In Praise Of The Dysfunctional Workplace

At my age, I think I can attest that I’ve spent a fair amount of my time in dysfunctional workplaces. You know the type, the ones where the boss, co-workers or customers seem to be put on this earth for the sole purpose of sucking the joy out of your life. The soul numbing day-to-day of working in this dysfunctional world can often leave you wondering about the meaning of your life’s purpose.

You may now be asking yourself why I’m writing in praise of a dysfunctional workplace – well the main reason is we all have, or are currently, or in the future, will have to deal with a dysfunctional workplace. To me that just shows that if we can’t avoid this, then it’s time to celebrate our dysfunctional workplace in the same way we must often accept our dysfunctional families! Nothing is all bad and it always helps to share a laugh and strive to enjoy our lives no matter what is going on around us.

With this in mind, I came up with a few things that are positive about a dysfunctional workplace:

· You get a paycheck – celebrate every payday and appreciate the fact you have a job!

· Friendships – often a dysfunctional workplace helps foster closer friendships with fellow sufferers. There is a greater camaraderie that develops when you band together with others who understand what you’re going through.

· Opportunity to learn and grow – watching how others operate, both good and bad examples, allows you to develop a positive base line for the type of employee (customer, spouse, parent, etc.) you want to be.

· Life experience - being able to keep your sanity while surrounded by chaos is good training for dealing with teenagers.

· Spiritual growth – no matter what your beliefs, life is tough and this type of workplace can help you grow and, hopefully, be able to have the strength to handle harder issues down the road.

· Change - situations like these are often the impetus for driving us to do something different with our lives that will eventually put us in a better place.

As a final thought, when you're in this type of dysfunctional workplace situation you must find a way to survive. So, the first thing is accepting that there is a line that can’t be crossed. If the workplace, or a person you work with, is truly evil then you must leave immediately. Life isn’t like a movie where the good guy always wins against the evil villain. In this situation you may be playing the part of the extra that gets killed off to improve the story line, so you may need to plan your exit before that happens. However, if you’re only dealing with run of the mill stubbornness, stupidity, petty dictators and crazies then here are a few simple tips you can try:

1. Write out all the reasons this is a decent job for right now in your life. You could be gaining necessary work experience, earning a great salary, close to retirement, getting through school, have a lot of seniority and benefits, etc. – all good reasons to stay based on you and your family’s needs.

2. If your reasons to stay for the long haul make it worth dealing with the dysfunction then set in your mind that you “choose” to stay. Then work on choosing a new attitude that allows you to relax and appreciate what you can about your workplace. No one can make you feel bad about yourself, or lose hope in humanity, if you don’t let them. By choosing you take back some of the control over your life and feelings you'll feel better.

3. If your reasons show you need to find something better – then start looking! Brush off that resume, research job search techniques or take extra training to help you land something better.

4. Focus on things outside of work that make you happy. Volunteer, take up a hobby, take care of your family and home life, develop friendships, etc. Having something to look forward to can help you get through each day spent on the job.

5. Seek professional help if needed. There are many mental health services that can help you deal with job issues and the earlier you start these the better. You can also try positive affirmation and/or self-help books and media to keep yourself feeling good about life.

Always remember that you aren’t alone and this is a problem we all face. And speaking of us all facing this problem – do you have any dysfunctional work stories or coping ideas? We’d love to hear from you so please share you story on Facebook!