How do I avoid self-sabotage at work?
June 7, 2015 10:49 AM   Subscribe

I am having a lot of emotions at work right now as a result of a change in my responsibilities and my boss. Intellectually I know that absolutely none of it is personal and that there is a lot of potential for me in my company and department. My feelings do not agree and are keeping me up at night, making up doomsday scenarios and generally giving me major anxiety. How do I deal?

My workplace just went through layoffs and re-organization. I was affected in an extremely minor way and now just report to someone different. It was clear through the process that the powers-that-be deliberately tried to minimize the effect on me and want to keep me. I know I'm valuable and have been told that I am highly valued. I also know that these changes have been about 100 times worse for nearly everyone else I work with and that I am an extremely lucky one here.

All of that said, I have been waking up in the middle of the night feeling incredibly angry and upset. I'm considering getting a new job. I am angry with my new manager. I am generally feeling like a petulant child. I don't think I have shown it (too much) and I REALLY, REALLY want to keep it together when I am at work. Unfortunately, that is leading to a lot of complaining at home, and my SO is understandably sick of it.

How do I deal with these emotions and make sure I keep it together at work? Both for the sake of my team who is also feeling bad, but also for my career. [I'm pretty sure I am being watched for my reaction as part of a consideration for promotion or other career goodies]

Steps taken so far:
- untenable complaining to SO which needs to stop.
- I made a therapy appointment in hopes I can vent freely there.

Please lend your wisdom!
posted by Sockowocky to Work & Money (5 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I suggest you find a new job as soon as you can. It's no surprise that you feel vulnerable after this re-org. Sure, the powers-that-be like you, value you, and want to keep you, but even the most valued performers can still get laid off if it ultimately helps the company's bottom line. Ask me how I know.
posted by darkchocolatepyramid at 11:08 AM on June 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

- I made a therapy appointment in hopes I can vent freely there.

Oh, good, I was going to suggest contacting your EAP.

You're dealing with a loss, in a lot of ways, and anger is often a normal part of the process of coping with loss. Were you close to any of the people laid off? To your former supervisor? Even if you're not upset about losing those relationships, lay-offs can be a big reminder that situations that feel stable may not be totally stable, which can certainly increase anxiety.

I generally find that the more I try to fight against my emotions, the more entrenched they get. Can you try just accepting that you're feeling anxious and angry right now, and that's ok, and you can do your job anyway? (I also like to remind myself that feelings and actions are not the same thing, and allowing myself to feel angry does not mean that I need to act out my anger.)
posted by jaguar at 11:10 AM on June 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

I've been through many, many re-orgs at various work places. It's very stressful, in part because you don't know if there will be more changes down the line, seeing others affected, and adjusting to change.

I suggest giving yourself 3 to 6 months to see how you can adjust to the changes. It's okay to feel angry and upset. That's normal.

As far as complaining at home and how to deal, some thoughts:

- Transition from work-to-home by immediately changing out of your work attire into something more comfortable. Ask your partner to give you 30 minutes of alone time while you transition. Go to your computer or use a notebook and spill your guts there (cocktail optional, if so, only one!). I like to type venting emails addressed to no one and then close them, and delete them a couple of weeks later. After you have transitioned, put work in a box in your head and shove it into a corner and tell yourself you won't open the box until you get to work the next day. Then go and greet your partner with hugs and get on with your evening. Mindless TV shows, etc.

- Bring some cheer with you to work. Funny jokes (we used to get into Dilbert, ymmv), treats (cookies, bagels, etc.), flowers, those little solar dancing thingamabobs, etc. Maybe once a week (Wed or Friday).

- Think about what goals you want to achieve with therapy. How to manage fear and spiraling out of control come to mind. Consider whether you want to try lifestyle changes (exercise, journalling, soothing hobby, mental exercises) or a combination of those and some medication, even if on a temporary basis, to see you through this crisis, because that's what your brain is telling you: it's a crisis! I must run away! Or get angry and fight! But you know you can't, so you get caught up in the grar when you get home. And it's great that you are recognizing that and want to put on the brakes!

- What about a weekly massage or manicure, as a treat to yourself?

- You don't have to be Pollyanna at work, but smile and practice being calm. Get yourself a mantra, "this too shall pass," or "the Universe is unfolding as it should," or, "I can handle this today," etc.

- Visualize: one thing that I have found helpful in the past is to visualize being a trapeze artist. You swing down from the platform, and at some point, you have to let go, hang in the air across the void, and reach out and grab the other trapeze and trust that you have the skills to grab it, and there will be something good on the other side. Yes, I totally stole that from one of my former therapists. But it helps!

- Realize that while you are not totally in control of what goes down at work, you are totally in control of your own life. You can choose to quit, get another job, or stay and see what happens. A lot depends on your salary, benefits, career goals, etc. I think you should be proud of yourself that people went to bat for you. It's never easy when these things happen, but take into account the overall culture of your workplace, the state of the industry, higher management's attitudes, and how you picture yourself in five years.

- If at all possible, get outside during your breaks. Walk, sit at a picnic table, go out to lunch, etc.

- This may sound silly, but get a stuffed animal. I have a stuffed plush dinosaur that I use instead of a side sleeping pillow. I hug him at night, and when I make the bed, I cover him up, and seeing his grinning face in the morning when I tuck him in makes me smile. Mr. Dinosaur is there to keep me warm, prop up my book at night, and keep me from feeling like I will fall out of bed at night. You could get yourself a Teddy bear or anything that makes you smile. When I was working at particularly stressful place, I had a tiny stuffed hedgehog on my desk, and a Mr. Bendy Smiley face, which I still have on my home desk.

- Altoids. I am serious. There is something about chewing Altoids at work that was particularly stress relieving for me. You can offer them to other people, which will make you friends, even if they decline. Alternatively, pastilles. I like the violet ones.

- This is not a sprint: it is a long distance haul. Pace yourself. Allow yourself time to catch your breath. Don't take on huge projects outside of work, and ask your partner about cooking you nice meals or giving you a foot massage in lieu of hearing you complain. Don't forget to thank them!

These are just a few suggestions, but truly, it's up to you whether or not you can deal with this. Don't try to be heroic to the point of ruining your health. I give you permission to do whatever you deem necessary to have a calm and peaceful life.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:03 PM on June 7, 2015 [6 favorites]

I wonder whether part of what is upsetting you is a form of survivor guilt, because your job was saved and other (valuable, worthwhile) people lost their jobs. I am not sure I have any advice to give on this, but I have found it helpful to witness people moving on and finding other, often better jobs.
posted by plonkee at 7:19 AM on June 8, 2015

Update: everything is more or less fine now. It was helpful to talk to a therapist a few times (just so I could really freely vent and be told my feelings were normal). I also heard far more complaining from other people over the last few months which helped me see the bigger picture. thank you for the advice, it was invaluable.
posted by Sockowocky at 5:29 AM on August 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

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