Courtesy of Sybren A. Stüvel

A former colleague of mine called me a few days ago wanting some advice on how to deal with some frustrations she is experiencing at her work. She also wanted to know if there are any opportunities for her to work with me again. Unfortunately the technologies we use are different from what she has been using the last few years and so she would need to gain some experience and skill set for this to be possible. I think we have all been in situations when work really frustrates us and personally for me, I have tried many ways to cope with the situation. Below are some advice I shared with her, the same advice I try to follow for myself.

  • Remain professional. Continue doing work  with a positive attitude to the extent that it is possible. It’s also the right thing to do. There may come a point when moving on is the only option and a positive reference from the current employer is needed. If there are issues that needs to be addressed, go through the organization’s formal process. It’s so easy to gossip and start sharing frustrations with co-workers who may not share the same sentiments and in fact may further worsen the situation by having words misconstrued and be shared with others, including management. If there is the need to vent and get feedback, talk with someone outside the organization who can provide a different perspective and who will not further complicate the situation.
  • Communicate with your supervisor. He/she may not even know the frustrations. Instead of internalizing frustrations hoping for change,  communicate with them to make sure the issues are addressed. If the supervisor is part of the frustration, address the situation as quick as possible in a diplomatic and assertive fashion. In addition, there are probably other individuals/departments that can assist with situation, including HR or in universities, the ombuds office. I’ve seen some folks who go in to work just looking miserable every single day and I think to myself, life is too short to be spending 8 hours every day at a place I do not enjoy.
  • Prepare for next opportunities. If the situation is so bad that moving on is the best option, prepare for the next opportunities. This requires planning, identifying potential positions, and investing some time and resources to gain the experience and skill set. This may mean taking some classes after work, learning the skill sets at nights, or volunteering to gain some experience. We all have choices including the option to move on. Some choices are harder to achieve than others, but nevertheless, there are choices.
  • Leave frustrations at work. If the source of the frustration are other individuals at work, those individuals are probably not feeling the frustrations brought back home and we just end up further victimizing ourselves by spending emotional energy. We also don’t want to take out our problems with our family who have nothing to do with the situation at work.
  • Focus on helping other people. For me personally, when I’ve had frustrations in the past, diverting some of my focus towards assisting other people really helped me put some perspective on my issues and at the same time, I’m able to help others. Even in my current position, there are bureaucratic road blocks that frustrate me and I have no control over or takes some time for the process to  and in those cases, I focus on what I can do to help my staff in the meantime as I wait for the roadblocks to clear.
  • Focus on the positives. While this may sound cliche, the fact that we still have a job is probably a blessing. Considering the fact that there are millions of  unemployed individuals who have lost their homes or are not able to feed their families and have no health insurance, having a job, even those that prove to be frustrating at times, is a good thing.

I realize the advice I provided above are very general and not all of them will work in every situation. Nevertheless, these have worked for me as well as with those I have shared with in the past. What other advice can you offer?