When I began working with people to help them move through emotional issues several years ago, it quickly became apparent to me how many times emotional issues actually came out at work in ways that I hadn’t previously recognized. Especially in working with business leaders and owners, I found that the issues within a business can almost always be traced back to the lingering emotional issues of the people who are leading the business. Many years ago, I heard someone say that “it all rolls down from the top” in relation to the corporate culture and the atmosphere that is created in a business. And that statement has taken on a whole new life and meaning to me as I have worked in corporate environments in my own career, and have had the privilege of helping many people work through struggles in their career and in their business.
A few years ago, one of my clients came to me with a problem at work. Let’s call her Sarah for the sake of her privacy. Sarah works in a small office with a handful of employees. Although she enjoys the work she does and she enjoys working with her fellow employees, over the past several months she noticed that she has felt an uneasiness about going to work. She just didn’t want to go to work, she didn’t want to actually DO any work when she was there, and she had a rapidly growing distaste for her boss (let’s call him Jack) that she couldn’t seem to resolve. As we talked more, I began to be aware of what was making her feel so uncomfortable about being at work. Jack was “a very nice guy” on the surface. He didn’t blatantly mistreat or abuse his employees, but there were several problems that might seem subtle, but that were disrupting the entire ecosystem of this small company.
Jack, who I should mention was the owner of the company, showed up late for work nearly every day. And by late, I don’t mean that he was two or three minutes late; I mean that he showed up 30-45 minutes late at least 4 days a week. Even if he was made aware repeatedly of important meetings, deadlines, etc., he didn’t arrive in the office at a point even approximating what would be considered timely. He always had an excuse…his children, his dogs, some other commitment, etc. But it infuriated his employees to have to make up excuses for him every time he didn’t show up. Jack also refused to take personal responsibility for things. If anything didn’t go according to plan, it was always someone else’s fault. If something hadn’t been communicated properly, he would claim that he told Sarah or one of the other employees, and would assert that the employee just didn’t take care of it like he asked. Jack also filled his life so very full of other activities that he never had the time or the energy to evaluate where things were going wrong in the company. And since the company was making a meager profit, it seemed acceptable to Jack to “not fix what wasn’t broken.” Lastly, employees who didn’t do their jobs or who didn’t work and play well with others were routinely allowed to continue to do whatever they pleased, because Jack didn’t deal with the situation or enforce any rules on a consistent basis.
When Sarah told me her story, my thoughts went to the patterns of behavior I was hearing about. Looking above and beyond the specific acts that he was committing or not committing that were frustrating his employees, the recurring theme here is that Jack literally AND figuratively did not show up in his company. Inherently, the leader of a company needs to actually BE a leader, and be present in mind and body when in the company. The leader needs to lead by example, take responsibility for his or her actions (or lack thereof), and he or she most certainly needs to create an atmosphere where employees can have some sense of stability in their environment.
Years ago in my initial training in EPTworks, a system for healing created by Dr. Annette Cargioli, I learned how to look at businesses in reference to the “places” that each person in the company held there. I learned that if someone isn’t in their “place” within the company, people will feel uncomfortable there (although they may not recognize exactly WHY they feel uncomfortable), and there will often be a sense of instability within the company, as well as general underperformance of the staff and of the company itself. By virtue of being the business owner, Jack should be at the very top of the triangle that represents his business. This is the “place” that is reserved for Jack because he is the owner of the company. In essence, Jack gave birth and life to this company; it is his creation. However, after he gave birth to the company, and once he had employees in place who could take care of the day-to-day business of the company, he got lazy. He abandoned his post at the top of his company. The end result of this was that the company was continuously “propped up” and kept alive by people who did their work out of a sense of obligation and the need for a paycheck, rather than out of a genuine sense of caring for the company the way Jack should have been caring for it…with a heart-felt love for his creation, and a desire for its success.
I worked with Sarah to bring some healing to the places that she needed it in order to help her to find some peace in her work environment. And then, a few months later, I had the pleasure of also seeing her boss Jack as a client! (This is AWESOME when it happens, by the way.) 🙂 Through this work, I discovered the origin of Jack’s behavior. Jack had an “absentee father.” Jack told me that his father had a “big and important career” that he allowed to completely take over his responsibility to his family. Jack’s father was rarely home, he wasn’t involved in his children’s lives beyond the superficial showing up for the occasional basketball game, and rarely spent any quality time with his family. In light of this understanding of Jack’s past experiences, his behavior within his company made perfect sense. Jack was subconsciously reproducing a heartbreaking experience he had as a child, but he was reproducing it within his company, rather than with his own children. Once I worked with Jack to release this pain from his childhood that he had tried (however unsuccessfully) to bury, Jack not only reported feeling immediately better about his business and its future, but he also said he actually wanted to develop a better relationship with his father, which hadn’t even been one of his original goals. Jack came back a few months later to report that he had been really motivated to grow his company, and said that he had brought in several new clients in the past few months (3 times a many as he had acquired in the 3 months previous to his visit), and had seen a great improvement in his personal motivation for business growth. I also had the opportunity to follow up with Sarah around the same time. Sarah also said that things in her workplace had changed significantly since we had last talked, and she was amazed by the changes she was seeing, not only in Jack and herself, but also in many other employees in the company, who were benefiting greatly from Jack’s change in attitude and behavior.
Jack’s story is a perfect example of how a person’s life experiences can negatively impact their business in ways that they are often not able to see for themselves. Just by starting a business, Jack was confronted with a long-held pain that he thought he had no choice but to bury at the time. And by becoming aware of the consequences of this denial of his pain, he not only healed himself, but he created a happier and more productive workplace for his employees.