I remember when I had a really great job and a really bad manager.
I would go to work each day with so much enthusiasm for my work—telling myself that I could make it work. My positive attitude would last until about 2pm and then my manager would do something horrible.
It wasn’t that he was a bad person it was that he was bad with people.
I tried everything. I joined the boxing gym and started my day with a delicious latte to combat his terrible attitude. I interviewed with a lot of different departments to see if an internal move could make the situation better. I volunteered to produce projects outside my work hours just so I could do the work I knew I was capable of doing. I tried to get someone to see my value where he never could.
For awhile I decided this was how work had to be. I said, “To work at a company like this, I must put up with these things”. And to be honest, in a lot of environments you’re going to run into bad managers and poor systems. You are always going to run into people who don’t really care about the work they are doing or perhaps are jaded and terrible at communication. Sometimes you can manage up and figure out how to find your stride in these environments, but sometimes you can’t.
And I know that you want your work to matter, you want to feel good when you go to the office. You want to feel like your work makes an impact somewhere. You go the extra mile for the team, and sometimes when you look around you, you are the only one still running. I know, I was often the only one going that extra mile too.
So how did I decide what to do next? How did I decide to stay in that job or move onto the next thing, even though it was a dream job to most people, and to me?
I looked at the data. I took my own emotions out of the situation and made sure I looked at all of the options. I had conversations with my manager, even though they were heartbreaking and really hard on my confidence. I let him tell me no over and over until I realized that no matter what I did he would not see my value.
I also weighed my personal joy with how this job was making me feel. How much energy was I pouring into making this situation work? Could that energy be used in other areas of my life to propel me in a different direction, one I hadn’t thought of?
A direction I hadn’t thought of… now that was a scary thought.
This would require me to let go of my identity. It would require me to shatter this very carefully orchestrated idea of who I was. That felt really daunting.
But there became a point where shattering that identity felt easier than going to work each day and dealing with the toxicity of that environment.
So I leaped. The truth is I cried for a few months trying to understand how I was going to create a life from scratch, because that is what it felt like. It felt like I was starting again, from the bottom.
But, energy doesn’t work that way. When you cut off energy to one thing, especially a thing that is draining your energy, it frees up so much energy for other things. That choice to say, “No, not this. This won’t be my life. I won’t be drained like this,” that gives you your power back.
It might take some time to figure out where you are going to put your new energy, or what is important to you, but the answer will come, if you are brave enough to choose you and truly let go of any rigid and inflexible plan you had for your life.
What are you missing while you are so busy trying to control everything in an environment that doesn’t even notice your talents and spirit? Take it from someone who has been there, you’re missing out on a lot.
I am here to tell you, incase you haven’t been told yet, that you can have a work environment that makes your spirit soar. You can work for someone that notices your talents and utilizes you on the team and makes you feel a part of something bigger. But the only way to get there is to make a change, a big scary and overwhelming leap into the unknown. But you can do it, you know this. You already know what is inside of you, you’re just afraid that by letting go of the plan you had for your life it will mean you are a failure. You are not a failure.
I want you to take fifteen minutes to write out as a stream of conscious all of the hard and terrible things about the situation you are in. Get it out of you and let it spill onto the page and out of your heart.
Then I want you to take another fifteen minutes and I want you to write out as a stream of conscious all of the things you dream for yourself and your work. What do you desire from a workplace? What is the absolute dream scenario?
At first you might say, “Teresa, I don’t know what I want”. But you do, somewhere deep inside of you, buried under doubt and shame and fear, is the truth of who you are. Keep sitting there until the images and ideas come to you, and then write them down. Be patient.
How does it feel to look at these two scenarios next to each other? What clarity does it bring about your situation? What will you do differently right now to move toward the second one where everything is possible?
What is your cash runway? If you quit, do you have months to find a job? Sometimes we need our paycheck and we can’t just Jerry Maguire our way out of a terrible situation. Look at your data, what will it require for you to make the leap and still feel stable?
Make a list of what you need to have in place to make the change. How many more paychecks do you need? Is there another way can earn the money to get there faster? Set a date and a cash value. Put those numbers somewhere you can see them each morning.
Tell a friend and create an accountability system. Share your excitement to find a new work environment that you can thrive in and ask them to hold you accountable to your exit date.
For one week look at your dream work scenario and read it to yourself to remind you of what is possible for your life.