Q: I have a brother who is autistic and I know he truly has a social blindness to the emotions of others. However, I've also noticed that many "normal" people in my workplace seem completely blind to the effect they have. They seem so busy trying to be right, get their way or make their point that they have zero awareness they are only making enemies. What is wrong with these people?
A: We indeed have an epidemic of emotional self-absorption that rivals any epidemic in history. What is wrong with these people is that many of them are so anxious they will not get their needs met that ironically they alienate all the people who could have supported them.
Your connection between this entitlement and autism is quite clever. Where autistic people really cannot make the emotional connections, people with entitlement could understand others but do not. We are all capable of getting so anxious about our needs that we become completely blind to how we are affecting others.
When we fail to notice or consider how what we are saying and doing is impacting people around us we make enemies. Enemies will eventually get even with us and we will probably be surprised by the fact our workplace projects get no support.
In many workplace conversations everyone is vying for attention, being right or making their point. Productivity, creativity and problem solving are sacrificed on the altar of people's egos.
If we lose our ego-oriented minds we find there is a part of us (perhaps soul) that is secure in our value and lovability. We can then afford to be keenly aware of our context, the needs of others, and creative possibilities.
In the Buddhist tradition teachers often recommend to students, "Be what the space around you needs." When we are fighting to the death for the victory of our ego in the workplace there is no way we can see beyond ourselves.
The bottom line is your self-esteem actually is a dictatorship of one (you) and not a democracy. When you enter your office peaceful about your value, you do not need to fight to the death to be right. Next time you go into a meeting, ask yourself what you would see and do if your ego was not running your show?
If others are fighting like hyenas for the ego prize of being right, go instead for a soulful prize of being effective. You do not need to join the ego fight anymore. You can wait until others are exhausted to suggest ways to fix business problems. Then you can quietly step in, be what your business space needs and transform your workplace. No ego required!
The last word(s)
Q: I am simply sick of getting walked on at work (and everywhere else). I want to do what you suggest and set boundaries but I do not even know where to start. Do you have any recommendations?
A: Yes, stop agreeing to anything that insults your soul without fighting. Seek out what makes you well like a heat-seeking missile.
(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)