Jack’s boss, Nicole, is rude bordering on abusive. Nicole is an excellent executive in the sense that she oversees many functions and keeps all the brush fires doused. But this means that she’s always under stress. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly and is fairly outspoken about her dissatisfactions. She truly appreciates Jack, her administrative assistant, and this is easily seen by the fact that she yells at him much less frequently than at others and with a rare gentility. However, she does have tendency to come across as nasty to Jack, and he is quite sensitive to conflict and feels stressed by Nicole’s outbursts. What should Jack do?

One option is to share with Nicole that stress is an outcome of her intense personality and to find ways to diminish stress. If Nicole is open to some change, she might encourage Jack to “talk back” to her, not in an aggressive fashion but in a teasing mode, so that when Nicole yells one of her frequent demands, Jack would have the permission to yell back, to the small extent he might muster, in a joking mode. If Nicole understands Jack’s dilemma and can go with the flow in terms of hearing her own intensity come back at her in a small way, then Jack might feel less stress. Just saying the words in an uncharacteristic mode may release the tension otherwise building up within him.

The ability to release stress by acknowledging its presence to a boss who causes it is one example of releasing the real self. The outcome in this case is a more comfortable relationship with a boss who, other than her emotional intensity, is great to work for. By being able to return that intensity in some small way, Jack becomes a more comfortable and productive individual who is a better resource for his boss.

Generally, we want to feel more comfortable at work. We could fake it when we’re not feeling that great or we could reveal some of what might be causing the stress. The result is the likelihood of feeling better. Whatever resources we can use to open up and reveal that we’re uncomfortable and then fine options to relieve these emotions will only bring more satisfaction to the job.

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