Frustration, Waste, & Personal Performance

Of course, you work hard, try your best! Maybe you even try a little too hard. It’s a natural direction in which achievement-oriented people will err and eventually self-correct. Experience, insight, mature judgement, they'll come, but perhaps sometimes they come too late or at too steep a price may. Let me explain. 


There is nothing more basic in human psychology. You try to acquire, achieve, or grasp something, but it eludes your best efforts. It’s out there, and you are here. It’s where you want to be, a destination, but getting there feels harder than it should. So, you wonder, “Is it me?” Even less helpful, you may rashly conclude the shortfall is the fault of others, “It’s the situation and others. Damn, I have bad luck!”  

Frustration is the consequence of our “deviation monitor”, which is the covert voice in our head that tells me "you are not where you should, could, or must be." After this initial message, it may continue, “And that's awful, unbearable, and ….” Or perhaps, we're able to regulate the effects of our deviation monitor. Perhaps we notice low-level, but building frustration and nip it in the bud by how we respond.   


In manufacturing, quality management is about maximizing the production of products that meet or exceed a standard. This means achieving an ideal, and doing so in a way that is also efficient. And it means not just doing that one time, but building into our operations a discipline of continually finding ways to improve our processes, and ways to ensure that our product maximizes value for the customer. It's about eliminating waste, wasted time, material, effort, and about making every investment payoff. 

If we are to go about this approach to business in an adaptive manner rather through fits-and-starts, from crisis to crisis. We will need to cultivate a positive attitude toward the feelings of frustration that we, our colleagues, and our customers experience. They must be treated as data: “What are they (our frustrations) telling us about what might work better?” In this way, frustration becomes a cue for a transformed attitude of productive curiosity. 

Personal Performance

Personal performance might be evaluated in terms of our capacity to self-manage the emotional work of noticing and responding to frustration in ways that minimize waste and maximize production, and increase our underlying capacity to produce. When left to run its more neurotic, maladaptive course, rising levels of frustration generate a sense of desperation, a loss of perspective (objectivity), exhaustion, conflict, and burnout.   

When we recognize that our energy is largely felt and managed through an intelligent, adaptive use of emotional data, we – even the most hard-headed rationalists and data hounds – are more likely to thrive and reduce waste. That's important because waste not only means lost opportunity; it can mean harm to self or others. It means less energy available for positive, productive purposes, and for treating one another well. 

The Solution

Space won’t allow me to fully spell out the path of adaptive growth and development that is most responsive to this challenge. But this brief discussion is sufficient to reveal a few characteristics of that developmental path:

1)     It’s rooted in the person and in a person-centered view of organizational work and relationships.

2)     It’s reliant upon greater emotional freedom (a practical kind of mindfulness & reflective attitude).

3)     It’s inherently social, concerns ways to be and to be with others that shape norms of collaboration.

4)     It’s best learned when practiced in the workplace and outside of work, adopted as a basic way of being & relating.

5)     You’ll need a coach, commitment, and sustained practice (6-12 months) to make it your way of being.