How do I adjust my attitude on my once beloved job?
January 16, 2014 7:02 AM   Subscribe

I loved my job. Now due to personnel changes I don't like it at all. I can't leave. How do I let go of what I once loved?

Last year was my first time working full-time. I don't even make enough money to move out of my parents. But I loved my job. I make a difference to someone everyday. This year I have the same supervisor but a change in one person with the same title as me. We aren't as close as last years' team but I still loved working.

About a month ago a fourth person was added to our team after her supervisor changed positions and they merged her in with mine. I've tried to like my new normal and come into work with a positive attitude but it isn't working. She is constantly stepping on my toes and today at a chaotic moment I did snap a little. I have been working with this client for 1.5 years and her telling me how to do my job (we have the same position), that I'm quite good at just pissed me off so much that I told her that this is how I like to do things. I'm not proud of that moment (which happened privately, not in front of anyone).

We just have a personality conflict. I've dealt with a lot of people who drove me crazy (I've worked part-time here for over 5 years) but I've never felt so frustrated. I might be leaving in a couple months, but I may not (for unrelated reasons).

I'm usually laid back and never have problems getting along with people. I'm struggling to adjust to my new normal where work isn't a sanctuary but the least rewarding thing I do. I've worked jobs I didn't like, with people I didn't like, but for some reason I'm having trouble just seeing this as a job (while not my ideal ultimate position it is closely related to the type of position I do want).

My work is too dependant on others to ignore her completely though I don't talk to her more than necessary. I can't change the circumstances but I'm hoping I can change my reaction to them. I'm sure therapy would be great but I have a disability that leaves me with no reliable transportation in a city where cars rule.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can you have a friendly lunch with the new person and get to know her better? Maybe then you can work out a better way of interacting?
posted by musofire at 7:13 AM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have you tried sitting down and having a deep discussion with this co-worker about how you two can work better together? I find that most people don't want to be obstructionist or difficult to get along with, and sometimes what it takes is a rap session and some dedicated effort to merge your working styles.

In a way, your mini-explosion could be a good starting point. I'd say, "Hey, look. I'm really sorry for blowing up at you yesterday. Could I take you to lunch and can we talk about how to work together, because I really want this to work out between us."
posted by xingcat at 7:13 AM on January 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

I can't leave.
I can't change the circumstances

Why not? The fact that you're posting here rather than just grumbling internally about your fourth person coworker suggests that there is something deeper seated here than just a "personality conflict." Your question is worded to allow only an answer of how to get along with your new coworker. However, that deliberately excludes the other option of changing positions. It may be the case that this is the only work that exists for you. However, that is at the very least unlikely, and I suspect you are rejecting that option out of fear of new opportunities rather than out of necessity. As a practical matter, it is a lot easier to change jobs than change people (either you or your coworker).

I'm struggling to adjust to my new normal where work isn't a sanctuary but the least rewarding thing I do.

Adjusting to work not being a sanctuary is a necessary life skill. However, if you really believe that your work is the least rewarding thing you do, then you definitely need a new job. You are compensated for your time at work with money. Money is a reward. If your work is neither interesting/appealing to you nor makes you sufficient money (which it sounds like the case), then your work is a net negative to you and you should focus your efforts on a new job.
posted by saeculorum at 7:36 AM on January 16, 2014 [7 favorites]

you're lucky she's a peer and not a superior. Since she is a peer, I agree with xingcat. The word track there is good.

You never know what her point of view might be. For all you know she might have been told that your team needs coaching. Or, she might just be anxious to help and will be mortified to hear that she's been obnoxious about it. Or, she could be a horrible saboteur who's trying to make you look bad - you won't know until you have more evidence, and a nice offsite lunch could go a long way to finding out.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:38 AM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

So, it's hard to tell from your description whether she's out of line or if you're overreacting. Is she genuinely trying to help? Are her ideas ever any good? Is she acting like she knows better, or just making suggestions? Is she aspiring to understand the situation better or just telling you what to do?

Part of working with other people is that they're going to have ideas about how the job should be done. She might be feeling really insecure about her position in the new department and anxious to contribute (which can be hard when you're new).

Maybe she's super-annoying, or maybe you're not good at dealing with perceived criticism. Maybe a little bit of both.
posted by mskyle at 7:53 AM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you are choosing to stay here, and if you're in any way spiritually or self-improvement inclined, you can totally use this opportunity for growth. It's an AFGO. Another F*ing Growth Opportunity.

I'm assuming she's not "capital N" Nuts and it's just a straight up personality conflict.

So reframe it a little... she's pushing your buttons... you can start to ask yourself what beliefs about yourself and the situation are you holding that are causing these bad feelings? Are her critiques valid? You deeply resent being framed (by her) as lower than.... does part of you identify with that belief? I've had jr people talk down to me and it used to drive me nuts because I wanted to convince them to see me differently, I wanted them to see me as I saw myself. As I started to let go of it, and allow them their own viewpoint (while not agreeing with it) then my suffering drastically reduced and my mind cleared. I continued to speak and relate to them as an equal, and verbally would not acquiesce to any status inequality. In the end it became kind of fun!

So anyways you could examine your feelings around equality/inequality, authority etc etc.

My general rule of thumb about leaving situations like this is: when I know in my heart that I am no longer contributing to this conflict in any way, then I leave. Because my growth and learning is done. As long as I'm reacting to things (i.e. hurting my own feelings), there's still some karma to burn off.

Good luck!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:53 AM on January 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

You do need an attitude adjustment.

First of all work situations change all the time, so you need to roll with it. The more flexible you are, the happier you'll be.

Secondly, while it's awesome that you have a job you enjoy, if you can't afford to work at it, that means it's not a good job. Not being able to be financially support yourself FULLY is a real problem.

I lived at home until I was 25, but I paid rent, real rent. It helped my parents and since I was working full time and going to school full time, it worked for all of us. You may be contributing at home, but the way you phrased it made me think, not so much.

So now you have a year of full-time employment under your belt. Right now, you need to look for a job that capitalizes on your education, your experience and that pays you a living wage.

So that's step 1.

In the meantime, you need to make your current work situation work. The world will not arrange itself to make you happy. Sometimes you have to work with people who are unpleasant.

When you get a minute, and you're not angry, step over to the lady who makes you nuts and say, "I just wanted to discuss something with you. I hope you don't mean to undermine me, and when you step in to offer me advice, it feels that way to me. I promise, if I have a question or if I want your opinion, I'll ask for it. I value your experience and I appreciate your wanting to help."

Leave her a way to save face, but be firm that you don't want her unsolicited input.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:05 AM on January 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm going to recommend not sitting down and having a deep discussion. Sometimes friction just needs a little bit of time to settle itself and get smooth. I prefer finding things you can relate about -- next time you are going out to grab your lunch, ask her if she's heading out too, then walk together for a bit. Nice and easy. If you notice she's packing up at the end of the day, make it a point to leave too. Be friendly and try to find common ground first. Not every relationship requires Big Talks.
posted by thinkpiece at 9:06 AM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

One thing I learned in my first long-term full time post-college job is that apparently changes in my work environment really get to me. If I get a new coworker, I'm almost guaranteed to not get along with that person for the first little while. For some reason I immediately go into lizard brain mode and start thinking like one of the servants in Downton Abbey. Who does she think she is? Is she here to replace me? Why would anyone do task X that way, when obviously Y is better? I can't believe she said Z at lunch, who would even say that?

The first time this happened, I didn't notice it in myself and just went with it, assuming my new coworker must really be an actual horrible person. Then a few months passed, and I realized everyone else seemed to like her, she was actually nice, and maybe all her ideas didn't suck after all. A few more months passed and we were buds. It started to dawn on me that it was me, not her, and that this is a thing I do.

So now when my team changes at work, I prepare myself for the coming growing pains. I remind myself that while there is going to be an adjustment period, the new person is most likely nice and good at their job, and I should give them the benefit of the doubt. I try to talk down the lizard brain Downton Abbey voice, or at least don't let it influence how I actually behave.

This mostly works, and I find that, in the eight or so years I've been in the workforce full time, I have gotten better at transitions like this. I'm now definitely a lot better at telling the difference between being cranky because things change sometimes vs. actually having a conflict with someone.

So I guess my advice to you is to think about whether this is truly a conflict due to actual wrongs that have taken place, or whether this is your lizard brain freaking out because change is hard. And maybe try to give your new coworker the benefit of the doubt, if you possibly can. Not because you've done anything wrong (and I hope I don't sound like I'm piling on at all), but just because it's better to be friendly and welcoming than immediately distrustful.

(Also keep in mind that it sometimes takes people a while to settle into a new job, and just as you might be feeling some growing pains, your new coworker is probably projecting some weirdness of her own.)
posted by Sara C. at 9:25 AM on January 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

The majority of the time, if someone hates a job, it's due to not getting along with co-workers. Are you really in ZERO position to look for other jobs, perhaps in the same field with competitors in your same general area? There's got to be other options that you are ruling out preemptively.
posted by peachpie at 11:58 AM on January 16, 2014

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