For when the “you should just quit” advice isn’t a realistic solution no matter how attractive it sounds. (That’ll be another blog.)
- Treat your job like it’s a volunteer gig.
Show up tomorrow morning, and imagine you are doing this simply because you care about what the company is trying to accomplish, and you will do whatever it takes to help them get there. Go about your tasks as if they are optional, something you volunteered for, but could quit any time. Remove money from the equation. Money breeds fearful thoughts like “I need this job or I won’t be able to pay my rent.” Maybe it’s not fear of losing your job that’s driving you. Maybe it’s unrealistic pressure to perform. Would you ever worry about doing a perfect job at a volunteer gig? I’m not saying, become a slacker. I’m saying shift your intention from pressure and fear to seeing how you can be of service. Coming from a place of fear kicks us into survival mode. The rest of our brain shuts down. And we’ll do whatever it takes to survive. In corporate America that means being inauthentic, or paranoid, or anxious. Positioning yourself in a way that you imagine will get you the best results. Faking it. Refusing to speak up when we don’t know something, for fear of being viewed as unprepared (or worse, not speaking up when we do know something for fear of being perceived as the ambitious one… ladies, I’m looking at you!). When we’re coming from a place of fear, we cannot possibly be the best version of ourselves. But when you come from a place of service, you can be more carefree, kinder, more giving and more ‘yourself’. No one ever worries about getting fired from a volunteer job; you just hop in and contribute in any way possible. Even down to stuffing envelopes or cold calling. That kind of positive attitude is infectious. So take some of the pressure off of yourself, and see how it feels.
Speaking of volunteering. Volunteer for real. Even if it’s only for a couple of hours a week. It feels great to help others, and it is a very real opportunity to find out if a career switch is the right next step. Volunteer in an industry you think is “your passion”. You will know very quickly if it is, and it may even give you a fresh perspective on your current job. Volunteering will give you a look at what you are (or aren’t) missing.
- Develop an Authentic Relationship with your Boss. Or your Boss’s boss. Or Someone’s boss.
If you don’t have the support of a mentor or someone who can make things happen for you, it’s easy to get swallowed up in your own lonely vacuum of wallowing misery. (that’s no fun!) But if you can connect in a genuine way with your boss, a few things will happen. 1. Getting to be truly yourself at work will give you some measure of happiness. 2. Possibly your boss can improve your current situation. 3. Having a shared purpose feels good. Find that with your boss (It’s easier with co-workers, but remember, your boss is human too, and wants connection as well). But don’t simply come with your problems and your complaints. She is not your therapist. She may have a couch in her office, but I promise, she is not a therapist. Bring her your recommendations and solutions on how to make productive change.
But what if your boss is the guy from Office Space? Then seek out someone else who is high level and can be an advocate. It’s got to be a symbiotic relationship though. Think about how you can be a resource for them in return. Even if it’s giving them a young person’s POV on new technology or what makes a millennial tick. And hopefully they’ll pick up the check for lunch.
- Active Listening.
When a co-worker is talking to you, really listen. Become fully present. Don’t think about what you plan to say back, or worry that you won’t know what to say back. Or wonder who’s smarter. Or prettier. Don’t drift off and think about what you want to do later, or your grocery list. Lean forward, and give them your 100% attention. They may surprise you. You may hear something you didn’t know about, or the conversation may go in a completely unexpected direction. People can feel your energy and your interest, and if you are engaged, they will be drawn to you. And you may find out not everyone you work with is a complete shit. Most people are alright once you get to know them. Connecting deeply with co-workers & developing real relationships can offset the crap work you are currently stuck doing. Dare I say, you might start having some fun at the office. And hell, the more people that like you, the more chance you have at getting consideration for another job (one you actually enjoy).
- STOP Letting Them Steal from You.
Don’t check email when you wake up in the morning. What an awful way to begin your day. Have a cup of coffee. Read the news. Go for a run. Meditate. Do anything else. The emails will still be there when you log on. I can already hear some people balking at what I just wrote. Saying “But, but, but!!! It’s the only way I can get on top of the avalanche of emails”. I call bullshit. What is really happening is you are intent on showing everyone how hard you work. But you are simply giving yourself additional anxiety reading through them first thing in the morning, or WORSE – before bed. The beautiful thing about not checking emails is, often by the time you check them (DURING WORK HOURS), someone else has solved the problem, which may not have been yours to solve in the first place. And you can delete the 46 emails that went into everyone else weighing in, or WORSE – piling on with an “I agree with Tom” or an unnecessary “THANK YOU”.
Work during the hours they pay you. Otherwise, you will be left with the terrible feeling that your company is stealing from you. Because they are. But you are letting them. It’s your choice whether to engage after hours and contribute to that kind of unhealthy culture, or start to change the culture by refusing to participate. This will make you more ready and willing to “show up” in a big (positive, happy, productive) way while at work, during work hours.
- Mix up how you work.
Things are changing. Companies are becoming more flexible to ensure they attract and keep the best talent. Are you the best talent? Do they need you? Well, then don’t be afraid to mix up how you work. Ask to work from home one day a week. Have a good reason (long commute on Friday, you have kids, etc.), but feel confident making the request. Or if you are an early bird, can you work from 7a-3p instead of 9a-5p. (haha, I know…who works 9a-5p anymore? Bur re-read paragraph above!) If you work from home on Fridays, for example, THAT will be THE day you are up early, checking email and responding first, and scheduling conference calls. You will want to be visible so no one questions how you manage this new way of working.
- Drink Less (and I don’t mean water!)
BOOOOOOOOOO. So boring, I know. Trust me, I know! I understand wanting to take the edge off, to relax. You’ve earned a glass of chardonnay at the end of a hard workday. Have it. Just maybe have less. Or maybe only have it on Thursday night. I say this with no judgment, just facts. Alcohol begins as a stimulant, but ends as a depressant. It slows down the central nervous system, and alters perception by blocking the transmission of messages from the nerve receptors to the brain. It basically acts as a tranquilizer. That doesn’t sound good. And how about that hangover? I don’t need a medical degree to know I feel worse the morning after. And when you feel lousy, your job feels exponentially worse than it truly is. If it’s worth the trade off, keep guzzling. If it seems less and less worthwhile, then maybe this is food for thought. The silver lining? They did a study in Spain, and a moderate (2-3 glasses per week) amount of wine can help prevent heart disease AND depression. I’ll drink to that.