Posted by: Foxybrown | 2007/11/28

'Examining my motives' - long and moany

HI Cs and others

Am in a bit of a ragged space right now, I think brought about by my peculiar personality and the environment I am in.

The two are like oil and water and I am not coping.

Yesterday I had a long think about my working history, which began after I graduated from varsity in 1995. Since then I can’t say I have been happy in any job, and I have had a number of jobs because I have worked in three countries.

I often wonder to what degree my first experience of working influenced how I view the workplace to this day. My first job was a front desk girl for a foreign language institution. I quite liked the staff complement there and enjoyed the work I did but my boss was an overbearing character. He knew of no other way to reduce his stress levels than to hurl obscenities at the staff. I was no exception and what made it worse was that I doubled as his secretary so when he’d walk into the building, I was the first person he saw given that I manned the front desk. And when he came out of his office, I was the first person he saw given that I was his secretary.

He had a terrible temper, was a racist and a misogynist and had the so-called short-man syndrome; always spoiling for a fight and on a perpetual mission to enlarge himself in other people’s lives by being extremely loud and obvious in all he did. He never thought twice to scream obscenities at me in front of whoever happened to be in the reception area, including visitors to the language school.

That was my first experience of the working environment and I am not sure I have left it behind, all of 12 years later.

Since then my jobs have all borne the same characteristics in that the work itself was reasonably enjoyable, but the work atmosphere at some point became caustic.

There are some things I notice about myself at the workplace.

If, in a team of ten, there is one highly unpleasant person, it seems to affect me far more than it affects other team members.

I also notice I am quick to assume I am being abused on the job, the minute I am asked to work overtime for example. Yet millions of ppl everyday receive this request from their superiors. Why am I so quick to read into it negatively? I’ve also seen in myself a tendency to view bosses as overbearing, totalitarian and unable to empathise with anything a subordinate is feeling. The boss I have now very much seems to fit this description. In a sense she has the exact qualities a boss needs – a determination to drive the process at the workplace so that the product is a flawless as possible and the company puts out better and better results each year. Yes, this is a boss’s job. But I resent it being done at the expense of people’s happiness on the job. I am but one person here who is deeply unhappy; some of my colleagues have also voiced their concerns. Nonetheless, although this is not a case of me blindly assuming all bosses are awful, I do feel somewhat panicky about my suitability to any given workplace. Why have I had issues with every boss since 1995? Why do I struggle to comply with orders I feel are patchy in nature or poorly communicated? I am unable to blindly follow orders and I wonder if an extremely stubborn streak is to blame for my constant unhappiness as a working individual. Extreme stubbornness is an almost fatal flaw, it blocks communication, causes stress and introduces a warp or kink to what should otherwise be a normal situation.

I am unable to discern between my possible extreme stubbornness and my legitimate right to want to work happy. I spent the whole of yesterday and most of today mulling over whether I am someone who can actually work for anyone. About an hour ago, again overcome by my feelings, I told myself I obviously have no choice but to work for myself. So now this is an avenue I must examine – but I have never worked for myself and naturally possess an inherent fear of talking on such a huge responsibility. Then again, she who dares wins.

Perhaps the fact that I am a single mother makes me extremely hesitant to go that route. I don’t mind jackknifing my own life because of a choice I made which turned out to be the wrong one but I am not prepared to mess up my child’s life. This alone makes me want to grit my teeth and stick it out as an employee. Then I consider my unhappiness and ask myself if a child derives any benefit from a mother who comes home stressed and edgy almost every day. When I think of that, I again resolve to work for myself but then I hit a brick wall because I have no idea what I would go into or how I would support myself and my child. It’s now a vicious cycle because I want to secure my future, but I don’t want to be unhappy doing it.

I hope u understand in all this gibberish what my actually questions are. I guess I am asking, is it me or I have I just been unlucky with bosses? Sadly this question spills over into my private life; I have never had a happy relationship. Again, is it me or is it the kind of men I met?

I feel I need to make some major life changes as of next year onwards. I feel I have been tolerating or embracing too many things for too long – mediocrity being the biggest of them. I feel I need to step out and be something or someone; but I need to know I am not trying to run away from myself because then it won’t matter if I work for someone or work for myself – I’ll still be unhappy. If I am running away from myself then working for myself will only introduce me to a new, even more impossible boss; me.

Comments, commiseration and criticism welcome.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Hmm. Sounds like a case for... CBT ? So often one's problems arise out of either inappropriate conclusions one has drawn from particularly unpleasant experiences in life, or from over-generalizing such conclusions, so that though they might be protective and appropriate in some very specific settings, one tends to apply them more indiscriminately.
As for being your own boss, well, at least you'll at last have a boss that matches your intelligence ? But would you enjoy having such a stubborn boss ?

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

Our users say:
Posted by: Foxybrown | 2007/11/29

Wow everyone’s responses have really helped me answer some major questions I had. Like whether I might really be able to strike it out alone - the answer is yes. And whether I am a stubborn as a mule - the answer again is yes.

I'll just take a couple more months to think things out carefully and then will take the big step. I am hoping a few months of serious introspection will point me in the right direction because I am convinced I won't fail if I know exactly what it is I want to do. I am prepared to boss myself silly so that my endeavours get off the ground - but I am also prepared to treat myself fairly as an employee.

Thankfully I do have some good ppl in town who can help me take care of my baby. Besides she is such a fancy little madam she will very soon appreciate the sacrifices we'll be making for the greater good. She has told me repeatedly I need to upgrade my car, how many toddlers make those kinds of snide remarks? Anyway all the more incentive!

Thanks every1

Reply to Foxybrown
Posted by: Maria | 2007/11/28

FB, I had to chuckle when I read your description of being territorial and analytical. You sound like a combination of my husband and me. He has problems with authority, and used to be very happy at the startup IT company where he worked for 8 years, until they grew so big that politics became more important than people. After much soul searching he resigned and became a contractor. Now he works for one company 28 hours a week (year contract, renewable) and does ad hoc work for three other places. Some months he clears more than twice what he earned in his permanent job. There is a downside though... it's less secure and he basically takes on everything that comes his way just in case two months down the line there is no work. As a result he works way too much in my opinion.

I'm the analytical one. A former manager of mine used to say I suffer from paralysis by analysis. I find it incredibly hard to do something that doesn't make sense to me and doesn't add value as far as I can see. Yet I see people around do me doing their jobs without questioning too much, and they certainly seem happier than I am at work. I do have a longterm plan to get out of IT and into Psychology but some days I think I'm not going to survive until I'm qualified to change career.

My message for you... is it possible in your field of work to do the same kind of thing my husband does? I know it's easier for us because I still have a fulltime salary, but he is so much happier now that I think for him it is worth it. And lastly, perhaps both of us should stop trying to find meaning in our work, and rather take that search elsewhere!

Reply to Maria
Posted by: jcat | 2007/11/28

I'd think that you might not be the easiest employee, but you'd certainly be one of the most valuable. You might be stubborn and territorial, but you are also very intelligent and astute, and I'd think you would be a real asset to any company. Including your own!

Is it possible for you to ask your family if they would be willing to help with your child if it became really necessary? Tell them you'd like to start your own business, but you need to know that whatever happens your child's basics would be taken care of. Or put aside part of your pension/leave pay payout for this, and don't touch it for the business.

I'm sure you'd be really successful, and never need that back-stop, whatever you decide to do!
Good luck,

Reply to jcat
Posted by: Britty | 2007/11/28

I think that most people feel like you do and because of responsibilities we just put up being unhappy and stressed by our work - I know that I didl. However it all changed for me when I ran my own business. Yes it was a huge jump as I don't have a varsity degree but I had tons of work experience and knew the principales of business - I did it for four years and it was successful but only bcause my customers and staff came first. There were tough times but my staff stuck by me because I neer kept anything from them and was always rewarding them for hard work. I was disappointed when the business was sold due to my husband getting a job overseas. Even though I could work again I could never work for someone else as I can't put up with what goes on in formal work places. My point in telling you all this is have you ever thought of your own business and it doesn't necessarily have to be the field you are in but maybe something you really feel passionate about. I also feel that being unhappy at work does impact on your social life unless you can switch off at 5pm which is just so impossible. But you owe it to yourself and child to be happy at work. Take care.

Reply to Britty
Posted by: Foxybrown | 2007/11/28

Ck yr story is reading very much like mine (you just know how to express yourself in fewer than 20 paragraphs). I hope you stick to your brave decision to go it alone. I already admire you for taking the step cos the decision alone is a huge step.

I hope I follow sometime soon. And I pledge to - just as soon as I figure out what I’m good at and how I might actually go about getting paid for it.

Oh CS you know me too well! I was gingerly asking the question ‘am I too stubborn?’, hoping no one would answer it and then you go and do so! It was supposed to be one of those esoteric/rhetorical questions no one answers. Eish!

Reply to Foxybrown
Posted by: Maria | 2007/11/28

FB, got a few things to say, but no time now. Watch this space. :)

Reply to Maria
Posted by: Foxybrown | 2007/11/28

Very valid observations Maria. Perhaps I am being ridiculous to assume one is supposed to be deliriously happy at the workplace. This is no Utopia, it’s real life and comes with bumps and bruises, warts and wrinkles. Who is to say the workplace should be immune to any of that?

Perhaps I need remind myself how blessed I am to be working at all, given the millions of people every day who wake up depressed and go to bed depressed because they are unemployed. Looking at it from that perspective, I feel I have no place constantly ‘murmuring’, to use the biblical expression.

Yr tale of the failed project is quite an eye-opener. One just has to go with what a boss says I guess. I have a similar situation in that the team I man is made up of individuals who have not had enough training. Sometimes, experience cannot replace training. My boss seems to think that by putting bright-eyed bushy-tailed juniors on the job, they will learn the ropes in time and soon be employees of the month. I beg to differ and I have told her so - but she has openly pooh-poohed my suggestions. So I will leave it at that, it’s out of my hands.

I do know two things about myself – I can be extremely territorial and I can be extremely analytical. The territorial thing actually has to do with me as an individual; I don’t cope too well when told what or who to be, or how to be it. I am very much one for autonomy and self-governance…which again begs the question, am I just incredibly stubborn?

As for the extremely analytical streak, sometimes I feel I should pity myself for having such a streak because all it does is reveal the unpleasant side of things to me. I lack the ability to engage in happy analysis. This can’t be by chance, it must be by will - I am choosing to see the cloud and not the silver lining.

Out, out damn analytical and territorial spots…

Reply to Foxybrown
Posted by: ck | 2007/11/28

I feel exactly the same right now. I have been working for only 8 1/2 years now, and really cannot take the frustration any more.
I havent really gotten far up the corporate ladder and I really havent been motivated enough to really move into a set direction.

So with much contemplation and thinking and what if this and what if that, I have finaly decided to get it over with and try being my own boss. It can only do me good if I try it out. So maybe you should.

Reply to ck
Posted by: Maria | 2007/11/28

Hey FB

I too find it extremely difficult to follow orders that make no sense to me. Case in point: I spent two years working on a project after I told my bosses 6 months into it that it won't work. And then it failed. (Not because of me, I was just a small cog in a big machine.) This really demotivated me. However, work pays the bills. And like you say, there is a security (even if it is an illusion) in working for a boss which is what one wants for your children. So you end up stuck.

Have you seen a CBT counseller yet? It could help you sort out some of the cause-effect questions you have. You can also read a book called "What colour is your parachute?" by Bolles, might help you make a decision one way or the other.

Like you I think one should be happy at work. You spend so much time there it's almost criminal to waste it being frustrated and unfullfilled. But all of that is just talk, because here I still am...

Reply to Maria

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