Non reciprocal interactions and double binds at work

First of all, a major thanks to the staff and community for providing a safe space. Does anyone have tips for dealing with non-reciprocal interactions and double bind situations at work? Do you find yourself having to craft a separate work persona to preserve mental health? Some details below are provided for context but I’ve tried to avoid overly specific or identifying details.

  1. Double bind: One example is being told that you must perform your job to meet all expectations of your superior and be prepared to answer any questions from your superior about any aspect of the job as it relates to his expectations. Yet when you try to ask questions to your superior to learn about his expectations (the primary training method for my role), he says he expects you to be more independent and criticizes the content of your questions.

  2. Non reciprocal: This is somewhat expected in my role since part of my job is to answer many questions from other people. However, some people don’t seem to understand when I tell them I can’t drop everything to immediately answer their question due to other people asking me questions or that I need time to perform the other areas of my job role that do not involve serving as a help desk to them. Conversely, if I need something from the same people to avoid a fire drill later and have a better ability to be available to other people and tasks, my requests seem to be ignored or marginalized, requiring multiple follow-up attempts from me. My role also has an enforcement aspect which causes the same people to complain to me whenever they disagree with my superior’s policies. It almost seems to me that these people wished that my role only consisted of the help desk/ advisory component and nothing else; because that is not the case, it causes dissatisfaction to them.

  3. Isolation: My role is somewhat unique and actually has a dotted line report to my superior (located in another group) because my supervisor does not have direct training in this area. Because of the dissatisfaction and enforcement aspects mentioned above, in the worst moments the job can feel like a sounding board for people to voice various complaints. Without many other people performing the same/ similar role and the dotted line reporting structure, it becomes difficult to objectively assess my progress and in my worst moments I have concerns over my job stability.


Regarding the first point (Double bind) you should insist and explain the why of the questions (you explain it in the text, the
subject of “you must do your job to meet all the expectations of your superior”) and if this does not work
Investigate from what is within your reach in the work area in which you work, consulting people who worked with your superior and
Research resumes to find out what helped the place where you work (as long as it is within the legal framework).

Second point (Non reciprocal) in this topic is already something that escapes your hands, people today tend not to see the human part of people
Although they may need something urgent, it may not be as urgent as other queries, you should organize and create a list from the most important to the least important making it present.
to people and if you receive complaints from these people, explain to them that you are overloaded with work and that they understand you, it may be tiring to explain it thousands of times but it is reality
Regarding your requests, you should not lower your arms because the more you insist, the more you press them to read and apply what you ask. If it causes them dissatisfaction, how do you work and do what you are?
within your hands to do a good job means that they are looking for someone perfect, who can solve the doubts of thousands of people in minutes, that is something that does not exist (humanly speaking).

from what I read in the third point and what you have described that job will end up wearing you out both physically and psychologically, it is not something that a person can endure for months, the virus has been a problem finding work but if you can try to find one where you feel comfortable.


Thank you so much for your post. I actually did reach out to the previous occupant of my role (who was promoted several years ago) who worked under the same superior. I actually learned that there were some aspects where he differed from the superior, and some people that I work with now sometimes ask why I can’t use the same rules as the previous occupant. When I pointed out the discrepancy to my superior, he mentioned that what we did in the past is not a justification for the present and he expected me to uphold his current expectations and not what was or was not done in the past.

I completely agree that having a list is key for prioritizing the requests and questions from other people. I do tend to overexplain, and others pointed out to me that sometimes “less is more” when explaining priority because then people try to debate the placement of their request on the list. As far as causing dissatisfaction, I think part of it could maybe result from the other people thinking that, as someone who provides support, I should only make their jobs easier and not make requests of them or perform the enforcement aspect that is also part of my job. I am not sure I have a great answer on how to fix that, beyond a general FAQ session I held earlier in the year where I tried to explain that my role has both a help desk component and an enforcement component.

For the third point, I think I have underestimated the mental health component of this job role. I do worry about the long-term sustainability, especially in relation to the isolation. I try to remember the parts of the job that I enjoy and where I am learning, but I do wonder sometimes if the benefits truly outweigh the drawbacks. I am not great at job interviews and tend to gravitate towards stability, though I may need to reassess if the situation does not improve or becomes worse.


It is good that you have in mind the subject of changing jobs because one does not know what will happen in the future and as for your reflections are good, I would not know how to better treat the subject since I am someone young in this work.


Thank you Sekato. I am also relatively new at this job role, and I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts.


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