One of my coaching clients, Steve, recently got a much wanted promotion. He was so beyond excited he felt like he was walking on air, for, oh for about a week.
Then he called and said "What did I do." Actually he used much more colorful language than that. He had gotten onto the most kick-ass team in the company, the place where new ideas magically become products in the blink of an eye, or so he thought.
Yet, at the same time Steve was promoted, so was another man who was now his boss. When he called to tell me his balloon was deflated and he was now dragging around on the ground, he was feeling bewildered. In only one week he saw his boss make blunder after blunder.
Everyone still seemed so upbeat and raring to go. Yet, he watched this guy make stupid decisions that would cause long range malfunctions if not corrected. Steve was in dismay. He felt like the kid who called out that the emperor had no clothes.
He talked to a few of his new colleagues. They did not get the same vibes; in fact they began to steer clear of him, not wanting to start issues with the new boss. My coaching client was in the midst of a real, bonafide dilemma: stay and shut up or get out fast.
Except that's not so easy in a new job. Steve needed to give it a chance. And yet, he was so sure this guy would continue to mess up he did not think he could participate in the fall of the department.
STOP. Could there be other forces at work? That is the direction I took this client and it paid off with a big bonus. Here is what you can learn from a situation when you are over the top in emotions. First, see if what you are experiencing is coming from the past or from the present situation.
In my client's case he was both right and wrong about his new boss. Right that the guy was making some bad decisions, one's fortunately that could be rectified and would not cause the downfall of the team. It was Steve’s inexperience and his own need to PROVE that was getting in the way.
Steve had other areas to explore and learn from, those from the far away past of a childhood with an older brother (who seemed to have that proverbial dark cloud over his head at all times). Once Steve began to see that his deeper dismay was that he would have to clean up mess after mess, the way he did for his brother from the time he was a small kid, his panic and disappointment with his new boss began to dissipate.
Fast forward three months. Projects are going smoothly and these two men literally bumped into each other in the cafeteria, sat down for coffee and for some unknown reason began to talk about the early weeks on the new job.
The boss talked about how nervous he had been, not sure he was really ready for the plum promotion yet not wanting to turn it down. He admitted he made some really dumb moves. That opened the conversation for Steve to share how he had been ambivalent about the route to the future until he realized he had been battling windmills from old relationships. No need to go into details, just stating that the past had impacted his perspective was enough.
Now, here is the best part. This work relationship and my client's revelations about how he still resented and mistrusted his brother led him to have a long overdue conversation with the brother, a physics professor at a prestigious university. It took several visits for them to clear the past to free the present.
Brothers finally became friends. And that, as he told me, was worth all the angst at work.