Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What's wrong with work? Five tips for coping

Work. We all moan about it from time to time. But why? Leading executive coach Blaire Palmer offers five tips to help you cope with everyday office life.

Waste-of-time meetings, poor leadership, office politics – all three can be reasons why workers end up getting frustrated in their jobs and want to move on. But the grass isn’t always greener somewhere else. After 10 years coaching and consulting in businesses large and small, I can guarantee that these frustrations exist in almost every workplace.

Don’t despair though. You can change your work without changing your job. Here are five tips for improving your current job, without the need to look for roles anywhere else.

1. Waste-of-time meetings

We spend approximately 60 hours a month in meetings and most of this time is wasted. If meetings were more effective your whole working week would be more fulfilling.

The best meetings are those where competing opinions are aired. Look at the agenda for your next meeting, take out any items which are purely intended to update the chair and focus on exploring the conflicts instead.

If you can’t influence the agenda, you can influence whether you attend. If you don’t add value or get value from attending, agree that you will not be there.

2. Poor leadership
About a quarter of people merely tolerate or actively dislike their boss, according to research. Perhaps you feel this way about your boss. Equally, maybe you are a manager yourself, wondering if this statistic applies to you.

Understanding what drives those above and below you in the hierarchy improves relationships and gives you more influence. If you know that your boss has more of an eye for detail than you or that a direct report is more introverted you can adapt how you communicate and what you expect from them. It’s much less frustrating than doing what you’ve always done and expecting it, suddenly, to start working.

3. Lack of vision

The majority of employees want their leader to be visionary. If you manage people, you need to give them a direction. If you don’t, invent one for yourself. Having a challenging and meaningful target, area for professional development or clear set of priorities helps us feel connected with our work.

4. Silos

Competition between different offices in the same company or even downright hatred between teams certainly doesn’t help you get things done every day. Silos get in the way of our best efforts.
Create a plan of the people (or the job titles if you don’t know the names) who would be valuable for you to know. Now schedule a coffee. Sharing knowledge through your network means you make better decisions, develop allies around the business and have someone to sit with at lunch.

5. Unfairness
Most of us want the workplace to be fair. But how do you judge the fairness of your own behaviour?
One test is to ask yourself whether you would mind if your actions were printed in the national press. If you could not justify the decisions you’ve taken – given that you are often choosing between a rock and a hard place – you may need to rethink your position. Alternatively, ask whether your Mum would approve.

Addressing any of these five areas of frustration can help you make your job work better. But I recommend you start today. Instead of complaining about it, take a bold, decisive action. Not only will you feel more in control of your professional life, it could improve the professional lives of the people around you too.

Blaire Palmer is an executive coach and her new book “What’s Wrong with Work? The five frustrations of work and how to fix them for good”, is out now, priced £12.99. To take part in the debate about work visit Ms Palmer’s blog or

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