At Work


I read somewhere that love can’t co-exist with fear.  I’m still mulling that one over but had an experience lately that helped me understand it.  I work with a real mega-keener who recently did a few work tasks that are in my territory, that should have been mine.

Did i ever have a reaction to that.  Firstly i’m a control freak, so don’t be stepping into my zone, this is my stuff.  But also, i like my work, I like to add value and to feel valued.  So if she’s doing my stuff then uh-oh, it might impact all that juicy goodness I get from my work.

And then it went even farther downhill.  If i’m not doing 100% of my job then sheesh, what’s to stop me from being laid off?  I know,  it’s a stretch but this was total unadulterated fear talking.  I might have headed straight to a future living in a cardboard box under a bridge.  Thankfully i didn’t go all that way because i recognized that these thoughts, as well as the icky feeling in the pit of my stomach were all totally soaked in fear.

So i asked myself –  could I look at the situation without fear?  Well, let’s see.  I could have thought, wow i’m finally getting some help around here!  I could have seen her as a team player and a teammate that i could coordinate with to get work done.  Use the opportunity to get closer rather than allow the fear to distance us. Because looking around there’s always plenty of work to do, there’s no need to fight over it.

Also, in the big picture, will this matter?  Our focus at work could change tomorrow and we could be off doing something else.  Or maybe we’ll work even closer one day and I’ll be so glad we got a headstart on being team mates.  And even bigger picture I know that some day, at the next job,  i won’t even remember her name.

So now i’m coming around to this understanding about fear.  I’m becoming convinced that nothing good can come from fear.

My friend and i were talking about wanting to change things in our lives – say eating well and achieving our fitness goals.  And we talked about how using the Big Stick works for about five minutes.  You know the approach?  It’s based on a “you suck” judgement and therefore you *have* to do x and y to make yourself better and overcome your imperfections.  It simply doesn’t work.  It’s totally fear-based.

The alternative is valuing yourself and treating yourself with respect.  Soaking in self love.  Wanting to feel good all the time.  Treating yourself like something precious.  If you hold all those values then you want to take good care of yourself.  Then there’s no judgement and nothing to live up to.  It means that if you nap instead of going to the gym,  that’s good because clearly you needed the rest and you’ll have an even better workout later.  The Big Stick and the fear that makes us use it just aren’t effective.

So i’m going to keep on this investigation.  Looking for the feelings and beliefs and reactions that are fear-based.  And then turn them on their heads so i can understand what the love-based response would be.  OK so here’s the funny thing.  A few days later at work i won an award for Going Above and Beyond.  Isn’t that funny?  I got all freaky about this keener doing my work and it had no impact whatsoever.  In fact it made me see that at work i’m seen as a keener.  So this person who made me feel fearful is actually just like me.  Maybe we’ll start a support group together.  Until then I’m looking for fear and trying out the alternatives.

I’ve worked in high tech for a long time now and although i’m very familiar with change, it’s always hard.  I get lots of practice.  It seems like the motto in this industry is “change is the only constant”.

A friend of mine is going through a tough transition time on the job.  She’s been acquired (another company bought hers) and so things are real unsettled.  She’s got a new manager, her duties are unclear and she just isn’t feeling the love.

That kind of situation is really hard and i know what’s it’s like.  Here was my advice to her:

Know that it is hard.  Job transitions are so damn tough – they seem to push all of our buttons.  They are about our value and how we’re seen and valued by others.  At the very basis they’re about our ability to provide for ourselves and survive. Those are really huge buttons.  So yeah, it’s hard, we get seriously triggered.  Don’t bother feeling like it should be easier and you shouldn’t be having these feelings.

Are you staying? Don’t feel trapped or victimized or “done to”, it’ll only make you whiney.  You can polish your resume.  You can spend your evenings on job boards.  You can do some networking. You do not have to stay.  Don’t feel stuck.  Look around and make the choice.  Don’t feel rushed, give yourself the space and time to evaluate.

Are there better places than where you are?  Looking around will help you understand whether your employer is a good one, even though you’re in this sucky transition time.  Look at the big picture.  Even though you may have to prove yourself to a new manager like my friend is – once you do, will it be a good place to be?  You had reasons for choosing this place to work – are those reasons still valid?  Understand that this transition is short-term pain.  It might not be worth jumping ship if your employer is a good one.

So you’re staying, now what?  Be a Pro.  Maintain your professionalism.  Sure you’re having a hard day or week or month, but if you are seen as a whiner who can’t get things done you’ll affect your reputation and your ability to get new opportunities.  Keep those reasons for staying in mind on tough days.  When I was having a tough day at a previous job I’d check the value of my stock options – it helped keep those blues at bay.

How do you stay sane? First of all – keep working.  Keep your head down and plug away at those projects so you’re contributing and feeling a sense of control. Keep that big picture view.  Remind yourself that others are having a tough time too.  Have a private bitch session once in while with co-workers you trust.  Not for a pity party, but to remind yourself that it’s tough all over.  Maybe you can support a co-worker and build those relationships.  Take breaks – get your workouts in for a dose of endorphins and a sense of control.  Do lunch or go for a walk –  “mini-vacations” can help you get your head out of the intense vibe at the office. Get the support you need.  Take advantage of your friends and family who will listen to you crank and problem solve about the upheaval.  You can use the processing time.  Trust that it won’t last.  At some point you’ll have sold your new manager on your awesomeness, the re-orgs will stop, the cranky employees will leave and your updated organization will get on with things.  It might even be better.  Keep an open mind.

And if things don’t get better?  Go back to the “Are you staying” step.  The thing about networking or job hunting is that if you can keep it on the down-low it can give you a real sense of freedom, whether you end up jumping ship or not.  No decision is required until someone hands you an offer.  Good luck and keep breathing.