Point Lookout An email newsletter from Chaco Canyon Consulting
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November 14, 2001 Volume 1, Issue 46
 
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When Your Boss Attacks Your Self-Esteem

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Your boss's comments about your work can make your day — or break it. When you experience a comment as negative or hurtful, you might become angry, defensive, withdrawn, or even shut down. When that happens, you're not at your best. What can you do if your boss seems intent on making every day a misery?

Rachel finally gave up trying to work. She stood and looked outside at the snow. Deciding it wasn't too bad yet, she put on her coat and headed for the elevator and outside. Just to walk. A little early for lunch, but nobody seemed to notice. She needed some alone time.

The blaming bossOut beyond the parking lot was part of an old canal, and the geese wintered there. "Maybe they'll be there," she thought. "I need to calm down."

Eric hired Rachel two years ago. In the past year, she's noticed that he "constantly belittles everything I do." She becomes emotional and tries to defend herself, but often overreacts. This time, she's done something different, something much more effective. She's seeking a place and a space where she can calm herself.

When we're calm, we can use other tools to help recover our self-esteem. Here are a few suggestions.

No one can actually belittle your work
The result of your work stands — it is what it is. People can say things about your work, but they can't change your work. They can't belittle your work with words.
Only you can belittle you
People can say things about you, but you remain who you are. People can't belittle you with words.
When you feel belittled, take responsibility
People can say things
about your work,
but they can't
change your work
The feeling of belittlement is real, but what's being belittled is your own acceptance — your esteem — for your Self. Others do play a part — they supply the words you need to make yourself feel belittled. But you control your emotions, so you play a part, too. Your part is that you believe the words just enough to feel bad about yourself. That's good news, because if you control what you do, you can change it.
Remember those who love you
When the swirl of feeling bad begins, it's easy to fall into the pit. You can hold onto your self-esteem a little tighter if you remember the people — including yourself — who love you. Decide in advance to focus on some small object — a locket, or a ring, or your badge (if you wear a badge at work), or even your right pinky fingernail. Imagine that it carries all the love that the people in your life feel for you. When your boss gets going, connecting with that object can bring you back from the pit, and if you remember soon enough, it will keep you from falling in.

Whatever you hear from others, you remain the same wonderful, unique human being that you've always been. To the people who love you, you mean a lot — maybe everything — and they'll keep loving you, no matter what others say. You can do the same. Go to top Top  Next issue: Pygmalion Side Effects: Bowling a Strike  Next Issue
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

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How much of the time and energy you spend in meetings goes to finding the best way? or a better way? It's of questionable value unless you first agree on what you mean by "better" or "best."
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When things go badly, many of us experience stress, and we might indulge various appetites in harmful ways. Some of us say things like "My boss is driving me nuts," or "She made me so angry." These explanations are rarely legitimate.
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Indirect communications are veiled, ambiguous, excessively diplomatic, or conveyed to people other than the actual target. We often use indirectness to avoid confrontation or to avoid dealing with conflict. It can be an expensive practice.
Silly BandzBusiness Fads and Their Value
Fads in business come and go, like fads anywhere. In business, though, their effects can be so expensive that they threaten the enterprise. Still, the ideas and methods that become fads can have intrinsic value. Where does that value come from? Where does it go?
The field of vision of a horseA Review of Performance Reviews: Blindsiding
Ever learn of a complaint about you for the first time at your performance review? If so, you were blindsided. Reviews can be painful. Here are some guidelines for making them a little fairer.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Managing Your Boss for more related articles.

Forthcoming Issues of Point Lookout

Mohandas K. Ghandi, in the 1930sComing June 3: Just Make It Happen
Many idolize the no-nonsense manager who says, "I don't want to hear excuses, just make it happen." We associate that stance with strong leadership. Sometimes, though, it's little more than abuse motivated by ambition or ignorance — or both. Available here and by RSS on June 3.
Two hermit crabs in their snail shellsAnd on June 10: The Perils of Limited Agreement
When a group member agrees to a proposal, even with conditions, the group can move forward. Such agreement is constructive, but there are risks. What are those risks and what can we do about them? Available here and by RSS on June 10.

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