Increase Your Objectivity at Work

When you first meet someone, how quickly do you tell them what you do for a living? Chances are it’s one of the first things shared between strangers, at a party, on a date — even your doctor asks about it to get a better sense of your health. Working is something we all share in our own way, and likely something we care deeply about.

It’s natural to put a lot of emotional energy into your job, especially if it gives you validation, fulfillment, and financial benefits in return. However, that emotional energy can also lead to undue amounts of stress and anxiety if it goes unchecked. Many people begin therapy to help deal with difficult work situations, discussing their subjective experience with a therapist to gain insight into the dynamics at play.

That’s why Elizabeth R. Thornton’s perspective on using objectivity at work is such a compelling antidote for stress. Thornton feels that Objectivity (she capitalizes the “o”) is “a core competency for effective leadership,” and can help dismantle stress that comes from when we attach our self-worth to our work.  Much like the way mindfulness principles can benefit your overall thought patterns by bringing you into the present moment, Thornton’s principle of Objectivity encourages people to see through their subjective work experience into a more objective reality.

Making that shift can be difficult, especially if you ascribe to “mental models” with core beliefs like:

 “I need others to like me and think I’m smart.”

“I constantly compare myself with others to determine my value.”

“I have to be perfect in everything I do.”

“My self-concept is based on how well I can control people and outcomes.”

The mental models above will in turn shape your behavior and even your feelings, according to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. These are rich topics to talk about with your therapist when you’re discussing work, and may even be lurking in other areas of your life upon further investigation.

recent article from The Cut provided some great practical tips on how to begin to incorporate more Objectivity into your work life, mainly by distancing a bit from your subjective experience:

Try complaining just a little bit less. …Complain deliberately, with a purpose, and avoid dwelling on the issue…when you find yourself itching to complain, ask yourself why you’re complaining in the first place, even if it’s just to get something off your chest. Then, consider setting some ground rules for your complaint.

Be deliberate about being objective. In her book, Thornton says that once you identify your own lack of objectivity and limiting mental models, you can begin to replace them with the principles of objectivity. For example, she writes, remember that there will “always be situations we don’t like” — but in order to productively deal with day-to-day problems, you first have to acknowledge that they exist.

Keep in mind that you can’t control the results of your actions. Accept the possibility that even if you’ve tried your best at something, outside forces can still contribute to your failure.

Remember that you are more than your job. It’s important to embrace and derive value from other roles in your life, including your relationships and your hobbies…The ability to detach emotionally from your work can make you better at both living and what you do for a living.”

For a listing of our therapists who specialize in work issues, click here.