the ceo magazine, self management
Jude Bijou, Author, Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life
At work we display some of our worst behaviors. When an employee makes a mistake during a crucial, high-pressure period, we might get into a negative attitude and our mind screams, "He's incompetent."
We all have destructive ways of thinking. While we can't control such negative thoughts coming into our mind, we can learn how to recognize what we're thinking before reacting. Self-awareness is the first step to changing those thought patterns so we don't do or say things that diminish or alienate others--and that eventually earn us a reputation for being a difficult and intolerant boss.
Here is a simple process to retrain your behavior.
First, recognize the negative or destructive thought.
Try to hit the pause button when you feel intolerant, impatient, frustrated, or angry with the employee. Just stop and identify what you're really feeling and thinking.
Second, find a "truth" that neutralizes the emotion.
The goal is to replace the negative thought with a simple statement that contradicts it and is absolutely true. This "truth" serves to neutralize the underlying anger that triggers your destructive thought--and any destructive behavior that might follow. Using the example above, it might be, "He made a mistake and he's a valued employee."  
Third, keep repeating your new thought.
When you find a statement that contradicts your old thinking, say it over and over, ignoring your old story that wants to judge him or make him wrong or bad. Keep repeating your truth with persistence and focus. You will actually have a shift and know deep down that what you're now thinking will serve you much better because it's the reality. 
Let's run through the process. Your employee's carelessness or lack of skills results in a big mistake at a moment when you needed clutch players on your team. It throws everything off schedule, and you're angry. Before yelling at him, fuming about him behind his back, or taking him off the project, you pause and recognize your destructive thought: "He's incompetent."
Now find a truth, something that can't be contradicted and that neutralizes the anger, such as, "He made a mistake and he's a valued employee."  
Finally, keep repeating this truth till you feel your attitude shift.
This simple process of noticing a destructive thought and finding a truth to counteract it won't make your employee work harder, faster, or better. But it will help you get back to a state of emotional equilibrium so you can make the right decision about how to handle the employee, his team members, and the project without resorting to behavior that helps no one, including yourself.
Get in the habit of recognizing a destructive thought before you act on it. Then learn to neutralize it with a simple truth. If you use this simple behavioral technique in the workplace, people will see you as a cooperative, thoughtful, respectful, kind, and balanced leader.

About the Author

Jude Bijou MA MFT is a respected psychotherapist, professional educator, and consultant. Her theory of Attitude Reconstruction® evolved over the course of more than 30 years as a licensed marriage and family therapist, and is the subject of her multi-award-winning book, Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. Learn more at


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