Inside the Workplace Pressure Cooker
"Managing Emotions Under Pressure, How To Stay Calm And Productive In Any Situation" is the name of a one-day seminar that I recently learned about from an e-mail announcement. I must admit, it took me awhile to find the e-mail; I was so angry at my computer and my cable provider and my optical mouse that I couldn't look at my screen without foaming at the mouth.
But eventually, I made my way to www.careertrack.com where I — and you — can download a colorful brochure on this colorful topic, replete with intriguing promises and fulsome testimonials ("The biggest shake-up in my life. Dynamic, dramatic, the ultimate truth!" — M. Magaro, realtor). Who among us would not like to "respond with a level head — even if you're ready to blow a fuse," or feel better if they could "get more done with less effort because you'll approach projects with more motivation and mental clarity."
Before you sign on the dotted line, you should consider whether achieving mental clarity is an ideal goal for you. Chances are, it is the perennially fuzzy state in which you operate that keeps you in a nowhere job with nobodies as co-workers. On the other hand, it would be nice to keep a lid on your emotions, especially the fuse-blowing rants that have made you famous throughout the workplace, even though I personally think you were 100 percent justified in smashing a lunch-room chair into the soda machine when some sinister office evildoer threw out your egg salad sandwich after only two months in the refrigerator.
Still wondering whether this seminar is for you? On page two of the brochure, a quiz will help you gauge just how close you are to the boiling point. The questions include, "How much time and energy do I spend feeling hurt, guilty, inadequate, worried or anxious? Where has that gotten me?"
If you answered, "Pretty much all the time, so get off my case," I can tell you exactly where it has gotten you — employed. In this economy, anyone who is feeling really great about their job is simply out of the loop. Worried and anxious may not be pretty, but they are extremely realistic.
Another qualifying question is "Do I sometimes rub people the wrong way? (Be honest.)" Frankly, that "be honest" remarks rubs me the wrong way. No way can you afford to be honest about your effect on people. If you ever tapped into the revulsion you cause simply by sitting at your desk, you'd never be able to go back to work again. And then how would you pay for fancy seminars?
I wish I could reveal a few of the techniques the seminar teaches you, but CareerTrack is playing it close to the vest. As described by their marketing mavens, "the system uses some of the most effective tools in modern psychology, and in just one day, they can be yours." Hopefully, you will master some truly arcane and well-guarded business secrets, like the way The Shadow, Lamont Cranston, can "cloud men's minds." The Shadow could so befuddle his enemies that he was virtually invisible. And considering the respect in which you are held at your workplace, you are already invisible. So scratch that technique. You've already got it mastered.
One question that you probably want to ask has already been asked and answered on page five of the brochure: "Will I have to reveal my deepest, darkest secrets to a perfect stranger?" This is a rather interesting worry coming from you, a person who can be seen cavorting on their Facebook page wearing only earmuffs and a thong. Nor do I think you should expect the stranger conducting your seminar to be perfect. Only you are perfect, and if anyone doesn't agree with you, bop him or her over the head with a rubber chicken.
CareerTrack promises "Your day will fly by," and I suspect they are right. No matter how awful a training session can be, it's usually a whole lot better than being at work. And if you don't feel you have mastered your emotions, there is a money-back guarantee. Of course, if you continue to fly off the handle, go berserk at trifles and lose all perspective, there is another possibility. You could be management material.
Bob Goldman has been an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
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