Monday, June 9, 2014

Lessons :: How Can I Handle my Frustration at Work?

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Fenn asks,

"I have a habit of walking away when situations become too much for me, maybe I'm angry or hurt or frustrated. This is a big problem when it comes to all the many jobs I've had, because walking out is one of those unforgivable sins. How can I learn to stay through the frustration? And not just, you know, count to ten or whatever... but more like, how do I stop the little annoyances from piling up into a big annoyance that makes me want to leave?"

Hi Fenn! Since I know you personally and I have heard about how your job situation has changed over the past few months, I'm going to try to answer this objectively and not be biased. Not all of this may apply to your specific case, but hopefully it can help someone out there. My instinctual, quickie response is this: Communication is key to any relationship, including those that you have at work. But I obviously can't end there, so let me explain!

First off, I have had a few jobs myself -- enough to know what I like, what I don't like, what I deserve and what I'm willing to put up with. Every workplace has pros and cons, and even if you worked for yourself and no one else, you would still face challenges. I am absolutely blessed to be self-employed right now, but since I'm just starting out, I work for free most of the time and I don't have any employees or co-workers to share the workload with. On the other hand, having a team of people can be difficult as well, whether you are working alongside different personalities or having to manage them.

The thing is, there is a different between little annoyances (ie. a boss who snaps her gum or spits when he talks) and major issues (a boss who sexually harasses you). Whatever the case, if you are feeling uncomfortable, you need to tell someone -- whether it's a supervisor, human resources manager, or someone else that you trust within the company (hopefully above you, who has power over the situation). I'm hoping that you truly are experiencing small things though, as you said, so we will go that route.

If something is bothering you at your workplace and it's not something you can ignore, avoid, or brush aside then you need to change the situation or speak to someone who has the authority to change it. It doesn't have to be dramatic or a big deal. For instance, if you're sick of people leaving old food in the refrigerator and leaving a mess in the kitchen, suggest to the team that you set up a cleaning schedule, or put up a sign instructing employees to clean up after themselves. If you don't have the power to do either of these things or if you feel uncomfortable doing them, talk to your boss and ask for permission or see what can be done. What's the worst that could happen? He/she will admire your initiative and will probably be glad that someone is finally doing something about the stinky fridge!

On that note, I would urge you to follow a rule I was once taught: vent up, not down. Taking workplace qualms to an employee that works under you or even a co-worker on the same level could do more harm than help. Even if you don't mean to, doing so could cause a full-out bitch-fest and spread gossip while making tiny issues expand and fester!

After my last promotion, I found so many things wrong with my new office that I literally sat down and emailed a list of all of the problems to my boss. There were probably 10 bullet points and I was so worried that he would think I was being naggy or complaining. Instead, he commended me on how bold I was to bring these things up and was excited to have someone on the team who wasn't afraid to make changes. As you long as you approach your supervisor in a professional way, with a good attitude, there is no reason why your efforts wouldn't be appreciated.

If, for some reason, your ideas are shut down or insulted, then talk to someone higher than your direct supervisor. If that doesn't work, then maybe it is time to walk away -- not walk out, but come up with a plan to put in your two weeks and leave. Everyone deserves to work for a company that listens and respects them. Now, there will be times when the things you want changed can't be, or maybe progress takes longer than you want -- but that's not necessarily the fault of your boss and probably not a reason to quit. It really depends on the specific situation, but as long as you feel that the majority of staff is on your side and you have a leader or mentor who is at least trying to help, then I think it's a good idea to push through and at least try to work it out.

Perhaps you keep facing the same problems at every job; if that's the case, then maybe you need to try working in a different field. If you continue to work in sales positions but you don't like the demands put on you to make numbers, then you really shouldn't be working in sales anymore. Keep an open mind and think outside the box. If you're not enjoying where you're at and you've tried everything you can to change the situation and/or your attitude, try applying for jobs in different industries or even start your own business. Maybe you need to work on the other side of town or in a different part of the state; it could mean a move or longer commute, but it could also mean more happiness and satisfaction in your work life. Good luck!

*Photo found here.
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