Author Topic: Coping strategies in a corporate environement and "not giving a shit"  (Read 4877 times)

gerardc

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I'm starting to realize the work/stress correlation is strong... too much work makes me severely unhappy and eventually depressed (I'm a software engineer at a top software company). This becomes obvious during weekends (provided I don't work), vacations and periods of lower work load, where I feel my unconcious mind coming back to life.

During work, I'm trying not to dip in unhealthy coping mechanisms, like junk food, bad sex, alcohol, pain killers, or cigarettes, and I'm searching for alternatives. Here's what I found so far searching this forum:

- Arriving to work later and leaving earlier. I seriously think this isn't worth it, because there's a huge stimga and red flags directly associated with that, even if your employer is flexible and doesn't micro-manage. You need to find a way to work less by flying under the radar.
- Leave work at work, never work at home, don't think about work at home. Work from home is less rewarded, because people don't see you working so they assume the solution was simple. Promotions are based in part on apparent complexity.
- In general, never think about work unless you're at the office in front of the computer. Whenever doing something else (working out, relationship, relaxing, etc.) focus 100% on that activity.
- Only look at and answer emails unfrequently, i.e. 3 times a day (morning, early afternoon, before leaving).
- Chatting with people about light topics. This seems very important. This relaxes your mind AND puts you in a more powerful position for politics. I noticed successful people (high levels) do this seemingly excessively. When I started this job, I noticed 2-3 people always blabbering/chatting and thought "wow, they seem to be slacking, not accomplishing much", and perhaps from a code perspective it was true, but those are the people who got promoted (even twice) since then! I notice I've been the "rat" (i.e. sucker) who got his head down to work and "solve hard problems", but it doesn't go very far if you go at it alone because no one can vouch for your work...
- Exercising during lunch, long lunches with co-workers, chats, breaks/walks, etc.
- Not giving a shit in general. I see some of the most successful people are the ones who work from home 2 days a week, have 10 kids with paid paternity leave each time, commute inter-state, don't attend all meetings. It seems this invigorates them to be (or seem) even more productive on the days they are present. Some also goof around and delegate more, not imposing any high pressure work on themselves.
- Let go of career advancement

Overall, this is difficult to accomplish because as a thought worker, my mind is naturally obsessing about work all day, until I can't take it anymore and just escape via e.g. food. I'm somewhat a perfectionist, and it's hard to completely let go if something isn't solved yet.

My primary goals with these coping mechanisms would be to maintain my health/sanity, but if it can improve my performance, I'll take it.

In the past, I've been in this situation where I worked MANY hours and got nowhere (just built a maze of complexities in my mind but didn't reach any conclusions), gained weight, got stressed, etc. Then said screw it, started coming in at noon, got in the best shape of my life, just did the minimum (which turned out to be great), then gave a presentation and just because I looked/felt good, I could sense people liked me and they invited me for a return position. I think obsessing over performance leads to unhappiness but stressed people don't get promoted; managers/social people do while accomplishing nothing stressful and getting credit for other people's work because they chatted with them.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2016, 10:01:17 PM by gerardc »

KiwiSonya

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Re: Coping strategies in a corporate environement and "not giving a shit"
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2016, 02:44:08 AM »
Sorry your life is currently a bit shit.  I highly recommend reading The Stoics (there's a MMM post to get you started).  Having a clear sense of what is up to you and what is not can do wonders for clearing your head.  Basically you are only in control of yourself - so quit worrying about all the rest of it.  No job is worth wrecking your health for.  Best wishes KS

chasesfish

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Re: Coping strategies in a corporate environement and "not giving a shit"
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2016, 05:30:51 AM »
There's a lot in this post, but I didn't see anything about your long-term goals.   What exactly are you working for/towards?  It seems promotions are important to you, but I don't necessarily know why.

As for how to cope - I've had a lot of stress in my corporate job from time to time.  I took up running, I like the 45+ minutes to myself a few times a week that's entirely to myself.  Nobody can bother me and the stress relief is incredible.  Secondly, the job has become a lot less stresful as I approach walk away money.

ender

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Re: Coping strategies in a corporate environement and "not giving a shit"
« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2016, 06:16:39 AM »
Find a different job.

You live in easily the best location in the world for a software engineer to find a different job. It sounds like your current job is rather stressful.

DoubleDown

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Re: Coping strategies in a corporate environement and "not giving a shit"
« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2016, 09:19:26 AM »
I will say I think your list is insightful and likely a strong approach for a successful career and happy life. I think you've likely correctly identified how things typically work vis-a-vis politics and promotions in the workplace. Without knowing your specific environment I can't say for sure, but what you describe is very typical. Being liked and knowing the right people is incredibly important. So, I say absolutely give it a try and see if this approach works for you and relieves your stress. Everything on your list seemed like a healthy approach towards life anyhow, so I see no downside. And I would not be surprised at all if you have greater career success as a result. Of course total slackers are eventually outed, but as long as you are making useful contributions it will work out.

I will say that I made the same discovery you are making, focused on that, and my career skyrocketed. I was promoted to the highest level at the youngest age in a very large organization. I was always very technically competent, but that mattered less than the soft skills you mention. Once I hit the maximum level I wanted to be (further levels would have just been a huge amount of added responsibility with very, very little additional pay), I really started giving less of a shit*. I left exactly on time every day, gave myself a flexible work schedule, etc. As I got closer to early retirement, I volunteered for nothing extra and put no effort towards career-building, 5-year career plans, performance evaluations, etc.

* Caveat: I worked in government, where being laid off or fired is nearly an impossibility. And in any case, I'm not advocating completely blowing everything off and being a slacker. For all you government-haters, don't interpret this to mean I did nothing but suck off the public teat; I continued to do good work, put in my time, got good reviews, etc. I just mean I stopped giving free overtime, investing my heart and soul in work, missing dinners with family, and instead left on time as I was paid to do.

mm1970

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Re: Coping strategies in a corporate environement and "not giving a shit"
« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2016, 11:33:33 AM »
That list is interesting and I know I've posted on many of these topics.

You need to realize a few things (you probably have figured some of it out already).

1.  At 32, you are on the upswing of  your career.  Honestly, 29-36 were the years of peak work for me (hours-wise).  My skills were sharp and I was learning more all of the time.

2.  "Social" beings get promoted because they take credit for other people's work.  This really depends.  I was once (at age 30), dinged on my annual review for being to "chatty".  Because I had a couple of friends who would chat about 5 minutes a day. "It distracts you from work.  A few minutes at lunch or the end of the day is fine."  I honestly didn't anything, but was pretty flabbergasted.  I was working 48 hours a week and accomplishing more than almost everyone else.  So, nodding understandably was better than "fuck you".  (Note, the boss *did* at least recognize that one person I chatted with was our VP, right before our weekly meeting.  That VP went on to start a new company with my boss at the time.  So...apparently it's okay if you are the right person.)

- Also I have worked with (still do) a chatty, brown-noser who strategically puts people down and takes credit for others' work.  It's worked for him.  I have no control over that.

3.  Location.  Silicon Valley is tough - in my experience (I have friends who live there), it is *much* like the DC area.  Very type-A and hyper competitive.  If you live in a location where this is the case and you are CONSTANTLY being compared to others, it's going to be tough.  I personally "come in late or leave early", as does my boss.  We *don't* live in the Bay Area.  We are judged, mostly, for what we accomplish.  HOWEVER there's really no room for promotion anymore.  So, which do you want?  Promotion, or a more relaxed job?  Because it will be hard to get both in  your area.  My friends who work there have kids.   They have a nanny.  They honestly couldn't even conceive of our schedule, where one comes in early and one leaves late.

Early in my career, I had a coworker who routinely worked late...10 pm.  He got an insane amount of work done in the fab when fewer people were around.  Our boss told him at one point: "you need to be in the 7:30 am meeting every day".  He said "fine, but I'm leaving work at 5:30".  The boss looked at him strangely and said "what?"  My coworker said "you get the amount of engineering work done from me because I set my own schedule.  However, if you require me to be here at 7:30 in the morning, I will not be here getting my experiments done".  Yeah, he didn't have to attend the meeting.  High performers DO have this flexibility, depending on the company.

(However I have known others to just work out at lunch and take 2 hours to keep their work hours normal.)  My experience is that people notice when you stay late, not when you come in early.

4.  I also don't think about work outside work often, but I've got kids. I've also let go of career advancement.  Glass ceiling and all that.

gerardc

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Re: Coping strategies in a corporate environement and "not giving a shit"
« Reply #6 on: October 24, 2016, 10:07:21 PM »
There's a lot in this post, but I didn't see anything about your long-term goals.   What exactly are you working for/towards?  It seems promotions are important to you, but I don't necessarily know why.

My main goal is FIRE and keeping my health. I currently gross around $260k/year, so I should get to FIRE pretty quickly. I'm in a relatively junior role. I don't care that much about promotions, but it's promotion season so it's on my mind. Plus, I'd hate to be left out if my peers do a similar amount of work and get promoted.


Thanks to the other commenters! A few thoughts:

I started my list and it seems to work well so far. Mostly not thinking about work except at the office in front of the computer, focusing 100% of whatever else I'm doing, and talking more to co-workers (about work but in a light, non-committal way).

The thing is, obsessing over details at home in the evenings doesn't accomplish much and just drains your energy. Letting go is super important, even for better performance the next day. Think of it like a construction worker who runs a marathon every night when he gets home; it might work for 3-4 days but then he'll just perform poorly at both. AND he'll look bad in the process. Keeping your energy for when you need it (meetings, rushes, etc.) is the most important to stay in control.

So, when I feel "work thoughts" coming in after 6pm, I forget them and I wait until tomorrow. Even if I really really want to solve it right now. I see those thoughts inevitably come (which is normal) but I can let them go Eckhart Tolle-style to focus on what's in front of me, and just hope for the best!
« Last Edit: October 24, 2016, 10:09:52 PM by gerardc »

marty998

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Re: Coping strategies in a corporate environement and "not giving a shit"
« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2016, 12:48:35 AM »
I leave work at work and never bring it home. Never signed up to "flexible" working arrangements and work-from-home access and all that. It's just a slippery slope to having all your time owned by the company.

Workplace politics will always exist, I try to stay out of it, but remind myself your not the solution then you are the problem and someone else will fix you.

It's always been in the back of my mind that someday I will be automated out of a job. Once I accepted that fact that it will indeed happen, I felt a lot better. There's a massive difference between being surprised at, and being aware of, impending doom. At least now I know I will need to change and adapt for when it happens, rather than having it imposed on me at an inopportune/emotional time.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2016, 02:10:23 PM by marty998 »

mjs111

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Re: Coping strategies in a corporate environement and "not giving a shit"
« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2016, 10:56:39 AM »
That list is interesting and I know I've posted on many of these topics.

2.  "Social" beings get promoted because they take credit for other people's work.  This really depends.  I was once (at age 30), dinged on my annual review for being to "chatty".  Because I had a couple of friends who would chat about 5 minutes a day. "It distracts you from work.  A few minutes at lunch or the end of the day is fine."  I honestly didn't anything, but was pretty flabbergasted.  I was working 48 hours a week and accomplishing more than almost everyone else.  So, nodding understandably was better than "fuck you".  (Note, the boss *did* at least recognize that one person I chatted with was our VP, right before our weekly meeting.  That VP went on to start a new company with my boss at the time.  So...apparently it's okay if you are the right person.)



This can go either way, as is already mentioned in this post.  What's important to get a handle on is what your boss values.   If your boss is more a classic engineer/accounting type the social skills may be less important to him when looking at people. If he's more a classic management/sales person then people skills will probably be more highly valued.

You can see this when your manager gets replaced, and in next year's review the things they point out as strengths and weaknesses can be different. It's important to know the audience you're playing to.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2016, 10:58:29 AM by mjs111 »

hoping2retire35

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Re: Coping strategies in a corporate environement and "not giving a shit"
« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2016, 01:57:08 PM »
You focused on a lot of things you don't want to do. Negative aspects, good nonetheless. Focus on the positive ones, like hobbies or your plans for the weekend. What do you actually want to do when FIRE'd, etc.

You make a ton of money, you should be giddy every day that you can go to work and turn on the firehouse of cash to spray at your soon to be unemployment.

effigy98

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Re: Coping strategies in a corporate environement and "not giving a shit"
« Reply #10 on: October 25, 2016, 02:17:52 PM »
I am a software dev and 100% agree with everything you are saying. The advice you are mining is all good stuff. Here is what I have done to minimize the pain. I have went from very optimistic 10-15 years ago to I cannot wait to go FI. The ironic thing is I get about five times the pay, you would think I am happier, but the longer I'm in the industry, the more I realize how broken it can be. Accept that it is broken, you probably cannot change it without massive effort and risk, and to just focus on outside of work things.

Remember suffering = expectations - reality.
Work is a game, you do not get angry at game rules usually right? The rules are just... well the rules and you play by them. Find the rules that benefit you and exploit them. Set your expectations to your advantage and I promise you will be happier. Think about, how do I exploit the rules of the game to reduce my workload and have more happiness.

Here are a few rules I live by which has made promotions easy, work life balance amazing, and kept me motivated.
- Only work on projects others perceive as high value. Sometimes a one line code fix or feature that took me 5 minutes gets me a lot more credit at review time then a super complex 6 month project. Grab these high profile bugs/features before anyone else can and ignore other tasks by getting their priority downgraded or get them delegated to someone else. Something like, I can take that [high profile task] but I need someone to look at [low profile/too complex task] for me or can we cut it for this sprint?
- Do 2 to 3 MAJOR high visibility projects that your managers manager cares about. Align your goals with your management chain.
- Read the 4 hour work week, drop all unimportant, non perception generating tasks you can within reason.
- Do not be a yes man. Do not be the no person either. Be the yes I can, but I need someone else to take over [task that takes too long] or deprioritize it.
- Manage your perception at all times. This means, if you slack, do not let anyone see it. If you only have 2 hours of work to do, still be there as long as your team members are to give the impression you are working hard. This is a silly requirement for companies clinging to the old 8+ hour days when a lot of us can do our jobs in 2 once you streamline it.
- What to do with extra time? I find side hustles and learning are my favorite activities. I also will go to the gym for a couple hours around lunch, people think you are just on lunch and not slacking. Even if I do no work that day, I feel like I accomplished something because I got my gym time in.
- Make sure people who can influence your review know who you are, respect you, and bonus if they like you to (make them a fan). Selling your work, even those 1 line code tasks I talked about above, is VERY important for your perception. When people talk about you, what do they say? If you do not know that answer, you need to figure it out and manage your career.
- If possible, work with your friends. I found this was key to my happiness. I intend to make this a number one priority when FI and I can take more risks moving teams, can move into management, and hire all of them.

I suggest you read living FI (dr dooms) blog story on his messed up work journey. This made me feel so much better about my own circumstances and kind of helped me wake up to the humorous fact that none of this corporate work stuff really matters much. Better to just go with the flow and relax for the 7 to 20 years or so you have to put up with it before you can retire.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2016, 02:30:42 PM by effigy98 »

Schaefer Light

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Re: Coping strategies in a corporate environement and "not giving a shit"
« Reply #11 on: October 25, 2016, 02:54:01 PM »
If you haven't read it, you should check out the livingafi.com blog.  It's written by a guy who used to post on here.  I'd recommend starting at the oldest post and working your way up.  It's probably the best blog I've ever read about the working experience, and it was written by someone in the tech/software industry.  He experienced a lot of the same things you're talking about.

gerardc

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Re: Coping strategies in a corporate environement and "not giving a shit"
« Reply #12 on: October 25, 2016, 08:57:30 PM »
...

That's gold! Thanks for all these tips. Will re-read many times.

I already noticed (though it wasn't crystal clear in my mind that it was happening) high-level workers tackling easier, higher-visibility tasks. Example: launching our website in Canada! which is basically a flag flip (exagerating but almost) plus a lot of coordination and sending announcement emails, etc. which have people think they *achieved this*. "Canada is a big country, must have been hard!". Or they jump in on trivial tasks and really nail the communcation / visibility parts. Those people are constantly thinking, or at least optimizing for appearances.

Knowing the game doesn't automatically make me a better player, but I'm getting better. The thing is, I don't care that much. My retirement target is $750k (I'd maybe go to $1m), so I should be done in < 2 years from now with my low expenses. Plus, I already do ridiculously low in-office time, like 7 hours including lunch AND 1h30 gym. I'm relatively efficient per hour worked, but I guess I can't really push that much more without huge red flags.

Obsessing at home naturally pushes me towards high-effort projects and away from high-reward ones, and makes me suffer in the mean time. I think the "keep work at work" mindset will help me target those better projects.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2016, 09:01:17 PM by gerardc »

warehouse

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Re: Coping strategies in a corporate environement and "not giving a shit"
« Reply #13 on: October 26, 2016, 05:01:28 AM »
I am a software dev and 100% agree with everything you are saying. The advice you are mining is all good stuff. Here is what I have done to minimize the pain. I have went from very optimistic 10-15 years ago to I cannot wait to go FI. The ironic thing is I get about five times the pay, you would think I am happier, but the longer I'm in the industry, the more I realize how broken it can be. Accept that it is broken, you probably cannot change it without massive effort and risk, and to just focus on outside of work things.

Remember suffering = expectations - reality.
Work is a game, you do not get angry at game rules usually right? The rules are just... well the rules and you play by them. Find the rules that benefit you and exploit them. Set your expectations to your advantage and I promise you will be happier. Think about, how do I exploit the rules of the game to reduce my workload and have more happiness.

Here are a few rules I live by which has made promotions easy, work life balance amazing, and kept me motivated.
- Only work on projects others perceive as high value. Sometimes a one line code fix or feature that took me 5 minutes gets me a lot more credit at review time then a super complex 6 month project. Grab these high profile bugs/features before anyone else can and ignore other tasks by getting their priority downgraded or get them delegated to someone else. Something like, I can take that [high profile task] but I need someone to look at [low profile/too complex task] for me or can we cut it for this sprint?
- Do 2 to 3 MAJOR high visibility projects that your managers manager cares about. Align your goals with your management chain.
- Read the 4 hour work week, drop all unimportant, non perception generating tasks you can within reason.
- Do not be a yes man. Do not be the no person either. Be the yes I can, but I need someone else to take over [task that takes too long] or deprioritize it.
- Manage your perception at all times. This means, if you slack, do not let anyone see it. If you only have 2 hours of work to do, still be there as long as your team members are to give the impression you are working hard. This is a silly requirement for companies clinging to the old 8+ hour days when a lot of us can do our jobs in 2 once you streamline it.
- What to do with extra time? I find side hustles and learning are my favorite activities. I also will go to the gym for a couple hours around lunch, people think you are just on lunch and not slacking. Even if I do no work that day, I feel like I accomplished something because I got my gym time in.
- Make sure people who can influence your review know who you are, respect you, and bonus if they like you to (make them a fan). Selling your work, even those 1 line code tasks I talked about above, is VERY important for your perception. When people talk about you, what do they say? If you do not know that answer, you need to figure it out and manage your career.
- If possible, work with your friends. I found this was key to my happiness. I intend to make this a number one priority when FI and I can take more risks moving teams, can move into management, and hire all of them.

I suggest you read living FI (dr dooms) blog story on his messed up work journey. This made me feel so much better about my own circumstances and kind of helped me wake up to the humorous fact that none of this corporate work stuff really matters much. Better to just go with the flow and relax for the 7 to 20 years or so you have to put up with it before you can retire.

This is a great post. I just emailed it to myself at work so I can keep it top of mind.

hoping2retire35

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Re: Coping strategies in a corporate environement and "not giving a shit"
« Reply #14 on: October 26, 2016, 08:13:30 AM »
Eh, don't think you have talk all the time either. If you are introverted and would rather not talk a lot this situation can also be a problem. I get most of my office talk in during the time right after lunch 1-2ish(makes easier to stay awake after a good lunch) and right before quitting time. You dont' need to be the office chatty cathy, just let them know you are personable, approachable, and friendly.