Your job is the worst. You have to work way too much, your boss thinks you’re stupid, you hate the commute, and the latest corporate initiative du jour makes you want to commit hara-kiri in your cube.
I’m going to introduce a dramatic concept—YOU are the problem. This is actually great news. This means that you have the complete power to change your workday experience without one thing around you changing. By the same token, if you wait for everything and everyone at work to behave perfectly before you decide to be happy, you’re in for one hell of a long wait.
Here are 3 tips for taking control of you—and your career.
Judge your co-worker, judge yourself
Notice how many times a day you judge your co-workers—it could be anything from thinking that Fred eats too many doughnuts, to being annoyed by Missy the brown-noser, to chafing at your CEO’s indecisiveness.
Ever heard of “spot it, you got it?” It means that when you spot an annoying quality in someone else, it’s because that quality is acting as a mirror to something you dislike within yourself. It could be Fred’s doughnut-feasting abandon annoys because you don’t allow yourself any treats without feeling incredibly guilty. Perhaps Missy makes you wish you were as outgoing and friendly. And maybe you use the CEO’s indecisiveness to talk yourself out of acting on your own bold ideas. The best way to prevent your co-workers from annoying you? Spot their behavior and figure out what it’s telling you about yourself. You’ll realize it’s not your co-workers’ mission in life to annoy you and you may even treat them with more compassion. (Which may change the way they interact with you—I’m just saying.)
Who are you trying to please?
Why are you working so many hours? Why do you always have to do an A+ job? What if all your emails and voice mails don’t get answered? What happens if the project isn’t done on time? If you are attempting to please someone other than yourself, then these questions have your heart hammering.
These questions may trigger thoughts like:
- I have to respond to all of these emails so people think I’m on top of it.
- I need to be online at 10 p.m. because my boss is.
- I’m the only one who can herd all the cats to keep this project going. If it fails, it’s my fault.
- If I do less than an A+ job, others won’t view me as an outstanding achiever.
While these thoughts may feel like absolute fact, they are not. These are subjective thoughts about a given situation, and you can change them. Want to reduce your stress and aggravation? Change how you’re thinking about work. This doesn’t mean just think “happy thoughts” no matter what; it means thinking about your job in a way that puts you firmly in control.
Here are some new thoughts you could try on:
- Responding to emails or not bears no reflection on my capabilities.
- Just because my boss is a workaholic doesn’t require me to be.
- Am I really the only one that is keeping this project afloat? What does that say about everyone else involved? Am I really that important? Is everyone else really that incapable? Does the project have to be done 100% my way?
- If I do a B- job, most people won’t even notice and I’ll be much happier and have more quality time to spend with my family.
- Doing a B- job at work means doing an A+ job in my life.
Do you really HAVE to do that?
Pay attention to how many times a day you tell yourself you “have to” do something. This is a lie. Every task without exception is a choice (ok, except breathing and other autonomic body functions). You may do some tasks because you don’t want to get fired, have your car repossessed, or have your lights turned off, but the fact remains these are choices you’re making. Instead of feeling victimized by your have-to’s, take back your power and actively choose what you will and won’t do. Ask yourself what the consequences of not doing that action would be and if you can live with them; don’t do it. Test the boundaries at work—what could you really get away with not doing?
Each of these three tips requires you to step back and examine your thoughts and assumptions about who you work with, why you’re working the way you do, and what you really want to accomplish. The beauty is that all of these things can be controlled and changed solely by you without anything else at work changing. This may not be your ultimate job and your workplace may be truly toxic, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel like a victim. Employing these three tips consistently will make you feel better no matter what the circumstances—and isn’t that what it’s all about?