Dealing with employment dissatisfaction: Change what’s in your control

When faced with workplace dissatisfaction, most people try to change their environments when they should be changing themselves

Few of us have ever worked in an ideal proposal shop. In most casual conversations at conferences and social gatherings, proposal professionals reveal exasperation with some aspect of their company—a disconnect between upper management and proposal managers, lack of resources, or long hours. Employees who are unsatisfied at work often try to change their workplace, which is a futile exercise. Unless an employee is in a position of power, it’s unlikely he or she can solve the larger issues leading to dissatisfaction.

To get a reprieve at work, it’s more useful to examine what changes you can make to your own behaviors and beliefs.

If you’re frustrated by the amount of hours you’re working and feeling trapped, read Michael Hyatt’s post about identifying and breaking through your own limiting beliefs. According to Hyatt, you could be underestimating your own agency, falsely believing there are no other options, or you could be too drained to pursue alternatives and develop a plan. If you decide the best option is to stay in your current position, identify coping techniques that work for you.

For example, we all need to take breaks, so be strategic about your breaks. Stay away from Facebook or idle chit-chat. Instead, you could take up Lisa Pafe’s Proposal Yoga practice to ease tension during the work day, or you could eat lunch away from your desk and take an afternoon stroll—two of the top takeaways from our post about boosting creativity. In addition to strategies to help your overall tension, identify ways to cope with specific stresses in your environment.

If your workplace strife stems from a disconnect in proposal ideology between key players, you should examine your own beliefs with as much scrutiny as your opposition might. In his recent blog post, “Superstitions at Work,” Seth Godin explores how we often hold on to beliefs that aren’t factual because they’re comfortable or make us feel like we’re in control. We often succumb to confirmation bias, interpreting evidence in favor of our conclusions and disregarding experiences that complicate those beliefs.

To see if your position is supported, review relevant data and materials from industry resources, such as the APMP Body of Knowledge. If your organization hasn’t been collecting relevant metrics, begin the process and assess the resulting data at a future time. If you still hold your original opinions after the review, you’ll be prepared for a fact-based (rather than feeling-based) discussion with your colleagues. If you change opinion after the review, you’ll be prepared to start a new conversation with your coworkers.

Whatever challenges you’re facing, the goal is to identify what you can change about your own behaviors and thoughts, even if the problematic situation stems from other people.

This is a difficult mental practice made easier by discussions with your peers. Start participating in your local APMP chapter meetings or attend conferences so you can hear how others are managing similar challenges. You’ll come away inspired with new ideas of what you can do to improve in a dissatisfying situation.