He was experiencing a feeling of being anxious at all times on the job. There was apparently nothing that was bothering him but he was certainly ill at ease. On reflection he realised it had begun only after his promotion and never before did he feel like this. The promotion had happened more than a year ago. There seemed to be no relief coming. The new task on the new promotion was difficult at first but he had learnt the art and science of it and was pretty much confident to do the tasks. Performance of the new role did not seem to be bothering him. The mystery deepened. On further enquiry into all possibilities on the job situation and the home situation he came out with something unique! It was revealed that the promotion to the higher rank put him in direct touch with the head of the organisation! Amit was several ranks junior in position and had never had the opportunity nor felt the need to interact with the top boss as he had many more seniors above him. This was a unique position he had landed into by luck or bad luck he thought in his head! He hesitated to speak his mind but after some effort it was revealed that the boss was actually bad tempered, was aggressive and rude in his behaviour that upset Amit hell of a lot! It gave him the shivers as he imagined the worst fears people can imagine on the job! He was sure he would lose his job one day soon or would be demoted to his earlier rank to his disgrace! But after working for a year on the post, nothing like that had happened. Then why the continued fear was a question that still lay unanswered.
Amit also developed occasional headaches and pains. At home he was relaxed and happy –all this happened only on the job. We concluded that there were a few things that were the source of anxiety. One was the aggressive manner of questioning by the boss which was almost a daily affair. Amit, being slightly submissive and not very expressive verbally could not defend his position confidently as the boss shot off his questions. Subsequently he seemed to lose his confidence instantly on seeing/thinking of the boss and develop shivers and nervous symptoms. This was conditioning! The second aspect was his negative perceptions towards the boss and his negative assumptions about the consequences of his inability to explain and defend his position when questioned. He mind was stuck in a strange ‘chakravyu’ for he went round and round in circles not knowing how to get out.
Being verbally expressive is an important skill at higher levels. Not all individuals are adept in this art but it needs to be developed if you desire to rise higher. It builds confidence as you are able to convey the message properly and the other is satisfied with the explanation. It is necessary to learn to speak well so as to be heard properly. The second aspect of harbouring negative perceptions about the boss is part of stereotyped thinking. In this case the boss never mentioned or hinted at ‘firing’ him but it was in Amit’s mind that gave rise to his anxieties. People harbour biases and prejudices against certain roles (in this case the boss) which they never examine critically within themselves and hence never manage to shed them off. This type of stereotyped thinking is detrimental to the development of personality and hence the progress on the job.
It’s a frequent phenomenon. Handling promotions and handling newer challenges that might just spring up unexpectedly can upset many people who are not prepared for it. The old groove that people work in becomes comfortable in the long run like an old shoe that fits beautifully. But this is the way most people can sink into mediocrity. We observe that people dream of higher ranks and may harbour fantasies about being successful but are deficient in building skills required for them. There is a reluctance or lethargy in preparing for the future challenges that might spring up any time. They then find themselves in a strange situation of not being able to rise to the opportunity that stares them in the face. Achievement orientation requires an attitude that is just the opposite of this- keep honing your skills and adding value to your- self for you never know when opportunity will come knocking!
Published in The Hitavada – Future Work Behaviour for 5 October 2010