Sitting in a coffee shop with a large warm cup of tea as tense Christmas shoppers navigate around one another on the crowded street outside I find myself reflecting on the events of the past week at work. What power looks like and how it operates inside an organisation is a post for a different time. Lots of applied research going on now for the observant. How people feel about it all interests me. Again, a different post for a different time but feelings at work is a worthwhile topic to examine.
Peoples feelings at work is very well researched and I have always liked Franklyn Ernst’s model. It is simple and good simple takes a lot of smart design and even more elbow grease to do well. Ernst’s OK Corral model examines how people feel about themselves and others during interactions. To the four combinations below I will add some personal commentary but I encourage you to study the model for yourself as it is deeper than it appears.
1: I'm okay with me. I'm not okay with you.
Welcome to anger. The other person has pissed you off and you want your pound of flesh. This is where grudges are nursed. Get over it. Easier for me to type than to do but understanding the effect this other person has on you is the first step in doing something to change how it makes you feel.
That something should not involve brake cables and wire cutters.
There are more than a few skulls I want to claim, polish and display at the office but the people involved are rarely worth the mental effort one might expend on them. Never let anyone treat you poorly without them realising that behaviour is unacceptable but do not tie your happiness to their unhappiness.
See yourself as being detached from the situation if their chaos ever spills over into your life. You are spectator to the ongoing dumpster fire they are living. You are not going to fix them or make them better people but if you ignore them it probably will drive them nuts. Petty. But funny!
2: I'm not okay with me. I'm okay with you.
Hello imposter syndrome! You will give the other party what they ask for but you will think you're a piece of shit while doing so. Why? Go figure out why you think you are a piece of shit. Is it rational? Fix it. Is it irrational? Fix that too.
No one is coming to save you and the world does not owe you a thing. Get busy being okay with you.
3: I'm okay with me. I'm okay with you.
Companies spend fortunes trying to get their people here. It is a quiet land and a contented people collaborating on shared goals. It is not going to be harmonious all the time. The place will feel like Genghis Khan’s armies rode through every now and then. Apart from that Okay me – Okay you is the aspirational end state that funds organisational development efforts in companies and has people reading the latest pop psychology books on motivation and happiness.
Strive for this. This is your destination in the work place. You will never see this consistently in your lifetime but that does not mean it is not worth working at. Here is where mutual fulfilment is.
4: I'm not okay with me. I'm not okay with you.
If you are here and it is your job that is the cause, look for a different job.
If you are here and it is your boss that is the cause, fire your boss and go work for someone else.
Most managers like most employees or most executives are just about competent at what they do on their very best day. Anyone promoted above their level of ability becomes damaging to their employees and their organisation. Leave them. Leave them now and do so without regret.
Not okay me – Not okay you damages your soul. It is the feeling you are in a bad relationship. That bad relationship being where you are trapped in a barrel and every now and then someone opens the lid and dumps acid on you.
Not being okay with yourself in this position is fear, self-loathing all the ugly imperfections of being human. But you are human. Maybe if the stress is getting to you cut yourself a break. You cannot do it all so delegate some of what you are doing and dump the rest of it.
If work stress is not getting to you do you even care anymore? No. You have become one of those lifeless workplace zombies who can get to the office exactly on time and leave exactly on time and have a completely unmotivated and unfulfilling day watching the clock. This life of despair strikes the young as well as the old and must be a miserable existence. If you are a workplace zombie in Not okay - Not okay let me tell you that existence alone is not enough. Save yourself and select out. I am begging you to go be brilliant elsewhere where what you do matters to you. You can contribute but not where you are now.
People spend so much of their life at work they need to try and make it worthwhile. It can be frustrating, people are dumb and most of those you work with may never recognise your wit, insight, brilliance and amazing contribution but you will just have to take satisfaction that you recognise it. Hopefully at least one other person recognises it too.
In the end being okay with you begins and ends with you.