Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live. –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Despite your best efforts, you’re miserable at work.
People are acting strangely; there’s lots of whispering and side bar conversations in the hallways; conversations behind closed doors have become the norm. You’re pretty sure it’s not just you who’s seeing this and feeling the impact.
You’re dedicated to your work and your organization’s mission but all that seems less and less important the more unhappy you become. You’re in a crummy spot and not quite sure what your next move should be.
And when this type of anxiety and stress creeps in, it can be hard to even feel good about your own work.
When the circus comes to town
When it gets like this at work, you can feel like the crazy circus has come to town.
Scary clowns, unstable stilt walkers, and enormous elephants crowd the streets, creating chaos and leaving garbage (or worse) all over the place. You feel like a high-wire trapeze artist or a lion tamer navigating around a dangerous workplace.
Just like at a circus sideshow, you feel like you’ve stumbled into a hall of mirrors, where reality becomes distorted and warped, and it’s hard to tell what’s real.
Suddenly, colleagues you used to trust are acting unusually, and you feel like you’re walking on eggshells as certain topics and issues at work are taboo or so charged that no one will touch them.
How did this happen? And what can you do about it?
It’s often hard to put a finger on what happened to create the circus, but there are ways to manage it (or at least not buy the ticket to the show!)
What to do when your workplace turns into a circus:
- Rather than blaming the people around you, which only leads to defensiveness, look for what is your request underneath the frustrations you have. What do you want? What do you need? How can you ask for it?
- Rather than looking for what you don’t share with your colleagues or your organization, look for what small thing you all align around. What’s the common goal? Focus there first. Remember that you don’t have to fully agree with someone to work effectively with them.
- As they say, it takes two to tango: what’s your role or part in the circus? Understanding what you contribute to any situation, and changing your own behavior, is in your control.
- Don’t go it alone. Check in with a mentor or trusted source about what’s going on. Asking for help or feedback is a sign of maturity and confidence, not a measure of weakness.
- The Polish have a saying: Not my circus, not my monkeys. Meaning: not my problem. Own what is yours to change, and don’t overtake responsibility for what isn’t yours to fix.
In the Comments below, tell me: what do you do when your workplace feels a circus?
Tell me too: which of my suggestions could help most when your workplace feels crazy?
(….and if the circus has moved in permanently, and you want more support to get off the high wire and back to the purposeful work you’re meant to do, contact me for a complimentary consultation!)
Photo credit: Photo Crafts Shop of Denver / Foter / Public domain