The Question We Don’t Want To Ask: Survival Strategies for a Miserable Job

The Question We Don’t Want To Ask: Survival Strategies for a Miserable Job December 4, 2015


Several years ago I was chatting with my nephew. I asked him what was one of the most valuable lessons he’d been taught by his father. His answer surprised me. It was this: “always assume it’s your fault.” My brother in law was not suggesting an over-functioning sense of responsibility for the faults of others. He was simply saying that ”if a situation goes south, look at yourself before pointing the finger of blame at others.”

I have counseled hundreds of people about work and personal issues over two and a half decades of service.   Most of them are very quick to blame their problems on others with very little if any scrutiny given to their own contribution to the situation. I see this pattern in myself—I’m an expert on the wrongs, deficiencies, and foolishness of others.   I don’t turn the gaze of scrutiny on myself as frequently or as ruthlessly.

Which leads me to a question we don’t want to ask when facing a miserable job.


Is It Me or The Job?

In the interest of efficiency, let me suggest the answer is almost always both. The boss, the system, the culture, etc., are broken, caustic, or simply not a good fit. Yet there is usually a broken part of us that plays along.   Here are 3 examples I’ve observed in myself and others, 3 ways we can make our jobs miserable.

  1. Mixed Motives: If I take a job because I’m desperate for income or need it for advancing my career, yet it does not match my talents and passions, I’m probably setting myself up for long-term misery.
  1. Conflict Avoidance: If my chief goal is peace keeping, than I will tend to tolerate dysfunction for such an extended amount of time that it becomes normal, expected, and therefore almost impossible to change.
  1. Crisis Creation: If I thrive on crises and rebuilding broken departments, I may passively neglect issues or even blow things up to feed by desire to drive dramatic change.


Jesus Called It Plank-Eye Syndrome

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5 NLT)

What might it look like to have a “plank in in your eye” as you assess your current job?


Before You Head for the Exit…

Before heading to the exit from your miserable job, use the challenges as an opportunity to look inside and see what patterns of thought and behavior in you contribute to the misery. This brings two benefits. 1) it makes the miserable situation a little less miserable. And 2) you are armed with deeper levels of self-awareness, bringing a greater depth to your decision process as you look for something new.


How About You?

 In what ways do you make your work situation more difficult than it needs to be?



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