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Your First Job is to Work on You

Updated: May 30, 2022

I get it. Sometimes people would rather volunteer for a lengthy, painful dental procedure than spend time at work. Whenever I coach clients around job dissatisfaction, I find that the ball is often, firmly in the employee’s court. That isn't to say that there aren't bad managers, unhealthy work environments and impossible situations, but the first step is to identify how the employee may be sabotaging or blocking their success, advancement and enjoyment at work. This ensures that if they need to move on from their current job, they'll have gained important insight into the habits and mindset that'll help increase contentment, confidence and success in a new workplace.

The workplace can be a Petrie dish of unmet needs, insecurities and limitations. If you aren't happy at work, the the first place to look is at yourself.

Here's what I have found:

Dragging Personal Issues Into the Office Can Skew Everything

Are you unhappy in your life in general? Frustrated? Going through a divorce or breakup? Wish you'd gone back to school or started a bakery? How much of that is affecting your motivation and engagement? Short of allowing you to open a bakery in the staff kitchen, honestly and truly, how could your manager or co-workers possibly fix that? There should be considerations and support for life’s difficulties, but be sure that you avoid painting your entire work experience with what goes on away from the office. Take a break, a leave if necessary, get support such as coaching and counselling and take appropriate steps to deal with what you need to deal with. Evaluate how you're feeling about yourself and your life and make the background changes necessary in order to show up engaged and ready to go.

Working on Yourself Will Greatly Improve Your Work

Grow your self-awareness, take full responsibility for your feelings and reactions and figure out what you do well and not so well. I had a client who was promoted to project lead. We'll call her Sara. Sara had the experience, and the knowledge and she'd asked for the opportunity, but once in the position she struggled and couldn't get her footing. She felt criticized by her team and unsupported by her manager.

Through coaching, we discovered that Sara was feeling incompetent and frustrated in her new position, and therefore filtered her co-worker’s responses as criticism, and her manager’s “letting her fly” as a lack of support. Her insecurities weren't allowing her to see what was really happening, communicate her fears or ask for what would be most helpful. She needed to stop pointing fingers long enough to understand what she was thinking and feeling. We needed to figure out what the real problem was!

What the office cooler do I mean by this?  Before the promotion, Sara felt supported, encouraged and valued and suddenly in her new role, all these things disappeared! She discovered it was a problem for her because she felt insecure working on certain projects. When she was expected to take the lead, she immediately listed all the ways her boss didn't support her. The same manager who just promoted her! She was seeing and experiencing things through a lens of fear and insecurity.

You must start with yourself. Many times clients tell me that they're frustrated in their job: bored, underappreciated or overworked, but as we dig in and work on their beliefs, fears, communication skills and personal happiness, their satisfaction increases, without anything having to change at work.  We find that how they're interpreting, filtering and therefore communicating and reacting has more to do with them, than their manager or co-workers.

Start by working on yourself and see what can happen.

Drama and Gossip are Never Effective

There's a perceived connection and a charge that comes from complaining and judging. It's also a lot easier and more addictive than being the person who communicates clearly, looks at the big picture, doesn't assume and finds solutions. We don't often see the main characters in movies using healthy communication and active listening – that rarely gets the laughs or creates dramatic tension! But, leave that to the scriptwriters and stand-up comedians. If you want increased job satisfaction, learn to rise above gossip and hearsay. Don't assume, make up stories or perpetuate misunderstandings. Learn to clarify, simplify, ask and request. Up your communication skills and stay out of the fray.

Keep Up the Good Work!

Your manager wants you to have job satisfaction. Good managers are advocates for employee success and engagement. They want you to succeed, not only for your sake but for the entire operation. If you're bringing your strengths, feeling valued and rocking your job then everyone benefits and ultimately the company's mission and vision will be realized. 

"If you wish to achieve worthwhile things in your personal and career life, you must become a worthwhile person in your own self-development." ~ Brian Tracy

Have Healthy Expectations

You don't have to like everyone, agree all the time or enjoy every moment. As a matter of fact, if you believe that this is the way it should be, you'll most likely be disappointed. But what if we cut each other a little slack and gave each other the benefit of the doubt? It's not up to anyone else to make us happy and to like or endorse everything we do all the time and this most assuredly includes our fellow colleagues. 

We must take ownership of our job satisfaction and ensure that we've worked out the kinks in our own thinking, approach and communication.  If you've done this and you'd still rather get a root canal, then you can move on from a place of self-awareness, not victimhood and frustration. You'll take with you a bag of tools sure to support you in finding greater job satisfaction, wherever you may land.   If you find value in this blog, please forward it to a friend. Thanks for reading!


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