Reality Check: Turning Work from Torment to Tolerable

When asked about her work, Billie used to say, “Every day is torment, pure and simple.” But not anymore. What changed? As Billie puts it, “I had a little conversation with myself.”

So, what was the problem? And how did Billie make this change?

According to Billie, her problem was everybody else in her workplace. As the newest employee, she perceived that everybody was making it their job to tell her what to do, and in great detail.

“I care about what I do and how I do it. I thought that was why they hired me in the first place. I know that my work is important. I don’t see why they don’t recognize that and just let me do my job. They should trust me by now.”

How had Billie been handling that?

“I’d try not to show that I was irritated, but I know it came through. I’d listen; then sometimes I’d get a little peeved and let show that I was annoyed. Often when I went home, I still be so annoyed that it felt like I’d never left work. I couldn’t seem to get it off my mind.”

How did you want your life at work to be?

“I liked the job; I just didn’t like the constant second-guessing. What I wanted was for them to let me go about my business, without fussing. It seemed to me that they didn’t feel they could trust me; that’s what bugged me.”

So what change did you make?

“I knew that for the most part, I liked working there. It was just this one thing that was always on my mind. So I decided that instead of being irritated, I was going to choose to be grateful for the job and for the fact that everyone cared so much.”

How did that change your life at work?

“Now, when someone tells me what to do, I smile and say, “Thank you.”  I don’t let the fact that I already know bother me. I just concentrate on that feeling of gratitude, and it makes it a lot easier to accept what everybody says.”

How’s that been working?

“The funny thing is that now my boss has started telling me that I am doing a good job; that I have caught on really quickly. As soon as I stopped resisting, it’s as if everybody relaxed.”

Billie’s experience at work illustrates that while we cannot change the actions and behaviours of other people, we can change how we perceive and respond to them. When Billie chose to concentrate on being grateful for the job, rather than irritated, her experience began to change. Interestingly, as she became less defensive, the interference reduced.

Even if the behaviour of the others had not changed, choosing a different  perception can immediately begin to make one’s experience at work more pleasant.

Do you think that deliberately choosing a specific perception, such as gratitude, can change the quality of your work life?

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