“Be careful in there – he’s in one of those moods” or “Just leave it outside her door – she’s still coming down from last night!”
...Oh the joys of watching each other’s back when you work for a maniac, a bully or if you were REALLY bad in a past life, a combo of the two.
Many anecdotes and first hand accounts from all over have informed this piece and before we get into it, I will be typically straight up with you guys, in that, there are approximately a gazillion HR blogs ‘out there’ to offer you advice on how to combat drama at work and you’ll probably have a binder in your desk that will offer you a view too. This is not a HR blog.
I should have called this post 'You know as well as I do, it's time to leave your job'.
This piece draws on my own experience and those people around me with the intention to bring a different perspective and dissolve fear. Whatever actions or not you take from reading this are yours to own. And in the interests of full disclosure you should know I am zero tolerant on feeling crappy at work so we’re gonna end up with me advocating leaving a job if it, or the people there, make you feel like shit.
You’re a hustler baby…
We’ve all had our off days at work. Mine have included careless mistakes, communication blips, under quoting projects, personality clashes, assuming things that really shouldn’t be assumed and so on.
These experiences stick with you don’t they? And, largely, as you climb the ladder in your career they get less and less because you’ve learned from them.
In fact, despite the plates you juggle whether that’s in an operating theatre, classroom or in a board room, you might describe yourself, and would be described by others, as ‘good’ at your job.
And yet, as the climb up the ladder ensues, with this exposure comes the creeping realisation that the people standing between you and your progression can be unpredictable, mercurial or just intensely unlikeable and you’re feeling the negative effects first hand. MAJA bummer.
“Darlin’ you got to let me know… should I stay or should I go?”
Bullying and harassment is behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended and although everyone should be treated with dignity and respect, sometimes that just doesn’t happen.
When your manager throws tantrums and makes demands, things quickly turn personal (– from a personal perspective, at one point I was so used to walking on eggshells I wondered if I’d start clucking!)
Your manager’s behaviours are ultimately outside your control – at best, you’ll have a spoonful of influence - and yet, if their behaviours are starting to invade your life and how you feel, it’s important to identify and reclaim what you CAN control.
When you decide what you will and won’t tolerate and answer honestly the question ‘is it worth it?’ You’re going to start to feel brave enough to call time on feeling crap and that’s where the magic happens.
Let’s square up to a few facts before we get into some practical strategies for exiting a miserable working existence:
- To go and do a day’s work you shouldn’t have to be ‘thick skinned’, ‘be tough’, ‘suck it up’ or accept that ‘it’s just the way things are’.
- You’re not ‘too sensitive’, ‘too deferential’, ‘too quiet’, ‘a bit soft’ or ‘prone to taking things the wrong way’.
- You’re just you and you shouldn’t need to grow or wear a hard skin to get your job done. You work in catering not Kings Landing!
- Chances are you’re not imagining it. From my work with clients changing careers, bullying behaviour and politics show up in many subtle guises and it’s anything from picking on someone to copying in people to emails that, frankly, don’t need to know. (Find out more via ACAS)
If you’ve experienced over the top personal criticism or any of the shady actions in the ACAS link you have permission to review your current work situation.
You didn’t bust your ass at uni, work from the shop floor up or kiss good bye to your weekends to spend your lunch times crying in toilets or praying for meetings to be cancelled so you could avoid people (all too familiar, isn't it?)
So, what can you do if you work for someone that makes you miserable?
For your own sake. For the sake of your loved ones. For the sake of the you that needs to be OK this time next year.
It will never, ever be worth it to keep yourself in handcuffs even if they come with a free piss up every so often.
You’ve probably been ignoring this option and yet if you tune into your intuition and what the voice inside your head is saying, you have to give serious thought to that ‘L’ word and claim control on your terms. So why and how?
Because you’re worth it.
There are some jobs that really are one in a million opportunities and can offer untold potential for your future path. For that reason it can be deemed ‘worth’ the stress and the upset of working under an unpleasant management, because of the doors that will open if you can ‘just stick it out’.
Are you in one of those roles right now? (If your answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’, I’m not sure what value you’ll get from the rest of this post but I’d love to have you along for the ride!)
If you’re not in one of those roles, it’s wise to start making some short term changes. Every day you stay in an unrewarding role you burn the energy you have to offer your alternative.
Success is never a straight line so snap out of the idea getting where you want to will be effortless and linear. It’s not ideal to have a number of short job placements on your CV but it’s easier to explain than 4 months at The Priory trying to recover from stress and anxiety.
You can re-chart the path your career takes.
You’re not just a passenger in this thing and you’re worth more than treating yourself like that.
Take a breath and accept this truth:
"People can only make you feel how you let them."
I HATED coming across that quote when I was unhappy at work. Until I realized it was true.
One way to stop people making you feel like crap is to stop them being around you by moving on, up and away. Why should YOU change? They certainly won't.
You should feel supported and valued even if you work in a really stressful environment. If that’s not happening what is that place REALLY offering you? I mean, on a deep level? What’s your purpose there?
If you’re being bullied it’s not about you and your work. It’s about dominance and control.
As you extricate yourself, stay professional. Speak calmly and confidently, and make your position clear. If emotion starts to fizz in your at-work interactions then go back and put yourself through a ‘filter of facts’ – react and deal with what’s happening, not the worst case scenario that’s clouding your judgment.
I wish I’d done that sooner in some instances but frankly I was too scared. Not very cool or ‘coachy’ of me but I know better now and so I do better.
Your escape plan:
Get clear on what you want from a job and what you don’t want. If you don’t have a criteria you won’t be able to tell the right opportunity when you see it.
You’ll have your own, but my clients in the past have used the following: Distance from home, culture, prestige, work with celebrities, no weekend working, travel, good long term prospects, good short term prospects, ‘allow me time to take stock until I decide what I ACTUALLY want to do’, fewer maniacs etc.
Set your criteria and get looking for different roles that will be your parachute out of there.
Don’t believe the hype:
If you listen to the media or you’ve heard your mates complain in the pub, you’ll probably think there are no jobs out there and I’m here to tell you that’s not true.
Umm, sorry to burst that bubble as you may have been clinging to it to keep you where you are. Miserable in your comfort zone.
You only have to look at LinkedIn to see all the new role changes in your network - the market is fluid and jobs are being filled all over the place.
Now, of course, in some markets jobs will be more plentiful than others but they are out there.
And, who said you had to work for anyone else, by the way?
See all good change as progress
"Success isn’t a clear definition, it’s an experience. You only experience it if you register progress." (Chela Davison)
If you do a number of moves in the right direction you’re making progress for yourself and not relying on others to sweep in and save you. One day this feeling of upset you’re experiencing right now will just be something that happened and gifted you a lesson to take with you.
A necessary one that stopped you sleep-walking through your life and career.
No more sleep walking - it's time to start 'showing up' for yourself
To do this properly I’m going to ask you to try something different.
It’s something called self-care. Say wha?! Yep, you’re going to need to start treating yourself with as much love, invest as much energy, attention and effort in yourself as you would, say, your best friend.
It’s crucial to apply the same attention to detail and ‘extra mile-ing’ you do for those that count in your life – at work through fear or at home through love.
You need to start grounding the idea of a new job on your terms and by giving yourself the time to figure out what that is, you’re going to bring it closer. One way I did this was writing a letter to myself ‘a year from now’. It included what I had done, what I was doing now and what I was looking forward to it.
Channel your imagination that’s crying out to be used to start to scope where you’re aiming for.
Finally and most crucially... The only person that matters is the one looking back at you in the mirror
Something that stops us taking action for ourselves is being preoccupied with what other people will think. Our colleagues, mates and of course our parents (how vocal are THEY?!)
And yet you’re the one that has to actually live this life in between when you see them or check in with them. And if you’re miserable, that’s not going to work.
Telling your crew that you're ‘trying something different for a while’ will be a hell of a lot easier than sticking with your status quo as it slowly and persistently corrodes your ambition and self-esteem.
I’m sorry to get serious but these are the implications of staying glued to the spot of fear.
You want a good life more than you’re scared of resigning so lean into that and let the future you want meet you half way.
I wish you every success, whatever that means for you. And I also wish you the inner strength to decide to draw a line between “I don’t know what to do” and move to “this change will serve me now.”
I’m writing this from the other side and let me tell you – it’s going to be OK.
Love Lucy xx
(As usual gif credit goes to: http://www.buzzfeed.com/floperry/things-feminists-are-tired-of-hearing?bffbuk // http://www.buzzfeed.com/erinlarosa/things-every-late-twentysomething-needs-to-be-reminded-of