I’m going to say something that I’m probably not supposed to say. Warning: This will not make you feel good. This is not the syrupy sweet encouragement or piece of inspiration you’re used to. This is not going to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. In fact, it might cause you to be a bit upset with me for a little while. You’ll be ok though. I promise.

Ready? Brace yourself. Here goes: It’s YOUR fault you’re not happy at work. It’s not your boss. It’s not the job itself. It’s not the company. It’s not the people you work with. It’s YOU!

You don’t need to make more money. You don’t need a vacation or longer weekends. You need a reality check – probably several and here they are:


Reality Check #1 – Your co-workers aren’t your friends

Colleagues are just that – colleagues. You work together. For the most part, that’s where it ends. You shouldn’t go into work expecting to be besties with everyone you work with. It just isn’t realistic. Also, don’t take it personally and become an emotional wreck because your co-workers don’t want to spend endless hours talking to you about the latest episode of The Walking Dead or what you’re all doing this weekend. That’s not their job. They’re not getting paid to do that and neither are you.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when colleagues become friends. You may meet someone at work and become great friends, many have even met their spouse at work but this is not an everyday occurrence. Don’t expect it and don’t be dismayed when it doesn’t happen. Focus on working well with those around you and move on.


Reality Check #2 – Being “qualified” isn’t enough

If you think you’re going to get hired or promoted simply because you’ve got a degree or two and many years of experience, you’re sadly mistaken. There’s a lot more that goes into a hiring decision and you need to consider these this when putting together your job search or promotion strategy.

The person you’re interviewing with is most likely your future manager or someone who will be on your team. This means they have to like you on a professional and personal level. Now, I know that a few paragraphs ago I told you that your colleagues aren’t your friends (and they aren’t) but think about this, would you want to spend hours every day working with someone you couldn’t stand for 30 minutes in an interview? Probably not, so while you’re not going to be best friends, chemistry is important. Your interviewer has to be able to imagine they’d work well with you.

Your impressive resume with degrees and experience get you the interview. You get you the job so cut the attitude, loose the ego and be likeable for goodness sake!

Reality Check #3 – There is always talk behind your back in one form or another

Many get so upset at the notion that those they work with are saying things about them behind their backs. They automatically assume it must be negative and allow this to bring them down.

Let me to shed some light on this for you – there will always be conversations about you that you’re unaware of however it isn’t necessarily bad. Many managers will check in on their staff by asking their customers how their experience was. That is actually a part of their job.

If you’re interviewing, the hiring manager might know your former boss and ask what it was like to work with you. Typically annual reviews include surveys to those you’ve worked with during the year asking them what it was like to work with you in an attempt to measure your performance. This is all perfectly normal and shouldn’t rub you the wrong way at all. If it does – get over it! There’s nothing you can do about it.

What you CAN do is make sure that what’s being said is as positive as it can be. You do this by putting your best foot forward every step of the way. Let’s be real – you can’t expect to put forth poor effort for an extended period of time and complain when it’s noticed and talked about. What did you expect?


Reality Check #4 – Your job description is not an exhaustive list

Regardless of how detailed the job description was when you applied; there will always be moments where you’re expected to step outside of those parameters. You may have to come in earlier for an event, stay late at certain times of the year or take on some additional responsibilities. It’s called being a team player.

Please note: There is a limit here. If your boss is taking things too far, you are allowed to stand up for yourself but being asked to step up once in a while is perfectly ok!

If you’re asked to assist on a project or help out in a major way, take advantage of the opportunity. These are usually the best ways to build your resume and position yourself for a promotion. Complaining and saying that like “that’s not my job,” will make you look like somebody who is more interested in a job than a career. It makes it look like you’re not interested in advancing or learning anything new and that is not what you want. Someone like this is easily replaceable because they’ve done nothing to add real value or grow. Stop being lazy! Step outside of your job description from time to time. Put in some extra effort. Build your reputation. Build your resume. Build your career.


Reality Check #5 – The world does NOT revolve around you

Respect in the workplace is important. No one should feel that they have to come into work every day wearing a suit of armor just to survive the next 8 hours. No one should feel targeted and everyone has the right to stand up for themselves if need be.

With that said, every mood swing, harsh reaction, quick response, etc. that you experience is not about YOU. Oftentimes people tend to take their problems with them to work. They shouldn’t, but the reality is they do. Someone you work with might have an argument with their spouse before leaving for work and now it seems like there’s an attitude toward you for some reason. Someone else may have gotten some bad news or had car trouble that morning and now, they’ve sent you a harsh email and been impatient with you all day.

While I don’t condone this behavior it’s important for you to realize that this isn’t about YOU. They’re not behaving this way because they suddenly don’t like you or because you did anything wrong. Their behavior most likely has nothing to do with you. It’s them, not you. Relax!

Don’t take everything personally. Learn how to let some things go and move forward with your day. Don’t become overly sensitive about it. Revenge won’t work here because it was never about you to begin with. Instead, try asking them directly how their day is going. Ask them if they’re ok. This will show that you value team harmony over your own silly ego.


Reality Check #6 –You cannot control everything!

In life, things happen. Things happen that are beyond your control every day and you have to come to grips with that. Sometimes, no matter how amazing you are at what you do, you will experience serious career losses. Your company will suddenly go bankrupt. Your role will be eliminated. Your business will plateau – something. These things are not a direct reflection on you; however it is on you to figure out how you’re going to bounce back. Are you going to lie down and allow life to walk all over you or are you going to grow a backbone, get smart and come back better than ever? That is something you CAN control.


Reality Check #7 – You’re going to have to work for it AND be patient

Those big companies you’re dying to work for and those success stories you read about didn’t happen overnight. These people sacrificed and they worked HARD. They missed time with their families, they missed meals, were beyond broke and they forgot about getting 8 hours of sleep a long time ago! They don’t have a 9-5 mindset and often worked for free in exchange for another step forward. This is what it takes to make it and if you’re not willing to go this far, you’re not going to get very far. There is no replacement for work ethic. All the money and connections in the world can’t help you if you’re just plain lazy and give up too easily. Work hard for what you want. Understand that the big breakthrough won’t come right away and you have to be willing to work for it.


Your career is your own and it’s imperative that you’re able to manage it successfully. Sometimes it is your boss. Sometimes you really do need a change and the culture sucks where you are. Sometimes it’s your industry but sometimes it’s you and you have to be mature enough to admit that.

Remember, you’re co-workers aren’t your friends, don’t expect them to be. Having degrees and experience isn’t enough – people have to actually want to work with you. There is always a bit of chatter behind your back and you have to be ok with that. Step outside of your job description from time to time. Remember that you can’t control everything, the big success story doesn’t happen overnight and the world doesn’t revolve around you.

Hopefully these reality checks helped you begin to confront some things and make some much needed internal changes. 



Hi, my name is Pamela Shand and I want the best for you in your career. I started Offer Stage Consulting to show job seekers how to overcome the most annoying challenges and get where they want to be in their careers. It is possible to actually be happy at work!

Let me show you how. | Follow us on Twitter | @offerstage on Instagram | Like us on Facebook

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