Pain In The Workplace

We regularly receive emails from readers who feel that they are treated unfairly in the work place. In some instances the emails contain bitter feelings that indicate much mental and emotional pain. We feel for these people. The workplace plays a dominant role in the lives of millions and the influence of our workplace cascades profoundly into our personal, family and social environment.

We cannot possibly hope to address all the specific challenges that face people in the workplace in this article. These are situations that very often need one on one discussions and on occasion, long term support.

What we can do in this article is to reinforce universally applicable principles that have proven over time to have a major contributing impact on our personal performance and happiness.

The personal nature of emotional pain

Unhappiness and a feeling of being unfairly treated have an emphatic personal impact on our lives. Very often such frustration does not surface immediately but boils over suddenly at the wrong time and has a negative impact on others as well. Personal and collateral damage is caused that may not be easy to repair. Because of the emotional nature of our grievances, we are not always willing to look at the bigger picture and what is really important for our personal happiness and progress in the workplace.

The following are some key principles to consider both as a leader who has people under him or her or as a worker who may on occasion feel that they are being treated unfairly:

The contact factor

The word contact implies ‘becoming closer and narrowing distance’. Contact is a universal principle and is an essential element of all aspects of life. We cannot grow ‘closer’ to anything or anybody without narrowing or closing the distance between us and that thing or person.

This principle applies to all aspects of life, ranging from ‘contact’ with information that will increase our knowledge, to relationships with people and also to our relationship with deity. We cannot drive a car effectively without ‘contact’ with the car and with the skills to drive the car. The car cannot operate effectively without ‘contact’ with the road or contact between the engine and the rest of the car.

Synergy, unity, integration, optimization, communication, growth, engagement, and happiness are very much about contact, are they not?”

I was battling with a torch the other day that was not making proper contact. Nothing is quite as useless as batteries that are not making contact! So often all our relationship efforts are quite useless if we are not making good contact.


From experience and research over many years, it seems clear to us that misunderstandings play a significant role in undermining potential and in causing unhappiness at all levels of society.  I can think of at least ten negative incidents amongst friends and colleagues that I am aware of that occurred during the past week or so that was caused by misunderstandings. In each of the cases some potentially serious misunderstandings could have been the direct result of a lack of application of contact management principles.

What we often hear from people we work with that complain of unhappiness in the workplace is that they ‘have spoken’ to the person that is the cause of the unhappiness. We find though that this discussion was rarely one of honest discussion with an attitude of listening carefully to the other person’s perceptions.

Attitudes and situations      

To quote a previous leadership gem from this column:

“In essence leadership is about processing (moving) two things – attitudes and/or situations. Most often we find that if we change our attitude, the situation looks different. No leader worth his salt will try to change situations without first ensuring that his or her own attitude is positive.”

Probably the single most striking principle arising from Leadership Platform research efforts over more than ten years is that attitude is the most important element in empowering individuals and organizations to move barriers to potential. What is this thing called ‘attitude’?

In a sense we are our attitudes. How we look at life at a specific moment in time is a reflection of who and what we are at that moment in time. How we look at life in general and people and situations around us is determined by our prevailing attitudes. Ultimately a major portion (if not all) of what we call character and personality is reflected in our prevailing attitudes towards life.

Top performers in all walks of life often manifest an attitude that refuses to acknowledge that barriers to excellence cannot be moved. We call such an approach a ‘seamless’ attitude.

The blame syndrome

Please understand what we are saying. It may well be that people are treated unfairly in the workplace. This happens all the time and we are not saying that everybody is treated fairly by their bosses. On occasion it is necessary to take the matter to a higher level in order to ensure fair treatment, or even to resign our jobs. Our concern is the tremendous damage that may be done to our own attitudes and actions of we fall prey to the blame syndrome that is very common in our society. Character is all about taking responsibility for our own attitudes and actions in life. We come across many people that have grasped the essence of taking control of their own values and attitudes. They are the cream of our society!

May the reader have a happy workplace and develop good contact management skills!

Article featured in the

The Workplace

Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Louis on for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.




Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022

Follow Us

Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


By subscribing you will be updated with the latest insights and news from us. We never spam.