Being a lawyer, I’ve worked with some interesting people in my time and have had to deal with some rather challenging situations. My coping mechanisms have tended to depend on the circumstances, and have varied from the simple action of ducking to avoid a keyboard being thrown across a room to counseling someone from an entirely different law firm who was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, just to ensure that a deal got done on time. Whether the problem stems from your boss, your working hours or your task list, it can be difficult sometimes to know how best to deal with a situation. So here are my top tips for leading a happier working life:
1. Learn to read personality types. This is one of the best coping mechanisms I have ever learnt. People say you should always be yourself. That’s rubbish. Learn to read your colleagues and adapt your working patterns accordingly. If your boss hates small talk, don’t tell her how your weekend was. If your work colleague is subject to mood swings, learn to work with them. I’m not saying become an entirely different person (people will think you’re schizophrenic) but its amazing how subtle changes in how you deal with different people can work wonders.
2. Don’t sweat the small stuff. So many things can go wrong at work. If you stress about all of them, you’ll be a nervous wreck. If you shrug off the little things, and concentrate on your actual priorities, life becomes a lot less stressful.
3. Admit when something is your fault. I realised the hard way that not owning up when you’ve done something wrong can lead to a whole world of pain. On a separate occasion, I discovered that telling someone straight out that the balls-up was my fault actually helped. People find it harder to shout at you if you tell them you’ve screwed up before they get a chance to tell you.
4. Don’t ask, don’t get. A close friend of mine taught me this. Sometimes it’s a simple fact of life that if you don’t ask for a pay rise, you won’t get one. If you’re at the point when you think you might have to leave unless you are paid that little bit more, and you genuinely think you deserve it, bring it up. Worst comes to the worst, your manager will say no. So many good people leave their jobs without making any demands at all. And if you’re planning to resign anyway, there’s no harm in throwing in an ultimatum. Just don’t throw any keyboards if it doesn’t go in your favour.
5. Never cry. It may work with your husband. It never works with your boss. If you get to the point when you feel a tear is necessary to keep your sanity, leg it to the nearest bathroom (and take your make-up with you). No one will ever be the wiser.
6. Don’t become a bitch. I once read that if someone bitches about someone to you, you can never be certain that they don’t bitch about you to someone else. Whilst I don’t think this is necessarily true, the one thing I do know is that bitching is contagious, and it’s one of the worst possible things for team morale. Bitching is like poison – it makes people who were once happy in their job think that they aren’t. Don’t become part of the club.
7. Learn to know when enough is enough. If you feel you’ve done everything you can to make yourself happier at work, and are still miserable, accept that it might just be time to move on. I know people who have stayed in their job for years, hating every minute of it. If your job is that bad, find another one. But remember to throw in an ultimatum or two before you go.