For the most part, everyone in my life, with the exception of a few, is absolutely miserable at work, most of the time. The people I care about the most, day in and day out, struggle with their work life, and at times it becomes difficult for me to witness. It burdens me that my loved ones are suffering at least 40 hours of their week, every week of every year. Although for the most part, these same people are usually working much, much more than 40 hours a week. I can see the toll it takes on their health, their relationships, and their overall sense of joy in life, and it is a major bummer.
For reasons I will detail below, I do not have this problem, and I do not believe that it is because I am more fortunate, or luckier, or smarter, or fill-in-the-blank. I believe it is because I choose not to tolerate a lot of shit that others might tolerate. And I believe that most people don’t think they deserve to be happy at work, or worse than that, they don’t believe happiness and peace at work is even possible.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO CHANGE JOBS
I know this is scary. I know that even the thought of upheaving your life, searching for a new job, going through the nerve-wracking process of interviewing, and then learning a whole new position, can make you wanna barf in your mouth just a little. I know. However, when a situation at work is so bad, and you have concluded that no matter what you do, you are not working in an emotionally and/or professionally supportive environment—yes, that should be your bar—then it’s time to leave. End of story.
Just to give you an idea of what I mean by “bad,” here are a list of just a few symptoms and signs that your work life is under duress and that it’s time for a change:
- You are so stressed out that you have recurring physical symptoms like tummy troubles, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety attacks, etc. (I quit a job once for the sole reason that every time I walked into that office, my stomach twisted up into knots and didn’t untwist until I left).
- Your personal relationships are affected by your job (arguments with your partner regarding work, loved ones complaining about not getting to see you enough, working at home when you should be spending time with your loved ones, coming home really late and missing out on family and friend time)
- You live in fear of your boss and walk on eggshells around him or her
- Vacation time and sick time are problematic (your boss is mad at you when you take off or guilt trips you when you ask, you are not even granted time off unless it is an extreme emergency, and when you do take time off you come back with an insurmountable and overwhelming workload)
- You dread going to work every day (or most days) and you don’t feel better or relieved once you leave because you have to do it all over again the next day
This is no way to live…
THE BOSS FACTOR
The most important relationship you have at work is the relationship you have with your upper (boss, supervisor, head, whatever). Pay close attention to the way this person (or people) address your concerns and respond to your needs. And let me back up and start by saying that you should be able to express your professional needs and concerns to your boss at all times. If you have not yet attempted to do this, then that is on you. And if you have concluded that they are incapable of meeting your needs, being sensitive to your concerns, and above all else, are incapable of acting in the name of your needs, then you are in an unsupportive environment. And an unsupportive work environment is essentially the equivalent of an abusive relationship. No matter what you do, you will not thrive in this environment. It’s not personal. It’s them, not you, and you need to get out. Don’t make excuses for your boss or offer up reasons why they are so unsupportive (they are crazy, they are an asshole, they are stressed out and have way too much worry about, etc.). Some or all of these excuses may be true, but that is irrelevant. Regardless of the reasons why your boss sucks, you need to leave. No one will pluck you out of a terrible situation and move you into a better situation. You have to pluck yourself.
Film stills from Wonder Woman (2017): Remember when Wonder Woman plucked Steve from the sea? Well, even though WW is amazing and can do almost anything, she can’t save you from this and you have to save yourself. No one else will, and this is exactly how it should be.
Imagine if you went to your love partner or friend and told them, “Hey, I have been doing my best and yet I am feeling really overwhelmed and unhappy because of this and this and this, and it would be really great if you could _________.” I know that your intimate or personal relationship is not the same as your work relationship, but the same principles apply. You as a human being have every right to state your reasonable needs and expect for them to be heard and considered. Also, it doesn’t count if your needs are heard, your conversation goes well, but the same patterns keep happening. You must hold your uppers accountable, and when it comes to work, words of reassurance are not always enough. At times, action must be taken in the name of YOU. And if your boss ignores your needs, makes you feel guilty for asking, threatens your position, and/or does not follow through on promises, then they are most likely never going to. At the very least, your boss should be honest with you about what is possible, and if they can’t meet your needs, they should tell you something along the lines of, “I’m sorry but I am not able to do this for you at this time because of this and this and this reason, but what else can I do to ensure that you are feeling valued and that you can stay with us?” or “I will try to work on this problem for you, if you could just be patient, and please check back with me in six months,” or ideally, “I didn’t realize this was a problem and I thank you for bringing this to my attention. I will take care of this for you and please let me know if you have any other concerns. We value you as an employee and want to make sure you stay with us for a very long time.”
If you’re broke, that’s reason enough to look for another job that offers better compensation.
KNOW WHEN TO BE PATIENT AND WHEN TO BOLT
If you have already concluded that your job and/or boss sucks, and you have already been putting yourself out into the job market, good for you! Now all you can do is hang in there and be patient. It is not advisable to quit your job with nothing else lined up and you will find something eventually.
However, if your situation is really bad, as I have described above, please consider leaving your current job for any kind of job that hires you, as long as the pay and benefits are at least equal to what you are receiving now. You might know that you need to leave but are holding out for that “perfect position” that will be the answer to all of your work woes. However, that might be a bit unrealistic and when things are really bad, you have your health and relationships to worry about. Don’t waste more time than you need to holding out for a specific position if your personal life is going downhill. Your health matters and your relationships matter, more than anything else the world. When all is said and done, all you have left are the people that matter most to you and the health of your body. You are dead without your health and there is no joy without love. So, keep those things in perspective as you dredge through your days, hoping for a way out.
When you are in a survival situation at work, focus all of your energy on getting out. Finding peace at work is a process and it takes time. You might have to take two or three or more positions until you get to the one that meets your needs completely. Finding peace at work is kind of like finding a good relationship. You have to date and you might have a lot of shit experiences until you find someone who adds to your life, rather than taketh away. But staying at a shitty job is like staying in an abusive relationship. And you can’t get to that one great partner until you leave your current shit partner. With each person, you learn more and you realize what will and won’t work for you. It’s the same with your job and it’s a process.
I will end this post by giving you a laundry list of symptoms and signs that represent what finding peace at work should look and feel like.
- You feel peaceful when you think about your job, as if it’s a second home, a second family
- Even though you may come up against conflicts and disagreements with your uppers and co-workers, you can easily work them out together and move on without resentments or any harsh backlash
- You have people at work who value you, tell you they value you, and show you they value you (praise, promotions, kindness, patience, understanding when you make mistakes, concern for your well-being)
- You, for the most part, enjoy what you are doing during your day (more than 50% of the time)
- You might have a stressful day here or there and there may be days when you dread going to work if you have something stressful to face, but these days are few and far between
- You have fair pay with opportunities for growth, and you receive benefits such as healthcare, retirement contributions, paid vacation and sick time, or some other variation of equivalent benefits that meet your needs
- Your job is aligned with your personality and skill set (if you are a people-person, make sure you are not in a remote office location where you rarely interact with others; if you are amazing at numbers, make sure your job involves numbers so you can shine and show off to everyone how amazing you are—FYI, not everyone is good at numbers, so if you are, own that shit!)
- Your commute is manageable (maybe not ideal, but manageable)
- You have time to take adequate breaks during the day in order to clear your mind, get fresh air, and just step away from your tasks
All of this and more is possible and you deserve it, Goddess!
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Featured photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash