If Work Sucks This Might Be Why

I bet you would prefer a career where you enjoy success and happiness rather than a grinding job that causes you nothing but stress and misery. You were probably drawn to the professional world because you like to solve complex problems and be rewarded for it. My guess is that you are smart and talented.

You probably figured, “Hey, this is America—the land of opportunity. I’m smart, hardworking, and ambitious. What else do I need to succeed?” Indeed, that’s the attitude I had more than thirty years ago when I first started my career. I’d been successful in school. What could be different in the workplace? It didn’t take long to realize I had a lot to learn.

Learning the Hard Way

I’ve learned many lessons the hard way. When I look back to the start of my career, it’s now easy to see how clueless I was. I was an earnest “good girl” who believed that if I studied the “rules” and followed them, was polite and cooperative, kept my head down and my nose clean, and didn’t complain, I’d get what was coming to me: advancement, raises, titles, growth opportunities—the works. I mean, that approach had worked for me throughout seventeen years of school and even for the first year or so after college.

Of Course, You Want to Be Happy

Regardless of where you are in your career, I’m certain of one thing: You’d like to be happy with the bargain of trading your time and talents for money, benefits, and if you’re lucky, fulfillment. You want to know that your work matters. You want to be seen and validated. You want to learn and grow.

It’s sometimes hard to understand what you can do to make that happen. Even when you follow the “rules” as you understand them, you may notice that things don’t always turn out as expected. You run into unforeseen obstacles. People who seem less talented than you move ahead, and you’re not sure why. It can be downright puzzling, even infuriating.

How Can Work Be a Game?

If you’re working hard, following the rules and not experiencing the outcomes you desire, it’s because of one thing: You are playing the game of work by the wrong rules! You may think, “Game of work? What is she smoking? Work is not a game. It’s serious business! My livelihood depends on this.”

Fair enough. Work is serious. But understanding how to navigate at work will help you achieve your professional goals. That’s precisely why I look at work as a game. Games, like work, have objectives, rules, and strategies you use when playing them.

Monopoly by the Rules of Twister

When people are confused by the results they are achieving at work, it’s usually because they don’t understand the objectives, are playing by the wrong rules, or have no strategy or one that takes the wrong factors into consideration.

So it’s no wonder they are frustrated. It’s like trying to win Monopoly when you’re playing with the rules from Twister.

Learning to Play the Game of Work

If you want to get ahead at work and not drive yourself batty, you’ll need to shift your perspective and learn some of the unwritten rules that no one tells you. Sort of like the Matrix, there’s a whole reality under what you see on the surface. You’ll need to be able to look at your surroundings in a new and deeper way so you can clearly see the whole “game board” and develop strategies for how to maneuver to win. This new set of rules will enable you to more effectively navigate your career in business.

Related: Understanding and Leveraging Your Value