Careers & Employment Information

Are You Taking Your Inner Brat to Work?

Is your inner brat taking over your job? Everyone has an inner brat. It's the part of us that's still a 2-year-old. It gets furious at the slightest inconvenience. It feels entitled to get what it wants when it wants, and complains when things don't go its way. Your inner brat not only makes you miserable, it makes work unpleasant for everyone else.

Chances are this describes someone you work with. It's always easier to spot someone else's inner brat than your own. But take a moment now to reflect on yourself and answer the following questions:

* Do you frequently complain that something isn't fair?

* Do you get angry at least once a day?

* Do you hate at least one person at work?

* Have you almost quit your job on the spot because you were upset?

* Are you a spreader of gossip?

* Do you frequently "forget" to do work or pass on messages that other people are waiting for?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you probably don't enjoy your job very much. Research has shown that while some jobs are more stressful than others, your level of dissatisfaction has more to do with your attitude than with the job itself.

For example, consider two women, Abigail and Betty, who work as nurse's aides in a hospital. Abigail complains, "All I do is clean up other people's messes. Patients don't appreciate what I do for them. If I'm 5 minutes late or if I forget to wash out a bed pan, I get yelled at. When I first started here they promised I'd get two breaks a day. Now I'm lucky if I even get one. I hate this job."

Here's how Betty sees her job: "I like to know that I can make the patients more comfortable. They don't always show appreciation, but I guess I wouldn't either if I was in as much pain as they are. Sometimes I get so busy that I forget things, and my supervisor gets mad. She's got the administration breathing down her neck and can't afford any patient complaints. There are days when I don't even get a break, but the time sure flies by on those days. Even though it's a hard job, I like helping people."


You can see from this example that your job is what you make it. It makes no difference whether you work inside or outside, at a desk or behind a counter; or whether you wear jeans or suits to work. If you focus on the negative you will never enjoy your job, no matter how much you get paid.

Abigail in the above example has a strong inner brat. She complains and finds fault. She perceives herself as a victim. Not only will her inner brat make her irritable and hard to get along with; it will deprive her of the opportunity to feel good about herself.

Betty is more positive about her job, but at the same time she is also realistic. She's aware of the hard work and lack of appreciation, but instead of dwelling on what's missing from her job, she focuses on why she chose to work there in the first place. She gets tired and stressed but she also goes home with a sense of satisfaction. No one is cheerful one hundred percent of the time. But people who don't let their inner brats make mountains out of molehills suffer less stress, and are more optimistic about the future.

There are many things you cannot control at work. For example, you have no control over your boss's moods. If your boss is in a bad mood, he or she might take it out on you. But you don't have to let your boss's inner brat push your buttons and unleash your own inner brat.

Some aspects of your job may be monotonous or unpleasant. But even then, you can view them in a different way, e.g., by setting up a challenge such as racing the clock, or by doing things in a different order or with different tools. What this does is give you more of a sense of control over your work, thereby reducing both physical and mental stress.


Who hasn't had to work with someone who is unpleasant, uncooperative and who stirs up trouble? Such people not only bring their inner brats to work with them; they allow them to take over. It's even worse when the inner brat belongs to your boss.

The main problem with other people's inner brats is that they trigger your own inner brat. Thus, when Mary fails to relay an important phone message to you because she's angry at you, this gets your own inner brat screaming inside your head, "How dare she do that! She's not going to get away with this!" Then your inner brat spends precious time brooding or plotting revenge.

Here are some things you can do when confronted with other people's inner brats:

* Ask yourself who "owns" the problem. Did you do something wrong, or is the other person overreacting? If it's the latter, don't feel that you have to fix things. Just minimize your interactions with the person, and don't complain or gossip to someone else.

* If your boss is overreacting, say something to acknowledge her feelings, such as, "I can see why you're upset." But don't try to explain or defend yourself at this point. Wait till your boss has calmed down.

* When a coworker's uncooperativeness affects your ability to do your job, ask yourself if this is the first time. If so, offer to help him expedite his end of the job. If the person is habitually uncooperative, it's time to start documenting your efforts, and later bring it to the attention of a superior if things don't improve. But do so in an objective way, documenting only facts, not your opinions or feelings.

* Keep in mind that other people's bad moods, sarcastic comments and uncooperative behavior can capture your attention to the point that it drains you of energy. Wouldn't you rather save your energy for something more productive?

* Finally, remember that it's easier to spot an inner brat in someone else than in yourself. Are you sure it's the other guy's inner brat that's upsetting you -- or is it your own?


Copyright 2005 Pauline Wallin, Ph.D

Pauline Wallin, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Camp Hill, PA, and author of "Taming Your Inner Brat: A Guide for Transforming Self-defeating Behavior" (Wildcat Canyon Press, 2004) She is also a life coach. Visit for more information, and subscribe to her free, monthly Inner Brat Newsletter.

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