Every day people wake up, get themselves cleaned up (most of them), head out the door and go to work. This is a universal thing; it’s not something that only happens in the U.S., it occurs in every country in the world. Even the poorest of countries have folks who go through this same process on a daily basis.
Folks get to work, get themselves prepared for their day, sit at their desks or in their vehicles or whatever it is they do when they get there. No matter the level of the position, this is a common, every day thing.
One of those weird anomalies is that most people feel as though they’re the only ones who are going through the grind. Even if they’re in an office with 100 other people, they feel as though there’s not a single other person there who’s going through what they’re going through, or feels like they do. Sometimes they’ll sit with other folks at lunch and the group will complain about the same thing, yet when they go back to their desks they feel like they’re all alone once again.
If it happens to employees, you know it happens to employed leaders. Think about what it’s like being in management.
In most circumstances, they’re the only one in that position at that organization. How many vice president of sales does a company need? How many directors of patient accounting will one hospital have? Each position is unique, which means the work each position has is something someone else has deemed crucial to the operation of daily business. Because they’re the only one in that position, they may feel as though they don’t really have anyone to talk to. This is why they’ll often start trying to accumulate friends within their department; that can be problematic in many ways.
To all of you, trust me on this one; you’re definitely not alone. Here’s a statistic for you; more than 85% of all managers had never led anything in their lives until they became a leader in a business setting. Here’s another; at least 76% of all employees, when questioned, have said that they have periods of time when they don’t like working where they happen to work.
Let’s look at some other statistics that many folks probably have never seen. It’s estimated that 42% of all employees are in some kind of caregiver situation of a loved one. Just over 38% of all employees will voluntarily leave where they work to go to another employer each year; in some industries, that figure is as high as 69%. Only 26% of employees nationally feel as though they’re full participants in what’s going on where they work; 55% say they’re not involved at all.
Numbers may just be numbers, and I’m sure there are other surveys that have been performed that may change some of these figures a little bit, but the purpose of my bringing in any of these statistics is to prove one point; there’s a lot of people who, in some ways, feel pretty much the same way. Many of them may work where you work, but definitely in other workplaces there are dissatisfied employees.
You already knew this, but even with this knowledge it feels different if you’re a leader within your organization. At least everyone else has people they can talk to about the work they do during the day, but what about you? What can you do to alleviate some of your loneliness issues as a leader?
Let’s look at this based on three questions; they’re not as hard or easy as you might think at first glance:
1. Which one are you?
I can’t answer this one; only you can. You have to think clearly about the meaning of the question before you attempt to answer it.
For instance, a quick thinker might think “do I yearn for time off from work all the time or do I want to be at work as often as I can?” The first part of the question definitely says you don’t want to be where you are. The second part is a little more suspect. Do you find yourself always wanting to be at work because you like what it is you do, or are you afraid that if you’re not there someone will discover something you wish they wouldn’t? Are you afraid that if you’re not at work someone else will determine that they don’t really miss you and take your position away from you?
Better questions to ask yourself are: Do you have difficulty getting ready to go to work? Do you like the work you do? Do you feel as though there’s too much pressure to perform? Do you get along with your co-workers (peers, management, upper management, etc)? Do you feel like a valued member of the staff? Are you content with what you’re paid based on the work you do?
2. If you’re dissatisfied, what do you do about it?
What you don’t do is talk with other co-workers about your dissatisfaction, at least initially. The biggest mistake most people make is that they think of someone they’re friendly with as one of their friends. They’ll share sensitive information about themselves with co-workers, not knowing whether that co-worker will use that against them later or not. When it does happen, you end up feeling betrayed and abused, and unfortunately there’s no one to blame but yourself.
What do you do instead? Do you grin and bear it? Do you find ways to complain? Do you try to sabotage the operation? Do you take frequent vacations and mental health days? Do you start looking for another job?
Or do you change your mindset? Do you take more time to think about your situation to determine if it’s the job or if it’s you? Do you talk to the person you report to about it (if you feel you can trust them)? Or do you try some of the things mentioned in question #3?
3. What should you do about it?
The easy answer is to do something. The worst thing any person in any position can do is just take it and move on. You won’t give your best, the work situation may never improve, and that doesn’t benefit anyone. You could complain, but instead of complaining why not think of what the issues are, come up with solutions, then present them to someone?
You could try staying away from work as much as possible, but who’s that going to hurt more, you or the company? Absenteeism is a dirty little business, and if you’re missing time without a valid reason you ruin it for other employees, even other managers. At some point someone’s going to realize that not only have you probably violated company rules, but maybe you’re not really there. If you’re looking to be replaced without your input, this is the way to go.
You could always look for another job, but this isn’t the best way to go in all situations. One, you might be going from one bad situation to another; is it better to deal with the devil you know rather than the devil you don’t know? Two, if you take some time to think about what the issues are, the problems may lie in your own mindset, in which case, switching companies won’t solve your problems.
If you still want to explore this one, why not try to learn first what you don’t like about where you are and try to resolve something first? After all, at this point, what would you have to lose?
If you’re in leadership position, why not try one of these two things: join an organization that caters to your particular position or hook up with an executive coach.
Both of these options may cost you some money, but they both offer you what you can’t get anywhere else: camaraderie of some sort; someone who you can talk to about either the technical issues you have in your profession or the leadership and management skills you may feel you’re lacking; someone who can help you explore your options and offer encouragement towards selecting the right option for you. Some companies pay for some of these options, which is even better. It’s a benefit for you, because the company may feel encouraged that you’ve decided to try something to improve yourself, which can only help them in the long run.
These are only a couple of suggestions. There are plenty of other things one can do, within and outside of the work place, to help alleviate feelings of being isolated. No matter what your position is, it’s always up to you to change your situation.
Remember, you’re not alone.