Don't bemoan problems at work; learn to solve them

Q. Why does work seems to be one series of constant problems? I thought once I had been in my field for a while, I would have most of the big challenges figured out in my workplace and could relax and coast. Instead, every day something I never expected gets thrown at me.

A. Life and work are series of problems to be solved. The less you believe that you are uniquely incompetent or uniquely tortured by this fact, the happier you will be.

As a normal human being, you will react to problems with both self-pity and frustration. Moreover, the pace of change in our world means that problems truly do come at us faster and harder (you aren't making that part up).

Because emotions are a rough sea for most people, we often get stuck trying to deny that we feel anything about our problems. We think being stoic and tough will make us look resilient and good to others.

Believing that emotions are weak and the intellect is strong is the exact opposite of the truth. If we can swim through (not avoid) the storm of feelings that stir when problems hit, we can use that energy in the emotion to solve problems.

Intense emotions actually act like a universal solvent for our former ineffective habits for dealing with situations. If you can truly feel all the way to the bottom of any emotional reaction without acting badly, you will see novel ways to handle your difficult circumstances.

For instance, you may have been raised to be humble. You keep getting passed over for promotions, plum projects and raises. You get more and more irritated until you feel like having a temper tantrum. You were also raised to never get mad but you just can't take it anymore and you get ... really mad internally. Then you have a breakthrough: How about asking for what you want and making your achievements obvious?

Our fear of acting in ways our parents didn't approve of can paralyze our problem solving. The ideas we typically consider are automatically limited to the solutions that would have been acceptable in our family of origin.

However, often the most effective solutions will be found off that family map of behavior. Problems force us to face the reality that our behavioral reactions are often maintaining the exact problems we profess to be victims of.

We can stumble along and suffer or we can honestly evaluate whether a change in our behavior might eradicate a certain category of problem we repeatedly experience.

A good personal and work life actually isn't the absence of problems but a willingness to use each problem to get better at the process of solving problems. We can never trust the world to provide us with a life where we finally get to coast. We can trust ourselves to become masters at the art of solving problems.

The last word(s)

Q. I've had a major career setback and can't stop obsessing about this failure. How do I recover from this big job disappointment?

A. Focus your attention on the doors you still have open. By staring at the closed door of this failure you will miss what life is sending you next.

(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)


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