7 Career Frustrations Every Go-Getter Feels

Odds are that some executive in your life is making it all look easy. The quick rise to the top. In perfect shape, with the the perfect family all dressed cleanly in the company colors at the company picnic.  The exec’s declaration that he’s “never missed one of his kids games” leaves you stunned.

You look at your hectic life, the challenges, the tradeoffs, the disappointments, the times you let your family down staying late again.

All for a career that led to this pivotal moment of deep frustration.

We all have them. Those moments of true career angst, when we wonder… is it worth it?

It’s easy to feel you’re doing something wrong.

Don’t buy it.

Those other guys have been there too.

I promise.

I hear their stories.

I know mine.

7 Frustrations Every Go-Getter Feels

1.  I worked my butt off, and that guy (or gal) got the promotion for reasons that have nothing to do with competence.
Maybe that’s true. Maybe she really is more qualified. Either way, the sting is real.
2.  My team killed themselves on this project, and now a strategic change in direction means most of that work is wasted.
You’re so frustrated you want to punch your fist through the wall, but you’ve got to put on your game face and convince the team their work really was important, even if it’s for what we learned along the way. Deep inside having to do that just ticks you off more.
3. No one that matters is really listening to me.
You’ve got a GREAT idea and you know it will change the game. But, it’s a little risky and your boss, mentors, and sponsors are all ducking. You can’t get your voice heard.
4. I don’t know where I stand.
You keep being told you’re on the short list for advancement, but you’re still in this job. When you ask what’s wrong, you get nothing but praise. You know something’s being said behind closed doors, but you can’t figure out just what that is.
5. A peer I trusted stabbed me in the back.
You can’t believe it, and your first thought is revenge. But you’re better than that so you take the high road– which is right, but is missing the catharsis slipping some laxatives into his coffee would provide.
6. I got screwed in the restructure.
The regime changed and the musical chairs landed you in a less than ideal scene. You’re sure politics trumped logic. Your friends tell you to be grateful that you have a job. You’re not so sure.
7. ________________ (your turn).
People are watching for your response.

Responding elegantly in these scenes may be the most important career move you can make.

What those who make it look easy may not be telling you is that they’ve been there too. We all have. It’s all part of the leadership journey. They’ve grown through the pain, and you can too.

If you’re feeling at a particularly blessed moment in your career. Amen. Look around. Who needs some extra care and support?

How Not to Screw Up When You've Been Screwed Over

When I heard his story, I wanted to scream with him and for him. But screaming at water under the bridge just brings more rapids. I paused for what was an uncomfortably long time. Then, I whispered, “I know this hurts. But you have to stop. Kick and scream and get it all out, and then take a deep breath and take off on the high road.”

It’s true that John didn’t deserve this. Passionately devoted to the company mission, he’d invested years of hard work and extra hours. His team teased that he bled the company colors. There’s no other way to say this. He’d been screwed. The details don’t matter. You can fill them in with your own history or imagination.  What matters now is what he does next.

5 Ways to Respond When You’ve Been Screwed Over

The truth is everyone is watching your reaction. Chances are most folks know that what just happened wasn’t fair.  Handling this disappointment elegantly will foster deep respect.

1. Stop Talking

Not to everybody–but chose your words and your audiences carefully. Your angry words will travel faster and farther than you ever thought possible.

2. Don’t Be a Blamer

Accusations make terrible leadership apparel.

3. Don’t Give Up

If you fold your tent, the bad guys really win. Stay committed to the cause and to your career.

4.  Channel Your Energy to Create Something Extraordinary

You’re fired up. Use that powerful emotional energy to fuel your creativity and your next stand-out move.

5. Let Your Anger Inform Your Leadership

When the time is right, step back and assess what really happened here. Make a vow to yourself to never screw over anyone in the way you’ve been screwed.

This is more than lemons and lemonade. Your team is watching. Your brand is at stake. Respond as the leader you are.

How Not to Screw Up When You’ve Been Screwed Over

When I heard his story, I wanted to scream with him and for him. But screaming at water under the bridge just brings more rapids. I paused for what was an uncomfortably long time. Then, I whispered, “I know this hurts. But you have to stop. Kick and scream and get it all out, and then take a deep breath and take off on the high road.”

It’s true that John didn’t deserve this. Passionately devoted to the company mission, he’d invested years of hard work and extra hours. His team teased that he bled the company colors. There’s no other way to say this. He’d been screwed. The details don’t matter. You can fill them in with your own history or imagination.  What matters now is what he does next.

5 Ways to Respond When You’ve Been Screwed Over

The truth is everyone is watching your reaction. Chances are most folks know that what just happened wasn’t fair.  Handling this disappointment elegantly will foster deep respect.

1. Stop Talking

Not to everybody–but chose your words and your audiences carefully. Your angry words will travel faster and farther than you ever thought possible.

2. Don’t Be a Blamer

Accusations make terrible leadership apparel.

3. Don’t Give Up

If you fold your tent, the bad guys really win. Stay committed to the cause and to your career.

4.  Channel Your Energy to Create Something Extraordinary

You’re fired up. Use that powerful emotional energy to fuel your creativity and your next stand-out move.

5. Let Your Anger Inform Your Leadership

When the time is right, step back and assess what really happened here. Make a vow to yourself to never screw over anyone in the way you’ve been screwed.

This is more than lemons and lemonade. Your team is watching. Your brand is at stake. Respond as the leader you are.

Perfect Vision is Over-Rated

You had a perfect vision. Great plans. Strong execution strategy. You worked very hard. You recruited the best talent. Game on.

Oh crap. You didn’t anticipate the change in weather. The new competitor. The newcomers with new ideas. You dig into your plan harder, someone calls you pushy. Your feelings are hurt. You keep pushing. They don’t understand how hard you’ve worked. It’s too late to change now.

Don’t lose vision in pursuit of the plan.

Blurry, But Perfect Vision

When everything appears to be “going wrong” step back. It may be going more “right” than you think.

1. Consider

  • Are the obstacles preventing my perfect vision, or changing the way we get there?
  • Is this change really bad, or just different?
  • Will changing the plan create more supporters?
  • Who’s still with me?
  • Why am I married to this specific plan?
  • Am I leading with confident humility, or just confidence?

2. Engage

  • Talk with the team, do they still believe in the vision?
  • Discuss the changes in circumstances
  • Generate ideas
  • Involve them in choices
  • Collaborate on solutions

3. Respond

  • Build the new plan
  • Garnish excitement from the obstacles
  • Overcome
  • Celebrate wins

Chaos Curtailed: How To Shield Your Team

I am a big believer in transparency. Transparency builds trust and creates a trusting and respectful work environment.

Share vision. Share rationale. Share decision-making processes. Don’t share chaos.

Trust me. I’ve learned this one the hard way. Sharing too much may make you feel better, but the stress multiplies as it rolls down hill. Resist the urge and learn to become a buffer.

“Sadly most organizations seemed to have embraced chaos and called it a good thing for an organization. One example is the rising number of job descriptions that include “tolerance for ambiguity’ as a necessary skill. Let me be clear: chaos is never a good thing for an organization. While the world is fluid, and increasingly so, this is no excuse for ambiguity and chaos in organizations. Rather than asking your workforce to accept and develop a skill set around coping with chaos, you should be doing everything you can to reduce the chaos to begin with.”

Your team does not want to…

  • see the stress on your face
  • know about the indecision in the meeting you just left
  • understand the stupid hoops you just jumped through
  • have their schedule jerked around because yours is a moving target
  • have deadlines that creep closer as you get more nervous
  • hear about the pressure you have from those above
  • know about your political or career struggles
  • ???

They do want to…

  • understand the big picture
  • know where they fit in
  • understand what they need to do
  • know which decisions are final
  • understand what is up for discussion
  • know what could still change
  • ???

They are looking for you to…

  • do what you said you would
  • stay the course on your big plans
  • be there to support
  • explain the reasons behind any changes
  • follow through on your commitments
  • ???

It takes courage to buffer the chaos. Teach resilience, but shield as much as you can. They will watch and learn and grow from the experience of watching you do it well.