Q. I worked in a department where people lied to me, lied about me and then got me fired. I still have nightmares about working for them...
Q. I worked in a department where people lied to me, lied about me and then got me fired. I still have nightmares about working for them. How can I handle this?
A. When we’ve had a situation at work where we were betrayed or badly hurt, we may end up with a serious emotional hangover. These reactions aren’t just in our heads but can affect our health, our sleep and our relationships outside of work.
Review the following list and see how many of these items are true for you: insomnia (either inability to get to sleep or waking up and not being able to get back to sleep), over- or under-eating, chronic irritability, increasing your use of alcohol or other drugs, feeling constantly jumpy or worried, developing stress-related health problems.
If you recognize many of the symptoms on this list, you may be dealing with the side effects of workplace trauma.
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As a psychotherapist, I’ve heard all the humor about our society’s obsession with childhood trauma. What our society doesn’t talk about much is that childhood isn’t the only place we may experience extreme emotional distress. Some workplaces are more like war zones than centers of productivity.
If you recently emerged from working in a corporate war zone (or if you are still in one), you may start to identify with the post-traumatic-stress reactions reported by veterans of any war. You may run down the hall rather than see someone. You may feel ill, blank out and have to leave a meeting when certain topics come up.
I give clients who find themselves in this position two pieces of advice:
• Get help! You are not just whining. Use your employee-assistance program or find an executive coach or counselor to help you navigate the workplace land mines without losing your sanity.
• Identify what is most upsetting about your situation. Do you feel powerless, blamed or some other uncomfortable emotion? Now consider your history. We are all most vulnerable when our present triggers the unresolved emotional pain of our past.
As you are working through this challenge, reflect on other adversities you’ve experienced. Most likely, you can draw on the ways you’ve survived and learned from other problems before encountering your current circumstance.
In a long career, we will all experience situations that test the limits of our inner and outer resources. In a successful career, it isn’t the avoidance of adversity but the decisions we make during and after adversity that will determine who we are at 90.
The last word(s)
Q. One of my co-workers has taken credit for my work four times in a row. Should I give him the benefit of the doubt that he won’t do it again?
A. No. One time can be an accident. Two times is a pattern. Anything more than three times is behavior you can count on.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist, speaker and author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube