Many people solicit my coaching practice to discuss their job dissatisfaction. The most common complaints, “I hate my boss,” “They don’t appreciate me at work,” “My coworkers are cliquey,” make me realize that these issues exist in virtually every work environment. It’s naïve to think that if you have a new job, these issues will magically disappear. I’d like to bring some awareness to our work habits because if we don’t change, wherever we go, the same problems will arise.
I don’t believe that there is a “perfect” work environment anywhere. It is common to have bosses who aren’t communicative or who tend to be demanding and controlling. Coworkers require constant negotiation – similar to that with our friendships, a partner, or family members because we spend a significant part of our day with coworkers. It is a fine balance to be in a space with diverse people who have their own unique perspective, cultural and family background. You may never choose these people as friends, yet you need to work together and get along for the sake of your job. Although people get frustrated because these tumultuous dynamics exist, there are ways to find job satisfaction in difficult situations.
I advise my clients to start by chipping away at all the negative momentum they have built toward their job. As I listen to people’s complaints, some of the issues seem to be normal work-related situations. I hear things like, “My boss asked me to learn this new software program. Can you believe that? Doesn’t he know how busy I am?” For me, as a neutral outsider, it doesn’t seem that ridiculous for a manager to ask an employee to learn something new. Someone else’s perspective might be, “Wow! He’s asking me to learn something new! He must trust me. Maybe he wants me to work on a new project! I’ll learn everything I can, so I can impress him with my skills!” Same situation, but two different approaches. Now who is going to get the promotion when it shows up – the person who is inspired or the person who walks around the office frowning? If you are angry, you are not hiding it from the people around you. Is that really what you want to project? Is that putting your best foot forward?
If your coworkers are cliquey, don’t focus on it. I’ve worked with clients where we discuss having a thicker skin, focusing on the coworkers who are friendly and supportive, and remembering that we have a life outside of work. Focus on your family and friends and how happy they make you. You will be surprised how quickly the impact of the clique loses its hold on you. You will actually get to a point where you don’t even notice it anymore. But this takes patience. For one client, the change happened after two weeks, and she has never talked about them again!
Release any negativity you have towards your job. This may sound like an impossible task, but I suggest you do it slowly and gently chip away at your anger and resentment. What is positive about your job? I tell my clients to put their salary on the refrigerator on a post-it note, so they can see it every day. Even if you would like a raise, it is a powerful affirmation to be grateful for the money you are earning. If you’d like, put another post-it note next to the first one with your ideal salary, so you can see where you are and where you’d like to be! That will inspire you. Focus on the coworkers who are kind and helpful. Feel gratitude for your health insurance or any other perk your job offers. Listen to motivational material on the way to work to help build your positive feelings before you walk in the door. Put something beautiful in your office to inspire you: a plant, a poster, a painting of nature, or pictures of people you love. When you are frustrated, you can turn your attention to something you love and smile. The goal is to release all negative feelings and fill yourself with positive thoughts.
What you will find is that before you know it (it may take a month or two), you may not be so resentful towards your job. You may come to realize that you like your job after all. If you are looking for a new job, you are not bringing the negative energy with you on an interview. This way when someone asks you, “Why are you leaving your current job?” you won’t be tempted to go on a tirade about how awful your work situation is. If you get the new job, you won’t be bringing in any of the old, negative feelings. You will truly have a fresh start from a neutral place.
“Wherever you go, there you are” is one of my favorite quotes by Jon Kabat Zinn. If you don’t change, you are going to hate your new job as well. In the meantime, by releasing negative emotions towards your present workplace, you’ll be able to focus on your responsibilities and be much more efficient. When you are happy and smiling, people naturally gravitate towards you. It’s much more likely that a pleasant, inspired person is going to get a raise or a promotion. Leadership requires being a role model for the people around you. Hard working, dedicated, always learning, enthusiastic – these are some of the qualities of a person who is positive and grateful. A leader understands that there are difficult days at work, but will persevere and work through problems because he/she is expecting success.
Everyone can develop a positive attitude. It requires effort to focus on the positive all day long and perseverance to ensure that positive habits become embedded in your professional life. Then, wherever you go, you will rise to success!