A Whiny Friend and Lonely in Detroit - Reader Questions

The more popular this site becomes the more I've been able to connect with some awesome people. Over the past few weeks I’ve received some great questions.

One of my favorites was this one:

Hi Karl,

I'd like to get your advice on a problem that a friend has. She has been calling me for advice, but I'm not the right person to give her the answers she needs to hear.

Basically, she has bounced around from several jobs (this is easy to do in civil service) and at each job, she starts having difficulty with co-workers after a couple of months.

She's a conscientious worker, but she's overly sensitive. (Part of it is that she's going through a stressful divorce and some minor health issues.)

At her last couple of jobs, co-workers got easily annoyed/impatient with her, but maybe it's a personality issue (she has the demeanor of a depressed person.) She's a very nice lady, but not really emotionally equipped to handle the rough-and-tumble world of the agency we work for.

Now she has the option to go back to a previous job where she excelled and was liked by the office. But it's a long commute from home and the hours are lousy.

She wants to give her current job a few more weeks to see if things get better (I see it as only getting worse.) However, the other opportunity may not be available by the time she decides.

What can I tell her so that she looks at her options realistically. I can't really say, "Change your personality and be more charming." She thinks the problem is that everyone else is hard to get along with. Also, it seems she needs CONSTANT recognition and thanks, even for just day-to-day effort.

Help! I'm taking down my "The Doctor is In" sign. Thanks Work Happy Guy for any input.

My Response:

Hmmmm. Tough one.

It sounds like you know what you want to say. I would suggest trying to help lead her to the conclusion herself. The way to do this is to keep asking questions. Ask her why she feels the way she does. What needs to change for her to be happy? Is it possible to have control over these changes?

If she can see that she is creating her own struggles she may make the choice to go back to the job that was a better fit for her. If she still can’t see what you see then gently bring up what you have noticed. She may be hurt by your words, but try not to take it personally. Sometimes we need help from friends to help us grow.

The first version of this response was read by my wife and she told me that I missed the mark. I felt a little hurt, but when I stepped back and too my ego out of the equation, she was right. I listened and readjusted. Your friend needs to be able to take some honest criticism. It may not be what she wants to hear, but it may help her be more open to the reality of what she has created.

I am a work happiness coach, so if you want I would be glad to do a session for free to help her out. After the first session I do charge, but that can be discussed later.

This next one is another one of my favorites:

Hi Karl,

How do I remain happy at work when the stress level is so high in the auto industry? I work contract for GM and everyone is on edge. I live in Flint, MI, which lived and breathed GM. Now the air is leaving, so finding new work is next to impossible in MI. Advise how I can get my co-workers to learn to work together with the team leaders. It appears that it’s an “us against them” atmosphere. I just want to find ways for all of us to relieve stress in these hard economic times. Thanks for your suggestions.

When a ship feels like it is sinking, it’s never easy to work happy. But never fear; there are always some ideas you can try.

My Response:

My suggestion is to take the lead. Try gathering everyone in the same room for a positive purpose. Here are some examples:

  • Bring in Cookies and Milk to share. Not many people can resist the sweet smell of cookies. You may want to send out an email and try to create an intervention out of it. Be direct and honest; let them know the situation needs to change. This is a bold move, but the cookies will sweeten the bitter taste of your trick.
  • Play games at lunch. I have the Wii and I’ve never seen anyone resist playing one game. It’s interactive and fun. If you can get a few co-workers and team leaders to play together, they might open up a dialog. You might not have the Wii, but a game of Trivial Pursuit might relax everybody long enough to realize that you are all in this together.
  • Leave notes of “gratitude” to co-workers and team leaders who are trying hard. You may soften all of them up just enough so they will start talking and sharing with each other.

Don’t try to fight this battle alone. Try to recruit people who will join in and help make work more fun and interesting again. The more people you have trying to encourage a more open and friendly atmosphere, the more likely the relationships will thaw out.

I wish the both of you luck and please let me know how it turns out.

Man I love having this blog. It’s the best job ever!

If you have any job or career questions, please submit them on my contact page.

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A blogger with some excellent career advice is Anita Bruzzese of 45 Things.

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Need some quick work happiness tips then follow me on Twitter. Good work advice is even better in less than 140 characters.

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