Lessons in Focus: the Law of Attraction in the Corporate World

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Passion to the Third Degree .

The moment I opened my eyes, I knew—with a growing sense of dread—that I had overslept. Somehow I managed to be showered and out the door in 10 minutes, knowing I’d still be a good 5 minutes late for work, and already stressing over telling my boss I’d slept right through the alarm.

The Long-Awaited Honest-to-God Secret to Being Happy

I just had this discussion yesterday with another colleague—how we each feel that every time we talk to the boss, it’s nothing but excuses and how we hate that feeling. Never mind that she loves us and we get plenty of recognition for our good work. It’s a quirky focus that our boss has developed that sometimes drives us nuts, and the more stressed she is, the more we feel her focus on deficiency, that deficiency being our being somewhere other than behind our desks.

Late and absent employees are her reality and we’ve let it become ours. Here’s why:

Knowing that she’s very focused on the clock, I will cut lunch short by 10 minutes to make certain I’m back within the hour or I’ll microwave something and eat it at my desk while I work through my lunch hour. She doesn’t notice I’m at my desk or working, and usually doesn’t go looking for anyone during lunchtime. If I’m at my desk for an hour longer than I’m paid for or back 10 minutes early, she knows it but it doesn’t register because she’s not at all focused on employees being there.

Giving myself a 10-minute leeway means I may be back 10 minutes early or, if I run into the frequent construction work, can’t find a parking spot, or get delayed at the security gate, I’m still back within my allotted hour. If I’m 5 minutes late walking in from lunch, she wants to know what took me so long and I feel silly explaining that the cars at the security gate were backed up 2 miles because some idiot just ahead of me confused their Sam’s Club card with their official ID.

Never mind that I frequently wolf down take-out at my desk while answering emails. Or that I skip lunch altogether. Or that I prepare for briefings at home on my own time. Or that I check in and respond to urgent emails (and not so urgent ones) in the evenings and on weekends. It’s the fact that I’m not at my desk during the two minutes she has a question for me or I didn’t answer my office phone because I was in an intense meeting in my office with the door closed. None of the time there matters. It’s the seemingly ridiculous excuses I have for the rest of the work week.

Ridiculous? Oh, it feels that way, even though they’re just everyday things in everyday life. Because now I’m focusing on it, too, and on the feeling of dread I get whenever I’m not behind my desk. It’s to the point where if I’m home with the flu, that’s when I schedule repairmen and house maintenance so I don’t have to explain that the hot water heater is out again and ask for a few hours off.

Here’s a list of the ridiculous (and I’m calling them that, not my boss) excuses I’ve had in the past couple of weeks. And they’re every one true and most of them are repetitive because we haven’t had a secretary in six months.
1. I took 12 hours of vacation time because the washing machine exploded and flooded my house. (hopefully that one’s not repetitive!)
2. I wasn’t at my desk because I was in the bathroom.
3. I was 20 feet away at a customer’s desk, delivering his files to him.
4. My meeting with the big boss ran over by 30 minutes.
5. I was at the photocopier or scanner in the next room.
6. I went down the hall to get a file.
7. I was in discussing a contractor issue with the supervisor next door who’d asked my advice.
8. I took a thumb drive over to the price analyst 50 feet away because I couldn’t send a 20MB file to him via email.
9. I was pulling a file in the next room.
10. I was at the computer help desk.

See, here’s how this focus thing works. I know what my supervisor is focused is on and it’s become my own focus at work—being late or not at my desk when I’m expected to be, even for good reason, even for normal business reasons—and I’ve reinforced that feeling by dwelling on how dread-full it is. Am I never at my desk? No, but if that’s where the focus is, that’s certainly how it seems. But how did this shift happen? Contagiously!

The interesting thing is that an office of workaholics now anxiously watch the clocks. The focus on absenteeism/tardiness/excuses started at the top and has quickly cascaded down to the employees so that the focus sometimes seems to be more about being behind the desk to show our dedication than about getting the work done and done well.

But that’s a normal thing in corporate America when it comes to the Law of Attraction. The hierarchy sets the reality, usually out of its fears, and the rest of us fall in line with it and take on the spirit of the company.