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Guilt, Power and Competition
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In the last section, we discussed the first part of Reducing Non-Productive Motivators. This track identified some major motivators and provided techniques for reducing money’s influence and reducing the need for work related approval and praise.
In this section... we will continue our discussion on reducing non-productive motivators. Non-productive motivators that we will discuss in this section are dealing with guilt, reducing the influence of competition, and letting go of the urge for power and control. If the ideas in this section seem applicable to your practice, you might consider replaying this section.
3 Ways to Reduce Non-Productive Motivators
♦ #1 Dealing With Guilt
First, let’s discuss dealing with guilt. Workaholic clients like Sam, age 32, often feel guilty when they think they are not fulfilling obligations. For Sam, guilt was a powerful motivator. However, it is likely clear to you that guilt is not always an appropriate emotion. Sam had difficulty telling the difference between appropriate and inappropriate guilt.
Sam stated, "I work in a small office, so sometimes I feel guilty about leaving on time! After all, they do so much for me, it’s like I owe them more than just my eight hours a day." When Sam’s guilt led to him spending so much time at work that his personal life and health began to suffer, he sought help.
I stated, "First, perhaps you might try to overcome your guilt. To do this, you might find it helpful to understand the nature of guilt. Guilt is frequently associated with resentment, which is a form of passive anger. What is sometimes felt as guilt might be anger over unfulfilled expectations." Would you agree that a client’s unrealistic and unreasonable expectations may lead to guilt as a non-productive motivator? Sam and I discussed the Getting Over Guilt technique.
♦ Technique: Getting Over Guilt
The Getting Over Guilt technique is basically a series of questions designed for client review when he finds that guilt is leading to decision making.
1. Sam started by asking himself, "Whose expectations am I not meeting?" For example, Sam answered this question regarding his guilt over not leaving work on time. Sam stated, "I think by leaving on time I’m not meeting my boss’s expectations because I should be doing more than the minimum.
2. Next, Sam asked himself, "Is this expectation implicit, unspoken or explicit, clear?" Sam realized the expectation was implicit or unspoken.
3. Therefore, the next question Sam asked was, "Am I really sure that the ‘expector’ in this case his boss really feels the way I think he does?" Sam was not certain that his boss felt that he should work late everyday.
4. Sam asked, "Even if he did expect working late, does my boss have a right to expect me to work late everyday?" Clearly, the answer was no.
5. A fifth question Sam asked himself was, "Given the appropriate context, would my boss understand a decision not to work late?" Sam responded that he felt his boss would understand if he decided not to work late.
Two additional questions your client may want to ask are "Could I enact a compromise?" And "Do I need to forgive myself or someone else?" Think of your Sam. Could your workaholic client benefit from the "Getting Over Guilt" technique?
♦ #2 Reducing the Influence of Competition
Second, let’s examine reducing the influence of competition. As a competitive type myself, I think winning is great. But I find that trying to win every race every time is impossible, exhausting, and does not lead to balance. Do you have a workaholic client who pushes himself due to competitiveness? Rather than striving to compete and conquer at every opportunity, perhaps your competitive, workaholic client could try these two techniques.
First, you might suggest that your client remind himself that he does not have to enter every race. I state to my workaholic clients, "Pick one or two that matter to you and try to win those. Don’t contend for every promotions or sales award that is dangled in front of you."
Second, could your client view a balanced lifestyle as a decathlon? You might suggest that, just like in a decathlon, you win by doing well in each of the ten events, but you don’t have to win each event. Similarly, clients who want balance in life need to do well at work and at personal priorities. Think of your workaholic client. Could he or she benefit from either of these techniques?
♦ #3 Letting Go of the Urge for Power and Control
In addition to dealing with guilt and reducing the influence of competition, let’s discuss letting go of the urge for power and control. As you may already know, letting go of the urge for power and control is another challenge faced by workaholic clients. For this treatment goal, I set up another cognitive dialectic with my workaholic clients.
For example, Lee stated, "I hate the idea of turning down opportunities for more responsibility at work. I’m not going to risk others thinking, "He can’t handle that." Who knows? They might beat me out of a promotion!" How might you have responded to Lee? I stated, "Remember how much your personal priorities matter to you. Tell me, which would you rather control? What goes on in your work or what goes on in your life?"
Lee responded that he would prefer to control his life. I stated, "If you spend too much energy seeking power from your work, the power to shape the rest of your life can ebb away."
Think of your Lee. Could he benefit from a similar dialogue? Could your client benefit from listening to this section?
In this section... we discussed reducing non-productive motivators. Non-productive motivators that we discussed are dealing with guilt, reducing the influence of competition, and letting go of the urge for power and control.
In the next section we will discuss managing ambition. We’ll discuss why clients must manage ambition, compromise vs. sacrifice, and the four categories of compromise. The four categories of compromise are time, relationships, where clients live and work, and the client’s core values and principles
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Lee, S. Y., Kesebir, S., & Pillutla, M. M. (2016). Gender differences in response to competition with same-gender coworkers: A relational perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 110(6), 869–886.
Locke, K. D. (2020). Power values and power distance moderate the relationship between workplace supervisory power and job satisfaction. Journal of Personnel Psychology. Advance online publication.
Schaumberg, R. L., & Flynn, F. J. (2017). Clarifying the link between job satisfaction and absenteeism: The role of guilt proneness. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(6), 982–992.
Tremblay, M. A., Blanchard, C. M., Taylor, S., Pelletier, L. G., & Villeneuve, M. (2010). "Work Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation Scale: Its value for organizational psychology research": Correction to Tremblay et al (2009). Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 42(1), 70.
What are three non-productive motivators?
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