When you’re mentally and emotionally stressed out at work because people is not gelling with you, is it you or is it them?
I’ve worked with many people from across the world over 20-odd years, some full-time, others freelance, contractual, and remote. All of them are different in their own ways and I pride myself on being able to adapt to the different cultures, languages/accents, work styles, job scopes, and expectations.
That comes with the territory and if you’re starting out in either the world of freelancing or full-time work, there’s no escaping this.
Let me share two stories with you.
There was once a boss who was difficult to comprehend despite me being there with him eight hours a day, five days a week. The team who was supposed to be working with me was actually against me (I found this out only a little too late) and I was depressed about it.
I thought something was awfully wrong with me.
Why would so many people collude and conclude that I was the problem? The problem HAD to be me.
While I was trying to figure out what was wrong with me and trying to fix me, I was determined that I was the problem. I wasn’t considering any other potential problems.
It wasn’t them personally either. It was the whole team.
By this time, I was exhausted from all that brain-ing and emotion-ing I was doing every second of the day. I felt defeated.
“Work is good for mental health but a negative working environment can lead to physical and mental health problems.”– W.H.O.
Without going into detail, months after disengaging myself from them, I’ve found my jive again and I realized that I gave it everything I got. I tried to make it work from all angles but if a group of people have decided to share the same decision about one person, it’s time for that ONE person to move on.
When working with others, we have to have a common understanding, cooperation, collaboration, and a common effort to work together.
There’s no point in muscling your way through if everyone else has decided that it wasn’t going to be their gig.
Last year, I met someone who was in the same situation and it pained me to see that she was trying really hard to make things work with her team. Things simply weren’t aligning because she was always left out of conversations, team meetings or chat groups, and she ate lunch alone every day.
She asked me if it was her communication skills and I told her from my perspective, very honestly, that it was not. She was bubbly, helpful, inquisitive, a very fast learner, and is a willing helper all the time. How could anyone find her otherwise is beyond me!
And yet, this strong-willed, eager-to-learn young woman confided in me that she was struggling with not just her boss but also her teammates. Considering her talent, skills, and experience, I felt that she can do better and she SHOULD do better.
The environment is simply not for her.
Risk to mental health:
1. inadequate health and safety policies;
2. poor communication and management practices;
3. limited participation in decision-making or low control over one’s area of work;
4. low levels of support for employees;
5. inflexible working hours; and
6. unclear tasks or organizational objectives.
In our Asian culture, however, we have been taught from a young age that if we found a job, we should be thankful for it. Whatever the work culture, we should do our best to gel with others, find common ground, and if we can’t, endure it until the clock strikes 5pm or 6pm, clock out, and go home.
If we want bread on the table, that’s what we have to do. It’s part and parcel of work life.
While I agree with the belief (hey, I am an Asian and these early-day teachings stay with you for life 😂), there has to be a tipping point.
“As a leader, you need to have a strong voice and you need to know when it’s time to listen. A real conversation is a two-way dialogue; it requires both parts.”– Amy Jen Su, co-owner of Paravis Partners, an executive training and coaching firm, HBR.org
And the tipping point is a line you draw between your work and your mental and emotional health. If you figured out that you’re not going to make it in a particular environment, no matter what your paycheck is, ask yourself if it is worth sacrificing your emotional and mental well-being for?
No workplace, let me remind everyone, is ever perfect. Even work-at-home environments are NOT PERFECT. I’ve seen people discovering the downsides of working-from-home for the very first time during the worldwide Covid-19 lockdowns. Work-from-home isn’t exactly what it’s cracked up to be, after all. #lol #welcometomyworld
Like me, if she was to remain in the same work environment without a foreseeable change in the future, she will not make it. All the coaching, mentoring, psychiatric treatments, pills, armchair talks, and phone calls with friends and family is not going to help her make it because the problem is her team/boss. The environment.
I am not a proponent of job-hopping, let’s make this clear. I believe that we should all find companies, organizations, people, and teams that we can work with together for a long time to come.
I’ve worked remotely for a US-based company for 13 years and am still in contact with some of my clients with whom I’ve been with since the early 2000s.
The only reason I’ve stayed with them was that we have DECIDED TOGETHER to make it work. We found the win-win equation and stuck or changed with it.
And that’s what I hope for my friend. For her not to be stuck in a work environment that is not right for her. Where she is fighting for her sanity and self-confidence every minute of the day to find it being chipped away inch-by-inch by people who DIDN’T want to make it work with her.
I believe the right company or organization would be so lucky to have her work for them because she is diligent, listens well, works hard, and is disciplined.
Sadly, she feels stuck and underappreciated.
If you find yourself in the same situation, I want you to ask yourself if you have drawn a line you WON’T CROSS when it comes to endurance and persistence. Like your body, you need to listen to your emotions and feelings too.
Muscles pull when one is running a marathon because it is telling you that you’ve taken it too far. You’ve overestimated your capabilities or are ill-prepared. You must draw the line you won’t cross when it comes to mental health and work. Get your ego out of the way and listen to yourself.
If you don’t think you’re the one who needs fixing, then find a way to move on. Find the courage to acknowledge that a mistake has been made (hey, it happens all the time. It’s life) and the only kind of fixing that needs to be done is to remove yourself from the mix.
You’ll find the right environment. Believe in that.
And when you’re down and trodden, ask yourself if you need to change yourself or your environment.
If you’re stuck in a dark corridor, do you keep trying to open the same door or do you try to open as many doors as possible to find THE ONE that would open for you?
Things are slowly picking up pace over here in Malaysia when it comes to Covid-19 recovery. If I wasn’t proud of anything Malaysia has done on the world stage, THIS, I am proud of.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for someone to help you with your company copywriting, website development, eCommerce store, product writeups, company profiles, social media management, or blog content, hit me up!
See you when I see you!