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When work just doesn't work.

She pulls in to the parking lot of her workplace on a Tuesday morning. She's filled's the word for it? Yes. Dread. She's filled with dread, thinking about how she's going to have to sit around a table with him. She knows he's probably going to criticize her, most likely with some kind of joke that isn't really a joke ("...oh Sally, is it time for you to remind us about someone feeling's again??"). She knows that, if it's not a joke, he might just shout at her instead. She knows she's due for some kind of terribly insulting email (it's been a few days). She knows she is going to spend her day choosing between doing things that create a positive impact in her workplace, and doing things that keep her boss from beating her down.

And all of these thoughts fill her with dread, before she even opens the car door.

Why on earth doesn't Sally just quit? Are you wondering this, as you read her story? Every day, she trades away her days for this grind. For this jerk. She trades her life away for mornings, noons and nights filled with dread. Why doesn't she just quit?

Or maybe, you read Sally's story and you know exactly why she doesn't "just quit." Maybe you are Sally, or you have been Sally at some point.

This relationship we have with our workplaces is complex, with all sorts of different emotions and thoughts tangled up together. What looks simple from the outside is never so simple on the inside.

Sally doesn't "just quit" because lying beneath the surface of her dread, is the reminder of the person she was able to help yesterday. She thinks of the employee who needed someone to talk to about their sick child . She thinks about how he went home feeling capable, simply because he had a conversation with her. And then there was that customer who called to thank her for resolving a challenging issue on their order. And also, she had a really good meeting with her team ("...boy they are on a roll right now!").

But then there's the dread, and the feeling that nothing she ever does will be enough. This shadow has a way of taking the shine off everything else. It doesn't wipe the great moments away, it just...hides them, makes it hard to see and remember them. Sally doesn't want to quit, because of all these other moments - the fulfilling, inspiring, encouraging ones. And yet, every day Sally wonders if she'll have the energy to continue to invest.

Do I have the energy to rise above the shadow today?

It's no secret in the corporate world that the most impactful, influential relationship we experience is the one with our direct boss - our team lead, our supervisor, our manager, our CEO. Gallup's research tells us that 1 in every 2 adults has left their job to get away from their manager. Why? Because we want more challenging work? Nope. Maybe we want a better pay cheque? Nope. Not that either.

Eventually, Sally will quit. She will quit, because like 1 in every 2 adults have already discovered, she expects that leaving her manager will help her improve on her overall life. It's as though the person directly above us on the org chart holds the keys to our happiness. Not just our happiness at work - our happiness. Period.

Like Sally, we often find ourselves working for people who don't even realize they hold them. They bark orders at us. They make unreasonable demands using unnecessary language. And if you are a manager, maybe you face this from your own boss, all the while trying to meet the needs of your people.

Maybe, like Sally, you wonder...

How on earth am I supposed to take good care of these keys in my hand, when someone else keeps slapping my wrist?

It's Sally's question, every single day when she pulls into the parking lot. How do I keep nurturing and investing in others, in the midst of the jokes, the snide comments, the shouting and the never enough? Is it even possible?"

Frankly, I'm not sure it is. Or at least, it's not possible to sustain. Sally can probably rise to the occasion for awhile, holding on to those bright moments, holding on to her sense of purpose, the bigger picture of her life. But eventually, Sally will decide the trade off is just too significant. The shadow is to big.

Managers. Future Managers. CEOs. Team Leaders. Supervisors. Your responsibility is so much bigger than just getting things done and getting other people to get things done. Do you have a responsibility to get results? Absolutely, yes. And. If your work stops there, you are essentially dropping the keys. You are ignoring the bigger responsibility...and frankly, the bigger opportunity embedded within your role.

The opportunity to send someone else home filled with a sense of pride in their work.

The opportunity to watch Sally pull into your parking lot filled with a sense of anticipation, instead of dread.

The opportunity to close the door on your career one day, knowing things were better just because you showed up.

You are missing the gift of work.

And you are forcing other people to miss out on the gift too.

#Managers, you do hold a set of keys in your hands, whether you've noticed them before or not. It's not an easy responsibility to carry. And. It's what you signed up for when you took that promotion.

For the sake of every Sally in the world, are you ready and willing to rise to the occasion?


The Skillful Manager Program develops exceptional Managers: Managers who Get Results. Managers who Nurture Others. Managers who Pursue Legacy. You can learn more about our training programs here.

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