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November 14, 2001 Volume 1, Issue 46
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When Your Boss Attacks Your Self-Esteem


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 When you experience a comment as negative or hurtful, you might become angry, defensive, withdrawn, or even shut down.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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303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome
Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenLsmCpqdMPOvOuFTSner@ChacpOLYHZCKyQGBLyXLoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
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See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Managing Your Boss for more related articles.

Forthcoming Issues of Point Lookout

Bull moose sparring in Grand Teton National ParkComing October 7: Contextual Causes of Conflict: Part I
When destructive conflict erupts, we usually hold responsible only the people directly involved. But the choices of others, and general circumstances, can be the real causes of destructive conflict. Available here and by RSS on October 7.
The U.S. Capitol Building, seat of both houses of the legislatureAnd on October 14: Contextual Causes of Conflict: Part II
Too often we assume that the causes of destructive conflict lie in the behavior or personalities of the people directly participating in the conflict. Here's Part II of an exploration of causes that lie elsewhere. Available here and by RSS on October 14.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenWiLDAFoyxoXRuFDFner@ChacPgFNvAlCJDrFKUeQoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

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Ten Project Management Fallacies: The Power of Avoiding Hazards
Most Ten Project Management Fallaciesof what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

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Most Managing in Fluid Environmentspeople now work in environments that can best be characterized as fluid, because they're subject to continual change. We never know whats coming next. In such environments, managing — teams, projects, groups, departments, or the enterprise — often entails moving from surprise to surprise while somehow staying almost on track. It's a nerve-wracking existence. This program provides numerous tools that help managers who work in fluid environments. Read more about this program. Here are some upcoming dates for this program:

The Race to the South Pole: The Organizational Politics of Risk Management
On 14The Race to the South Pole: The Organizational Politics of Risk Management December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in risk management, its application to organizational efforts, and how workplace politics enters the mix. A fascinating and refreshing look at risk management from the vantage point of history and workplace politics. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

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TeamsTeam Development for Leaders at work are often teams in name only — they're actually just groups. True teams are able to achieve much higher levels of performance than groups can. In this program, Rick Brenner shows team leads and team sponsors the techniques they need to form their groups into teams, and once they are teams, how to keep them there. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

How to Spot a Troubled Project Before the Trouble StartsLearn how to spot troubled projects before they get out of control.
101 Tips for Managing ConflictFed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you the target of a bully? Learn how to make peace with conflict.
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