I was talking with someone going through a difficult time at work recently, let’s call her Jane. Jane explained how unhappy she was at work and talked about the long hours she was putting in. She also shared that she was taking this as an opportunity to learn about herself. She said she found strengths she previously didn’t know she had and is learning how important boundaries are. She shared this information as the ground work for figuring out what she can do so she doesn’t feel completely drained at the end of the day.
Jane did a lot right with this situation. Here are four things that I observed:
She didn’t blame anyone.
Jane could have very easily blamed her long hours and unhappiness on her co-workers or boss or even herself, but she didn’t. She knew that her situation wasn’t specifically one person’s fault. It was the result of a lot of different things.
When things aren’t going well at work it can be easy to place the blame on a boss or co-worker. I know a common thought I had when things weren’t going well at work was along the lines of “well if so-and-so had just done x then I wouldn’t be having problem y.” I would forget that so-and-so had their own set of responsibilities and work to deal with and my top priorities were not necessarily their top priorities. And, generally, so-and-so doing x wasn’t really a reasonable request (because of their job or personality).
Sometimes the person hardest on you is you. While it’s important to take responsibility for your actions, beating yourself up about a situation isn’t helpful. And usually there isn’t one specific action that’s responsible for being frustrated or unhappy with work.
She didn’t complain about her situation, she shared where she was, then moved on to what she wanted from the conversation.
The energy of complaining is different than that of sharing. Jane shared enough of the situation help me understand what was going on and then moved on to what she wanted from the conversation. She didn’t dwell on what wasn’t working or her unhappiness. She was focused on moving past those things.
Sometimes when things aren’t going well all you want to do is complain about what’s going on, because you think that will make you feel better. Complaining won’t make you feel better, you’re going to have the same problems you had before and you just might make yourself more frustrated with the situation by complaining. If you’re looking for help on the issue and need to share your complaint to give the full picture, great! Just don’t spend all your time there – focus on moving forward.
She selectively shared her situation with others.
Jane had a couple of ideas about what she could do about her situation and also valued others thoughts, but was selective about who she shared it with. She didn’t share with people who would want to focus on how frustrating it was. Instead she shared with people she knew she could trust, would understand her situation, ask important questions and explore her options with her.
When you find yourself in a frustrating situation talk to your friends, mentor or coach who won’t focus on what’s going wrong, but on how to make more go right. It was clear at the end of our conversation that Jane was feeling a lot better about her situation. While if she had found people to complain with, she would have left more frustrated than when she started.
She looked for and found lessons in her situation
Jane recognized that even though she wasn’t thrilled with her situation she could learn from it. Sometimes when we’re going through a difficult time, we forget to look for the lessons we can learn from it. Jane saw the silver lining in her difficulties: she’s learning to set boundaries and saying no more often, both things she’s had problems with in the past.
What do you do when you are frustrated or unhappy with a recurring situation (like work)?