For most of us, we start a new job with boundless optimism and unbridled joy. Being chosen over dozens of contenders for a position is on par with winning first prize in a competition, or having your term paper returned with a huge, red A+ circled so large that your peers cannot help but be impressed. In a meaningful way, all of your preparation, study, practice, and dedication are vindicated. At that moment, you hold in your hand external affirmation of your worth.
But while you focused on winning that big break more than likely, you ignored other aspects of your life. Or, minimized other aspects that such a job also entailed. Perhaps it was long hours, accepting an unrealistic pay cut, or forgoing your personal life and private commitments. It might be that you oversold yourself, or calculated that whatever skills you lacked could be picked up on the job.
What happens then when reality catches up with us?
We can find ourselves:
- Overwhelmed – by the responsibilities either the job, or our external commitments demand of us
- Out of our depth – where there are skill and/or knowledge expectations placed upon us that we cannot deliver
- Unable to make ends meet – as the pay, or anticipated supplemental income (such as bonuses) fail to cover our operating expenses
- Unsupported – by management, peers, and/or our families.
- Overwrought – feeling guilty for betraying ourselves, those who trust us; or angry for the position we now find ourselves in.
An article on smallbiztrends reported that over 50% of American employees left their job in 2020 and that in 2019, job dissatisfaction rose by 7.4%. Perhaps exacerbated by the Covid crisis, many are rethinking whether to return to their former jobs while those who remain find themselves stretched to cover the shortage of staff.
Is It You?
Perhaps, as an outgrowth of how we are taught, many first reflect on whether we are the culprit of our misery. The gremlins that are fed us by playground taunts of inadequacy, reinforced by our own, true self-knowledge can easily find fertile ground in our psyche.
Managers, perhaps lacking empathy or driven to by corporate measurements, might not have the training to recognize a lack of training or the emotional upheaval a member of staff might be feeling. Trained mainly by TV where there are both clear villains and solutions found within an episode creates this illusion that by barking orders and haranguing staff, the job will get done.
This method of management is counterproductive as it weakens staff. But, as you are at the receiving end, the only true solution is to re-assess yourself. Write out a list for yourself as to what are the issues, challenges, and what you need to do. Take an inventory of the skills or knowledge you need. Can you create a plan to attain such?
A central thesis to the One Minute Manager (Blanchard, Johnson, 1982) is that it is management that should set goals and praise all within a focused time-frame and that where reprimands are necessary, they too should be to the point making a distinction between the value of the person and whatever it is that has failed. Surely you were hired because the company saw promise in you. If you are failing, then that can be coached and corrected. Even if your manager fails to observe these simple lessons it does not mean you cannot apply such internally.
The Uphill Battle
Perhaps the tasks set are themselves not achievable. Or, perhaps require more resources to accomplish.
Stepping outside of your predicament is critical. As mentioned earlier, taking inventory of the expectations and estimating what it would take to deliver is critical. This cannot though be done if you are within the situation. Instead, you need to step back and observe as if you were an impartial spectator. Identify what you see as the immediate objectives, the timeframe, and the resources involved. Given the core factors of time, deliverable, resource, and quality; ask yourself, is there something that can give?
When we see a drama played out, this is the point where the cooler heads prevail. There is no secret formula or special personality type. All that is required is to detach.
If the situation is beyond reason, then it is not reasonable to keep at the impossible. And if it is reparable, then explaining what needs to change, is incumbent on you.
To keep digging away at the impossible will lead to Burnout.
Deflecting Is Not the Solution
Muting one’s emotion through means of self-medication does not solve anything. There are plenty of tales, if anything, that reinforce the mid to long-term downsides. The core issues are not addressed and you take on further problems.
There is a reason why so many stories revolve around being driven to popping pills or drinking to drown out one’s sorrows: it happens with striking regularity. So much so, that Hollywood regularly returns to this theme.
But unlike a movie, this route rarely resolves itself to some happily ever after outcome. Rather, it leads to compounding one’s losses.
Be In the Moment
Rather than looking to run away, lash out, sulk or numb yourself to what has happened or what comes next, focus on the moment. What you already did, more than likely, cannot be undone. While worrying about what comes next, unless there is something you can do now, is outside of your control.
What you can do right this moment is to manage your commitments. Take stock of who you are, how you currently feel, and what you have.
By taking stock of the situation, you can: prioritize those factors causing the most consternation and determine what steps or resources you can avail upon to resolve things.
It may be that there is no solution for the challenges of a job. But rather than sticking with something that is familiar but painful, consider heading for the door. For every door that closes means somewhere, another door is opening.