Merge's Blog

Pain serves a purpose

painCongenital analgesia is a rare condition in which a person cannot feel physical pain.  While at first glance one may think that this might be a good thing, very quickly you’d realize otherwise.  Pain is the body’s way of letting you know that something is wrong.  It is what makes you pull your hand away from an open flame; it is what lets you know that you need to seek medical attention.  It causes you to pause and re-evaluate before you continue.  Pain’s most important function is to protect you from serious, and possibly fatal, harm.

Which is not a bad analogy to carry into the workplace.  Very often, the best-laid plans go awry.  Things don’t work out quite the way you’d expected or hoped.  And that results in pain – a rebuke from the boss, embarrassment in front of your colleagues, or just disappointment in yourself because you didn’t anticipate the damage.  No matter which, our natural tendency is to perceive the outcome as negative.

But pain can be positive

But what if we shifted our perspective to ask the question: could this “pain” actually be positive?  Just as pain is the body’s warning system, it could also be warning system for you at work.  Your manager’s displeasure might be a strong indicator that your current approach won’t get his or her support as you move forward.  The roadblocks you are facing could be cautionary signals that you don’t have sufficient stakeholder agreement.  The current malfunction may well be a forewarning that there are physical or emotional constraints in your organization that will only lead to failure.  Pain may, in fact, be a good thing.  But only if you stop what you’re doing, and pause and re-evaluate before you continue.

Are you facing organizational “pain”?  Can this analogy apply?  Would it be helpful to stop, pause and re-evaluate before you continue?  I’d love to hear about your experiences, and whether (or not) this analogy resonates with you.  Please share your perspectives by adding your comment below.


  • Hi Merge,
    I like this new perspective about pain. I am a person , who naturally feels pain, whether physical or emotional, but I abhors pain. I do not like it. But, of all buts, I do not take pain medication. I try to ignore it. Reading your article, makes me realize, that you are correct, whenever, I feel the pain, I analyze and ask myself, Why? , what is wrong with this part of my body? Am I tired or should I see a doctor.
    Similarly, at work, when there is a problem, I call it a “challenge”. I ask my staff for their input and ask , is there a better way of doing this. What is wrong? Any resolution. Then I analyze the possible consequences and make a decision.
    There are also some person that can be a pain….but, again, you begin to realize that this painful to deal people, are the ones who cares. They are the ones who knows better. Sometimes, the can give you the medicine, i.e they lead you to a solution to the problem.

    Good day, Merge!

    • Rose, thank you so much for your perspective on this. I love that you go to others to see if they can help you find the solution to the pain. Sometimes I think, as leaders, we forget that our people around us are often a resource that we can and should tap into.


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