Do you want to throw your stapler across the cubicle wasteland? Are you sick and tired of insane office politics? Is your boss an ape? How are you feeling today? A little frustrated? Did you get another meaningless memo from top level management? Well today I am going to write about frustration at the office. Not only how you can deal with frustration, but also how you as a leader can contribute to reducing frustration levels. As always I would love your feedback if you have some advice to share with me and other readers.
First of all: What is frustration?
I like the definition of Frustration as described in Wikipedia, “it is a common emotional response to opposition. Related to anger and disappointment, it arises from the perceived resistance to the fulfillment of individual will. The greater the obstruction, and the greater the will, the more the frustration is likely to be.” – Frustration is a feeling. Like happiness, anger, disappointment or joy. So this leads me to the next question…
Why are you feeling frustrated?
Frustration is normally a reaction to an obstacle beyond your control. You cannot solve your problem because of company politics you can’t change. You can’t perform well, because your co-workers are slowing you down. It can be related to work overload and stress. Remember that frustration is a feeling; a feeling is often a response to something around you. So if you could change the cause of the frustration, would you stop feeling frustrated? Yes, most likely. But you can’t change it? That’s the freaking problem you say? Calm down….
A coin has two sides. If you can’t fix the cause, can you fix the response? Just imagine if feeling is a choice, you can choose to be angry, happy, frustrated, joyful or sad? Is it even possible to make a choice to feel better? Just imagine that it is possible.
Than this change:
From: Something happened –> you responded
To: Something happened –> you choose your response
How would that change your day? You got the power to make a decision about your response to events in your life. Just try it. It might be hard, it might be close to impossible, but it is possible.
When you work with feelings involved you might end up making a bad call, you might send an angry e-mail or tell your boss things you shouldn’t. Being able to control your response might help you to succeed in your job.
This is not a classic “get rid of the obstacle”-advice. In business there will always be annoying obstacles. Maybe we need to choose our attitude?
So why are there obstacles in the first place…
You still do not understand the insane memo that makes your job close to impossible? I have experienced workers being frustrated because there is a fundamental lack of knowledge, information and understanding. Your focus is often on your job in specific. You are being told to “register orders in the system” and now you need to find some kind of information that you do not understand why it is needed. It makes your task about 30 seconds longer to complete, resulting in you handling 20 % less during your day. Could it be that somebody is working on what you input? Is their day effected by this change? Is their work load reduced with 40 seconds? If so it makes sense. Is the delivery pace to customers improved? Take a helicopter view at your organization, and see all the processes as a whole. From a new customer to the first delivered product, how many people are involved in this process? Could your job affect others in this chain?
You might get a better understanding by climbing into the helicopter for a top down view of the entire company.
Dealing with frustration
You can choose your response to an event. It is your choice to be frustrated or not, if you master this way of thinking, you’ll be provided with a great weapon against irrational thinking. But I must admit that it is close to impossible to control your own feelings at any given time. Sometimes you would rather throw your computer out the window, and that can be understandable. So what do you do when frustration strikes? It might be hard to recognize and act accordingly as it is your emotional center that is in control of you. But make sure, not to answer emails and avoid your boss. If you have some kind of music device, plug it into your ears and go for a 10 minute walk outdoors. When you calm down do this:
- Ask yourself why you got frustrated? Can you identify the real source?
- Can you do anything to prevent this from happening in the future?
- Who needs to be involved to remove the source?
- Who else is being frustrated?
- Could some kind of improvement affect other people as well?
- Will a potential change make things better?
- Is this something that management should be involved in?
Frustration is an energy demanding reaction and it should be systematic analyzed to remove sources.
Leading frustrated employees
Remember that frustration is a reaction? It is a response to something. What can you as a leader do to reduce frustration amongst your staff? Knowledge is essential, make sure to involve people and share knowledge. Is there anything you can do to remove the source? Acknowledge that there is a real reason for frustration, identify why and see what you can do about it. By just talking to the employees and maybe even explain why you can’t do something might be helpful. Help employees to see the big picture of your business it might help them to understand your thoughts.
This is the circle of involvement, if you try to follow this way of working you might be able to reduce stress and frustration among your employees and be proactive.
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