Roles in the Workplace

People amaze me.
I have been watching the world go around for a long time. I’ve seen the ups and downs of life. I have had my share of failures and of course, I am human too. I have my share of faults. I have character defects, imperfections, shortcomings and all that go along with being a person.
I have been on either side of the mental health table for most of my life. As a child, I have been someone in front of a man with a white coat and a clipboard. However, as an adult, I have become somewhat of an advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves.

I decided that the worst sort of bullying is the one that exists in the mind. And I say this with personal experience. I have seen people vanish to lifelong battles. I have witnessed people exceed far beyond their wildest dreams—and yet, I have seen the scars of stigma. I have seen the response from people whose opinions are cruel and one-sided.
I’ve watched people take responsibility for someone else’s recovery and claimed other people as their success. As if to say, “I taught them everything they know!” as if this is a reflection on them.
I see this and think to myself, “People amaze me.”

Back when I was starting to gain credentials, I listened to counselors. I listened to clinicians. I listened to people who studied mental health from the ins and the out, the ups and the downs and I listened to people “In the know.”
I listened to people speak about addiction, depression, anxiety and suicide. I listened to learn and yet, I was reminded of something painfully true from an old acquaintance.
They told me, “I don’t care if it was Jesus himself who came down to talk to me because nobody in the world is going to talk me out of using.”
For this application, the term “Using” meant heroin. But in other applications, the term “Using” can be interchangeable with any other dependency or abuse disorder.

The same can be said with depression because from a personal perspective, it wouldn’t matter who was talking to me. Depression is still depression. This is chemical, not personal.
Anxiety itself is irrational, so therefore, rational explanations might intellectually make sense; however and emotionally, nothing makes sense when anxiety hits.
But yet, there are atmospheres and workplaces with people who fit a certain placement. There are people who exhale so another could breathe in; and same as the family dysfunction, there is also workplace dysfunction.

I remember a specialist who was telling me about a client of theirs. And the client used to be one of mine. I was there when the client was reversed after an overdose. But the connection was not meant to be and like the old saying goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
I remember the specialist told me about the connection they shared and how well the client was doing. In fairness, this had nothing to do with the client. More closely, this had more to do with a personal dispute between the other specialist and myself. The client in this case was being used like a pawn.

“You do realize we are talking about someone’s mental health, right?”
“I know,” said the other specialist.
“So then why are you claiming victory as if this is a match between you and me?”
The conversation ended here.

Back when I used to work with an old machine in a place that was built before the depression, I watched people jockey for position of importance. I saw this come to the point where someone would sabotage equipment and when everyone else looked to see if they could fix the problem, the saboteur would walk in and fix the machine. This way, they could get the gold (or silver) star. Meanwhile, there is no extra credit for this. There is no extra money or special credentials for this.

This is more about pride and ego.

I have seen the slander machine at full speed. I have watched the gossip mills turn and heard the operation of the rumor factory. I remember them from when I was much younger—I remember them since the sand box in kindergarten, and yet, one would think these things go away. But no, this is still alive and well.

I want to discuss the clinical lesson that talked about the roles in a dysfunctional family. Think about the roles such as the hero or the scapegoat. Think about the lost child and the clown or the family mascot.

On the outside, the hero looks to be always right—they’re always on top of their game, always with an answer and always proven. Yet, on the inside, there is fear. There is a pressure and a need to live up to expectations. Their dependency is on success, which means the fear of failure or not reaching their best can be insurmountable. This becomes their identity and therefore; anything that would contradict this identity would be seen as a threat.

Obviously, the scapegoat is the opposite of the hero. On the surface, the scapegoat is the one who might take the blame for everything. Perhaps they cover this up with an image or persona as if to say, “I don’t care!”
However, there is something different below the surface. Maybe there is shame. Maybe there is resentment. Maybe there is hope that the hero will fall from grace and that somehow, the roles will reverse. Instead of the rejection, the scapegoat will receive acceptance or at minimum, a better spot in the cafeteria.

Next is the lost child. This is the person who is ignored or seemingly unincluded and undervalued. There is not much expected from the lost child. They are easily bullied or seen as a pushover. The lost child tends to have feelings of being unincluded or unworthy and undervalued. In which case, the lost child tends to keep their feelings to themselves because they do not want to burden anyone.

Lastly, the clown or the mascot is exactly what they sound to be. This is the funny one. Always joking, always looking for the laugh and sometimes accepted, but other times, the mascot can overstep and their clowning can be annoying to others. Meanwhile, the clown or mascot hides their pain through humor. There is a pressure to cover the pain of others or their surroundings with humor—but yet, avoidance does not satisfy the predicaments in the mind. Hence, the pressure builds up.

If we look at our work settings and see the people we work with and apply this map to them, how does this match our work environment? Is there a hero in the office? Is there a scapegoat?  Or is there a lost child and a clown or a mascot? This might not match identically and moreover, there might be one person who claims more than one role.

I can say that I have worked in different surroundings. I have worked with small companies and large corporations. I have had the benefit to be included in certain programs in which, yes, I could see the evidence of this model in the corporate structure.

I have seen initiatives that helped the hero to understand it is okay to make mistakes. I’ve watched this relieve the irrational stressors that come with performance related anxieties. I have seen the switch of energy that allows for the hero to be human.
I have seen the scapegoat go from victim to productive. I have seen the lost child go from someone who would never speak up for themselves to someone who is comfortable and connected.
I have seen clowns learn to change their direction and use their charisma to become leaders with strong values that include cultural and psychological safety. I have seen the benefits of our so-called dysfunctions become strengthening tools as a result of adaptive thinking.

Out of all four roles, whether we are talking about the hero, the scapegoat, the lost child or the clown; the qualities of a person can become a leader in the making. The idea is to strengthen, nurture and formulate the change. 
All of our qualities are useful towards our success. But yet, the four roles exist. Sometimes, either of these roles can become problematic in the workplace, which is why I chose to do what I do.

Considering this idea, I challenge you to look at your work environment. Think about the people who might struggle and think about why. Scale this to a personal level and map this down to your team or if you work alone, look at the people you do business with.
I am sure this model is not an exact fit, but partial relation is still relation. The idea is to improve.
Or, we can find ourselves at the water cooler in the workplace and compete to find ourselves in the different levels of workplace popularity, which again, one would think this stops in high school, but no. This is alive and well in corporate America too.

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