Want to increase your chances of getting hired and decrease those of being fired? Consider the benefits of developing a Working Mind.
Extrapolated from the DBT concept of Wise Mind, “Working Mind” is the dialectic created between the “Perfect Employee Mind” and the “Unemployed Mind.” Neither extreme is helpful in keeping a job -- but finding the balance between both could be your key to long-term success. On one end, the Unemployed Mind is emotional and reactive. If you operate here, your natural tendency is to think and act on your gut; you experience your feelings intensely and, rather than taking a pause to process them, respond impulsively. Workplace annoyances —a loud colleague, an unfair performance review, or slow software — may trigger certain urges, cognitions, sensations, and behaviors that can have significant consequences for continued employment.
Think about it. Who wants to hire someone who can’t control his or her temper, or work with someone who runs to the bathroom in tears at the slightest criticism? Difficulty in regulating responses and communicating effectively can increase your stress level and put you in fight-or-flight mode, making you appear to be a problematic employee. If you are stuck in Unemployed Mind, you might face regular thoughts of hopelessness and helplessness, avoid work, find yourself incapable of maintaining effective behaviors, and have difficulty in regulating your emotional reactivity. But if you want to hold down a job, staying in this frame of mind isn’t going to cut it.
On the other end of the dialectic, Perfect Employee Mind is logical and objective. This means that you favor facts over feelings and may be detached from your immediate surroundings. If you are operating in this mindset, you may find yourself arriving early and staying late, taking on too many tasks, obsessing over minor details, and doing whatever it takes for promotion. Perfectionistic tendencies encourage you to sacrifice your own wants and needs for that of the company, and while you may see short-term gains, this type of thinking will ultimately lead to burnout. You’ll also likely experience an increase in anxiety behaviors, such as obsessive thoughts, feelings of worthlessness, feelings of panic, and lack of sleep.
Working Mind can be achieved when you strike a balance between both Unemployed Mind and Perfect Employee Mind. Rather than letting your emotional mind land you in a sticky situation, learn effective ways to respond to workplace triggers. As an employee, many times the surrounding conditions in which you work are out of your control. You may not be able to change the office temperature, dictate your own hours, or choose your coworkers, but you can choose how you respond to unfavorable situations. Working Mind helps us to be more aware of how our thinking affects our work performance and enables us to consider how others - coworkers, bosses, assistants -are viewing the same situation differently.
By practicing skills that integrate mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness, you can check your reactivity and move forward in your career, rather than backwards. As important as it is to monitor your emotions, it’s just as necessary to keep an eye on the unrealistic demands set by your rational mind. Use the same skills to help you prioritize tasks, loosen impossible standards, and normalize the likelihood of failure. Making effective choices in how you work will help you to leave with a greater sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.Finding the synthesis between Unemployed Mind and Perfect Employee Mind isn’t easy, so stay tuned to this blog for further tips on how to incorporate DBT skills into the workplace.
Written by Krystyl Wright , LCSW