A Return to Happiness in the Workplace
Back in the spring (what seems like a lifetime ago) I wrote a series of posts about my changing job situation and what this meant for myself and my family. Specifically, most of the fallout for me was on the mental side, dealing with the blow to my professional ego, dealing with new position that was less than ideal and figuring out what I needed to do to move forward. At the time of this writing things have gotten much better and because I am a blogger prone to over-sharing I thought I would talk a bit about what has changed.
There have been three primary things that have happened which have improved my perspective significantly and in retrospect the problem was largely one of my own making. The first thing was acceptance. I resisted fully integrating into my new team during those first few months because I hoped this would be a temporary situation. I was convinced that I would find a position more to my liking quickly and so why waste energy building relationships? Part of my new job responsibilities were to function as a team lead, which is the task I resisted the most. Leadership is not really an area of strength for me. So I put my head down as often as possible and hoped my coworkers would look elsewhere for guidance. After a very tense meeting over the summer where my team expressed their need for leadership, I was forced to acknowledge to myself that I had been a jerk. The next day pulled my team together, apologized for not not being there for them and made a promise to do better. I have slowly been rebuilding that broken trust but luckily for me they have been forgiving.
The next thing that changed was a new management team for my group. They finally transferred a key supervisor who was a good employee but terribly burned out. He’s much happier elsewhere in the company and our new supervisor is an old colleague who I have a much better working relationship with. He is a fellow outdoorsman and has a similar family life and this provides some needed camaraderie. Professionally, his management style is much closer to my own and we have begun to build a solid partnership with me functioning as his #2. We have established some big goals for getting our account back on track and this has created a lot of optimism. I have always been a project-oriented person. Now that we have a plan in place I feel highly motivated to see it through.
The third thing that changed was probably the most important which is that I have learned how to deal with problem employees. Every company has them and in the past I always avoided handling these situations. It was easy because I was never in a role where I was expected to. Now that I am, it has been a learning experience. We have a few folks in our operation who are…difficult. Each requires a different approach but once I started to figure out what worked best with each of them things began to improve. Many people would disagree with my technique but I mostly rely on letting them think they have me wrapped around their finger, while slowly re-educating them. We have made a lot of changes that have forced them to toe the line, but it has all been done incrementally. As long as we get them to where they need to be I am fine with appearing the be the easily-manipulated team lead in the short term. Luckily I have an ego that can tolerate this.
And so I find myself heading into winter in relatively good spirits. This has been a tough year for myself and my extended family. We have had some hard situations to deal with beyond my job and the importance of taking care of each other has never been more clear to me. What I have also discovered is that I can handle a lot more than I thought I could. My hope is that this increased confidence will serve me well in the future. I have also reaffirmed my belief that hardships create learning opportunities when viewed as such. I am constantly reminded of my favorite quote from Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture:
The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.
Previous posts in this series:
Mike Dwyer is a freelance writer in Louisville, KY. He writes about culture, the outdoors and whatever else strikes his fancy. His personal site can be found at www.mikedwyerwrites.com. He is also active on Facebook and Twitter. Mike is one of several Kentucky authors featured in the book This I Believe: Kentucky.