Thursday, January 14, 2010

I Hate the phrase, "You should just be happy you have a job."

I hate it.

Not that it's not true on some level. Most of us, even if our job sucks, are happy that we have an income. That part of our job is nothing to complain about.

But what I hate is that lately, with the economy being so bad, it's become this catch all phrase that really says even if you have a crappy job and aren't happy you shouldn't complain because someone else has it worse.

Well, hell, if that was the only reason to not complain - that someone else has it worse than you - then by all rights, none of us in the U.S. should be complaining about much of anything.

I don't advocate complaining (because, really, what does that get you, except for friends who don't want to hang out) but I do recommend doing something about it.

So, what can you do about it?

Change what you can about your current job.
Most of us feel either happy or unhappy about work because of the people. You can't get rid of your boss. And you probably can't get rid of any other employees. But you can protect yourself from coworkers that are difficult to work with.

Make sure that you're really doing your job. If they have a true gripe about you because you're not reliable or you come in late all the time, then you can expect people to be upset and express it. But if you're truly doing everything that you're supposed to be doing, it gives you a solid place to approach your (or their) boss from. Explain the situation with the difficult coworker and ask them if they can either limit your joined projects or intervene to correct inappropriate behavior.

I have a coworker who has been sending me tons of email, nagging that one of her contractors wasn't being paid on time. She sent several emails that straddled the fence of being professionally curt and being rude, basically insinuating that I wasn't doing my job. She used a tactic that she frequently uses, cc'ing her boss as if this would somehow get me into further trouble. (She has bullied a lot of people in my workplace, sometimes yelling, moving into their physical space and trying to get others in trouble. You can't believe how hard it is to get rid of some employees once they've been with a company for a while. Also, it doesn't help that she threatened HR a lawsuit based on alleged sexual harassment when she realized that she might actually get in real trouble.)

After having a conversation, her boss and I understood each other perfectly. Her expectations were way out of line. He told me that he would make sure she understood what to expect. She continued to send me emails harassing me about this situation every time this person had a payment being processed. She would push and push, again inferring that I wasn't doing my job.

The person who really mattered was the boss, because his opinion could affect me in the future. This lady likes to make herself seem more important than she is...she is constantly trying to control others and seize more power in our office.

So, I defeated her by cutting her out of the equation. I went back to her boss and said, "I thought we were on the same page on this." He agreed that we were. I explained what she was arguing over (same complaining, different day) and he told me that she was wrong and that he would talk to her about it.

I refused to let her intimidate me into doing what she wanted (which was apologizing, jumping through hoops and providing her with preferential treatment). I refused to let her make me look bad and even managed to make her look bad, but only because I was doing my job. I took away the power she was going after. I do battle with this particular lady multiple times a year, but she mostly leaves me alone now because of the way I handle her bad behavior.

Learn new skills towards a new job.
If you're already employed, you have the luxury of being able to learn something new for a future job. Get your current employer to spring for paid training, computer classes or books. Take those community college classes to learn to be a pharmacy tech. If you're unhappy at work, this is the perfect time to really figure out something new to do.

Tell your friends, family and church that you may be in the market for a new job. Join a professional group online (LinkedIn, Brazen Careerist, etc.) and start rubbing electronic elbows with others who share your skills or interests. Pick up tips and perhaps even learn about jobs from those you meet.

Get a different job.
It's never going to be the ideal time to look for a new job. But it will probably make you feel a lot better if you know that you're doing something productive towards finding new work. And even in a bad economy, there will continue to be good companies with good jobs. There may be more competition for those jobs, so I recommend making sure that you're putting your best foot forward (have an awesome resume, practice interviewing, clean up your party pics on your MySpace page, and get a great outfit).

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