An important spiritual practice at work involves paying attention to when your personal agenda or ego gets in the way of making a relationship work smoothly. Way too many team conflicts and bad decisions happen due to egos and personal agendas. I like the corporate culture of Southwest Airlines that supports people taking their job seriously but not taking themselves too seriously. Pilots help handle baggage when they are in a pinch to leave on time.
It’s a fine walk to walk some times between asserting your expertise vs. butting heads. Careful discernment and awareness is often necessary to know when your ego or personal agenda gets in the way. Check in with yourself next time you find you are in a conflict with someone or you feel slighted in some way at work.
Early in my career I got an important insight regarding this issue. I have revisited it many times over the years. I kept getting frustrated at an intern I supervised because she did not listen to my advice or what I suggested she do. She was quite bright so I gave her a lot of running room. However, there were times when she wasn’t sure what to do and didn’t take my advice. I felt some obligation in my role to help mentor and guide her, but she would have none of it. I felt frustrated that I wasn’t fulfilling my role with the intern and also concerned about her work. I also took it as a personal insult that she wasn’t listening to me. That was my hook that kept getting pulled. She paid attention to my boss but ignored my input.
It wasn’t until the very end of her time with us that I realized how personally I was taking things. Rather than see it as her learning experience to get as much or little out of the internship as she could, I felt slighted and somewhat belittled by her. She triggered my button about not being taken seriously, and I reacted from that place. My insight was that you can’t teach people who aren’t open to learning. Once I got this insight, I backed off from trying to teach her anything. My boss noticed my change of behavior fairly quickly and asked about it. I told him that if the intern wasn’t open to learning from me it wasn’t worth my energy trying to make her learn. I could continue to be frustrated or just let her take from the internship what she wanted. It no longer was an ego thing for me, and therefore I didn’t continue the dance of one-ups-manship we had been doing. That was very freeing.
Now sometimes when I get really worked up over something, I remember that everyone is on their own journey. I try to re-focus on what is mine to do and do the best I can, leaving the rest to unfold as it will.
For more resources, see our Library topic Spirituality in the Workplace.
Linda is an author, speaker, coach, and consultant. Go to her website www.lindajferguson.com to read more about her work, view video clips of her talks, and find out more about her book “Path for Greatness: Spirituality at Work” The paperback version is available on Amazon. The pdf version of Path for Greatness is available for download from her website. ALSO, Linda’s new book, “Staying Grounded in Shifting Sand” is now available on her website.