Sunday, February 12, 2012

Question: Are we in danger of being amateur psychologists when we attempt to deal with workplace negativity?

"Don't play amateur psychologist."

This was a comment in an online discussion regarding workplace negativity. It hit me a bit like a slap in the face. Here we are talking about dealing with negativity and someone posts such a negative and accusitory comment?! Sheesh!

Ah, but then I realized, it was my reaction, not the comment itself that carried the negativity. If someone who I trust and often turn to for advice had said those words, would I have reacted so sharply? Probably not. What I read initially as negative and defensive, could also be heard as caution. And isn't that was negativity really is? A negative reaction is a red flag waiving a warning that something might be unbalanced? It says "Caution, there is potential danger here."

In my own journeys through depression I have learnt to question my pessimistic and negative feelings. We can't just go around reacting negatively without putting our evaluations through scruitiny. Otherwise we are just a sad version of Chicken Little. Which is not very productive and does nothing to help matters. So I asked myself, are we in danger of being called amateur psychologists when we try to deal with negativity at work? (or in any other relationships in our lives for that matter?)

Yes, we are dealing with people. Yes, we are dealing with relationships. So yes, there is merit to this cautious interpretation. For those of us persuing respectful workplace dynamics, this perception gives us a reason to tread with caution. We certainly are not in a position to diagnose personal issues, but we must have a way to negotiate a productive, civil and collaborative workplace and establish a culture of respect in the workplace. Authentic and respectful relationships require tranparency and civility. Sometimes this means digging deeper for meaning behind our actions. Sometimes this means owning up to our actions and the subsequent repercussions.

So how do we address negativity in our relationships and actively improve our relationships without stepping over the line of being an amateur psychologist?

This leads me to more questions:
  • Is there a place for collaboratively dissecting our work relationships?
  • Is there value in undertaking this process at work?
  • Is it neccessary to get to the root cause of negativity to find solutions that really work?

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