What She Did Right

I was talking with someone going through a difficult time at work recently, let’s call her Jane. Jane explained how unhappy she was at work and talked about the long hours she was putting in. She also shared that she was taking this as an opportunity to learn about herself. She said she found strengths she previously didn’t know she had and is learning how important boundaries are. She shared this information as the ground work for figuring out what she can do so she doesn’t feel completely drained at the end of the day.

Jane did a lot right with this situation. Here are four things that I observed:

She didn’t blame anyone.

Jane could have very easily blamed her long hours and unhappiness on her co-workers or boss or even herself, but she didn’t. She knew that her situation wasn’t specifically one person’s fault. It was the result of a lot of different things.

When things aren’t going well at work it can be easy to place the blame on a boss or co-worker. I know a common thought I had when things weren’t going well at work was along the lines of “well if so-and-so had just done x then I wouldn’t be having problem y.” I would forget that so-and-so had their own set of responsibilities and work to deal with and my top priorities were not necessarily their top priorities. And, generally, so-and-so doing x wasn’t really a reasonable request (because of their job or personality).

Sometimes the person hardest on you is you. While it’s important to take responsibility for your actions, beating yourself up about a situation isn’t helpful. And usually there isn’t one specific action that’s responsible for being frustrated or unhappy with work.

She didn’t complain about her situation, she shared where she was, then moved on to what she wanted from the conversation.

The energy of complaining is different than that of sharing. Jane shared enough of the situation help me understand what was going on and then moved on to what she wanted from the conversation. She didn’t dwell on what wasn’t working or her unhappiness. She was focused on moving past those things.

Sometimes when things aren’t going well all you want to do is complain about what’s going on, because you think that will make you feel better. Complaining won’t make you feel better, you’re going to have the same problems you had before and you just might make yourself more frustrated with the situation by complaining. If you’re looking for help on the issue and need to share your complaint to give the full picture, great! Just don’t spend all your time there – focus on moving forward.

She selectively shared her situation with others.

Jane had a couple of ideas about what she could do about her situation and also valued others thoughts, but was selective about who she shared it with. She didn’t share with people who would want to focus on how frustrating it was. Instead she shared with people she knew she could trust, would understand her situation, ask important questions and explore her options with her.

When you find yourself in a frustrating situation talk to your friends, mentor or coach who won’t focus on what’s going wrong, but on how to make more go right. It was clear at the end of our conversation that Jane was feeling a lot better about her situation. While if she had found people to complain with, she would have left more frustrated than when she started.

She looked for and found lessons in her situation

Jane recognized that even though she wasn’t thrilled with her situation she could learn from it. Sometimes when we’re going through a difficult time, we forget to look for the lessons we can learn from it. Jane saw the silver lining in her difficulties: she’s learning to set boundaries and saying no more often, both things she’s had problems with in the past.

What do you do when you are frustrated or unhappy with a recurring situation (like work)?

Photo credit: Implicit Smile by janoma.cl via flickr

12 thoughts on “What She Did Right

  1. This is a good example of someone who took action instead of sitting back and blaming everyone. A (former) friend spent so much time complaining about her situation, when she could have redirected that frustration into action. Thanks for a good reminder that most of the time we can control situations, and change them if we want to.

  2. It’s always easy to act like a victim, but taking charge and ownership of a situation calls for great personal strength. In the end, it is our courage and tenacity to resolve our situation that is most effective. Kudos to Jane for confronting her problems head on.

    The Substantive mom

  3. Hi Evie,
    I enjoyed reading this post, it is a great reminder to us all that placing blame on others, or even ourselves just creates more of the same.
    When i find myself wanting to whine I try to step back and see what I can learn about myself and or others from it. It can be easy to fall back into old ways and challenging to be honest with ourselves but from a place of learning comes growth, that’s where I would rather be nowadays.

    Thanks again for sharing,
    Have a great day,

    1. Yep, we easily fall into the habit of looking for what someone else or we did wrong. It can be difficult (but so worth it!) to change those patterns. Thanks for stopping by Eleanor!

  4. When I find myself in a recurring pattern of frustration, I find it most helpful to recognize incremental growth. I look for ways I’m handling this situation a little bit better than before. I’m a little less frustrated, a little less withdrawn (which used to be my escape hatch), or moved a little bit quicker to a solution. It’s the small steps that eventually lead me to big changes that stick. It helps my confidence to see improvement. Nice post. Thank you!

  5. It sounds like Jane worked to find things that she could control and worked to change them. She also sought support from others strategically. Often, both of these steps can help people manage a stressful situation.

  6. Hi Evie,

    “She didn’t share with people who would want to focus on how frustrating it was.”

    That’s it. Check a person who is frustrated, ranting on and on, on social networks. Check the responses. How many people add to someone’s frustration by focusing on how frustrating the situation must be? Fanning the flames will not help the person release the frustration. Providing them with inspiration can.

    Be compassionate, but don’t bring negative energy to the discussion. Listen. Move on. If the topic comes back to frustration, ignore it. Move on.

    Thanks for sharing your insight Evie!


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