What if you hate your job? What if you are so unhappy with your job to the extent that it truly impacts your well-being, your personality and your home life? What if, as a working mom, the “work” part of your life really is taking away from the “mom” part more emotionally than physically?
Don’t get me wrong, I actually really like my job right now but I’ve been down the other road and am only now on the other side. Some people LOVE their jobs. I know a handful of them. I truly enjoy my current job but, I’ll be totally honest, if I won $10 million tomorrow, I’d probably do something else.
Maybe some of you are shaking your heads thinking no one is “happy” at work, we’d all rather be somewhere else. But have you ever had a job that made you totally unhappy? Just miserable?
I had a bad boss. He was a bad boss for my personality. I worked for him for five years and ended up in therapy at the end of it all.
I tried all of the advice I could find, such as this and this. All of these articles include great advice. It comes down to (1) trying to move to another boss in the company, (2) confronting your boss diplomatically or (3) finding another job.
1 and 2 may work (they didn’t for me) and 3 sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But in a tough job market , especially when your confidence has been repeatedly shattered, it’s tough as Hell.
In my situation, I knew I had to make a change. Sometimes, it’s hard to admit that it’s just not the right fit. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it just means something isn’t working. It’s okay to move on.
In my situation, I felt like I was constantly set up for failure. For five long years. And it wasn’t the type of environment where I could document my evidence and present my case to someone. This was the way it was.
I was warned when I started that I was working for a man that had NEVER had an associate (or maybe one did) survive him. Look, lawyers are a unique breed to start with. And private firm lawyers are another breed in themselves. I always worked for private firms and never had any personality conflicts with anyone. Ever. I understood how to play the game. Until I met this boss.
And maybe it wasn’t just him. It was just that I was not the type of lawyer and/or personality that could work well with this type of boss.
The first two years of my career at this place, I thought I was stupid. I thought what my boss was telling me was the truth and I could learn from him if I just paid more attention.
I joked with close co-workers that I felt like a dog that got kicked every day. Much later, I did finally visit a therapist and share some of my work stories. I thought I was oversensitive, melodramatic or unable to cope, I thought I was the problem. The therapist leaned forward after hearing just a few everyday occurrences, took my hand and said “it’s not you. Anyone in that situation would feel shattered.”
One day, something happened and when I stepped back and looked at the situation, I realized he wasn’t so smart and such an amazing lawyer. I knew on this particular matter, I could have done a much better job for everyone involved. That was the defining moment. I realized I wasn’t hopeless and unteachable and dumb. I realized I didn’t fit into his definition of what he wanted me to be but it didn’t mean I was a waste of a lawyer.
That’s when I made the efforts that I read in these articles. I got involved in other company events and tried to engage in other practice groups, I worked in contracting roles and everything I did, I was receiving positive feedback, but I still had the boss who didn’t like that. For the next three years, I tried to find other paths to success but I had mostly given up on succeeding to become a partner and just focused on surviving long enough until something better came along.
I realized that I was given assignments with ½ the information so that when I completed the assignment, I’d only be told how much was missing. I started to realize that the nitpicking on my work was totally immaterial and yet I received no credit for the material successes. I realized that I had no voice, even when I tried. My annual reviews had nothing positive to say about my work, but it didn’t escape me that the “examples” of my poor work were all matters that stuck in my mind as particular ones where I was set up to fail.
I tried to make sure I wrote everything down. I asked twice as many questions every time I received an assignment. I made sure I was as prepared as I thought I could be so I could cut off any “miscommunication” at the source. It became exhausting. Plus, the work was not fulfilling. I tried to get different types of work so I could grow and expand, get out of my “pigeon-hole” but I just was stuck where I was. It made me look at my boss and wonder if that would be me in 30 years.
It changed who I was. I hated the commute to work. I no longer listened to audio books, I just let my mind race the entire drive, allowing myself to get angry at every other driver on the road. I gained weight. I cursed more. I spoke negatively about the environment and my boss. I walked in the door at home, I was cranky, even when I was greeted by my smiling, loving child, I still couldn’t let the gray cloud of hating my job even leave for a second. I even let it effect my relationship with my wife. I truly appreciate now how hard she had to work to make sure our family was as peaceful as possible during my incredibly grouchy period. She’s a saint. Towards the end, I let it get to me so badly that I was physically sick, visiting GI docs and others because I thought something was really wrong with me. (Since the day I walked out ofII there, I have not felt that stomach pain since).
Over time, I acknowledged I had to get out. So, I job hunted. But I was a wounded dog at that point. I felt that my resume looked great on paper, but I had really convinced myself that I was as incompetent as I’d been made to feel.
I do not consider myself a shrinking violet or an oversensitive person. But I was beaten down. On my 5 year anniversary, I walked out of the door and it was mutual. The company knew I was done and it wasn’t working and I was so happy that I could leave it all behind me. It took some considerable time to move beyond this. I had to rebuild. And it took a lot of time.
No matter how confident you are or how tough you think you may be, when you feel like you are being consistently torn down, it takes its toll. The journey from the moment I walked out of that building until I stepped into a new and healthier position for me 10 months later is an entirely separate post.
But now, I do enjoy my job. Whatever the opposite of the strained communication, micromanaging and dreary office environment is, that’s what I have now.
I have everything I craved so desperately before. I have an amazing boss who has a great personality, a sharp wit and is also a great lawyer. I have a short commute, so I can see my kids in the morning and afternoons, I have the freedom to come and go as I please to run out to an event at my son’s school, so long as my work gets done (instead of someone pacing in front of my office when I go to pee). I have a constant flow of diverse work and communications with people instead of being cut off from the world working on the same things over and over. I have far more intellectual challenges and opportunities to expand my knowledge-base and expertise. I have the support when I need it and personable and smart superiors who believe in constant growth in addition to responsibility. I have a voice that is heard when ideas are shared. I have an office environment where people say “Good morning” to you instead of grumbling and closing their doors when they come into work.
I like that even when the job follows me home with emails and phone calls, I can still walk through the front door and let my heart enjoy the full effect of my 3 year old jumping into my arms screeching “MOMMY’S HOME! “
We all know how hard it is to balance work and home but it’s not always easy to find the right balance in the work part. I encourage everyone who is feeling that sense of despair that it can change. Don’t underestimate how much it may be effecting you and your family. If you cannot seem to make a change within your current position, you can move on. There is nothing wrong with you, it just may not be the right fit. The right fit for you (and your family) is out there waiting for you.