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Making lemonade from the lemons at work .

Joan F. Marques - MBA, Doctoral Student
Burbank, California- December, 2002

There's an old statement that encourages us to make lemonade from the lemons life throws at us. You know that one, right? And it's not hard to derive that "lemons" refer to events or situations that seem bad to us, and "lemonade" to the positive turn we give to those circumstances. So, how does that work in your daily job? And don't tell me that you don't know a few people there that can be typified as lemons right away... How could you make lemonade from them? In other words: how could you cope with the presence of those people in your surroundings and still remain your own content self?

For starters, we all know that it's not easy to change other people's mentality. But you can adjust your own attitude! And that's what can help you add some sweetness to the lemons around you, thus making lemonade from them whether they want it or not. All you do is use that great wisdom within you that can guide you to see things--or people--in the right perspective: they are only as important as YOU make them. So, whether it's your immediate supervisor, a colleague, or the vice president of the organization that seems to have a problem with you, you can certainly try to find ways to behave correct toward them, yet stay as far from them as possible for the rest of the time. That's one possible way to make lemonade from a lemon at work. However, it's not the most rewarding one, because nothing really changes...

Another strategy could be to talk things over. In some occasions that will work best in the very work environment, in others it may require a lunch or coffee break outside of the daily workspace to create or restore some positive vibes between you and this person.

However, talking things over may not always be a workable solution either. The other party may just not be open to it. And you may consider it better to leave things as they are. Your intuition may advise you to do so. And in that case, hey, don't ignore it!

In fact, it might be better to evaluate some issues before making a decision about the appropriate strategy toward the lemons at your work. There are 3 questions you could ask yourself:

  • 1. Does the problem with this person represent a bottleneck in my performance at work?
  • 2. Does this person display an attitude that aggravates me, thus influencing my mood and my relationships with others at work?
  • 3. Is this personís attitude harmful to my self-esteem and self-perception?
  • In all of the 3 cases a "yes" may indicate that you HAVE to talk things over or bring it to the attention of the one(s) in charge. If the answer is no, on the other hand, you could very well stick with the "be correct and stay out of the way" solution suggested earlier.

    So, retrospectively, dealing with the lemons at your work boils down to the inner wisdom mentioned earlier: The advice about your own attitude and your perception. You can always look at everything from a positive point of view and here's how: The only way you can make lemonade is with lemons, right? That means that the sour ones at work may very well serve an important purpose! You could see them as the interesting challenge to activate your creative skills in order to make a less pleasant situation at least bearable. The lemons at your work may very well be the ones that will bring out the best in you. Where--under ideal circumstances--you would take a positive environment for granted, you will now value every peaceful and pleasant moment even more. And you will learn to value the ones that treat you well even better. As a matter of fact, you will treat them better yourself.

    And the lemons? They may stay as sour as they want. The source of sweetness you created inside will make them digestible, even if that is not their intention. Because you taught yourself to filter excessive sourness before your system accepts it, you can now deal with them. And who knows! Maybe ultimately they will give up their acidic attitude and change for the good. After all they are people too; probably with as many issues in their lives as you do. And with the same needs for recognition and understanding as all of us, even though they may do their best to disguise it. An important thing to realize is that most people who profile themselves as harsh and hard to cope with are actually very vulnerable. They may have had some deep hurt or disappointment to endure in the past. It will take a lot of patience and positivity from your side to crack their shells. And even if that never happens, it shouldn't be a problem as long as you don't suffer from their behavior. And now you know how to deal with that: you take their lemon-like attitude and add your personal sweetness to it. The result will be wonderful and much desired lemonade. Here's to health!