Author Topic: Emotional downshifting when job=life?  (Read 6787 times)

MoonPilgrim

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Emotional downshifting when job=life?
« on: September 10, 2012, 09:35:02 AM »
So, pretty much my whole life is driven by the stresses and pressures of my job.  The good thing is that my organization's mission is a worthy one; the bad thing is that I dwell, dwell, dwell on work.  I've finally gotten a salary that (sort of) makes up for the amount of hours I spend in work mode, and Mr. MP works at the same organization, which is really nice.  But I have ten employees (half of whom are underperforming gossipy princesses) and we're about six months behind schedule on our project, so there's always someone/something to worry about.

My job security until my grant ends on 7/31/2013 is rock solid--I'd have to physically assault someone or steal from the company to be terminated before then.  If my company wanted to drop me after the grant, they could, but so far they've indicated there will probably be a place for me.

A happy life depends on me being able to leave work at the office.  How are you supposed to do that?  Where is the off switch?  When you've been trying so hard to do the right thing and "get ahead" in your career, how do you find a reasonable middle ground, where success isn't based on how much money you make?   

I keep telling myself to just do what it takes to be happy--show up, be pleasant, help my team with their work as needed, and not worry about whether or not I'm being a good manager or whether or not the project gets done on time. But I spend most of the week either hating being at work or dreading my next shift.  I don't want to lose another decade of my life to worrying about work.

Financially, the most prudent option is collecting the paycheck for another year or so and seeing if things improve, but how do I do it in a way where this year isn't a Lost Year?  If I had a year left to live, I sure as hell wouldn't spend it in the office.  Any advice on keeping work in its place will be much appreciated.

tooqk4u22

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Re: Emotional downshifting when job=life?
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2012, 09:58:40 AM »
Therein lies the problem and what drives most people to focus on FIRE - in today's world you need to excel at your job to get promotions, pay increases, and more often than not just to keep it.  Other than governement workers I don't know any salaried workers who don't regularly put in more than 40 hours...it is just the world we live in. :(

First order of business should be to correct or terminate the six princesses and hire capable, competent and driven people to replace them...that is called being a good manager and will result in you having to work and worry less.

I keep telling myself to just do what it takes to be happy--show up, be pleasant, help my team with their work as needed, and not worry about whether or not I'm being a good manager or whether or not the project gets done on time. But I spend most of the week either hating being at work or dreading my next shift.  I don't want to lose another decade of my life to worrying about work.

I totally get your point, but keep in mind that if you were to do this then when the grant is up they may not be as interested in keeping you...

Uncephalized

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Re: Emotional downshifting when job=life?
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2012, 10:00:25 AM »
Do you have any non-work related goals, hobbies or obligations? Step them up a few gears so you have something else to think about, preferably something challenging that engages your interest. Then work will automatically take up less space in your head because you have something better to think about.

MoonPilgrim

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Re: Emotional downshifting when job=life?
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2012, 10:29:05 AM »
Thank you, both.  I can't terminate my princesses--we are employees at a large University with many protective layers of HR bureacracy, and it takes longer than we have left in the grant to fire someone here.  The only option is to lay them off, maybe in January.  But you can't lay anyone off if there are any open disciplinary issues or if the employee could allege bias.  So I have to cater to their whims, ignore the behavior, and pretend I like working with them.  It would be insubordination for me to write anyone up at this point, as I have specific instructions not to from my own boss.

My band is starting to rehearse again after a brief hiatus, so maybe I'll spend some extra time practicing.  I've also found that I really enjoy analyzing my own finances and looking for ways to be more mustachian, so that has pretty much been getting me through over the last couple of months.

James

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Re: Emotional downshifting when job=life?
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2012, 10:39:35 AM »
...and not worry about whether or not I'm being a good manager or whether or not the project gets done on time.

For me, the ability to leave without having work stay in my brain often depends on my own satisfaction with my performance and the performance of those around me.  Even a highly stressful day will not overly weigh on me once I leave work if I can take satisfaction in how I handled it.  Obviously your job might be such that you can't control that, or your personality might be different.  I just doubt that caring less while at your job will give you less stress away from your job.

I would suggest some form of "detox" you can do daily to remove the stresses of work.  Yoga might be something to try, or some other form of exercise and mental focus might move you past the stresses of the day at work.

Maybe start working on your boss to provide something that avoids the princesses in the future, and showing that you are worth figuring out a position without princesses because they can't afford to lose you.

tooqk4u22

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Re: Emotional downshifting when job=life?
« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2012, 10:48:33 AM »
Thank you, both.  I can't terminate my princesses--we are employees at a large University with many protective layers of HR bureacracy, and it takes longer than we have left in the grant to fire someone here.  The only option is to lay them off, maybe in January.  But you can't lay anyone off if there are any open disciplinary issues or if the employee could allege bias.  So I have to cater to their whims, ignore the behavior, and pretend I like working with them.  It would be insubordination for me to write anyone up at this point, as I have specific instructions not to from my own boss.

There is the source of your stress, its not the job itself.  As James indicated and probably holds true for most people that if you are a driven and conscientious person that generally likes what they do then job demands while stressful will not diminish your satisfaction but working in illogical and uncontrollable environments will be and will increase your emotional stress. 

If I was a manager and had 10 employees that I had no say over, and six that weren't pulling their weight and there was nothing I could do then I would be out of my mind, especially if I it impacts my performance/reviews/opportunities/compensation.  But if that is how it is your best to just accept and ignore it and focus on the other things in your life as an outlet like your band - I tell myself this all the time but unfortunately I am a fixer and have a hard time letting things go until they are fixed.  So do as I say, not as I do. 

Good luck. 

Another Reader

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Re: Emotional downshifting when job=life?
« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2012, 11:59:11 AM »
Your work environment and your manager are a BIG part of the problem.  Writing up an employee for not doing their job is insubordination?  Don't laugh, all you private sector employees.  I used to work in government, where writing up an employee required an act of Congress and I had over 100 employees.  I have a friend in exactly the same position as you in another agency.

In your shoes, I would be looking for a graceful exit to a higher paying and less stressful job on or before the day the grant runs out.  If your manager has put you in a position where writing up an employee would be considered an act of insubordination, I would not bet on being around after the grant ends.  It's easier for the manager to get rid of you and reduce his/her problems.  Especially if he/she is a lifer, just trying to make it through to retirement.

Unless you are on the cusp of being vested in your retirement or there is some other carrot dangling just in front of your nose, dust off that resume and get it in circulation at some better places of employment.  That's what I would do in your shoes.

$_gone_amok

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Re: Emotional downshifting when job=life?
« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2012, 12:05:14 PM »
If you have a year left to live, what would you do? Make a list of the things you want to do and do it. Work to live, don't live to work.

ShavinItForLater

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Re: Emotional downshifting when job=life?
« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2012, 12:08:29 PM »
I agree that the source of your stress is not job=life, it is that you are stuck in a less than ideal job situation that you cannot completely control.  There has been a lot of research showing that autonomy--the degree to which you feel you can make your own decisions and influence what happens--is one of the highest factors in job satisfaction.

Since you're stating that solving the autonomy issue is not likely short of quitting, then it's either quit or make the best of it and accepting the rest.  I would encourage you to look for a job that would give you more autonomy.  Until then, compartmentalizing work should help.  Since your husband also works there, it may help to limit talk about work while at home as much as possible.

I'd also recommend a Dale Carnegie book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:

http://www.trans4mind.com/Carnagie.pdf

galaxie

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Re: Emotional downshifting when job=life?
« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2012, 01:40:46 PM »
Thank you, both.  I can't terminate my princesses--we are employees at a large University with many protective layers of HR bureacracy, and it takes longer than we have left in the grant to fire someone here.  The only option is to lay them off, maybe in January.  But you can't lay anyone off if there are any open disciplinary issues or if the employee could allege bias.  So I have to cater to their whims, ignore the behavior, and pretend I like working with them.  It would be insubordination for me to write anyone up at this point, as I have specific instructions not to from my own boss.

If you can't fire them, can you (a) improve them, or (b) not give them any work that's important? 

I know convincing them to be better workers is going to be tough with all carrot and no stick, but it would certainly make you happier if they didn't suck, right?  What about letting all your employees know that there will be a prize (with money attached) for achieving some goal or other?  Money sure motivates people.  Do your princesses have all the skills they should have for the job?  If not, can you send them to training?  They'd be out of your hair at least.

You don't have to pretend you like them.  You're their boss, not their friend.  It's not personal, it's business.  Get yourself into happy warrior mode.

Use it up, wear it out...

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Re: Emotional downshifting when job=life?
« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2012, 02:39:01 PM »
I found that my ability to leave work worries behind when I was done working really got a boost after reading and implementing the system David Allen describes in his book "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity"

****I'm not suggesting here that your problem is that you're not getting enough done.**** Read on...

The core of David's system is learning to think clearly about what your commitments are and what needs to be done about them, and tracking the status of those actions and commitments in a trusted system. He argues persuasively that many of the worries people carry home with them come from:

1) not being clear about what your commitments are, and having your brain keep trying to "remind you"
2) not being fully clear and confident in your decisions on what you need to do about your commitments
3) not being comfortable that you're making the optimal choices about how to use your time (managing your priorities), often because you don't have an overview of all of your commitments

I've found that, over several years of learning and honing the skills David Allen teaches, I've been able to significantly reduce the stress in my life, even during stressful situations - because I can almost always break it down to these components, take action, and go to the next thing with a clear head because I'm confident that it is the best thing I can focus on given my time, energy, and priorities, and that I'm comfortable that I've done what needs to be done to take care of all my other commitments.

BTW, I use this for my whole life, not just my work life, and it has made a huge difference.

FI@2022Jem

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Re: Emotional downshifting when job=life?
« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2012, 11:29:35 PM »
Moon-
I completely empathize with you.  My work stress impacts much too large a fraction of my life than I would like.  I don't have a ton of suggestions beyond what has been said already.  I am in the process of trying to improve my outside of work hobbies and filling my life with non-work enjoyment just to counterbalance.  Follow everyone's suggestions about improving the situation at work and/or finding another employment opportunity, however, I do have one piece of advice to reduce the feeling of dwelling on your work: create some kind of ritual to separate your work-life from your home-life.  It could be a deep breathing exercise, reading for a few minutes, gym, whatever you can use to mentally shift off your work mind.  Then do it EVERY SINGLE DAY.  This is the one thing that I have done that has really helped me to de-stress. 
best of luck, Jennie

alexgodden

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Re: Emotional downshifting when job=life?
« Reply #12 on: September 10, 2012, 11:49:22 PM »
There is a saying that stress = responsibility without control. To me this looks exactly like your situation. You are worrying about things (ie getting a job done with under-performing coworkers) that you feel responsible for, but are not under your control.

They say you should accept the things you cannot change, but in this case you are still feeling accountable for them, no wonder you are stressed out! Unless this really is your dream job and you know for a fact you will never get the same opportunity elsewhere, screw the grant and move on. It is not worth the stress.

Osprey

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Re: Emotional downshifting when job=life?
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2012, 02:51:35 AM »
Just wanted to say that I empathise with you. It does seem like the environment is what's getting you down. The same thing happened to me: this year I started working in a place that micro-manages and disrespects it people. I was doing the exact same "work" but couldn't handle it because the job itself was horrendous.
So I'm trying out a bunch of new hobbies and seeing what sticks. I am accepting any and all social invites. I started a blog. I got obsessive about ER. And I'm quitting at the end of my contract, with a miniscule net worth and no replacement job lined up! Sometimes you have to take a financial hit in order to get the rest of your life back on track.

madgeylou

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Re: Emotional downshifting when job=life?
« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2012, 06:10:30 AM »
There is a saying that stress = responsibility without control. To me this looks exactly like your situation.

just wanted to say that this is something i've not heard phrased like this, and it really clicked for me. in my case, i'm stressed out about other issues but the situation is the same in that i have responsibility but no control.

last weekend i read the stoicism book that MMM recommends, and one of the techniques the book talks about is explicitly dividing the items on your plate into three piles: those you can compeletely control, those you can partially control, and those you can't control at all. for the ones you can partially control, the author suggests that you internalize your goals. like, when playing a tennis match, focus only on playing the best you can, which is entirely in your control in a way that winning the match isn't.

for the last year, i have been feeling physical and emotional stress like never before, mostly due to the fact that i am responsible for my grandma but her health and her actions are not under my control. it's a super poignant and difficult situation for me. and, like the OP's situation, it's not going to get better. this has been really hard for me because like you, OP, i am a problem solver. i get things done. but there's nothing for me to do here deal with both the logistical headaches and and brutal sadness of watching a once-vibrant person flicker and fade out.

since i read the stoicism book, though, i've been focusing on MY part in it, which is really the only thing i can control. whether she forgets her pills, or whether she tells her helpers she doesn't need any groceries when her fridge is bare, or whether she falls in the middle of the night, i have no control. but i can control how i react with her and how i manage all the things involved in her care. surely i can control my own mind, at least.

so, yeah, this technique helps me. might it help you, too? sort out the piles of control and focus only on the stuff that is actually yours to manage?

another thing that helps me is to sit down and consciously mine my stressful experience for whatever good stuff i can find -- like it's focusing me in a clear and tangible way on preparing for my own old age (financially, physically, emotionally). it's giving me lots of practice in giving feedback to people in a pleasant, non-confrontational but still effective way. it's teaching me about how to communicate and have a relationship with someone who cannot hold up their end of the conversation (something that is difficult for me). stuff like that. helps me see the stressful experience for what it is, which is a gym for making me a better person/bigger badass.

are you learning anything here? could you be if you switched your focus up a bit?

finally, the technique of negative visualization can really help re-set your expectations so that you focus on the half-full part of the glass. what if you had no job? or what if your boss was a sociopath as opposed to merely weak? what if all 10 of your employees were princesses? it could always be worse, and realizing that makes it easier to appreciate the good stuff.

i guess my major suggestion is to read the stoicism book and try it out. :) it's helping me a lot so far.

travelbug

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Re: Emotional downshifting when job=life?
« Reply #15 on: September 19, 2012, 09:37:25 PM »
How far away is your FI OP?
I agree with the other posters that your situation tying your hands at work is creating stress outside your job responsibility.
My advice would be to start looking for another job while you have one if you can, perhaps focus on money rather than title if your goal is FI.
Good luck.

MoonPilgrim

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Re: Emotional downshifting when job=life?
« Reply #16 on: September 20, 2012, 10:10:31 AM »
If I stay at my current salary rate, I will be able to walk away in 36 months and not have to worry about earning more than I spend (about $600/month) indefinitely.  But nothing about my employment is known after next year, so it is hard to say.

The grant I'm working on (and my appointment) ends in the Fall of 2013; after that, I will be eligible to apply for other vacancies at my organization.  My supervisor and the executive team have indicated that I'm a valuable employee and that there will be positions for which I qualify open at the end of the grant (hint, hint).  It is unlikely most of my team (and most of my stress) will be qualified for the types of positions that will be available, since our grant is a build project and everything will be built.  I have been trying to focus on figuring out what I really want to do, and whether I can do it at this company. 

I believe that if I play my cards right, I could possibly sell the execs on a reduced appointment after the grant--which would come with full benefits, per our parent company's policy.  That means longer to FI, but maybe the abbreviated schedule would make having a job something enjoyable.

If I stay through the end of the grant, and do not move to a different position, I will be eligible for an incentive package (probably 3 months' salary).  So I'm trying to keep options open, keep my attitude positive so I have as many options available as possible next year.  Sometimes it's just so frustrating and all-consuming I question whether or not it's worth it.  :)  We are providing a crucial public service to an underserved population, though, so I try to keep the overall mission in mind.

TwoWheels

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Re: Emotional downshifting when job=life?
« Reply #17 on: September 20, 2012, 11:41:14 AM »
Do you have any non-work related goals, hobbies or obligations? Step them up a few gears so you have something else to think about, preferably something challenging that engages your interest. Then work will automatically take up less space in your head because you have something better to think about.

Seconded. Find a hobby that means a lot to you, something far removed from all things work-related. If you try to make time for it nearly every day, I think you'll find your stress level dropping.

Music fills this role for me. After a couple hours of piano practice, my office responsibilities seem light-years away. Exercise is great too.

Wendyimhome

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Re: Emotional downshifting when job=life?
« Reply #18 on: September 20, 2012, 09:23:29 PM »
What you have to do is make an absolute, concerted effort to keep work out of your mind whenever you are at home.  Once you pull in the driveway, you are on sacred ground and you are not to think about anything work related.  Some people want to talk about the work day with the spouse over dinner, and that's fine if it helps.  But after dinner, keep it off limits.  If you find yourself even thinking about  it, like at night while tossing and turning, just make yourself stop.

I know it sounds easier than it is, but some things that help: do not accept or check work email accounts from home.  If there is an emergency, they can call you, but just don't go onto work email.  Same for remote office connections to any work database.  It will keep 'till tomorrow.