Thinking Out Loud

Working for yourself...

Even if you have an employer who doesn't appreciate you.

There are careers, jobs, employment and being an entrepreneur with your own business. Not everyone is able to have their own business and run it themselves, some people have careers, but most people have jobs and are employed.

Careers and jobs can be enjoyable and fun and others can simply be employment. With employment your employer only cares that you show up, do what you're told and discourages any independent thinking or initiative. Those jobs are harder when there are also difficult people to deal with daily. I held one once for well over a decade during a previous bad economic era, as soon as I was able, I left it. While doing that job though, I learned as much as I could even though my employer discouraged it, as well as during my time off I earned formal education and did things I enjoyed doing. Most importantly I figured out how to handle being around difficult people.

During this challenging economic period, many people are enduring careers and jobs they would like to get out of but aren't able to due to current conditions. If that is the case, then the best option is challenging yourself to learn as much as you can from that job, which may not necessarily be the skills of the job itself, but other self-development accomplishments such as dealing and coping with problematic people. Additionally also taking the time to learn something else outside of that work to improve your chances for better opportunities in the future. It is difficult, I know. I never thought my work era between 1978 and 1983 would ever end in anything positive. In 1993, ten years after I had left, I had the perspective to look back and appreciate how much the extracurricular work I had done decades prior had paid off. I also recognized that the coping skills and ability to deal with unpleasant people went a long way and were lessons for life.

Coping mechanisms are the key to the door to get what you want.

Right now I have a job that has potential to become a career. I like what I do very much and the people I work with, the one exception is a difficult manager. There's really no other way to state it: she's cranky, irritable, hypercritical and never gives praise; she finds everything that is wrong and nothing that is right. I don't believe she's a mean person, she does have good qualities and for brief periods of time she can be somewhat pleasant. My peers feel the same way as I do about her, therefore I know it's not a personal thing with me.

There are days when it is hard for me to take, especially since I do like the work itself, what I'm learning from it and the potential for growth. It's an exercise in not only learning a new line of work but also something else just as important, recalling how to deal with difficult people. The first lesson I'm still re-learning is not taking it too personally, which is tough. The second is realizing that the other person is probably doing the best they can to cope under the circumstances they're dealing with in life. For the person I'm referring to, the problem is the same as it usually is for other difficult people, their complex, bewildering, problematic behavior is rooted in their own insecurity and doubts about themselves.

The schooling here is coping and overcoming to gain some peace within myself to not let this person bother me and interfere with where I want to go. In order to do that I have to reach back in time and recall skills that I haven't had to use in quite awhile. It's a work in progress but the past has also taught me that in the long term, it is worthwhile and to my advantage. The other person I can do nothing about, they will have to live with themselves, I can only deal with how I control myself within the circumstances.


  1. I think "Working For Yourself..." is a very good thing to always keep in mind. It's the truth.

    I come at this as someone who spent a long time wanting to believe that the companies I've worked for were sincere in their seeming desire to make me happy. Some of them were and some of them seemed to not be so, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt an awful lot based on my personal feelings about the people I dealt with. I can't say I've kicked myself too much for that, but it does seem pretty foolish. The care is NOT a two-way street. Maybe in some cases it is, but in none of mine has it shown itself to be. Whether I gave the company 2 weeks' notice or stormed out disgusted, the same thing resulted: nothing. It was over, and anything that seemed personal was gone with it.
    That's not a complaint, just the way things are.

    I think we all work for ourselves. If we find ourselves in great situations I hope we appreciate it and make it work to our advantages. Failing that I hope it's at least bearable enough to not hate going in every day, and easy enough to allow plenty of hoping and dreaming and maybe even a little plotting in between all the boring stuff.

    As far as difficult people go, I agree that dealing with them as best you can is the only way to go. At the worst, they can be the subjects of great stories to amuse or serve as commiseration.

    Speaking of stories, please don't think I relate to any of this on a personal level. I have always loved my work, have never worked with anyone remotely difficult, and haven't for a second thought about making any big changes work-wise. And I'm certainly not considering or even thinking about any of that right now. Like all the old "Dragnet" disclaimers, any resemblance is purely coincidental. :D

    Thanks for the great post, JR!

  2. Since I worked for a regulated monopoly from the age of 16 until 2000, I learned very young and very early: "Don't love the company, it won't love you back." A lot of lessons I learned about how the working world that many people learned later in life I figured out at a young age. It gave me "mad skillz" at dealing with the ups and downs of jobs. Truthfully, I still hear people say what I consider naive things about working life and it's hard for me not to roll my eyes. Sounds very jaded but I'm not, I got way past that in the eighties and just take it for what it is. I may work for someone else but I make it work for me by being good enough, networking with other people, being successfully independent enough not to be a threat. Nothing exceeds better than knowing your job and the place you work better than your boss. If you're decent about it, they'll give you free rein within limits.

    I've had jobs I've loved, some I liked and a few I hated. That's because I sort of fell into being a jack of all trades and master of no particular line of work, except for one trait that crosses all lines of jobs...for the most part I have pretty well-developed people skills and am good at understanding how networks work, with honed computer abilities. It's surprising in a service economy place like Arizona how few people can overlap both people, computerization and multi-tasking to get a job done quickly and efficiently. Not bragging, just sayin'...;~}

    I like my current job a lot and deal with the manager better than anyone there, except for one other person who takes her for what she is. I'm not worried about it, she won't be there much longer anyway.

  3. "Nothing exceeds better than knowing your job and the place you work better than your boss. If you're decent about it, they'll give you free rein within limits." is the PERFECT way to put it. I work in a place in which almost every other employee complains about being hassled by management, and I have to try not to laugh because it never occurs to them to try anything like being personable and really good. If anything it seems as if doing just enough and being combative is their idea of a road to workplace happiness. I'm generally pretty happy and personable at work, and I'm good enough at my job that I know (and I'm pretty sure THEY know) that they have no idea what they'd be losing if I left. Oddly enough, I never get hassled. It seems like a pretty simple formula, but not many people try it.

    And as for your not bragging, I quote the immortal Yogi Berra: "It ain't bragging if you can do it." :)

  4. Your experience pretty much matches mine, the others complain a lot about our boss but they don't do anything productive with their complaints, or in their work for that matter. It becomes whining and counter-productive. My boss is difficult to deal with but she rarely gives me a hard time, except for just being around her crabbiness and drama, because I know my job, do it well and if there's a problem usually me or one other person (who takes the same tack we do) solve it.

    What is kind of funny is that tomorrow there's going to be a bombshell dropped that only I and the other person know about. Our boss is going to be floored because she has under-appreciated this person and the end result is the rug is going to be pulled out from under her. Also I know that the bosses boss wants our boss out of there (something I keep in deep recess) and she's just now sensing it and making her own preparations.

    The moral of that story is, stick around long enough and things change and very often if you're doing the right thing, it will benefit you.

    The Yogi Berra line is perfect!