Dealing With Workplace Uncertainty and Anger

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“Suzanne Gelb Image”

Dear Readers:


As an added resource, over the next few months I will supplement my responses with references to self-help materials. Supplemental reading for today’s answers can be found in my book “Welcome Home. A Book About Overcoming Addictions” (pp. 48-51 relates to Answer No. 1; pp. 52-57 relates to Answer No. 2). For more information visit my Web site at

”Uncertainty — Why is it Unsettling?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

Last week I started a new job as a manager. I like it, but there is a lot to learn and my job description is flexible because this is a new position and they are still ironing out the kinks with its scope. This is a step up for me and I’ve worked hard to get here, but the uncertainty of how this is going to work out is unsettling. I don’t want to take an antidepressant, but I need to be able to cope with this adjustment and to not doubt my ability to succeed.

Good News and Bad News

A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear News:

I agree with those schools of thought that do not support the trend to automatically deal with anxiety by curbing it with some external measure. Of course, always consult a physician regarding such matters, and in my opinion too many people fail in their attempt to succeed because they wind up numbing their distress, instead of learning how to deal with it. Many people have been able to resolve the anxiety and fear of measuring up to a particular task by working with a competent mental health professional, often referred by their physician, who has helped them resolve self-doubt.

”Anger – When is it OK?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

Yesterday at a staff meeting my boss got angry with some of us who took a long lunch because the office work then got backlogged. We did get permission for the extended lunch so we could attend a seminar. The supervisor who authorized this was out of town when the staff meeting happened. There must have been a break down in communication, but the point is that I felt criticized by the boss’s anger, like he was attacking me personally. This was scary.


A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Criticized:

Sounds like your actions were not out of line because you did get permission. But that does not resolve the need to feel criticized. This self-attack is invariably a result of what I call “the inner judge.” This construct can cause people to feel guilty about everything that goes wrong, whether it is their fault or not.

It is also important to remember that other people’s anger, such as your boss’s anger, is their problem and is invariably triggered by some type of fear. Your boss may feel responsible for the error that was made, which caused the short-handedness in the office. It is not uncommon for people in this type of situation to feel that they have to dump and blame someone else for the mishap.

It is helpful to keep in mind that criticism is only experienced as such if the shoe fits. Otherwise criticism is merely an opinion expressed by another, and at most one merely observes such verbal behavior.

”’Suzanne J. Gelb, Ph.D., J.D. authors this daily column, Dr. Gelb Says, which answers questions about daily living and behavior issues. Dr. Gelb is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Honolulu. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Human Services. Dr. Gelb is also a published author of a book on Overcoming Addictions and a book on Relationships.”’

”’This column is intended for entertainment use only and is not intended for the purpose of psychological diagnosis, treatment or personalized advice. For more about the column’s purpose, see”’ “An Online Intro to Dr. Gelb Says”

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