Helplessly delivered to the boss: how you learned to change helplessness


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Text comes from: Warum uns das Denken nicht in den Kopf will: Noch mehr nützliche Erkenntnisse der Alltagspsychologie (2013) by Dr. Volker Kitz, Prof. Dr. Manuel Tusch, published by Heyne Verlag, Reprints by friendly permission of the publisher.
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Research has long established that how easy we feel helpless also depends on ourselves. It has something to do with the so-called “attribution style” - how we explain to ourselves what is going on and with us.

Helplessly exposed to the boss: how did you learn learned helplessness change helplessness01


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Dr. Volker Kitz fawnDr. Volker Kitz is Spiegel bestselling author, psychologist and ex-lobbyist.

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Prof. Dr. Manuel TuschDr. Manuel Tusch Professor at the Münster University of Applied Sciences and director of the IfAP.

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How the attribution style works

In the example from above, one thinks: “I can never please someone. I always do everything wrong and will probably be with everyone Chef get my problems and can't do many other things. ”

While another says to himself: “My boss is an idiot. He does not know what he wants. It will be very different with another boss. And maybe in the future I can just ask more exactly what he actually wants. ”

Am I to blame or the situation?

The first person maintains a so-called stable, international, global attribution: she thinks the reason for the misfortune lies in her (internal), is permanent (stable) and general, therefore also works with other people and in other contexts (globally) ,

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The second person, on the other hand, attributes unstable and external: She believes that the reasons are external (in the circumstances), that they are only temporary and could be quite different next time (unstable). One and the same event is interpreted differently by different people.

So you think motivationally

The second version is more healthy. Those who are stable, internal and globally attitudes, are more likely to slip into the learned helplessness - and into the depression.

For the learned helplessness is considered a common way to depression. And of course also in the inertia: No one is motivated, who feels helpless.

Learning for everyday life

We can learn from it on both sides for everyday life. If we want to motivate others, for example at work, in the family, at school or in the tennis club: Then we should be careful that the others do not get the impression "What I do doesn't count anyway."

We do not want to do this by arbitrarily and unpredictably, today and tomorrow we want that, and we can not listen to anything or anyone.

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Change your own attribution style

On the other hand, we can of course also prevent the learned helplessness ourselves: Check your attribution style regularly.

Be more aware of the fact that misfortunes can also be due to others, can be temporary - and that you might have a different situation the next time.

And if someone can not say clearly what he really wants, then ask for it until he learns it.


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