Do You Hate Your Job?
Congratulations, my friend, and welcome to the 70% of the US workforce who share this sentiment. For a while, I too argued for this reality until an unexpected and welcomed event unfolded in 2016 to transform my mindset and life. You see, I struggled with the belief that my workplace discontent was someone else’s problem. Someone or something was responsible, and the arrow of blame, excuses and denials pointed outwardly. Now, before going further, let me set some context. What follows is not an expose on the evils of ineffective leadership, permissible malice, or arguments to stay or leave your job. No, what I will explore is how you can and should present yourself in the midst of this downward cycle as you try to make sense of the situation, check your receiver status, and decide what constitutes your next best play. Why is this important to state? You see, my friend, this time of personal discontent also coincided with some of my most significant contributions as a software developer, so indeed it is possible to be productive and unsatisfied at the same time, but given a choice, why would you?
Three years into this state of discontent, I was sitting in a restaurant with two new friends, sharing my uneasiness with heading back to work at the end of a four-day conference. What was not obvious to me at the time was the slippery precipice on which my discontent rested. This realization came from a statement echoed by my audience that my unchecked frustration could easily deform into anger, bitterness, and resignation. “You got to be kidding me,” is how I adamantly protested with the back and forth shaking of my head. Sure, I was a little frustrated, but I had this situation under control (or so I thought) and was miles away from the caged mentality that was now being presented in this cautionary tale. Earlier that day we were introduced to the three phases of life, caged, comfortable, and charged. And, while each was explained in great detail, I clearly did not self-identify with the caged life of “Man, you just don’t understand. It’s ALL happening to me!”
I struggled to come to terms with the charge as I sat there staring at a plate of salad with sleep begging me just to face-plant. Later that night, the truth of the accusation slowly took hold as I tossed and turned, fighting and losing a battle with restless sleep. The reflection in the mirror was evident. Thankfully, acceptance, the last of the five stages of grief, came quickly that night, and I woke with a determination to become a better version of myself. Life can be telling in these moments when you commit to an ideal absent the know how. If you have been here before then you know it is a sign that you are on the right path when the “what” overrides doubt and fear of the “how.”
Upon my return from the conference, I committed to showing up in all of my environments fully charged. I was determined to become the person that generated all of the curiosity, joy, and engagement that I seek and bring it into my environments. In life, we are predisposed to believing that radical transformations require a seismic shift. But one little passing observation made out of love and concern by friends at dinner had planted the seeds for a miraculous transformation. One that would soon have coworkers crossing paths in the hallways with the nonverbal expression, “Man, what has happened to you? You have changed so much!” One little shift was now set to influence and impact those in my work environment way beyond my technical contributions as a Software Developer, and along the way, radically change my outlook. All of this was made possible by the power of the reframe, centered around three inquiries:
- How was I showing up?
- What was the “real” source of the frustration? (Hint, the answer was not any external device)
- Where could I start to make a change
I documented my year of transformation in the Three R’s, a book outlining how I reframed my workplace frustration, rewrote my mindset and reflected my value on the way to shifting from frustration to joy. As I said at the outset, I’m not here to tell you whether you should stay or leave. My only goal is to have you take inventory of the man or woman who has shown up in the past and who continues to show up today and question what portion of the discontent starts and ends with you. How we do anything in life is how we do everything, and this goes for how we show up in all the arenas that are life. The negativity that we may rationalize with the decree, “Man, this is only a job,” follows you home and enter all your other environments. Ownership, accountability, and responsibility are the place where change begins, and my challenge to you is to take a hard look within, as I did not so long ago sitting in the familiar place you find yourself today.
Leave a comment if this has been helpful.
This article was originally published by me on Medium and Linkedin.