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The Advantage of Workplace Challenge


How do you respond to challenge in the workplace?


Do you perceive it as an opportunity to be shown something you may not have previously considered? Or do you see it as a reflection of inadequacy?


Rather than face confrontation, when it comes to conflict, many people tend to blame themselves, seeing the situation as a result of something they didn’t do well, whether it involved work performance or an interaction with colleagues.


Self-blame can be an unfortunate reaction, but it actually goes beyond that.

Assuming blame is usually counterproductive because it blocks the potential to reveal something that could lead to a significant breakthrough.


Take the example of John, a long-term employee of a prominent hospitality firm. During most of his career, John was confident about his performance and ability to handle the numerous aspects of his responsibilities. But this past year, with the company’s intermittent pandemic closures requiring remote participation, John had been feeling much less sure of himself regarding job security as well as his proficiency using technology that differed from the familiarity in the office. These factors kept him feeling vulnerable and somewhat on edge, so when an important report he completed failed to flow through the proper channels, John assumed he made an error. Perhaps the transmittal was executed incorrectly this time? Maybe he overlooked an essential component?


John immediately apologized without knowing why the error occurred.


However, if he had tracked each step of his report’s launch, he would have discovered that the error had nothing to do with him. There had been an overnight system glitch resulting in an accidental deletion of his work. All staff members were to be notified regarding the system failure, but the person attending to the group email unintentionally omitted John from the list. And since John was working remotely, he didn’t have access to the in-office dynamic of sharing what happened with his colleagues which could have alerted him to the facts.


If John was more self-assured, he would have been inclined to investigate what happened and realize the source of the problem. He might have been able to discuss the situation with the employee who made the error which in turn could have contributed to the development of a better way to ensure the delivery of critical information. John also could have become more aware of his concerns, taken time to address them, and ultimately have had a discussion with his supervisor requesting job status clarification. Instead, he went on with his worry and uncertainty.


Self-blame operates in a way that’s similar to depression. It serves as an insulator shielding with a blanket of misery so cumbersome it replaces dealing with the root problem. Basically, it’s a form of protection.


The moral of the story is to TRUST that when challenge arises, it’s not a bad thing. More likely it’s an opportunity to uncover a new perspective. It’s like saying ‘Thank you for showing me where to focus” and then taking a deeper look.


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