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The End of Workplace Guilt


Robby

We use the words “guilt” and “shame” interchangeably to mean feeling bad about the past. But there’s an important difference between the two and how they operate in the workplace. “Guilt” is the memory of something you did (or did not do.) “Shame” is judgement on who you think you are.

Let’s get shame out of the way first. If you’re employed by a company or working on a contract, shame is just illogical. You’ve passed the interview. You’ve been accepted as a member of the team. You’re clearly “good enough.” If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be there. And if you’re between jobs right now, the previous statement was true in the past. There’s no reason to feel shame about yourself at work.

Shame and Guilt in the Workplace
© Flickr User apdk

Guilt, on the other hand, can be awful. Any time you promised to do something, but didn’t, you may feel guilty. Any time there was an opportunity you didn’t seize, you may feel guilty. Any time there was a mistake and you feel at fault, you may feel guilty.

So how can you stop feeling guilty at work? Take responsibility. Tell people you are working on it.

If you haven’t replied to an email or a phone call, because you don’t know what to say, just reply with an “I’ve got it.” You can say when you plan to get back to them if you feel comfortable doing so.

Or you can do something which might seem impossible but will actually have an incredible effect on those around you: apologize.

“I’m sorry I haven’t gotten back to you. I will look into this.”

Try moving away from guilt and embarrassment and toward affirmation and acceptance. There’s no reason to feel guilty at work. You’re there to do a job, and part of that is accepting that you can’t do everything—and can’t do everything right the first time.

Maybe you don’t need guilt anywhere in your life. But that’s a topic for another day.

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About the Blogger: Robby Slaughter is a productivity speaker and expert. He is a principal with a AccelaWork, an Indianapolis consulting firm.

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Wed, January 22 2014 » Uncategorized

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