When the Work Is Soul-Sucking - Avarah Careers

My work has thrown me in completely unexpected directions since the beginning of 2018. In fact, I feel like I am living proof of expressions and clichés like, “We plan, and God laughs, and “The best laid plans…often go awry.” Or, “Expect the unexpected.”

The good news is that I emerged from it in pretty good shape. So that got me thinking: What’s the difference between this challenge and others in the past which I haven’t managed quite so well? Turns out, quite a bit is the same – it was my reaction to the situation this time that made all the difference.

When Work We Hate Drops In Our Laps

How do you feel when someone at work lets you down in a BIG way? I’m not talking about “out sick” or “on leave” and you have to pick up the slack let down. I’m talking about completely drops the ball and you have to pick up the mess let down. I’m talking about scrambling because you don’t even know what you don’t know let down, and now it’s all on you. Ever been there?

What if, on top of that, the thing you now must do is the very thing you cannot stand? One of those things that you swore you’d never do again after that one time you did and it was an awful, soul-sucking experience. That was my January, and I want to share how I survived and even thrived through the process.

There are two kinds of work I will not ever do. People who love me have strict instructions to remind me of this if I ever consider taking on anything that involves these duties. They are event planning and handling online tech. This most recent challenge involved tech – and since I dislike it so much, I won’t even go into details, because…YUCK! It’s enough to say that with every small step in the right direction, I felt like I was peeling back an onion and discovering a whole new layer of YUCK! And, in a previous life, I was forced into a corner by an employer and had to take on events. You’ll see the way I screwed that up in the list below, and how I managed to do better more recently!

If You Hate the Work, Do THIS, Not THAT

When the bomb hits…

DO DON’T
DO feel the emotion and anger at the situation. Give yourself time to process what just happened. Feel all of it, and breathe. DON’T bother with anger at the people. Most of us do the best we can with what we have. This wasn’t personal.
DO pause, assess, and consider options. What does this really involve? Make sure you have the full picture. Can you outsource, can you delegate? Who could you turn to for support? DON’T jump into activity or chase deadlines. This is always my first instinct. Deadlines are human creations and can be moved. Unless you work in a war zone or ER, it can wait.
DO prioritize and decide what must go. It doesn’t mean it won’t ever get done, it just won’t get done now. DON’T try to keep all of the plates spinning at once. Something WILL fall.
DO ask “What do I need” and ask for help. Gather allies, and acknowledge their contributions. DON’T try to do everything yourself. It is a recipe for disaster. And it is NOT impressive.
DO communicate early and often. Let superiors know that the change will mean delays and get buy-in on what has to go. If “get it all done” is the response, you have a red-flag, big siren warning. Pay attention. Keep everyone posted on progress,
wins and set-backs.
DON’T keep the problems and setbacks to yourself. Eventually, no matter what the truth is, these will be seen as your responsibility so be sure to tell your story the way you want it told, good, bad and ugly.

 

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When You Hate the Work, Self-Care and Focusing on What’s Next are Key

Doing soul-sucking work is, well, soul-sucking. You don’t want to and should not do it for long. To survive through the process, self-care is critical. What do I mean? Self-care can mean different things to different people. For me it’s carving out time for exercise no matter what, indulging in manicures and massages, and making sure I get time with people who love me. 

Your instinct may be to go for comfort instead. Comfort is NOT self-care! Comfort is snacking, indulgent foods, too much to drink and doing other things that deplete your strength and energy. You may think, “Oh, today was so rough and unfair. Why not go ahead and have that dessert, I deserve it!” Friends, this is wrong headed thinking. Instead, plan things into your week to look forward to that will build you up and make you feel great about yourself – not guilty tomorrow. (Or am I the only one who regrets the cake an hour later? Maybe it’s just me). Nobody is perfect at this, but you can set yourself up for success with a plan.

Another plan you have to have? What’s your next step? How long are you willing to keep doing this? If you accept the additional responsibility without complaint, you’re setting yourself up for misery. Be outspoken about your willingness to pitch in temporarily as a team player. Advocate for yourself and what you need. Insist on a clear plan a hand-off to someone more suited to the work.

Most important, prepare yourself to walk away if you have to – no one is going to make your work a better place for you. Make a plan.

And, if no one is listening and the soul-sucking work continues unfairly and for too long, reach out to me. I’ve been there. Let’s figure out a way to get you on a better path.