October 2, 2023
By Dave Bushy, PCC
This tune sung by Johnny Paycheck in 1977 is at once off-putting and somehow intriguing, especially for those of us who like Country Music. And whatever musical genre we prefer, there are invariably times that each of us might experience the same emotions – though perhaps a bit less pointed – that he expressed in the song.
I believe it’s important to honor feelings related to our work environment, our bosses and even our co-workers. By honoring them, I mean not to react with the words (and emotional tone) Johnny sang, but to fully plumb the depths of what we are experiencing in our lives and careers.
For instance, it is not uncommon at some point in a coaching engagement with a client that they may verbalize a desire to leave their jobs or even change careers. I am always humbled in the trust they place in me and I carefully listen to their words as they speak.
I can never tell a client what to do in their lives or their jobs. I am explicit in saying, “I can’t tell you what to do – and I never will – but if you want, I can help you explore what you are experiencing and invite you to talk it out.”
I encourage my clients to be curious about their own emotions and work hard to name the issues that confront them. I often provide a saying I learned a while ago: “Name it to tame it.” With that approach, we can work together to help the client identify and understand the deep-seated things that relate to their jobs. In my role as coach, I help the client in their work of exploring all of those thoughts and heart-strings that might be pulled – for good and bad – positive and negative – that make up the tapestry of their professional lives.
Separating emotion from facts related to our job is no more possible than it is to separate feelings from what we confront in the rest of our lives. It is more useful to lean into both the “head” and “heart” issues we feel and then connect them in a way that helps them make meaning of what might be going on internally.
Oftentimes, for instance, initial feelings are not based on what is actually happening. A boss we consider incompetent or not attentive might well be struggling with their own issues. Or a particular work assignment or organizational structure might not be the real issue that is bothering us. It may well be the effects of the assignment that are causing the tension or dissension between team members. By talking it over with a coach or neutral confidante, it is often surprising what emerges and lightens the original tension or stress experienced.
When I work with clients who know the Paycheck song, or even those who don’t, I invite them to just open up and express everything they feel and know about a work situation. I have been known to say, “Now that we’ve checked the Johnny box, let’s begin unpacking the situation.”
A sardonic smile and we move into our work together. That’s the joy of coaching.
Dave Bushy of Boston Executive Coaches – bostonexecutivecoaches.com – is a an ICF-certified coach who was trained at the Gestalt International Study Center (GISC). Dave is a former U.S. Army officer and senior airline executive who works with leaders throughout the world.
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay