Want to Be Happy At Work? Stop Shoulding on People.

July 20th 2015

Psychotherapist and psychologist Albert Ellis developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy in the 1950s. Always blunt, Dr. Ellis was known to declare that “should-hood leads to shit-hood.”

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If you’ve been in business for more than a week, you have probably should-ed on someone.

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Should A: “He should have gotten that spreadsheet to me last week. This project is going to fail if he doesn’t get it done.”

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Should B: “She should have returned my call/email/text by now. What the heck is wrong with her?”

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Should C: “They should have paid me by  now. That invoice went out two months ago. No! Not another deadbeat client!”

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When you use words like these, you do three useless things: 1) you sit in judgment of another’s activities without knowing their side of the issue 2) you give up control by getting emotional, and 3) you carry a grudge. 

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Eventually, the words you have chosen will affect your happiness at work.

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It is far better to take control of your business, your relationships, and your communication by leaving should behind. Instead of deciding what someone should or shouldn’t have said or done, it’s much more useful to ask questions, respond, and act. 

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Here are productive responses to the examples above:

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A: Contact your tardy team member and find out what’s happening. Ask if he can get the assignment done by a specific time and date. Tell him the consequences of not meeting the deadline (without being a jerk). If you don’t trust him to get it done, consider reassigning the task to someone else.

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B: If your colleague hasn’t returned your communication, try again. Follow up using your standard mode of communication. Politely remind her that this is your second message on a particular topic. If that doesn’t work, and if it’s a very important matter to you, go see her in person if that’s practical. Stop waiting. Start doing.

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C: Get on the phone. Call, don’t text or email. Remind your client about your bill. Find out the status. Offer to come and pick up the check or get a commitment for a specific day when it will be deposited into your account. The key is to stop wondering what’s happening and initiate the process for action.

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Let’s drop should from business conversations entirely. Instead, discuss the specifics of what is and how to make it better. Take action and be brave. When you combine a willingness to discuss a difficult issue with your kindest and clearest approach, the chances of getting the results you want increase. Getting the results you want gives you a better shot at improving your own work happiness. As always, it’s your choice.

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communication, happiness, professional development

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