When You Don’t Get What You Want
Sometimes we just don’t get what we want. And sometimes, what’s coming feels like something we don’t want.
For years, I’ve been writing about change and the truth that some changes are desired and hoped for, and some changes are not our idea, or not our desire. But just because we don’t think we want something doesn’t make it all bad. And many times, situations demand that we fix our attitudes even if the thing we’re getting isn’t quite what we wanted.
Let me offer some examples.
Sensitive topics at workplaces these days are things like...
- mask mandates or no mask mandates
- return-to-work or work from home
- vaccination and testing requirements
You might find yourself on the side of one discussion that is different from the side your employer landed on, and so you’re about to face something you don’t want, and layered on top of your “not wanting” are both the sensitivity and the strong opinions about the given topic.
But even before the world of 2020 and 2021 gave us a plethora of things to have strong feelings about, context will tell us that workplace topics that might have created an “I don’t wanna” feeling are things like...
- not getting that promotion
- getting assigned to that undesirable project
- moving buildings to a different location
- having a disruptive change to your team dynamics
So without getting into the politics of any topics, and at the same time, probably rightfully assuming that someone is reading this who has something on the horizon that’s gnawing at their gut, let’s take a look at a strategy to help you have a good workday, even when what’s on the horizon isn’t something you want.
First, to make the most of this strategy, you’re going to want to tap into three specific skills:
- Curiosity - Curiosity is that ability to reserve judgment, ask questions, and really wonder. Curiosity includes tactically taking a moment to see all the possible perspectives about something, finding different angles, seeking to find the lining (silver or otherwise), gathering data that supports and refutes your current perspective.
- Self-awareness - Self awareness is the ability to understand your own self - your ticks and tells as well as what ticks you off, and what calms you down. Self-awareness involves recognizing your own perspective for just that - your perspective. We each see things through the lens that our life journey has forged for us, and self-awareness allows us to reflect on why we’ve reached the conclusions we’ve reached.
- Applied reflection - Applied reflection is doing more than just thinking, it’s doing the heavy lifting of reflecting on data, information, feelings, experiences, learnings, and then applying them to the situation at hand. Reflecting, for example, on a previous situation that may have had similarities with this one, and finding ways to apply things you learned in the past to this current circumstance.
Armed with curiosity, self-awareness, and applied reflection, I recommend a strategy that takes you through these specific steps when you’re faced with something that’s not what you wanted.
1. Name it.
Don’t let the specific issue you’re unhappy with change your perspective about everything. Specifically name it, and point out that while you may be unhappy with that particular return-to-work plan, you’re not unhappy with your work assignments, your coworkers, your employer, your lot in life, etc. See how quickly something can escalate if we let it? Name the thing you’re unhappy with, so it doesn’t escalate out of control.
2. Identify what you don’t like.
Specifically, identify what it is that you’re unhappy with. Perhaps you are sad that your long-term colleague Joe has moved on to a different role, and you’ll miss your weekly meetings with him, or his amazing chili contributions on food days. Similar to naming it, identifying what you don’t like allows you to not let things blow out of proportion in your mind. It also has the added benefit of enabling you to identify things that you do like. For example, although it’s sad that Joe is leaving, perhaps you are looking forward to trying some of the curry you’ve heard such great things about that Prisha makes!
3. Itemize your fears or concerns and define concrete ways to deal with them.
If you’re afraid of something unknown, specify the concern. If the return-to-work plan creates health concerns for you, itemize likely scenarios, and worst-case scenarios. And then use some good risk-management strategies to prioritize the risks and create risk response plans. Sometimes our response can be to avoid the situation altogether, sometimes our response can be to mitigate either the cause or the effect. And there are other options, too! For example,
if the new work schedule winds up conflicting with my daycare options for my kiddos,
then I’ll have the extra hassle of trying to find additional childcare
- I’ll start lining up potential before/after school providers
- I’ll reach out to my leader to see if we can firm up a day-care friendly schedule
- I’ll see what job-share or child-care-share options are available with any of my colleagues
- I’ll review what options exist to cut back my hours to something I can handle
- I’ll talk with some of my friends with kids of similar ages and see what solutions they found at their workplaces.
4. Actively look for a bright side.
Sometimes if you look for things, you can find them. And sometimes, you have to look for things in order to find them. Like a game of Where’s Waldo? or I Spy With My Little Eye, spend some time actively looking for something good in the situation. Look for some bright side, however small, to help you see something other than the thing you don’t like. By looking for things you do like, you can actively counter the frustration of the things you don’t like. And instead of continuing to dwell on the negative, you can shift your eyes towards something more uplifting and positive, which is a surefire way to help you get a better workday.
5. Seek out the company of people who are looking forward to it.
It’s alarmingly easy - and perhaps easier today than ever before - to find others to vehemently and vocally agree with whatever fear, concern, frustration, or gripe we voice. In this case, the easy way isn’t necessarily the better path. Instead, we should invest a couple of minutes of effort actively seeking out the voices of those who see things differently than we do. If we’re dreading or fearing or just “don’t wanna”-ing something on the horizon, we are better served by listening to the perspective of those who are genuinely pleased about it, or looking forward to it. By hearing their perspective, we’ll be able to see things differently than we do on our own. By listening to their perspective, we’ll be able to hear a song that has a more positive beat than our own displeasure. And by being curious about their perspective, we may learn enough to change our own.
So there you have it. A few tools and steps to help you through those “I don’t wanna” situations. We’d love to hear from you! Let us know if any of these work for you by leaving us a comment or sharing on social media!