notquiteold

Nancy Roman

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.

 -2-

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.

 -3-

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.

  -4-

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.

-5-

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.

birthdaycake

 

 

 

 

 

28 Comments

  1. Doris Legere Kennedy

    I always did your first suggestion. I was the office manager of a few car dealerships which required some very tedious accounting work. Don’t get me wrong, accounting work was my passion. But at the end of the day I needed that bit of that “mindless work” and I always told my employees to leave the filing for me. Great way to de-stress at the end of the day.

    Like

    • Exactly! And a lot of my fellow managers always wondered why I did my own copying too. Standing at the copier was my form of meditation.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As a manager and in the days of making copies, standing at the copy machine copying the morning report (of the #’s from the day before) to give to my manager was my escape from the line of people at my door and the voicemails waiting for me. I was sad when we went to electronic filing of the morning report.

    And don’t get me started on meetings. It’s not as if anyone did the rest of my job when I was sitting in meetings listening (often) to stuff that was not relevant to my department.

    Ahhhh…retirement….now THAT’S worth waiting for!

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    • Oh, how I love retirement! You will too.

      Like

  3. Mention team building or a meeting and eyes glaze over. (Cake!…but not too much cake…. arrrgh!)

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    • teambuilding was mostly dumb, although I remember one session I liked. Of course, that encompasses more than 40 years.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am coming up on my last year and a half of work before retiring. It’s not a bad job but I am burnt out and tired of it. Still, I have to wait until Nov 2019 to retire with full benefits. I work in a large hospital and walk around the main floor hallway for 15 minutes twice a day. That helps get me away from my desk and adds steps to my Fitbit! Plus the lab I work with is big on pot lucks for any little reason, so there is food to help!

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    • Hang in there… the time will go fast – and retirement will be so sweet. Keep walking!

      Like

  5. I always have multicolored rolling ball pens around, so there’s always one to suit my mood. And colored hanging files, nice notebooks. It all helps. 🙂

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    • I did that for all my classes in college! It made taking notes more interesting, and actually helped me remember. I sit in the exam and say… “Oh yeah, that was in green!”

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  6. I had a few strategies too. For all day staff/budget meetings at an offsite location I would volunteer to help cater the lunch to be sure it was good and not some dumb balongie sandwiches! Drinks for stressful meetings (no, not alcohol). You can’t say something dumb if your mouth is full of soda! I did the hard stuff first thing in the morning. Get it over with. When I got there all terminations were done at 4:45. You can imagine how jittery employees got by 4:30 if they had a clue. I changed all that. It was easier on everyone to let them go early so they could cry and then start job hunting while still on payroll. On a really bad day I did a walk around the building to calm down. I swung my arms and jumped if I wanted to. Didn’t care what people though. Had to have a way to put a smile back on my face! Good post.

    Like

    • It sounds like you had some good techniques. I like the idea of doing terminations early – it makes sense and sounds kinder.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is for everyone. The manager is a wreck too knowing they have to do it. It also allows the employee to immediately apply for unemployment that day as it takes a while to go through. (and I always gave them a package from our local unemployment office with resources on job hunting and details on filing) There is one other technique — a nice drink when you get home! Puts a smile on your face!

        Like

  7. Ray G

    Then there is the other strategy for coping (sorry if I am hijacking a future blog): Just say “NO” in the face of the boss. (Assuming that one is completely in the right, of course.) It totally blows their mind(s), and if one has a legal platform, they lose.

    Like

    • Oh, I think there are times you should say “No.” But the reality is that most people are really afraid to lose their jobs, and that is a really hard place to be. I don’t blame anyone for not having the courage.

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  8. Hi there! I really enjoyed your writting! I always wish I was old enough to go through these interesting moments so I could just write them down and people would enjoy my writting a little bit more haha. I just started my website about a month ago and I post my thoughts about things I went through in school ( I know, I am still pretty young ) and I publish things about paintings and stuff like that becasue I am kind of an artist. Do you maybe have an advice for me? You know, about knowing what are the things people will enjoy reading? Because I really liked your sense of humour, I felt it just by reading haha. If there is anything you could help me with I’d really appreaciate it. Thank you!

    Like

    • Thank you, Alia, for your kind words. I think you are on the right track, because you are writing about what interests YOU. Don’t worry too much about your readers at this point. Write something that inspires you and that you are proud of – because that will always make your writing better. And good writing is the first thing you need in order to attract readers. Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. When I was an “office worker” I used to do the WORST task (whatever it was) first thing in the morning to get it out of the way. It always made the rest of the day easier to manage. And I always cleared my desk at the end of the day so I’d start the next day with a nice, neat work space. Meetings back in the 80s and 90s were always “catered”, so there was (occasionally really good) food; when they cut back on those “extravagances” in the late 90s, a group of us would take turns bringing cookies (those big boxes of “fresh baked” ones from Costco were popular), muffins, or bagels and cream cheese, along with a container of mixed fruit (and everyone brought their own coffee). Having something to nibble on made the endless droning on about boring topics a little more manageable. I’m enjoying retirement for many reasons, but NOT having to go to meetings is right up there at the top of the list.

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    • I’m with you on the meetings. And I also liked to leave things cleaned up at the end of the day, so the next morning I didn’t walk into a mess that would start me off depressed already.

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  10. When my kids were young, I worked as a substitute office worker for the local school district, mostly in the Human Resources office. It was mindless work (varied from work that could be performed by either a trained monkey or an untrained monkey, I always thought), but the freedom it gave me to choose which days I worked made it worthwhile for that particular time in my life. Also, I had a great boss and nice co-workers, and knew that even if the work was boring, it was helping the school district where my kids went to school. So yes, sometimes a different kind of job is okay! And I agree that work tends to be what we make of it.

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    • We don’t always need to be “important” in our work. Sometimes a simple job that helps pay the bills in a nice place is just fine.

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  11. Totally agree on focusing on what I can control versus what I can’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Retirement from job is not stress free moment, I think the whole life is miserable.But, job life becomes damn awful when unexpected pressure is imposed with an employee from part of bosses.By an large,in case of maximum job sectors,the senior bosses always try to create pressure with his immediate junior staffs that’s why job life is stressfull.From my point of view, if a person can do something by itself, that will be damn good for his or her as compared to doing job.On the contrary, to achieve experience and to test our potential strength job is essential.However, As you like to write, I think it is also a good one for an retired man or woman.

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  13. I love the idea that small pleasures can be so rewarding. I totally agree!
    When I work some of my job can be seen as mindless and repetitive but I also find it mostly theraputic and once done it is still an achievement that can be seen as satisfying.
    Also it must be said there is always room in my life for cake!

    Liked by 1 person

    • My sentiments exactly!

      Like

  14. Retirement is far off for me and right now I’m drowning in the bad moments of my job. It’s a struggle every day just to get through it. I think I found your article as a blessing. I believe I already pull myself back from things I can’t control but I do it without consciously seeing it that way. So you e somewhat validated me and I thank you for that.

    I’m embarking on getting more into writing as an outlet for the stress and to hopefully open another door for me in someway.

    Thanks for writing this article. It has been very helpful and inspiring to me.

    Like

    • Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you are handling an unpleasant situation as well as you can. I’ve been there and it’s difficult. Your analogy to drowning is so true. Just keep treading. And writing is a great release for me… I hope for the same for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Thanks for writing this article. I too, focus on what I can control. I am currently working in a toxic environment and trying my best to get out. Several months ago I was so disgusted with the organization and felt no joy in the work that I was doing. I thought perhaps, I need to change careers. But of course, I have a mortgage to pay along with everything else, so I need to make at least what I am making now (imagine me screaming!!).

    I recently started trying my hand at blogging. I have been thinking about doing a post on my work environment. Thank you for this article. It has inspired me to write about my work environment. Writing will be an outlet and I pray, open doors for other opportunities.

    Like

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