OPINION: Why you will regret making enemies in the office

Robert Labayen -- ExecuTips

Posted at Oct 22 2018 10:18 PM

When students were protesting against the autocracy in Zimbabwe, they were advised to focus their hate on just one man: President Mugabe. They shouldn’t antagonize the policemen who arrested and beat them up because they targeted the police and the army as potential allies.

I share the belief that we must think wise and overcome the temptation to get even or to burn bridges. There is no benefit in having enemies while having many friends will open many doors.

We will always need the help or cooperation of other people for as long as we are working in the same company. Actually, even many years after we have parted ways. For example, I have friends who used to bully some of those who were younger and not smart enough. Years later when courting new clients, they would see those same guys now sitting in the selection panel!

I know a person who was so protective of her image. To clear her name, she would confront every office mate and neighbor who said something less pleasant about her. She was quite successful in creating for herself the reputation of a quarrelsome person.

When I was younger, I showed resentment to my superior and I almost lost my job.

We don’t know where life will take us. But wherever we find ourselves next, it will be great to find friends instead of adversaries.

Controlling Aggressiveness

Clinical psychologists Charles H. Elliot and Laura L. Smith observed that people are not relaxed working with and around someone who gets carried away by a bad temper. There is a tense atmosphere when you’re with somebody who will have an outburst at any moment. Companies don't like to hire or promote them.

In the book "Anger Management for Dummies," Drs. Elliot and Smith remind us that it takes two parties to fight. If someone gets angry at us, it doesn’t mean that we have to respond in the same way. They prescribe deep breathing as we allow time to pass because our peak rage only lasts five to ten minutes. We can ride it out. It is advisable to shift our focus to things to be grateful for because gratitude miraculously turns anger into happiness.

The two experts even suggest that we distract ourselves by counting moles on someone’s face or by balancing on one foot.

The Greek Stoics counseled that for us to maintain our tranquility, we should separate the things that we can control from those that we can’t. We can, of course, control our performance in the office. As long as we’re sure we did the right thing to the best of our ability, we should no longer bother controlling our critics. We can explain our side calmly. If they are hysterical, it’s their problem. By the way, tranquility to the Stoics didn’t mean having a beer by the pool. It’s about doing away with all negative emotions.

We are not slaves to our emotions. Good and bad feelings are just caused by brain chemicals triggered by our thoughts. If we change our thoughts, we change our feelings. We can do that either by distracting our minds or by brightsiding ourselves. For example, if a peer or a superior criticizes our output, we can look at it as an opportunity to learn new things and to improve the work.

Taming the Tongue

Many times I have been tempted to write an email while angry. Good thing I was not able to send out any of them. Minutes later, I would write a more level-headed memo and I always earned great support from my workmates.

If we don’t agree with a workmate’s idea or behavior, we can surely discuss that with them when we’re all relaxed and cool. Be the first to lower your voice when you sense that somebody is beginning to lose their patience. It will not make you a lesser person.

There is really no need to assert the alpha in us. BMO Financial Group Chief Economist Sherry Cooper remarked, “What worked on a battlefield - or during a genuine crisis – is not appropriate in today’s business environment…dominance, aggression, bullying and a winner-take-all mindset can cause damage.” She advised that what’s needed now are individuals who are fluid, adaptable, flexible, agile and intuitive.

References :

The Dictator’s Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy by William J. Dobson

Anger Management for Dummies by Charles H. Elliot and Laura L. Smith

A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine

Habits of a Happy Brain by Loretta Graziano Breuning

Why the Office Alpha Will Soon Be Extinct by Barrie McKenna in The Globe and Mail website

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Read more about ExecuTips on www.robertlabayen.com

About the Author:

Robert Labayen spent 22 years in advertising prior to joining ABS-CBN in 2004. He was VP-Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi and Executive Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson, two of the country's leading ad agencies. He is currently the Head of Creative Communications Management at ABS-CBN. His job involves inspiring people to be their best. He is a writer, painter and songwriter.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.