Getting Through The Workday
I’ve had a lot of great jobs in my life. I’ve also had a couple of miserable jobs. But even when the job is miserable there are great moments in there. And even when the job is great, there are bound to be some miserable moments.
I don’t have to tell you that you should concentrate on the little great moments. Well, that is, I don’t have to, but I seem to tell you that a lot anyway.
My long work history has now become history, since I am finally retired from outside employment. I am doing what I love – writing.
Even in pursuing my joy in writing, there are still moments that suck.
But not as many as in working at ‘official’ jobs. And that’s why my writing is a joy – the dramatic decrease in suckfilled moments.
Over the years, though, I learned a lot about getting through the lousy bits.
Here are a few of my acquired coping strategies.
– 1 –
Unskilled work is not so bad. In fact, it’s pretty good. If you have a complicated or stressful home life, or an outside passion that takes loads of energy, work that is repetitive and simple may be just what you need. You get a paycheck and you can devote your energy elsewhere. And even if you have a stressful job, there are often pieces of that job that are easier than others. I had a job early in my career where I did very intricate calculations (or at least they were to me, at that time). But I had one simple task – sorting and listing payments. I saved that piece for the last hour of the day. It was a great way to unwind. Even as I moved up the ladder in that organization, I didn’t delegate that part of the job. I needed that easy piece.
There are often good things to eat. The bigger the organization, the more often it is someone’s birthday, shower, retirement, promotion. Oh, the cake! And in small organizations with fewer birthdays, you can make this happen yourself. Years ago I had a coworker who loved coffee cake. She didn’t want all those calories tempting her at home, so she brought a coffee cake to the office for breakfast almost every morning, and left it (except for her one piece) in the break room for us all to enjoy. When she would go on vacation, the rest of us took turns bringing in the cake.
This one can almost be considered 2(a)… because it also entails food. I once had a job where a good portion of my work required me to file various status reports to corporate headquarters. I soon learned that most of the other employees called me “The Spy.” People tended to avoid me, which not only made me feel pretty bad, but also it made doing my job almost impossible. However, my office was right on the way to the restrooms, so lots of folks tiptoed past. I started putting out a dish of candies – good ones – in an obvious spot on my desk. And little by little, folks started stopping by for a minute as they returned from their bathroom trips. And they started to talk to me. And tell me stuff. And I did my job, and they liked me anyway.
I’ve had mostly decent bosses, but a couple of miserable ones. I coped in two different ways. First, my main strategy was to be determined to outlast the bastard. If a boss is a bad boss, he/she is usually a bad boss to more than just you. So for me, I kept my head down and waited for the boss’s lousy temper or horrible management style to catch up with him. It usually did. And if it didn’t, and everyone else loved him, he usually got promoted – and so, voila! – he wasn’t my boss anymore anyway. Second, I hung up on the idiot. Not in real time of course. On voicemail When I had a voicemail from the boss, I’d slam the phone down in the middle of her message. Sometimes a lot. It would often take multiple tries to get through a whole message. Slamming the phone down on that awful voice felt pretty damn good. Then, of course, I would remind myself that this idiot was paying my rent. And I’d do my job.
If someone had told me how much of a manager’s time was spent in meetings, I would never have gotten my MBA – and would have turned down every promotion (if I had been offered any). OMG, meetings are so boring. But I made them sort of tolerable with a few little practices. For one thing, I gave myself the gift of beautiful notebooks, calendars, and pens. Not just okay. Stunning. So taking notes was a pleasure. And I changed the way I took notes. I perused some calligraphy books and tried out different handwriting styles. I added some flourishes. And most important, I changed what I wrote. I made my notes personal. I listened to what people were saying, and wrote down what I thought was the best thing they said. Each person in the meeting – I recorded their best thoughts. And I began to think that I worked with some very brilliant people. I liked listening to them.
What these strategies have in common is Control.
I concentrated on the stuff I could control. The stuff I could do to make everything just a little better.
I couldn’t control my boss, or my job duties, or my coworkers – or even my commute. But I could have a pretty notebook. I could make it easier for people to talk to me. I could listen more carefully when they talked.
And I could have a piece of cake once in a while.