When Things Go South.
We've all been there. We join a company on the heels of a really good interview cycle with promises of cool co-workers, lively company culture, and a boss we feel is excited to have us on the team. We work long hours, drink copious amounts of coffee, sit through meeting after meeting and generally feel okay with our decision. And then it happens. Something goes awry. You get blamed for a failure that wasn't yours. Someone says something about you that's inaccurate. Your boss goes AWOL daily and you no longer have his ear the way you used to. Still, you sit through meeting after meeting distracted by your thoughts of, "WTF is happening?" You start hating Mondays. And Tuesdays. And Wednesdays. Thursdays suck. And Friday, you're SO leaving early. You start looking at the people around you with contempt because you just know they're complicit in your discontent. You get your work done, but only just so. And you start ordering that extra glass of wine with dinner, begin isolating from your friends and eventually get to the point where you feel something's gotta give.
So here's the thing. There is a point at which you must get honest with yourself and begin to listen to the tapes playing in your head. You know, without a doubt, when you've reached a point of discontent so profound that you need to make a big change or physically suffer until something gives.
I bring this up because I continue to get contacted by my coaching clients who are in these situations and somehow feel they've caused them, can magically rectify them or are paralyzed by fear and aren't sure what to do to right the ship. It's difficult to resurrect relationships in our personal lives and, especially, in business. I believe we fall victim to so many assumptions and narratives created in our heads that are completely untrue. Add to the fact that we've all kind of lost the ability (read: cojones) to communicate our grievances for fear of being perceived as a whiner or weak. When things go South we tend to let them without providing much resistance or intervention of our own. We wait to see if things will just level out. And, of course, they rarely do. And then we wallow in our discontent, torturing everyone around us until we eventually take action or action is taken at our expense.
I recently left a job that was great on paper but made me totally miserable. I really liked my boss and my co-workers, but I realized that the role wasn't what as I had hoped and was a step or five backward for a person of my experience. I knew pretty early on that there was no way it was going to work. Red flags were flying everywhere and each day I found myself falling further and further into discontent. I could feel my performance beginning so slip, making mistakes that I'd never made and feeling less and less like myself. And I could sense that I was starting to lose the trust and respect of my boss, evidenced by some serious micromanagement...the absolute quickest way to have me run screaming out any door. Admittedly, I tried a reboot and had a few wins. But my heart simply wasn't in it despite my efforts to drag it back into the ring with me. So I decided to put on my big boy pants and start crafting my extrication plan. I reached out to friends, recruiters, and anyone I thought might have some sort of interesting alternative. I began thinking about the things that I was incredibly passionate about and how I could land myself squarely in the middle of THAT. I interviewed and spoke with everyone under the sun and eventually ended up with 6 job offers in less than 2 months (none of which I took) and, instead, created a business of my own called MEGA Assistant University. I knew I was passionate about being a career Executive Assistant and really enjoyed being a resource and coach for other Assistants over the years. I also really liked travel and realized that I could take the show on the road 2 or 3 Saturdays a month and get paid to do so. I now own my own flourishing business and have recently become a partner in a new business allowing me to pursue yet another of my passions: furniture design.
Life is short and unpredictable. Let me say that once more. Life is SHORT and unpredictable. I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would want to waste more than a moment or two being completely miserable. Yes, we sometimes have to stick things out for a bit until other opportunities arise. However, you shouldn't simply wait around and do nothing. I believe that manifesting destiny actually requires a little bit of (hard) work.
When things go South at work I believe you have 3 options:
- Communicate your grievances.
If you're not happy, get off Twitter and tell someone. And do it with no fear of reprisal or judgment. Often we make up stuff to fill the void where there's no information being provided. And we begin to believe that narrative until it eventually colors our experience beyond repair. Most of us are too chicken to walk into our boss' office, shut the door behind us and say, "We have to talk." And my question is WHY? Our Execs are just as human as we are. They have similar fears, issues, and insecurities. By simply opening your mouth and saying what's bothering you, you allow them in and from there you can have an honest conversation. Doesn't mean that the situation will magically right itself. But at least it's a starting point from which you both are equal participants.
2. Change your perspective.
I teach this ad nauseam in my classes. We "care" too much...about the wrong things. These next four words deserve a tattoo. IT'S ABOUT THE BUSINESS. We slip and fall on the emotional banana peel far too readily. We feel disrespected when the pats on the head don't come for busting our hump late into the night. We get butt hurt when we're not invited into that one meeting we should totally be leading. We invoke the silent treatment on co-workers to "voice" our disapproval. But guess what? No one actually cares. If you didn't speak up, it doesn't exist. It's about the business, folks. So stop getting too emotionally involved and distracted. Let me make this crystal clear (and piss off HR reps worldwide). You were hired to DO A JOB. As long as you do that job to the best of your abilities and in support of the business, then everything is peachy. At and around your desk it may be complete bedlam, tears and missing scraps of fur. But in the eyes of the business, all is peachy. So my advice is remove 70% of your emotional proclivity and start operating as the tactical, "here to do the job I was hired to do," productive, reliable worker you are. Reserve that remaining 30% for civility, the obligtory pleasantry, and the holiday party, of course. Treat yourself like a CEO, your boss as a client and operate confidently, effectively, and as separately as you can an as employee. Avoid water cooler talk, dramas du jour and anyone trying to recruit you into such distractions. Get in, smash it, and get out. Save all that emotion for basketball championships, friends and family, and rom coms. Viola! New perspective. You're welcome. Not saying this will work for many, but it is effective. This I know.
It takes energy and time to fix or endure situations like the aforementioned. And my time (growing shorter by the day) is far too precious to try and shoehorn myself into a situation that my instinct tells me simply isn't right. If ain't workin', it ain't workin'. And you know in your heart whether it will or will not work. So stop beating that horse to death and start mining your contacts list, grabbing coffee with referers, and updating your resume. The market is still incredibly strong. Don't waste another moment in a position where you're simply not happy. Do your due diligence, figure out where your passions lie, and throw every spare moment you have into manifesting the job of your dreams. Or your own business, like I did. There's no shame in leaving a bad situation. In fact, it's a self awareness exercise that we should all participate in more often. And the business world would be better for it.
Things go South. And it's okay. How you deal with it is what separates the joyous among us from the bitter, never happy hoard polluting our office culture and making getting through the day harder for us all. Don't be that person. Do your work and either change your current situation or seek out a new one that better fits your expectations and provides you the happiness you deserve.