How I Deal with Frustration at Work

We all have days when we just don’t like our jobs – when a bunch of annoyances seem to pile up at once, and we start feeling like we can’t take it anymore. When this happens to me, I imagine going to my manager and saying “I really don’t like my job right now.” Then I imagine what he’d say to me. It’s probably not what you’d think.

Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

My manager is a smart, supportive person who wants his people to grow. So I know that what he’d say to me is, “Wow, that’s terrible. How can I help you fix that?” What he’s asking here is not to listen to me rant or whine about what’s bothering me. He’s asking for actionable ideas that are within my (or his) control that will make the situation better. This is a totally reasonable and useful thing for him to ask, but chances are I won’t be ready with a good response in that moment. By the time I want to have this conversation, I’m so annoyed or frustrated or upset that I’m not seeing solutions. I need to vent before I can think clearly – but I don’t want to vent at him.

Instead, I work through my problems using a template that starts with a full-on vent and ends with sane, actionable ideas to address the pain points I’m feeling at work. It looks more or less like this:

Fixing My Job template by Rachel Smith

You can download a copy for yourself or your team here: Fixing My Job Template (53 downloads)

How It Works

I start by filling in the first column on the left, all the way down. What’s bugging me? This is where I get to vent it all out. I recommend printing the PDF template and writing by hand in case you want to shred it later. Some of what I write in this column should never see the light of day. Usually, I start to feel better as soon as I’ve put it all down on paper.

In the second column, I get to dream. What would I prefer to have happen, if I could have anything at all? It doesn’t matter whether I can bring it about – but what would the situation look like if it were perfect?

The third column is for acknowledging real issues that stand between what’s I feel now (first column) and what I envision (second column). Is it something I don’t have (like a tool or resource) or something I don’t know (like a skill)? Is it how another person behaves? Some of these blockers I will have control over, and some I won’t. That’s OK.

I usually take a break after completing the first 3 columns. A few hours or even a day later, I’ll come back and work on column 4. What can I personally do (or ask my manager to personally do) to move closer to my ideal version of events in column 2? This is the most difficult part, but it’s also where the gold is buried in this exercise. It’s important to acknowledge what is and isn’t within my power to control at this point, and to be honest about steps I could take that I might not look forward to.

Note that I’m not committing to doing all these things. Some of them might be difficult, and some are probably outside my comfort zone or I wouldn’t have the problem in the first place. I might need coaching or support to do some of them. But what I am doing is making a list that shows I have some control over the frustrating parts of my job.

The final step is to underline or circle the actions I will actually do or ask my manager to do. Then I can either start doing them or set up some time to present my ask to him. Usually, there’s enough that I can do on my own that I don’t even need to schedule time with my manager before getting started.

Why It Works

The impact of this framework is that it moves me from feeling frustrated, powerless, and stuck to being an active agent for positive change in my own life. Remember the change formula: C = DVF > R. CHANGE only happens when people combine DISSATISFACTION with the current situation with a compelling VISION of something better and clear FIRST STEPS toward action, thus overcoming RESISTANCE to change. Lacking any of the DVF elements, there is no C. This framework links the D, the V, and the F together very clearly, so I have a path to overcome my own resistance to change.

If you’re a manager yourself, consider sharing this framework with your team. It should help them clarify what they can do and what they may need from you to ease the pain points of their own jobs.

Get your copy here: Fixing My Job Template (53 downloads)

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