By David S. Burnett | November 15, 2018
There is one word that most employees use to explain to friends and loved ones why they hate their job – FRUSTRATION.
In psychology, frustration is defined as an emotional response to opposition. Opposition can be real or perceived, but it represents a resistance to the fulfillment of an individual's will or goal. No-one wants the life of Sisyphus, the character in Greek mythology who pushes a large rock up the steep mountain – only to have it roll back down to the bottom.
When an your will or goal is constantly blocked, you will start to feel like whatever you are doing is just a perpetual waste of time. There are multiple ways frustration manifests itself. Some people respond with passive-aggressive behavior, some with overt aggression, and some even respond with violence. Most just become angry and depressed, but continue with the daily grind of work. This chronic and prolonged frustration is perhaps the most harmful baggage to carry around, and you can’t be at your best if you are on a path of destruction.
Annoyance -> Anger ->
How does frustration establish itself? At first, an employee encounters small annoyances. No human being is immune to this. Organizations are an amalgamation of individual quirks, habits and preferences. Not only is it
natural that they don’t align, organizations proudly strive to achieve a diversity of quirks, habits and preferences. Conflict is inevitable. Managed incorrectly, small annoyances can start to stack up, creating diversions that start to obstruct an employee’s ability to operate. This is when anger begins to build up.
The inner turmoil of a chronically angry person is seldom overt or publicly visible, making it sometimes difficult to identify the original cause of their frustration. You will rarely see someone walking around with a grimace on their face, glaring at bystanders in a fit of rage. Anger is much more subversive than that. Anger generally manifests in an inner tone that lies in wait for something to set it off. Depending on the level of the anger or the circumstances, the explosion can be damaging beyond repair.
But long before that employee unexpectedly snaps back at a seemingly inconsequential moment, that slow burn has already worn out any hope of job satisfaction. Carrying this frustration and anger around is not only
counterproductive, it is simply not good for your overall health and well-being.
Anger influences thoughts and
Holding on to anger is our subconscious choice, and when we let it build, anger will store in the body just like fat does. Anger comes from accumulated frustration. Angry people cling to their frustration, and when the
moment hits, the anger manifests in the ugly words and actions that will later be regretted.
Prolonged frustration infects thoughts, attitudes and motivations. It is impossible to be happy when you are hoarding something so ugly inside of you. It turns positive thoughts into skeptical thoughts. It turns creative
ideas into predictions of failure. It turns confidence into cynical doubts. The passion that you once had for your job disappears. Anger blocks out all the positive emotions like joy, trust and acceptance. What fills that void are the negative emotions like fear and disgust, feeding that pent-up frustration even more.
Worse, this work related anger easily bleeds over into your personal life. Like a teapot, the pressure builds and builds, until a family member asks an innocent question and the steam snaps open. They don’t deserve that. Because you are blinded with frustration, you can’t see your bad judgement and often just try to justify your own actions with excuses.
You simply cannot succeed at much, personally or professionally, if you are carrying around prolonged inner turmoil. The good news is that just like a build-up of fat, you can shed the anger that’s weighing you down - with just a little bit of exercise. There are ways to prevent frustration from accumulating, and it all starts with awareness.
Mind over “Madder”
You will never be able to prevent the small annoyances, much less the situations that create real anger. Uncontrollable events happen, and thus anger happens. However, allowing yourself to express anger in productive doses might prevent the unhealthy slow burn. In order to prevent anger from building up over time, you can find ways to shift into something more positive. The idea that you can get angry, parse it out in small bits, and get past it is a very difficult skill, but you can teach yourself to master it. The first step is identifying the smoke detectors and putting out the fuse early. Watch out for these warnings:
In Utopian organizations, everyone talks collaboratively about how to solve problems. In realistic organizations, everyone complains about the problems. When you find yourself complaining, pay attention to whether it is justified complaining, or just mindless, chronic complaining. Are you identifying a problem that needs to be solved, or are you piling on?
Your desire to complain about something means there is something about that situation that is bothering you. Dissect it using the Problem Tree Approach. You need to accurately identify the problem by focusing on the root
and not the branches (symptoms). Once you identify the real problem, identify a solution. You can even complain a little bit by expressing what bothers you, and then suggest a solution. Even if your solution is not practical, this productive venting is much healthier than unproductive complaining.
Are you dreading an upcoming restructuring, software implementation, a new boss or some other major change coming your way? Has the company shifted their long-term strategy, again? These can be frustrating situations. There is an old saying that employees hate two things:
2. The way things are.
The point is that change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere when you are not doing what you enjoy. Don’t resist change – welcome change and use it to really transform the things about your
work that you dislike. In order for your emotions to change, your environment has to change. Corporate change is inevitable – make it an opportunity to change the things that frustrate you.
Frustrated people often feel that they are overlooked in praise. We all want to be patted on the back, but make sure you are not just demanding constant attention. Do you sulk when you believe that your skills and efforts are being underappreciated?
Healthy competition within an organization or team can be a good thing to release small doses of anger and frustration, as long as it is kept in check. As Pat Riley keenly asks, is your personal effort mustered solely to outshine a teammate? It becomes dangerous when you are constantly trying to outdo others around you. Instead of worrying about being the best on the team, worry about having the best team.
Along with feelings that you are not appreciated, it is common to turn that into obsession over who gets credit and who gets blame. No credit given is ever enough, and too much offered to a coworker is frustrating. Again, try to focus on the team’s success, not with whether you are going to get credit. Paranoia over being cheated out of one’s rightful share is just not worth it.
Coworkers are bound to become jealous of each other. It can get to a point where you cannot be happy for a coworker who achieves success because it takes the spotlight away from you. Instead of being happy for the success of partners, selfish people become angry instead.
Another warning sign is feelings of frustration even when the team performs successfully. Even in success, some workers sulk in the office, head down and distraught. Don’t become so disillusioned with your own performance that you neglect the success of the overall team.
Even if you enjoy success, are you quick to accept too much credit and not enough blame? Don’t fall into the trap of believing that success has insulated you from future failures and that the success of the team is a direct result of your individual effort. You need to step back and understand how infrequent real success can be, and therefore understand that it takes more than just your effort for a team to achieve.
Frustration originates from feelings of uncertainty and insecurity, which stem from a sense of inability to fulfill needs. If the needs of an individual are blocked, uneasiness and frustration are more likely to
occur. When these needs are constantly ignored or unsatisfied, anger, depression, loss of self-confidence and sometimes aggression are likely to follow.
This unhealthy inner turmoil affects your thoughts, attitude and overall happiness. You cannot enjoy what you do if you are constantly feeling frustrated. You cannot succeed and meet your goals if you are filling your head
with negative thoughts and feelings.
However, frustration is just an emotion, and emotions belong to their creator. The choice is there to
work through it, rather than letting it take over. To be you at your best, practice self-awareness, talk to friends and mentors, and do whatever it takes to avoid the devastation of carrying around a slow burning fuse.
David S. Burnett, CPA | firstname.lastname@example.org