(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)
Dr. Kenner: Here is a question I received from Janice. See what you think about this. “Dear Dr. Kenner. I used to be very happy at my workplace, but I gave it up because my husband insisted that his job was more important than mine. My new workplace is awful. How can I stay sane in an irrational environment? It will probably take some time until I can find something new. Thanks, Janice.”
Janice, first congratulations to you for thinking of finding something new rather than feeling trapped there. There are three points that I want to make. The first is not about how do you survive in an irrational work environment, but the first is a relationship issue. You might have picked up yourself on your own resentment. He insisted. My husband insisted that I give up a job that I enjoy. That insisting really sounds to me like you felt forced, you felt coerced. You weren’t on board with him, and you’re both paying the price because day in and day out, not only are you at a job that you don’t enjoy, but you’re in a marriage where there is tension. You’re resentful of him. The big question that comes to my mind is why did your husband insist? Was it just the 1950s idea that the husband is always more important in the relationship and if that’s the case, man, I understand your resentment and you have bigger relationship problems than work problems.
But if you could wind back time, perhaps you could have said something to your husband when he was insisting along the lines of, “Honey, I hear that you’re insisting that I give up my job. I don’t think it’s necessary and I like it too much to quit. Let’s look for another solution.” Now, that would have been collaborative. Now, that’s assuming that your husband didn’t have good reasons for insisting. For example, maybe you both needed his significantly higher income to support yourselves and your lifestyle and you keeping your job wouldn’t have allowed for that to happen. Perhaps you had to move out of state or something. There are always extenuating circumstances, but if there’s resentment in the relationship, you don’t want to ignore it. You want to work with your hubby to have a more balanced relationship.
The second point is, this is more like a thought experiment. Let’s say that your husband insisted - which we already talked about – and let’s say that you move into a new job. You leave your old job, move into a new job, and instead of it being the job from hell, it ends up being a much better job. You might still feel resentful that you felt forced by your husband to change jobs, but you might privately think, “Boy did this turn out well.” Notice whenever we take a risk, it’s a psychological risk to leave a job and it’s a psychological risk to take a new job and if it doesn’t work out, then you want to go into planning mode. Which is your question to me. Your question is how do I stay sane in this irrational environment?
The first point on that is, make sure in your own mind that you don’t see this as a lifelong job. Make sure you see it as a transition, a temporary weigh station as you search for a new job. That way you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel. Then you want to give yourself permission to take action and I’m going to say this, it might be a slight exaggeration, every day to look for a new job. I did this with my husband. I wanted to go back to college and my husband would ask me every day in the most supportive, collaborative, loving way, “What have you done today to get into graduate school?” It was graduate school I wanted to get into. I couldn’t wait to tell him what I did. “Today I did X, Y, Z.” And we worked together on this. He wasn’t a nag. It was just collaborative. You could do this with yourself, kind of with a little twinkle in your eye. Say, “Hey, what am I going to do tomorrow to get out of this job? Have I searched the papers? Have I gone online? Have I networked?”
The second thing you can do is work with your husband, because if he’s the one you’re feeling resentful toward, see if you can engage his cooperation. You can say to him something along the lines of, “Boy, I wish this had turned out better for me. I’ve been searching for other jobs. Honey, let me know if you have any ideas or leads. I really want this change to work out for both of us.” You hear the “both of us” in there. You’re setting a premise in the relationship that it’s not okay for it to be lopsided, for it to be his way or the highway, that it’s a relationship. It’s two people in that relationship.
Another thing you can do is be very specific. You want to name the key problems at work. What makes this the job from hell? Is it a nasty coworker? Or is the work really distasteful? Maybe you work at an animal shelter and you hate cleaning up dog poop and you have to do it all the time. Maybe it’s a boring job, like putting earrings on little cards or stuffing envelopes. Maybe it’s a noisy job. You’re working around these machines that are clanking all day long and it drives you nuts. So, name to yourself what is it I don’t like about my work, specifically? Which categories? And it could be, your mind might initially say, “Everything,” but be very specific. Each one you can deal with, if it’s a nasty coworker, can you search around to find someone friendlier and limit contact with the nastier one, or report the nastier one to your boss? If it’s a boring job, I’ll tell you, a boring job is being a stay at home mom. It’s fun initially, but I remember getting very bored. As I was diapering my daughter, I would plug into a headset and take courses on tape and I loved being a stay at home mom because I was going back to school and diapering and singing to her and playing with her and learning logic and learning communication skills all on tapes.
Another way you can deal with a very difficult work situation, Janice, is to use what I call the sitcom, the situation comedy solution. Imagine that you have to write a funny sitcom each day of a job, the job from hell, and you have to get these outrageous, annoying things that people are doing at the job. You have tons of work. The last thing I would say is to learn to enjoy your life outside of work. That is in your control. Fill it with things that you really look forward to and if there’s a part of your job that you do enjoy, really milk that. And then just brainstorm. My neighbor really wanted to open a restaurant and so she got a job with me. I paid her to cook meals for me when I went back to graduate school and I loved that. So maybe you can think outside the square with your husband and try to find a different career for you that even may give you some more freedom.