A certain small percentage of people at work are going to rub us the wrong way. This experience is unpleasant and can rob us of joy and enthusiasm. But more to the point, the apparent inability or unwillingness to get along with others in the workplace leads to friction. It can lead to poor performance reviews, fewer promotions, fewer raises and possible termination of employment. It can even threaten our emotional and physical health. In the current economy, most people are more desirous than ever of retaining their jobs and earning pay raises. That is why it is in your personal interest to get along with others as best you can. This is called Enlightened Self-Interest.
Enlightened Self-Interest has one very simple but important theme. It is in your best interest to get along with others as best you can. It is only when you lose sight of this fundamental goal that you open the door to potential difficulty.
There are several reasons why we tend to lose sight of this goal. While some may seem silly or irrational, it makes them no less powerful. Don’t let the apparent foolishness of some of them trick you into underestimating the powerful influence and control they can have in your life. Before we examine some of them in detail, let’s begin with a little story.
Let Go of the Booby Prize
The Booby Prize of life is being right. Focusing upon, accurately describing and gathering evidence of someone else’s problems and annoying habits brings you the dubious distinction of knowing you are right. You are the fair one, the reasonable one, the intelligent one. You are good, they are bad. The only problem with being right is that it is a dead-end.
When you are right, it means the other person is wrong. The only solution remaining is that the other person has to change. How much success have you had lately getting others to change? You may be correct that their behavior or attitude is causing you a problem, but that gets you no closer to solving it.
If you want to bring about change in a situation, you have to begin by targeting alternative outcomes. This means valuing Enlightened Self-Interest above the Booby Prize. It is not important who is right. What is important is learning to get along in support of your own self-interest. Enlightened Self-Interest trumps being right.
If you are one of those people who really struggle with being right, consider adopting a new slogan for yourself: When I’m right, I’m wrong.
For our purposes, Negative Pleasure can be defined as the excitement and gratification we derive from other people’s troubles. You may have already noticed how news programs invariably open with (and, for the most part, focus upon) news stories dealing with other people’s woes. While we dread woe in our own lives and in the lives of those we love and care for, there is something particularly enticing about viewing the woes of strangers. You only have to drive by a car wreck to see what I mean. It’s what makes soap operas so gratifying and what accounts for the popularity of slapstick comedy.
Negative Pleasure is also responsible for our being unaccountably drawn deeper into problematic relationships. That we have problematic relationships is a fact; that we allow ourselves to be drawn deeply into the exciting conflict of them is a choice. Though difficult to resist, particularly when we are unaware of the dynamics that drive them, we should strive for a balanced and unattached approach to all of our work relationships. We should allow very few people we work with to have that much sway in our lives. To do so is an indulgence that only threatens our well-being and career goals in the long run. If you require that much Negative Pleasure in your life, watch any TV news program or sign up for a Three Stooges festival.