Article by Vincent Olivier - L'EXPRESS -

smile gray tought 264444 mBurn-out, harassment, relationship conflicts, lack of recognition… No, work is not always synonymous with health – to use the theme of my last blog post – and sometimes even “work hurts”. I voluntarily quote here the title of a fascinating work ( "When work hurts" , by Claude de Scorraille, Olivier Brosseau and Grégoire Vitry. Ed InterEditions), written by three speakers from LACT , a consulting firm specializing in risks psychosocial.

Their particularity: relying on the systemic approach developed by the Palo-Alto school . I will not develop here what the systemic approach is. At most, I will indicate that it specifically questions the relationship between an individual and his work context by observing the interactions – complex and non-linear – between the two. This post is therefore the result of reading this book and an interview with one of the authors, Claude de Scorraille, psychologist and co-founder of LACT.

Performance, commitments, objectives… The tyranny of forced success.

I, you, he, she… We are all successful. Or summoned to be! There is nothing reprehensible about this aspiration in itself: being efficient means being able to mobilize all of one's resources, to integrate constraints, in short to do the best one can in a sometimes difficult context. Where things go wrong is when this ideal is set up as an absolute norm, focused on normative requirements that do not take into account the specific capacities of each individual.

Because what was for some a personal aspiration has now become a permanent imperative, in the company, observes Claude de Scorraille. Performance then becomes a feat to be repeated every day, and therefore impossible to capitalize on as a driver of internal trust. Result: between fear of not being up to it, feeling of insecurity and unbearable pressure, the employee suffers and gradually disengages.

Avoidance, control and (false) belief: how to protect yourself?

Evolve, innovate, adapt… In short, “be agile”: this is the mantra of the 21st century company. It is still necessary to experience permanent change as an opportunity and not as a constraint, which requires a strong, even exceptional capacity for autonomy and initiative – it is also necessary, in passing, that the company allows you to put implement such a capacity…

Faced with this requirement, the first reflex is often avoidance, recalls Claude de Scorraille in this regard. Concretely, the employee risks falling back on the tasks he masters to “avoid stray bullets”. This response is indeed functional, at least in the early stages, as it provides some relief. But “avoidance engendering avoidance”, as the specialist points out, the situation will become tense little by little and lead to a general blockage: “you are incapable” will say the hierarchy; "You take us for children", will answer the employees. A everywhere ball in the center!

Another possible reaction: the will to control, that is to say the desire to influence events, to confront them in the hope of coming out a winner. Again, the answer may seem satisfying since it gives a feeling of power and usefulness. But very quickly, it collides with the principle of reality insofar as "as soon as we think we have control, we experience that it escapes us" notes Claude de Scorraille. Consequence: in an endless loop mechanism, the employee goes from control to helplessness, from illusion to disappointment.

Finally, there is belief. Or, more exactly, all the beliefs that inhabit us. Those who give assurance, meaning to our actions, benchmarks and confidence. But also, sometimes, those which maintain us in the illusion that “we think what we live while being convinced of knowing what motivates the other”, to use Claude de Scorraille's formula. However, it is impossible to be in the head of others. Worse: at the slightest doubt, this illusion turns against himself, against the other and the employee then finds himself in a defensive posture, unwittingly sending negative and counterproductive messages to his superior.

SO ? So, as we can see, there is no miracle cure. At most a few life-saving reactions: talking – to colleagues, to those around you; giving up – meeting unrealistic expectations; admit – the real, even unsatisfactory; protect yourself – because ultimately the only person you have control over is yourself. It's not always enough. But it's a first step.