I Will Become Regional Manager by Dwight Shrute
From time to time, we all struggle with work. After all, no matter what we do, none of us are going to love our jobs all of the time. But what if you’re dealing with a uniquely difficult work problem that just won’t go away? Many of us have probably had horrible bosses, annoying coworkers, boring projects or incompetent new hires to contend with at some point in our careers before. And when that happens, it’s easy to feel like there’s no way to make things better. So the majority of us throw our hands up, shrug, and say: “That’s life.”
Our latest coaching client is in a position much like this. He’s an office worker at a mid-level paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania — Dwight Schrute is his name. Dwight is hardworking, smart, calculated, determined and, above all, tenacious. By all means, he has the skills to quickly and efficiently rise through his company and enter a management position someday. But Dwight has just one problem: he can’t seem to get anything done because his coworker, Jim, keeps getting in his way. More than simply frustrating him, Dwight feels bullied by Jim, who seeks out every opportunity to make Dwight’s life miserable.
How can Dwight solve his annoying coworker problem? Is there a way for him to move past Jim’s constant heckling so that he can clinch his dreams of becoming the new Regional Manager of his business, Dunder Mifflin? In order to get answers to these questions, Dwight has written to The Journal That Talks Back for coaching support. Let’s look at Dwight’s first journal and start getting some information about the struggles he’s currently facing.
Dwight’s first journal entry
“I already said how fast I am (somewhere between a snake and a mongoose), but somehow I am never able to outpace Jim…. probably because he’s a part of the CIA or something… the damned GOVERNMENT… OF COURSE! Even when I leave him be, he’s always colluding with Pam to bully me, and I’m just tired of it. I have lodged many formal complaints with Toby over the past years, and nothing seems to get done. I can’t be perfect at my job when there are bear traps at every turn! I want to do my job as Assistant Regional Manager and one day take over Dunder Mifflin itself… MWAHAHAHAHA. Please help.” — Dwight K. S.
First impressions: understand Dwight’s relationships
Alright. So, clearly, there’s a lot of personality going on in this first journal. And that’s perfectly okay! But before we dig into Dwight’s idiosyncrasies, and before we can assess what he wants out of this coaching relationship, we first have to contend with all the different people he’s just introduced to us. We don’t want to assume we know anything about the others he’s mentioned — Jim, Pam and Toby — even if Dwight’s already given us some minor behavioral details about the people in his life.
At the same time, while we don’t want to assume anything about them, we don’t necessarily need Jim’s, Pam’s or Toby’s sides of the story in this situation. Why? Because, as far as helping Dwight goes, it doesn’t actually matter what they think is going on. In order to help Dwight, we simply need to empathize with what he’s perceiving — and right now, his perception is that he’s being bullied in the workplace. So the kinds of questions we’re going to pose to Dwight should help color our understanding of how he feels he’s being impeded by the relationships in his life.
For instance, we might ask: What’s your relationship with Jim and Pam been like in years past? We could even dig deeper and explore other relationships in his life by asking: If you’re the Assistant Regional Manager, who do you report to? And what does your role mean to you — what makes it so important that it’s worth rising above your colleagues to become Regional Manager?
Once we have a solid understanding of how Dwight perceives the people in his life and how they impact him, we can really start to work through the problems he’s experiencing. That will in turn help us decide how to assist Dwight in getting what he wants: a work environment where he can succeed without the threat of “bear traps” in his way.
Next: ask Dwight if his relationships make it impossible to succeed
So far, there’s been a lot of black-and-white thinking going on in Dwight’s mind. He believes that Jim needs to be removed from the company in order for him to succeed and become Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin. He also insists that Jim and Pam are spying on him, and that Toby cannot do anything to help. In order to help break Dwight out of his narrow state of mind, it might help if we ask him some follow-up questions. This might be how that exchange would go down:
“Do you believe that you can’t work your way up in the company if Jim doesn’t get in trouble?”
“Of course I can’t become the ruler of Dunder Mifflin when Jim is always getting in the way.”
This is a short response, but it gives us some great insight into how Dwight sees the world around him. Much like his first journal entry, this response shows that Dwight is still concerned with the fact that he’s unable to succeed with Jim in the picture. What we’ve also learned is that his greatest goal is to earn the title of Regional Manager at his company branch.
Like many of us who work in office settings, Dwight is faced with lots of roadblocks to his professional success — he’s got competition, there’s a corporate structure that impedes his ascent to a managerial position, and more. These are the biggest hurdles Dwight’s looking to overcome, and now that we’ve unearthed them, we can more effectively help. In short: we’ve identified the crux of how Dwight views his problem, and we’ve brought to light the conveniences, assumptions or pitfalls in his beliefs that might be impeding him.
Now we can start posing some possibilities to Dwight. We might ask him: If you went to work and pretended Jim didn’t even exist, how would that impact your day? Would you be happier or feel better? And it might be hard to imagine a world without obstacles for Dwight, but when he’s challenged to do so, it might change his perceptions.
After all, Dwight seems like someone who’s very intent, rigid and tenacious. He doesn’t appear to be someone who would let something like an annoying coworker stop him from getting what he wants. So why is he putting so much focus on what’s stopping him? Might it be possible for him to focus on the good things in his life — his work ethic, his personal and romantic relationships, and his positive connection with the current Regional Manager — instead of the bad?
We might challenge Dwight to focus on what allows him to grow, instead of what holds him back. By presenting him with that reality, we can help Dwight continue to be the tenacious, goal-driven individual he appears to be, while also giving him permission to let go of the relationships that aren’t serving him.
The check-in: three months later
Alright. We’ve gone and given Dwight some opportunities and goals to work toward. After taking a step back for several months and letting Dwight work at his new goals, we’ve returned to find a much more level-headed and motivated employee — although his continued hopes of taking over the world are still a little off-putting. Here’s what Dwight’s written in his latest journal:
“So, a lot has changed over the past few months. Jim has been really busy with his offspring and… what’s her name again…Ham? That’s right! I’m now Regional Manager, and I’m getting married to my monkey, Angela, at my personal beet farm, of course. It will be a wonderful wedding, or Hochzeit Des Jahres, as we Schrutes like to say. I guess things do work out after all. Life is good at the top.”
It looks like things have really worked out for Dwight! It seems like focusing on the positive parts of his life has been far more rewarding for him than when he was constantly committed to fixating on the most difficult aspects of his day. We’re also noticing Dwight is opening up more about his romantic relationship, which is something he wasn’t disclosing much about previously. All in all, seeing Dwight rise to the position of Regional Manager while also tending to his love life is a very encouraging sign that he’s on the right path.
Taken together, we’ve helped Dwight gain some ease and peace in his life while also providing him with the tools to keep things afloat if life gets rocky again. And that’s really the goal of great coaching: it’s all about helping people see new possibilities in their lives while also giving them the tools to navigate their biggest, thorniest problems.
Dwight hasn’t been our easiest client, but he’s been a joy and a reward to work with. Check out our Character Coaching podcast to see how we’ve helped other (definitely real) characters . And if you want to have the kind of coaching experience we’ve just demonstrated with Dwight, check out The Journal That Talks Back for more information about how we operate.