C’mon, you’ve said it. Or at least you’ve thought it.
You’ve lost patience with the drudgery, the people you work with, that annoying problem that just won’t go away. And you found out the dog’s sick. Life’s not easy and it’s hard to always have the right attitude at work.
So go ahead and get it out of your system. Not in a way that will damage your career, of course, or the relationships with those around you. Maybe it’s time to take a walk and get away for a little bit. I give you permission.
But now you’re back, and maybe that didn’t totally fix your frame of mind. Perhaps you’ve been getting more and more upset with how you’re being treated or the lack of advancement in your situation.
First, let’s recognize that there’s plenty of things that happen in life, and not all will be fun. There’s actually a dignity in useful work, and that’s separate from whether it’s enjoyable or not. If you’re going to make a contribution, and do it well enough that someone will pay you to do it, then there’s a good chance that it’s not going to be FUN. Or perhaps it will be gratifying, but in a more introspective, long-term, this-is-providing-useful-value kind of way. After all, digging ditches in Kenya can give you pleasure when you know how it helps to change peoples’ lives.
Start off by thinking through these questions:
- Who is getting value from my work?
- Why do they value it, and why does it make their life better?
- How do I know that they’re finding it useful, or how could I find out?
It’s not uncommon, though, for the answers to these questions to feel vague and unhelpful. When you’re spending most of your time doing paperwork in what feels like a menial job, it may be hard to see how ANYbody is finding your work valuable.
But that might be a great conversation to have with your boss, and with those who receive the results of your work.
The next step is to look at what you can get out of your work. So far, you’ve developed relationships with co-workers, partners, and your managers. You’ve honed a set of skills that might be applied to other situations, and will make you more effective in your current job. You’ve acquired a body of knowledge that will still be with you after this job is done.
Take credit for this, and think of it as valuable. This may well form the launching pad for your next career step.
Think through how you can get more experience, knowledge, and useful relationships which will help you move into a brighter future. Are there special projects that need attention? Should you focus on learning how to do more complex assignments? Should you spend some time with particular people who will help you learn and advance?
If you don’t look for opportunities, most likely you’ll just be doing the same job in the future as you’re doing now, and probably be even LESS inspired about it. Or the job will disappear, and then you’ll be stuck out there with no particular direction.
Finally, it’s time to look at your attitude towards your work. Realize that there are three things at play here:
- Something happens out there.
- You have an emotional response to it.
- You decide what you want to do as a result.
The first one you probably don’t control very much. The second one, at least the emotional response that happens in the first few seconds, is often hard-wired. But as your logical mind kicks in, you have total control over how you use those emotions to push you to action.
Let’s take an example. Your boss just talked to your group, and said that there’s another reorganization coming. Having heard this language too many times before, your immediate response is fear and uncertainty. Humans seem to be hardwired to resist external change, so the emotional response is normal.
The critical step is how you choose to listen to those fears, or not. First, recognize that the fear is normal and even appropriate. Second, that the fear is only useful if it helps you to do something constructive and positive. In this case, complaining to the boss probably won’t be helpful, and may make it difficult to keep a job. It would be better to focus on what actions you can take to thrive in the reorganization, learning new skills and influencing more people.
It can be tough when you’re worried about your job, yes. But if you want your career to take you somewhere, this is something you need to learn. Your attitude is what you have the most control over.
by Carl Dierschow