• Robert Davies

Conflict at Work: Part 1 - Using CIT or Cognitive Interpersonal Therapy

Updated: Nov 29, 2018

Ray has a conflict with his boss. He examines his communication by looking at an example of their dialogue

Claiming To Be Completely Innocent & Blaming the Other Isn't Pretty


Robert Davies © 2018

Workplace Counselling: Conflict with Boss

“You see, Ray, and correct me if I’m wrong. From what you said, you don’t want to really resolve this. You don’t accept your boss. You don’t like the status quo. Yet, you don’t want the situation to be better so that you are closer to your boss. Basically, you want out of the relationship. Is that right?”


“In fact, Ray, from what I have been hearing, you have been blaming your boss for the bad relationship because of his disrespectful behaviour towards you. Still, you stayed.”

“Yes, I did. And the longer I stayed, the worse things got with his nitpicking me with negative comments.”

“Look at the facts. You said that you took 80 sick days in 4 years?”


“Well, Ray, that is 16 weeks of work! I could see how the boss might have had your number.”

“I was working hard on my health, but I seemed to be catching every flu bug that came along.”

“Did that matter to your boss, Ray”

"No, it didn't."

“Still, you stayed.”

“Yes, Bob, I had painted myself into a corner by staying and complaining and not moving on!”

“Would you say that you took the part of a martyr?” “Yes.”

“Would you say that you were playing the victim of injustice?”


“Is control over the other person more important than intimacy?”

“Bob, I’d say my boss wanted to control me a little too much.”

“Is pride and shame involved here, Ray?”

“You got that right. I feel I am right and I shouldn’t have to look at anything that I am doing wrong. I am working hard and my other supervisors thought highly of me and said so.”

“Ray, this might be a good time to do a BLAME CBA or a Cost Benefit Analysis on Blame. Okay?” “Okay.”

Ray and Bob-the-counsellor brainstormed to come up with two lists.


Advantages = 20%

1. I could look down on my boss.

2. I could feel innocent.

3. I could be free to not change.

4. I could stay and not have to change workplaces.

5. I could believe I was right.

Disadvantages = 80%

1. I would have no power to change.

2. I would be blind to my own part.

3. I could stay, but only increase my boss' resentment.

20% + 80% = 100%

“Ray, how would you rate it so far?”

“Well, Bob, I would say the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. I wasn’t winning. I was slowly losing. I’d give it 80 to 20 or 4 against 1.”

“Now the good news was that you had more power than you realized. However, you have to kill your own pride, get off your high horse and look at that horse in the face.”

“Can you, Ray?”

“From what you are saying, I think I understand?”


“Let’s see, Bob … breaking it down … I am the obstacle, yet I do have the power to move on if I wish. For example, I could move on to another work location.”

“Is that possible?”

“Why, yes, I could've.”

“Was it a good idea to stay and complain?”

“No, it brought on a worsening of the situation.”

“So, in a nutshell, you really didn’t want to reduce your blame or resentment at the time, and you didn’t want to get closer. “

“That’s right.”

“Well, Ray, let’ s see if your situation meets the research that supports CIT, Cognitive Interpersonal Therapy. Do you agree?”

“Please, go ahead.”

“Well, let me read the tenets of the research to you as explained by David Burns MD.

There are three:

a) We all provoke and maintain the exact relationship problems that we complain about. However, we don’t seem to realize that we’re doing this, so we feel like victims and tell ourselves the problem is all the other person’s fault.

b) We deny our role in the conflict because self-examination is so shocking and painful, and because we are secretly rewarded by the problem we’re complaining about. We want to do our dirty work in the dark so we can maintain a façade of innocence.

c) We all have far more power than we think to transform troubled relationships – if we’re willing to stop blaming the other person and focus instead on changing ourselves. The healing can happen far more quickly than you might think. In fact, you can often reverse years of bitterness and mistrust almost instantly – but you’ll have to be willing to work hard and experience some pain along the way if you want to experience this kind of miracle. That’s the three of them”.

“Well, Ray, what do you think? Does your situation fit CIT?”

“I think that I am stuck on number one tenet along with my boss. Also, tenet 2 strikes a bell. I really denied that I was causing my own problems. I was setting myself up. ”

“Would it help to understand this more?”

“Well, I am trying to be open here and understand the situation along with the three tenets?”

“Okay, Ray, we can do this. Let’s write this out. Here is the form. Now write down what your boss had said to you that time you specified.”

Maybe, you should retire,” were his exact words.”

“Write that down.”


“Now, Ray, write down exactly what you said next. Be brief.”

“Well, I said, “I don’t want to retire. I love my job.

“Write that down.”


“Good, now what feelings was he having at that time? Can you guess?”

“Well, looking at your list, I’d say he was: concerned, disrespected, discouraged, tired, unhappy, frustrated, angry, resentful, annoyed, and irritated

“And you, Ray?”

“Well, I felt: worried, unhappy, defective, rejected, embarrassed, humiliated, self-conscious, discouraged, frustrated, stuck, thwarted, defeated, resentful, annoyed, irritated and upset.”

"Ray, next we will look to see whether this was a good example of communication according to 'EAR' and according to the EAR criteria – E is for empathy; - A is for assertiveness and - R is for respect. How are you doing? Is it bad or good communication?"


In Part 2, we look at the criteria for good and bad communication.

N.B. Most people like stories, and therapy is all about stories. Telling stories about powerful techniques used in TEAM CBT therapy demystify this therapy one story at a time.

Yet, confidentiality is a cornerstone of all counselling. Without confidentiality, clients wouldn’t feel safe going to therapy to divulge the most painful areas of their lives. To safeguard clients while illustrating TEAM CBT techniques, confidentiality is kept by either having the client’s consent or by distorting the facts around the client.

Robert Davies

Counselling Therapist

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