After five years, I had reached my breaking point as a staff member at a beloved nonprofit. I was exhausted, sick (pneumonia and pleurisy) and burned out. I had been stuck in the same position for five years. I could not take it anymore and I resigned. This blog post is focused on preventing becoming burned out and disgruntled. I have seen too many ruin their opportunities because they were blind to the poison of being disgruntled. Here is a checklist:
1–Check yourself—Dig and find out the source of your discontent. It may be in places you have not looked and it is bleeding over into your work. You may have undiscovered health issues. Go to your doctor and get checked out. Do you have unresolved relationship issues with family or friends? Do you experience flashbacks to past job scars? Reminds me of the man who complained his whole body hurt because everywhere he touched, it caused great pain. He soon learned he had a broken finger.
2–Breathe and quietly let it out–Find very private outlets to vent like journaling, exercise and a counselor. It will clear your mind to think logically and rationally. Go on a vacation and completely unplug from work. Finding a good, healthy stress reliever can do wonders in changing one’s perspective.
3–Beware of the “if only’s”—if only my boss would be removed . . . If only I was promoted . . .If only I got a raise . . . then I would be happy and successful. Each change will bring its own stressors and your discontent will follow you. Do not put your happiness in something you cannot control.
4–Beware of your guard being down. Being disgruntled often causes people to become indifferent to the possibility of losing their job. They are depressed and solely focused on their issues. Regardless of how talented you are, if you are poison on a staff you easily could lose your job and probably should. No one is irreplaceable, even the founder. If you think you are upset now, losing your job will only cause more bitterness and issues in all areas of life.
5–Keep your circle small—if you are angry at a coworker and you cannot resolve the issue with the person, keep the circle small who you share in addressing it. The more you share and seek others to your side, you will lose control of the issue and cause real harm to your reputation and create lasting enemies.
6–Going to HR may backfire. There are many wonderful HR personnel who can act as wise guides, mediators and even counselors. They may offer excellent solutions and then put your complaints in a “circular file” and let you vent. They may also document every verbal frustration you cathartically voice and then classify you as a difficult, full of drama person who cannot resolve conflicts. In your venting, you may cause HR to have to act and give the other person the opportunity to defend themselves. You may not be prepared for it. HR is limited in what they can do. If you are facing real harassment (emotional, physical or sexual), HR are heroes in position to protect you and bring you to safety. If your issues are personality conflicts, there are not a lot of solutions other than working it out in mediation, transferring you or recommend you look for a new job.
7–Beware of the hot seat. It is easy to be an “armchair quarterback” and negatively judge a boss or someone higher in the company. You feel they are incompetent and you should be in their seat. You may be right but being negative, talking bad about them behind their backs or even working to undermine them only hurts your future and soils your reputation.
8–It may come back to bite you. If you master the art of office politics, never forget if you “live by the sword, you will die by the sword.” There will always be someone younger and sharper coming along who can take you out like you did your predecessor.
9–Be a superhero instead—Learn the unique and highly sought after skill of conflict resolution. It can make you invaluable to a company. Make loyal friends instead of enemies. Have you gone in private to the person seeking to understand? Instead of emotionally reacting to situations, grow your problem solving and people skills. Don’t live in email battles because a paper trail of venting may be your undoing. Address your issues and give the person a chance to respond.
10–Bring solutions instead of problems. Anyone can complain. If you are ignored after voicing your solutions, begin journaling your solutions and how you would lead differently if given a chance. Make productive plans to use this challenging time for future growth. Use these well thought out solutions as the roadmap to your new job.
11–Smile–Work on your facial expressions even if you are mad. Cool down, self soothe and do not allow someone else to control your emotions. Sometimes “fake it until you make it” is the way to go. Make a decision to have a good attitude. Your feelings will follow.
12–Don’t take it with you. Resolve your bitterness before you interview with other companies. They will not want someone else’s disgruntled employee regardless of how smart and talented you are. In interviewing for other jobs, find the positive in your current job (bad mouthing your current job is never a winner) and pivot to what you would like to accomplish moving forward with this prospective employer.
13–Begin a new chapter. If a company is a bad fit and you feel you have completed what you were sent to do, find somewhere else to work. Being discontent may be a healthy signal it is time for a new challenge. It may be what launches you to your promised land.
Charles Swindoll says it best–
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”