"Understand that building a better relationship with any authority figure is a process"
The authors of Working for You Isn’t Working for Me – Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster – developed a system that helps individuals manage challenging relationships at work. First, the authors explain the most common coping mechanisms that manifest in a challenging work relationship. Next, Crowley and Elster teach the reader a four-step management approach, consisting of self-care and self-management activities and techniques known as the Four D’s: Detect, Detach, Depersonalize, and Deal. Each section explains the theory behind each D, and follows up with practical advice on how to apply it in case scenarios.
Detect Your Phase
"If You Can Detect It, You Can Correct It"
Detect is arguably the most important step in the Four Ds process. In most cases, experiencing negative outcomes (i.e. anxiety, frustration) associated with an unhealthy relationship can affect our ability to recognize its root-causes. With Detect, the authors teach readers how to identify their current phase in a toxic relationship and understand how it affects them.
Phase 1: Honeymoon Period
Simply put, everyone is on his or her best behavior and early warning signs are ignored.
Phase 2: Internal Alarm
Ever get the feeling that something is very wrong and you can’t stop obsessing about it? This is the Internal Alarm phase. Brought-on by experiencing behavior that has left you feeling dismissed and marginalized, you categorize it as a “one-off” and decide it cannot develop into an ongoing problem.
Phase 3: Restart, Try Harder
Surely you were overthinking things, right? This is the phase where you try to disprove the “sinking feeling” you experienced in the earlier phase. In this phase, you’re putting your best foot forward to live up to your boss’s expectations.
Phase 4: Disappointment
This is where reality sets in. What you initially conceived as a “one-off” in bewildering behavior cements itself as the your boss’s management style. Feelings associated with this phase include anger, hurt, confusion, betrayal and being let down.
Phase 5: Rehearsing and Rehashing
Things don’t make sense. Was it something you did? Did you miss something? These questions are reflective of this phase. In this phase you replay your interactions with your boss in great detail, which manifests in self-doubt and questioning your own sanity.
Phase 6: Anger and Blame
The title is pretty indicative of the feelings you’re experiencing in this phase and unhealthy coping mechanisms tend to manifest in this phase.
Phase 7: Emotional Pain Turns Physical
Do you feel physically depleted and emotionally drained when you deal with your manager? In this phase, the emotional turmoil you experience manifests as physical ailments.
Phase 8: Burnout
You experience an ongoing state of chronic mental, physical and emotional pain.
"To detach is to separate yourself mentally and emotionally from the problematic relationship."
The authors describe detachment from challenging work relationships as an “ultimate kill”, which requires Acceptance and Taking Back Your Personal Power.
Acceptance: Described as the most daunting part of detachment, practicing acceptance helps you to emotionally detach from and to take a person at face value (i.e. your boss).
Taking Back your Personal Power: As described earlier, challenging boss/employee relationships can manifest in coping mechanisms with negative consequences. This step is about altering the reader’s “go-to” coping behavior and controlling impulse actions/decisions. Instead, the authors share at-work and after-work exercise for the reader to replenish their energy levels, repairing their emotional state, and rebuild their confidence. Some examples include exercising, finding a mentor, posting workplace proverbs, etc.
"It’s not about you"
This step asks the reader to be introspective. Before embarking on any type of self-reflective journey, the authors have two important takeaways for the reader:
- Understand that you are not responsible for your boss’s negative behavior.
- Your fears can be triggered because of their behavior.
Being conscious of these two points helps you to depersonalize and understand that the negative behavior is not about you.
Working for You Isn’t Working for Me was an easy read. The authors did a great job familiarizing the reader with commonly exhibited coping mechanisms and discussing their negative side effects. The book shares pragmatic tips and strategies to manage challenging work relationships using illustrative scenarios. Applying the Four Ds processis made easy with specific examples for commonly exhibited behaviors.