The most difficult aspect of work has nothing to do with profitability or deadlines or competition. It has to do with the immense and beautiful challenges of dealing, on an ongoing basis, with that often amazing but always complicated entity known as the colleague.
Our colleagues can be the sources of our greatest joys and triumphs: they compensate for our weaknesses, enlarge our strengths, and aggregate our energies. However, working successfully around others is neither intuitive nor simple: it requires us to communicate effectively, to understand our own minds and blind spots, to master our emotions, and to see the world from other people’s perspectives.
The School of Life has been working with organizations since its foundation, releasing the latent talents of employees and equipping them with the emotional intelligence required to succeed. This book compresses our learning into a series of lessons on workplace psychology. The result is an essential guide to more profitable, harmonious, and happier organizations.
|Publisher:||The School of Life|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
The School of Life is a rapidly growing global brand, with over 5 million YouTube subscribers, 343,000 Facebook followers, 183,000 Instagram followers and 160,000 Twitter followers.
The School of Life Press brings together the thinking and ideas of the School of Life creative team under the direction of series editor, Alain de Botton. Their books share a coherent, curated message that speaks with one voice: calm, reassuring, and sane.
Read an Excerpt
2. Poor Teaching
i. A character study
This member of the team, who is probably also a manager, is constantly cross with colleagues. Why are they surrounded by morons? Why do other employees not get it more quickly? Why can’t they work as precisely and swiftly as they themselves can? Last week, three people completely failed to grasp how to draw up the portfolios for the Dutch clients, even though it should have been clear from the three-line instruction they were sent at the start of the month. Then there’s the new recruit in the sales department, who keeps misreading what’s needed and sends gormless off-target emails that show a thorough misunderstanding of how the business functions. And that’s not to mention the numbskulls in the regional office or the idiots in recruitment.
The Roman Emperor Nero, when he was culling his insubordinate staff, complained at how long it was taking to punish them in his usual style. ‘I wish you Romans had only one neck,’ screamed the aggrieved Nero. Execution would be going a bit far, of course, but, on some days in the office, the non-teacher can concur with the feeling.
To get around their disappointment with other people, the non-teacher spends a lot of time on secret manoeuvres: they give up on those they are meant to be collaborating with, fail to talk to them about their disappointments, and instead work around them with the help of a few select not-always-officially-sanctioned colleagues. The secretly manoeuvring non-teacher may seem supportive in meetings and may appear to have taken a suggestion on board quite positively. But behind the scenes, they are determined to find another route. They set up secret side groups. It’s meant to be a collaboration between twenty equals, but they go out and hire two external consultants without telling anyone. It sounds Machiavellian, but it’s more sorrowful than that; it’s the outcome of a terrible lack of faith in the power of communication.
In their personal life, the non-teacher may well have a lover as well as a spouse: they’re disappointed with the partner they married, but they haven’t come around to expressing what they really feel. It’s not their style; it seemed better to steer around the conflict and start up a new relationship on the side. They’re doing in business a version of what they’re doing in their marriage. They’re devoting themselves to ‘lovers’ because they can’t tolerate the idea of instructing the group to which they pledged themselves originally.
Beneath these behaviours lies one central issue: a disdain for teachers. In theory, we pay lip service to the value of the teaching profession, but in practice, many of us suspect that teaching is a dull and lowly occupation that we were glad to have moved away from once we graduated. The pace, remuneration and stylish atmosphere of many modern businesses is a welcome far cry from the fustiness of the classroom; we may secretly pity the poor types in sensible jackets who are currently drilling new generations in the intricacies of long division and French irregular verbs.
And yet, whatever one’s background fears, teaching is one of the most central, unavoidable and noble aspects of existence. Even if we haven’t signed up to instruct adolescents in algebra or to coax five-year-olds to read, we are called upon to ‘teach’ almost every hour of every day. We have to teach others how we’re feeling, what we want, what is paining us, and, in the context of work, what we think needs doing and how. The specialist subject we undertake to teach throughout our lives is that bizarre-sounding yet enormous topic: Who I Am, How I Feel and What I Care About.
Unfortunately, most of us are terrible teachers. We don’t explain calmly or thoroughly; we don’t maintain good humour or spare our ‘bad’ pupils punishment. We blame people for not already knowing what we have never deigned to tell them. We end up seething with resentment at their ongoing ignorance (as to the way to format an introductory letter, budget or chat to a client) but never take the steps required to correct it. We are furious with colleagues for not knowing things that we assume they should know without ever having been taught. We fail to get others to see what matters so much to us: why we are enraged when people speak out of turn at a meeting; why endless committees are not required to get a project done; why we hate their tone in presentations.
What we think of as a specific professional skill that belongs in school is actually a key form of communication, and a basic human requirement for the healthy operation of any community, relationship or office.
Despairing of teaching, saying nothing and then going behind people’s backs doesn’t sound kind when stated baldly. But for many it is not an unreasonable strategy given our childhood circumstances. At an early stage, the non-teacher probably came up against the futility – and indeed impossibility – of directly asserting their needs and interests. There was no way to complain. Those tasked with caring for them were too preoccupied, troubled or volatile to take their requirements on board. Straightforward conversation would have been either useless or plain dangerous. The only option was therefore to remain quiet and then try to outwit key figures behind their backs
Table of Contents
Part I The Need to Get On With Others
1 Our Unhappy Past 04
2 The New Cost of Unhappiness 06
3 Gossip 09
4 Psychotherapy at the Office 14
5 Beyond Gossip 20
Part II The Challenges
1 Defensiveness 23
2 Poor Teaching 41
3 People Pleasing 55
4 Paranoia 63
5 Panickiness 71
6 Naysaying 77
7 Over-Optimism 85
8 Charmlessness 97
9 Procrastination 103
10 Cynicism 111
11 Frankness 119
12 Immaturity 125
Part III Towards Harmony
1 Normalising Difficulty 134
2 Plotting for Emotional Growth 138
3 Conclusion 150