Tomas* has spent the whole day in meetings with his industrial partners, discussing highly sensitive matters that have required him to be very diplomatic. He’s had to rein in his desire to say what he really thinks and put all his energy into arguing his case in the negotiations.
On returning to his office, he finds that the report he’d asked his colleague Raphael* to write hasn’t been done properly. Furious, he calls him straight over and launches into a relentless tirade, not giving him the slightest chance to defend himself. Raphael leaves the office without a word, hanging his head. Of course, Tomas’s behaviour is inappropriate and inadmissible.
So what happened?
Tomas has a very spontaneous nature and knows he’s sometimes too direct. That day, he’d had to restrain himself for hours and, by the end of the afternoon, his supply of self-control was exhausted, so he lost his temper with Raphael. Keeping himself in check all day had been so tiring that he ended up losing control completely.
Tomas is an extreme example. However, our workplace is somewhere where we have to try to show restraint: we must be polite to our colleagues, listen attentively to our clients and be available to our team, all while dealing with various emergencies. This is mentally very tiring, and our ability to do it decreases over the course of the day.
What can we learn from this example?
When you need to have sensitive conversations, try to schedule them for the beginning of the day, when your stock of self-control is intact.
On a daily basis, alternate intense effort with activities that require less concentration. During your breaks, take the time to relax properly: talk to your colleagues about your hobbies, play cards, practise a sport, do some yoga, take a nap – whatever works for you.
We’re hearing more and more often that we should be kinder to ourselves. Excellence is all well and good, but no one can be at the top of their game all day. By rationing your efforts and showing yourself a bit of understanding, you can maintain a calm atmosphere at work and get good results all the time.
If you’d like to comment on any of my articles or suggest a topic that I could write about, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at Ombuds@cern.ch.
*Names have been changed