways to change your Not Me thinking and stop bringing the bad weather with you? Please let us know. 





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