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Problems at Work: Are They All in Your Head?

Problems at Work: Are They All in Your Head?
Credit: mast3r/Shutterstock

Every day in every workplace, there's bound to be differences of opinion, disagreements or even full-blown arguments. Most offices have a standard HR procedure for dealing with serious conflicts, and may even seek to change their policies if something simply "isn't working" as it stands.

The problem is that in most cases, leaders and HR professionals take workplace issues at face value, and their demands for behavioral changes often provide only a temporary fix. Looking beyond the surface and getting to the psychological root of a problem may actually be more helpful in solving it for good.

"What goes on in the workplace is intensely psychological," said Shelley Reciniello, psychologist and author of "The Conscious Leader: Nine Principles and Practices to Create a Wide-Awake and Productive Workplace" (LID Publishing, 2014). "We focus on behaviors and try to change them instead of looking at why [we exhibit those behaviors]. If we understood why, we wouldn't have to have these big change initiatives that don't really work."

Understanding the "why" behind people's behaviors at work begins with recognizing the unconscious preoccupations that each person brings into the workplace every day, Reciniello said. [The Leadership Mindset: How to Get There]

"People have personal preoccupations [such as] financial, health, family, etc., that all come into work with them, and we're conscious of that," she told Business News Daily. "It's what we're not aware of that causes problems in the workplace — fears, anxieties, unresolved issues, complicated emotions like anger and guilt. People don't leave their psychological selves at the doorstep."

So how can leaders address these issues that are unwittingly affecting their employees? The first step is to become conscious of your own psychological tics — and accept the fact that there may be some things you need to work on.

"One of the biggest problems leaders have is self-delusion," Reciniello said. "If you're not aware of your own [problems], where you come from, your secret buttons, you won't make a good leader. [Leaders] need to really get to an understanding of who they are."

Reciniello advised seeking feedback from a trusted friend or colleague, or even a business coach to give you honest insights into your behavior with others in the workplace.

"How do people act toward you?" Reciniello said. "Are they inspired by you or afraid of you? Do your employees trust you with their lives and futures? There's a lot of soul-searching [involved]. Leaders need to grow in consciousness every day and demand that of the people who work for them."

Once you're able to understand yourself and your own motivations, think about the motivations and needs of your staff, and take them into consideration when you're working together, whether as a team or as a company. Reciniello noted that many organizations operate in silos where one department doesn't think of what the other ones need. Leaders of different departments should collaborate and do away with these silos, as they are not helpful to an organization, she said.

To make the workplace function more smoothly, it's important that leaders learn to view any conflicts and situations that arise from a psychological perspective, and handle them accordingly.

"The tenets we use in therapy are applicable to everyday life, and we should be applying them because we are all psychological beings," Reciniello said. "[Leaders need to] learn to deal with conflict, anger and power. If you don't deal with them, these forces will swallow you up whole."

Originally published on Business News Daily

Nicole Fallon

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. Nicole served as the site's managing editor until January 2018, and briefly ran Business.com's copy and production team. Follow her on Twitter.