Today I found myself using words with a friend that I usually reserve for clients: “You have two choices–be intentional and deliberate or continue to play the victim.” My friend works for a large corporation which is known for having a poor employee environment. She continues to allow herself to be ‘abused in the workplace’ because she feels she needs benefits, needs the job, etc. Does this sound like your situation? We all have choices and options. Some of those choices are negative and some positive, but we do have choices regardless. When people stop seeing the choices and options available to them, they become desperate people who make desperate decisions. So what can you do differently?
I put my business strategy consultant hat on and took my friend through a strategic thinking exercise. You can apply the same process in your own situation. Pretend you are looking down on the situation from a pillar (Six Steps to Strategic Thinking) and be objective about what you see.
1. What is the current situation?
My friend works in an environment where she is paid for 40 hours of work per week but is expected to work closer to 60 hours. She can work flex time. Her boss plays favorites. Her immediate supervisor is inexperienced and often unavailable to give instructions or guidance. My friend allows herself to get caught up in everyone else’s drama, which affects her mood and attitude. Overall, she likes the people she works with. She feels she needs a job. She has a great insurance plan. She hates change. She doesn’t like surprises on her annual review.
2. What does she want different?
She wants to be able to get her job done. She wants to do her job well. She likes recognition for a job well done. She wants stability and, to some degree, status quo. She wants her boss to provide regular feedback. She wants written expectations. She wants to be heard and valued by her employer.
3. What choices does she have?
She can stop working in fear and confront her boss or she can continue the way things are and be miserable.
She can define her job for herself and go over it with her new supervisor or she can continue to react to someone else’s decisions and unstated expectations about her responsibilities.
She can listen to her coworkers and offer solutions to their issues, where possible, or she can just continue to participate in office gossip and negativity, thus keeping the emotional atmosphere ‘stirred up.’
She can call around for insurance rates to see what it would cost her to provide her own benefits or continue to work at her current job for the sake of receiving benefits through her employer.
She can initiate positive changes at work and in her personal life or continue to be miserable with things the way they are.
4. For which of her options can she live with the consequences? For which of them can she not?
5. To whom does she need to communicate her plan?
Human Resources Department?
6. What action does she need to take?
Research the possible consequences of her choices?
Call a group meeting of her coworkers?
Arrange for a one-on-one with her new supervisor?
Schedule a meeting with Human Resources?
Call a health insurance broker?
7. What resources does she need to gather for her intended goal?
At the end of the day, we can only be responsible for ourselves and our own decisions. However, to be good stewards of our own lives, we need to be intentional and deliberate about everything we do. If we work in an unhappy environment, we can either change the circumstances or continue the status quo. In reality, we are our own change agents regarding attitude and disposition. We choose whom we allow to impact and either negatively or positively affects our ‘spot’ in the world. If circumstances require us to stay in an environment that is toxic, then it is up to us to establish the boundaries and processes in which we live and work. By looking for and exercising options, we maintain control over ourselves. We can be intentional and deliberate about the space in which we operate, or we choose to allow someone else to determine our world for us. Will we be intentional and deliberate or play the victim? It is up to each of us to decide which it will be.