Paul Butler | Overcoming loneliness and anger at work

Paul Butler: Going the Extra Mile

I’m a big Beatles fan. Just yesterday, I was listening to the haunting lyrics of the song “Eleanor Rigby.” John and Paul plead with us to: “Look at all the lonely people” and then sadly tell us that Eleanor was: “…buried along with her name — nobody came.” 

That same afternoon I was reading an article about anger in the workplace and it strikes me that at least some anger comes from a place of loneliness — a fear that no one understands you; no one cares about you or knows what you’re going through.  

It seems to me that this anger is a type of bad fruit that falls from a diseased tree — the root of the issue is loneliness and the fruit is anger.  

Even though we endeavor to compartmentalize our work life and our home life, I’ve noticed that when there are challenges at home, we take them to work and vice versa. It can get ugly.  

In Gallup’s recent workforce poll, 44% of the world’s employees experienced anxiety, anger and deep sadness. The latest Mercer Report shows that 81% of workers are burned out. Even Starbucks last week announced they were closing stores in five U.S. cities due to incidents with customers that make it unsafe to operate. 

I’m no philosopher or psychologist (but rather I’m a recovering accountant) but it seems to me that if we can agree that loneliness is the disease and one of the symptoms is anger, then it’s most effective for us to attempt to cure the disease, (loneliness) than treat the symptom (anger).  

In the workplace, anger rears its ugly head in many horrid ways. Hostile work environments; poor productivity and adverse customer relations can be tracked back to unhappy people, unhappily working with other unhappy people.  

So, what’s the cure for all this sadness? My experience suggests it has to start from within. Within an individual employee. Within an individual organization.  

I’ve personally witnessed in different corners of the world that when an individual employee has invested time to consider who they are; and think deeply about who they’re called to be of service to — there’s a peace about them that passes all understanding. Whereas happiness is circumstantial and it comes and goes with the wind (i.e., situational changes), joy is perpetual as it comes from within rather than without. Joyful people carry their own weather with them. 

I’ve noticed that people who are rooted to such internal joy are able to weather any storm. What’s more, like a pebble in a pond, they are able to ripple out and positively influence others they work with. Such people make great team leads.  

I’ve also noticed two types of organizations — those who focus on nursing the problem or those who focus on providing solutions to prevent problems.  

My observation has been that some organizations invest an inordinate amount of their financial resources to nurse the problem — sick days; mental health clinics; workplace psychologists and onsite yoga classes to name just a few. They’re achieving little more than stretching a big expensive Band-Aid on a gaping wound.  

Conversely, other organizations (like a good doctor) want to cure the problem by focusing their attention on developing leaders of high character and high competence. Such leaders help employees connect their passion and talents to roles within the organization to avoid what I call the “square pegs in round holes” problem. This second type of organization evangelizes their mission in this world to bring out the very best of their human resources. In turn, they produce business results that benefit all — the customer, shareholder, community and employees. They operate on a more balanced scorecard than just profit. 

Lonely people can become angry people at work. Organizations that are well-run redirect anger into passion: It’s just a different emotion. Great leaders know how to connect people to an organizational mission (the “why”) and a vision (“where do we want to get to and by when?”). Great leaders know how to bring out the best of human resources so when they leave or retire, they’re not forgotten along with their name. Great leaders care about others so that no one feels lonely, not even our employee, Eleanor Rigby. 

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]. 

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