Solving Anxiety Caused by Office Conflicts

Joe worked as an executive in a large company in the restaurant service sector. Recently the company had offered him an early retirement package. He had accepted but in the meantime he had to work closely with a very ambitious young executive who was eventually going to be his substitute, in six to twelve months.

Their style of management was very different. Joe was a meek and soft spoken man while the young executive was outspoken and quite aggressive. For example, the young new executive had asked Joe to move out of his large office since he was going to be leaving soon anyway. Joe resented this idea because he was emotional attached to his office but also because of the way the young man had ordered him to vacate the office instead of asking him politely.

From the onset of their working relationship, Joe started to have anxiety. He would imagine worse case scenarios and then feel anxious. His symptoms of anxiety included sweating and heart palpitations. Joe also had mood swings going from absolute pessimism to euphoria. He wasn’t able to concentrate at work and was afraid of not performing up to his usual standards.

Joe felt that the young executive had an advantage over him; he was hired while Joe was asked to leave. This gave the young man more freedom to be aggressive toward him. Joe felt helpless, angry and anxious.

When he came to see me Joe had been suffering for three months trying to cooperate with the young executive. The idea of battling it out for another six to twelve months intensified his anxiety. He had tried to stay calm and be rational. However, the young executive’s attitude was rude and belligerent. Joe had tried to reason with him; reminding him that Joe was still the person running the department and that he needed his large office. He also tried to calm his nerves by meditation and exercise.

Joe was a spiritual man who meditated daily and had tried to find balance between bringing in profits to his company and doing good. However he saw a totally different attitude in the young executive. “Today’s young executives are ruthless”, Joe said, “they have no ethics.”

I taught Joe a simple but effective technique to calm his nerves. He was very responsive to visualization because he had a well trained mind. Many years of meditation had prepared him to learn very quickly. I also invited him to do an experiment.

“You are a follower of eastern philosophies and meditate regularly. You have been in many retreats and as you told me, you have volunteered for the most humbling activities such as cleaning toilets. You have done so because you know that humility is a praiseworthy virtue that attracts other spiritual qualities.”

Joes was listening and nodding as I was paraphrasing some of his own personal background that he had told me.

“Now it seems that you have an excellent opportunity to practice humility. You can voluntarily hand over your spacious executive office to the ambitious young man. In this way you strengthen your spiritual qualities, and also transform the conflict into cooperation. Instead of waiting for him to take the first step, you take action. You know that he is very proud and will not budge.”

Joe liked the idea because he was committed to his spiritual growth and this seemed to him like a great opportunity.

“As you know”, I continued, “Lao Tse, the ancient Chinese philosopher and the author of Tao Te Ching, praises humble people. You must have heard many of his famous sayings. One of my favorite quotes is the following:”

He that humbles himself shall be preserved entirely. He that bends shall be made straight. He that is empty shall be filled. He that is worn out shall be renewed. He who has little shall succeed. He who has much shall go astray.

Joe was pleased to hear this quote and agreed to offer his office to the ambitious young executive.

In the following session, Joe said that the young executive had become very happy when he had offered his spacious office.

“Your generosity was not a sign of weakness”, I reminded Joe, “your detachment strengthens your image because generosity and humility are virtues of strong people with high self esteem.” I went on to explain to him that his humility has transformed the nature of their conflict. “You cannot give away things with sincerity and be in conflict with someone.”

As a matter of fact, Joe had noticed a small change of attitude in the young executive.

My next recommendation to Joe was to keep practicing humility. Maybe he could ask some advice from the young man or consult with him about some issues. As time passed, Joe had noticed that his actions have given fruit and the ‘ruthless’ young man had turned out to be more cooperative.

In our last session Joe told me that he barely had any feelings of anxiety.

“The problems at work don’t bother me anymore”, Joe said with a smile.

During the times when he felt he didn’t “belong there”, he would remind himself that this soon would end and that he would be able to dedicate his time to writing. For this reason, I suggested to him to always carry on him pen and a notebook to jot down ideas he had for his future novels and poems.