How do you leave work at work?
January 30, 2015 9:15 PM   Subscribe

I started a new job a month ago and I've found myself getting worried about if I'm doing a good job or not, if my boss likes me, if my coworkers like me, etc. when I'm not working. How can I just let these thoughts go and quit worrying so much?

Part of me is just worried that I'm not doing a good enough job and that nobody is telling me that, and I'll get fired after my probation period, etc. but I've only been there a MONTH and there's no evidence that I'm that terrible (yet). Over the past few weekends I've been over-thinking my boss's reactions towards me "does he hate me?" "does he like me?" "am I annoying?" For example, today I didn't go to to a presentation at work that I should have gone to. Nobody told me that I had to go and not all staff members were at the presentation, so I just figured because I was so new I wouldn't be needed at the event. I was busy doing work during the presentation, so I wasn't just farting around in my office. My boss talked to me about missing the presentation and said that I had to go to the rest of them, which I'm fine with (I'm glad to know what to do), but now I just feel like a moron for not going? I know I'm going to worry about how this made me look like an idiot and how I think my boss thinks I'm dumb for not knowing to go, but I'd rather not spend the next two days being worried over something that probably isn't a big deal.

Do these thoughts just come with being new to a job? Is there a way to let these thoughts go?
posted by modesty.blaise to Work & Money (11 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Whoa! You are new there! If they had wanted you to go, they should have told you, okay? And this is something you can bring up with your boss, like, "Hey Boss! Who is supposed to notify me to go to these meetings?"

I bet your boss is not going home and thinking about you on weekends. You are just a cog and/or an employee. So stop doing that, okay?

You are performing a job for $X amount of dollars, for a company. You are labor. Do not overthink your labor. Just go in and do your job and leave it at the door. Boom. Clock out. Do not think you can run the company better than they do, don't worry about how they fuck up things and they should do it better, because I guarantee you, somebody else has already thought about it, and guess what? They don't care.

Unless there is a monetary incentive for you thinking about work in your off hours, don't do it. You are not being paid to think about work when you leave the building: thus, leave it behind. Go to work, do your job, and go home and enjoy your life off of the job. That is what people who fought for labor hours wanted for you.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:41 PM on January 30, 2015 [12 favorites]

You already know it's probably not a big deal, so think of some other way to distract yourself. Even if something happened that actually was a big deal, spending the weekend worrying about it isn't going to help.

Also, I'm not sure how old you are, but after you've had a few jobs you start to get a more realistic sense of the kind of stuff people get fired for. If "not realizing you had to go to a certain meeting" counts as that at this place, then it's not a place you wanted to work anyway because they're crazy. My first few jobs I was a giant ball of anxiety all the time, thinking every little thing would get me fired. After having seen the kinds of shit people get away with, I go a lot easier on myself.
posted by bleep at 10:26 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Agree with the above, if people got fired for missing meetings they weren't told about, especially during their first few months in a new job, offices around the world would be filled with nothing but tumbleweeds. When something like that happens again--and it will, as you get used to the schedules, the culture, etc.--just apologize, explain what happened, and follow up to make sure you know how to get the information you need so the same thing doesn't happen again. And then make sure it doesn't. That's all any reasonable boss will expect from you.

On the practical aspect of turning off work-related thoughts when you're not at work, I've found that it helps to have a couple of rituals/habits that help me divide work and home. In my case, my route home includes a big staircase down through a park. On one side of the staircase work thoughts are allowed, on the other they are not. When I get to the top of the staircase, I turn my Blackberry off and force my brain onto another topic. Of course it doesn't work perfectly every time, but I keep at it, and I find it more and more automatic. Then, as soon as I get home, I change into comfortable clothes and take my dog for a walk, something non-work related and enjoyable. On Fridays, I plan something fun for right after work, usually involving friends who are not interested in hearing about my day job. Having a couple of absorbing, creative hobbies helps too.
posted by rpfields at 12:56 AM on January 31, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I ruminate horribly when I get a new job. I dream about it incessantly. I apparently talk about it in my sleep. It obsesses me in an incredibly irritating fashion. I fuss and I worry-- did I do this thing wrong? Should I have done that thing instead? Oh god I said something stupid what if they hate me they are going to fire me and I will DIE in a PUDDLE of POVERTY and DESPAIR... I do this. It sucks. I've only just stopped doing it at my current job, which I have had for several months.

In this case there were enough organizational changes going on early in my tenure that I was able to really throw myself into trying to make improvements and make myself valuable, and visible, to the higher-ups. That's pretty reassuring. But mostly... time. The only way I get less jumpy is seeing that, day after day, I continue to not get fired. Eventually I am once again free to be tormented by intrusive thoughts of non-job things. So, hooray?

Just remind yourself that whatever error you're worrying about really not that huge. It very probably isn't. If you're like me, you may not believe that it isn't, but keep telling yourself anyway, and when no one ever brings it up again perhaps it will become believable. And... time.
posted by Because at 1:57 AM on January 31, 2015 [5 favorites]

Can you be more proactive about asking for feedback? It might assuage your anxiety on a couple of fronts - both "hey, boss, I realise I missed that meeting I was supposed to go to last week - what's the process for making sure I know what I'm supposed to attend?", and in the sense of asking how your probation period is going while it's still going rather than waiting until it's over to find out if they think you're doing okay.

I'd suggest this for a couple of reasons beyond just reassuring yourself: because it signals to your boss and the company that you're interested in improving your performance and making it easy for them to work with you, and because it (hopefully) then gives you concrete information about stuff you need to work on (if there is stuff they think you need to work on) in good time for you to be able to do something about it.

I was similay anxious when I started my current job. My boss' boss gave me the feedback that he didn't like it when I answered the phone while we were discussing work at my desk, and I was convinced that I was going to fail probation and get fired because of this. When I actually passed probation, my immediate boss was back from vacation and she said, "well, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that we want to keep you on", but it was actually a pretty big surprise to me. I do tend to catastrophise and massively underestimate my own performance, though.

How well you get on with asking for feedback is going to depend on what kind of culture your company has and how receptive people are to the idea - some places love it (at my place, it was kind of a circumstantial oversight that meant I hadn't been getting more consistent feedback overall), some places will hear the questions I've suggested above and come back with "huh, you're doing fine"/ "huh, you'll figure it out", but at least if you're more in control of the feedback process, you'll get a better idea of where you're at (and will hopefully feel less anxious).
posted by terretu at 2:20 AM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

I give myself three months. Anytime I start to feel anxious about my performance I say to myself, "of course you feel anxious it hasn't been three months. You know thats how long it takes." For me that really helps.
Plus remember how you would feel about a new person. You would be kind to them. Most people are kind to the new person.
posted by SyraCarol at 5:40 AM on January 31, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Lately, I take a "fuckit" approach. I do my best, and I be myself. If I have questions, I ask them. If I make mistakes, I admit them. If I have a problem, I speak up. If they don't like that, screw 'em.

Of course that is strictly internal, I'm professional and polite externally. But I have a tendency to get overly invested in other people's opinions of me, and "fuckit" helps me remember that if my boss doesn't like me pointing out that I wasn't invited to a meeting I was expected to go to, that's not my problem.

I've often been left off meetings when just starting a new place, and usually the boss or whoever set up the meeting is apologetic.
posted by bunderful at 5:58 AM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nobody worth working for is going to fire you for missing a meeting in your first month. So stop worrying about that, which I know is easy to say and not as easy to actually do.

So how do you leave work at work. Well, simple question, can you actually do any of your work at home? I know I can't.

I come home and take a shower and change clothes. Makes for more laundry, but it's also a signal to myself that work is done. I cut wood for a living. I can't cut work wood at home. I can't fix my saw or set things up for tomorrow. So I've just learned that when I get into the shower, or at least change my shirt, that work is done and I'm not allowed to worry about it anymore.

Does your boss like you? In the end it doesn't matter as long as you're treated with respect and given the resources to get your job done. You don't need to be drinking buddies with your boss or coworkers. You're there to get work done. If friendships come along that's just a bonus.
posted by theichibun at 6:29 AM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My best strategies for leaving work at work and dealing with work related anxiety:
- exercising hard right after work
- making a To Do list on my bus ride home, unloading all things I'm still thinking about onto the list
- prevention (for me, that's 60% getting enough sleep, 30% exercising regularly, 10% not drinking too much coffee)
- facing the anxiety as you're doing here: identifying why you're worried (missing that meeting), and then considering whether it's really worth worrying about. I used to think "I'm just anxious," and try to treat the symptoms with distraction or something, but the just-being-anxious bit is about amplification, and there's often some original cause that is worth looking at to ask "is this really worth worrying about?" and "is there something I could do to reduce the risk?"
- erring on the side of transparency with coworkers. When I feel like I'm hiding anything (leaving 15 minutes early for a doctors appointment and figuring nobody cares so not announcing it to the world), I get worried about being "caught." In your case, I'd check in with my boss about this missed meeting as people are suggesting above.
- Over time, using any opportunity (i.e., any source of distress) to sort out and debug my own head in therapy. Dealing with seemingly unrelated stuff (family stuff or whatever) has really helped. It both creates more space in my head so that a little work stress doesn't push me over the edge, and it makes me feel more at home in the world, less like I constantly have to prove myself.

Good luck. Work anxiety sucks.
posted by salvia at 9:51 AM on January 31, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh my gosh, I just have to say the same thing happened to me one time... I was new, been there about a month and there was a staff meeting I knew nothing about. I walked by the room with everybody sitting in the meeting. I kept working because I thought, well what if I step in there and am told I wasn't required to attend, I honestly didn't know what to do. After the meeting my boss came to my desk and ask me why I wasn't in the meeting - I looked at her and said "I didn't know about the meeting, how did I miss the notice?" She actually looked embarrassed and changed the subject.

From then on I was informed of all the meetings.

It will get better with time, take it one day at a time and before you know it you will feel comfortable at your new job.
posted by just asking at 7:13 AM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm late to the party, but had to post my thoughts, because I struggle SO MUCH with work related anxiety. Like, to the point that the last time I had a "real job," my doctor strongly advised me to quit because I was making myself so sick worrying about it. Twas a job where if I wasn't there to do my job, my boss had to do my job AND his job, so he went from 50 hours a week to about 75 until he could find my replacement. Which also caused me a huge amount of anxiety, to the point that I've not spoken a word to him; I informed HIS boss that I had to quit, and turned my stuff in to uberboss.

I'm in therapy now, largely for anxiety issues. New people and places freak me out, I'm terrified of doing anything in the kitchen more complex than microwaving a Hot Pocket and dumping it on a plate, I put insane amounts of pressure on myself to achieve and I'm just not meeting my ridiculous standards and expectations.

I recently had to switch therapists, from one who was very nurturing who left the practice, to one who's very, VERY direct. She pointed out to me during our first session that worrying and stressing and freaking out was accomplishing exactly nothing. All it was was a waste of energy and brain space until I was forced to deal with whatever it was I was anxious about. And then when it was absolutely fine, I'd waste more time kicking myself in the butt for freaking out in the first place, which was also completely unproductive.

Now, it's baby steps for me, but the other day, I seriously considered washing some dishes, just to make the kids (not mine - my housemates' kids) quit freaking whining about whose turn it was to do what. I didn't wind up doing them; that's the kids' jobs. But I seriously considered it, and for me, that's a huge step.

The biggest way to fight the anxiety is to logic at it. When I first was a general manager, I'd try to leave work by 6pm during the week. Then I'd spend the next 5 hours or so wondering how things were going, hoping my relief was doing ok, wondering if they were getting the job done to my standards, which were admittedly lower than my boss' standards, did they get the place cleaned well, did the cash come out ok at the end of the night, did they remember to lock the door when they went home and all left work at work? Then I'd have to stop, take a deep breath, and say out loud, "There is nothing I can do about it right now. If I have to deal with it in the morning, I will deal with it in the morning."

(Of course, in the morning, I'd typically have to call whoever closed up shop the night before and tell them to come in and fix it. I switched to closing after a few too many nights like that. But then openings weren't getting done right. So I switched to opening AND closing. Which is insanely hard to sustain long-term. I collapsed after doing a few too many 15+ hour days in a row and had to be delivered to the ER.)

Do better than I did. Leave it at work. Worry only increases the time you spend dealing with a thing. And if you can't ACTUALLY deal with it at home, leave it at work.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 3:44 PM on February 7, 2015

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