Job loyalty: For better or worse?

When you don't like what is happening, rather than shrinking away from being mad, hurt, insulted or anxious, lean into those exact feelings.

Q. I have worked for my company for 10 years, and the manager I loved just retired. The guy that took his place is a jerk! I feel disloyal, because even though my company has been good to me, I'm flirting heavily with the idea of leaving. Should I stay or should I go?

A. You should negotiate for a different job, but it may not mean leaving your current company. Research shows that the interpersonal skills of bosses are consistently a key component of employee satisfaction. So, yes, one bad boss can ruin a great job!

You have three choices since your boss is making your job thoroughly unpleasant:

1. Consider whether gaining better communication skills could help you set limits and deal with your current boss so you can enjoy your job again. We often give up on a situation that could have been workable if we had only learned better strategies.

2. If you are certain no communication tools in the world would help with your boss, carefully examine jobs you'd enjoy at your current company. Make a point of looking for excuses to interact with the managers in these departments and approach them directly about working for them.

3. Put the word out to your network that you're considering a change and be specific about opportunities you'd be interested in. Don't assume your aunt, hairdresser or colleague knows exactly what you're good at and what job you want.

Use your time at your current job to practice what the Zen Buddhists call "mindfulness." Mindfulness is a practice of staying fully in the present moment. One of the philosophies of Buddha was that, "Life is suffering." I suppose Buddha could have added, "Work is suffering," and been quite accurate.

Since most of us can't avoid suffering at work, we can use the discomfort we can't avoid to help us grow up. When you don't like what is happening, rather than shrinking away from being mad, hurt, insulted or anxious, lean into those exact feelings.

Mindfulness reduces the experience of suffering in and out of the workplace in much the same way that tensing your muscles and then relaxing these same muscles makes you notice your chronic tense muscles.

For those of you who have ever had an intense massage, consider this analogy. Your discomfort at work is like the elbow of the universe poking into the places where you're restricted. If you can breathe and stay engaged with that pain, the tense muscle will actually relax.

Clients tell me that their thinking is clearer and their actions more effective when they use mindfulness during their worst workplace moments. Again, since you can't avoid your boss making you unhappy, you might as well get some wisdom out of dealing with him.

Lastly, keep in mind that, unlike marriage, a job is not for better or for worse. You're a free agent and you have every right to work in an environment where you can thrive financially and emotionally. Staying in a situation where you are miserable won't improve yourself or your workplace.

THE LAST WORD(S)

Q. How do I get people in my workplace to grow up?

A. As Mahatma Gandhi recommended, "Be the change you want to see in the world!"

(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)
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