Emotionally distancing myself from job while staying productive
April 18, 2016 8:13 AM   Subscribe

Due to a myriad of reasons I’ve decided the job I’m currently in isn’t one I should stay in for the long term and I’ve begun applying for other jobs. However, the frustrations at the office still get to me. I’m trying to emotionally distance myself but still stay motivated and productive and do my best work (within reason given the circumstances).

Long story short I have decided to look for other jobs as I’m dissatisfied with the management, the lack of communication, the troublesome coworkers, and the archaic way things operate at the company I’m working for. It’s affecting me: I’ve started getting exhausted at work and never seem to feel I’m getting enough sleep, even though my sleep patterns are the same as before. I’ve been flip-flopping between apathy and not being bothered by the daily miscommunications and totally preventable issues (but then I lose motivation with my own work), and being engaged and caring about my work (but then I start becoming bothered by the nonsense around me again). Basically I have the porcupine’s dilemma. Porcupines need to huddle together for warmth, but if they get too close they injure each other. I need to have some involvement in order to do my job well, but if I get too close or too engaged, I get upset with the office nonsense.

Have any of you been in a similar situation and what did you do to manage? I need to bide my time here until I find something else, and it might take a while because I’m in an oil-based region where finding jobs has gotten much harder and most people are just holding on to what they have. I’m hoping not to ride the emotional rollercoaster of frustration in the process!
posted by TheGreatSloth to Work & Money (8 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I left a highly toxic company that imploded on the day I gave notice, so I feel your pain. It helped me to focus on my work as if it were an example I'd show to future employers to look at. I also started thinking of the book I would write about the crazy situation I was in, so that I could re-cast the terrible people around me as ridiculous, over-the-top characters they would become. I never wrote the book, but it did help me to re-frame a lot of the craziness happening around me.
posted by xingcat at 8:28 AM on April 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have an extensive collection of idiotic T-shirts. I wear one every day under my dress shirt. In the parking lot at the end of the day, I take off the dress shirt and toss it in the trunk. My work day is over. I am no longer Work Etrigan. I am now Inappropriate T-shirt Etrigan.

Get some sort of ritual to draw a line between TheWorkGreatSloth and ThePersonalGreatSloth. When you're on Personal time, don't think about the things that Work you thinks about.
posted by Etrigan at 8:33 AM on April 18, 2016 [12 favorites]

Congratulations! You are mentally healthy.

Here's what I do when I'm working with really discombubled customers. I figure, "I had to be doing something today." So when I'm asked to start over with a completely different set of instructions, I don't think of it as a big waste of time, I just say, "I had to do something to today," and I get on with it.

I am sickeningly polite and cheerful, after all, this too shall pass. Do the very best job you can, and at the end of the day....leave it all behind. Perhaps you go to the gym, or change into your inappropriate T-shirt, or you make a quick phone call to someone to let them know, "Well, another day, another dollar." And then go home, be home. Make a nice dinner, pet your cats, do whatever it is that isn't your job.

Also, don't care so much. Most people get along just fine giving only two shits out of three. Honestly, the world will not collapse. Go to lunch, as in leave the building! Run an errand. Go downstairs for a nice cup of coffee, not that nasty stuff out of the machine. Smile randomly.

Also, start taking home any personal items. Don't make a BFD about it, but start taking down the pictures, take home the plants, start thinking of yourself in another place. One item a day, until it's all but your favorite pen and a fun picture. When you resign those fit easily into your purse.

Come up with a fun theme song for how you feel about work. Mine is Elvis Costello's Welcome to the Working Week.
Whenever things seem really screwed up, sing it to yourself in your head. It really helps.

At the end of the week treat yourself to a small thing that is a reward for putting up with all the bullshit. A manicure, a lipstick, a Salty Pimp ice cream cone.

Step up the search. I had to apply to about 100 ads to get a good job (I'm in a specialized field.) See if you can do 2 a day, or 5 a day. Tick it off of your list. Keep a spreadsheet of what you've applied for ad the link to the ad, when you do a big search, you forget who had what when.

Good Luck to you!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:17 AM on April 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: "Most people get along just fine giving only two shits out of three." This may just be one of the best sayings I've ever heard.

Thanks everyone, I'll get myself a theme song and a ritual and try to see TheWorkGreatSloth as a different persona. I also think the gym after work will be a great plan as it'll let me work off any residual annoyance as well.

I also really like the idea of visualizing my coworkers as over-the-top characters in a book. I can totally see that. That helps put a humorous spin on things!
posted by TheGreatSloth at 9:42 AM on April 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am working on a similar emotional distance myself. It's tough!

One thing that helps me (when I remember it) is recognizing that dealing with all the nonsense is actually part of doing my job in a particular organization. So the archaic processes, the lack of communication, the poor management - that's all part of the work overhead, as much as the equipment/computer they provide, the supply cabinet, etc. This is what the bosses/management choose. These are the materials they are giving me (and everyone) to work with.

So concretely, I try something similar to what Ruthless Bunny suggests, and mentally reframe "I just wasted half a day fixing a problem that was caused by [organizational culture/management/communication] rather than doing real work" to "I had to do something today".

For me, it's important to still do my best to be a good employee, and do my job well, not out of loyalty, but just so I can "look myself in the mirror" and know that I'm being (as much as possible) the person I want to be.

Part of that for me does still include making efforts to change problematic culture/organizational things that are outside of my control. So if I see a problem I'll raise the issue and suggest a possible improvement. Twice. But after that I try to let it go, and not to take on emotional responsibility for it. I've done due diligence, and if there is external motivation to tackle the issue they'll know that I have ideas and may be willing to help. And if they choose not to make changes, that's their choice. You can lead a horse to water, but...

Oh, and this humourous, and stress relieving meditation :)
posted by pennypiper at 12:40 PM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

When frustrated, I break down my pay scale to the second. As in, I am getting paid 16 cents per second to deal with this.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 3:43 PM on April 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

In a previous role, I sometimes amused myself in meetings by composing Office Haiku.
posted by elmay at 6:43 PM on April 18, 2016

* To some degree, work on letting shit go. Maybe not 100% knock yourself out all the time to go above and beyond.
* Literally spend as much possible time as you can outside of the office--go out for lunch and breaks.
* Remind yourself that there is nothing you can do about this situation and it doesn't help to get angry about it because anger makes you feel like you can do something. Just be all, "this is how it is, this is the price I pay to have a home and food, at least for now."
* Alcohol.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:27 PM on April 18, 2016

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