Mindfulness for Dealing with Office Villains: The Joker

By Joe Burton

Do you have an office Joker in your life?

Have they gone out of their way to create arch enemies, real or imagined? Do they consider themselves the mastermind of the entire operation? Do they have a sadistic sense of humor and sinister smile? Are people getting a little tired of their goofy pranks that just don’t seem that funny anymore?

Does your office enemy engineer create chaos or lethal interactions like long boring meetings, deadly joy(kill) buzzers and language that matches up to the best acid-spraying lapel flower. Do they try to compensate being overly abrasive with “statement” clothing?

If you’ve fallen into the trap of feeling like you have to step in as the office hero, you may have unknowingly become the perfect adversary. If you’re feeling like you’re always responding to the Bat signal to take care of your office friend (or put them in their place), it might be time to take a break and practice empathy and awareness. Don’t be Judge Dread.

Over time, we all develop tendencies that can drive ourselves and office mates a little bit crazy (pun intended). It may be tempting, even easy, to label which office villains you think you’re working with. Or which one you may be yourself. If you find yourself cooking up revenge plots, the first step to bringing peace to Gotham City is often to improve our own empathy and self-awareness. Here are three mindfulness practices to help you deal with the office Joker in your life:

Why so serious?

Don’t take the office Joker too seriously. Train yourself to build a defensive shield against their tactics. Instead of reacting, try SBNRR: Stop-Breathe-Notice-Reflect-Respond before taking the bait and falling into that booby trap. In no time, anything he or she says or does won’t impact your wellbeing or mood. Sticks and stones, homie.

Try to understand why they act the way they do

Learning more about the people who annoy us can give us a better understanding of why they exhibit certain behaviors. Perhaps they were bullied in school or had a rough family life growing up (or now, even). At the end of the day, our negative unconscious tendencies stem from habit formation. Or from defense mechanisms we design to cope with hardship. If you find out more about others, you might find some more compassion and patience to deal with the office Joker. In the worst case, get to know thine “enemy.”

And be open to other possibilities. Maybe they’re too much like you and you find that annoying. Wait. What?

Stop trying to decipher intentions behind people’s actions

Ever found yourself seething at something someone did, only to find out that there was no ill intention? I have. Many. Times. At the end of the day, we can’t guess why people act a certain way. Actually, we can. And we do it. A lot. But we shouldn’t. The concept that people don’t mean any harm and may not be aware of the impact they’re having on others can help us to deal more skillfully with them.

The next time you’re raging over the office Joker’s latest actions, take a breather and tell yourself: I doubt they meant any harm. Or politely ask them to clarify why they did it. Yes, try human interaction. It’s still a thing.

At the end of the day, the Joker is in your life. And if they leave, another one may pop up. Maybe. Probably. Yes, they’ll definitely pop up. Working with our own self-awareness provides insights into our own buttons so they can’t be pushed so easily. And it helps us be more aware of others, their motivations and ultimately our common desire to be connected.

Bonus Tip: Try laughing things off. HAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHA! Ok, that was creepy.

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Posted by Joe Burton- 26 September, 2018


Joe is an entrepreneur in the digital wellness space, former president of Headspace, and spent fifteen years as a global COO in public companies. He's an alumnus of Harvard Business School and a regular contributor to Forbes, Business Insider and The Huffington Post. He's worked in over 50 countries and travels the world speaking on topics including disruption, culture, resiliency and mindfulness.