We’re Responsible for Our Own Work Relationships

In the 1970s, for the first time that I know of, women were taught to be responsible for our own orgasms. It’s a good philosophy. If you depend on someone else to meet your expectations, how are they ever going to know exactly what you’re waiting for them to do? The more you participate, the better the results.

I’m talking about the workplace of course – so empty your mind of all that other stuff (at least for now). ๐Ÿ˜‰

I hear from people who are incredibly frustrated by jobs that don’t live up to their expectations. My mother would have said “So? Lower your expectations.” And in a way, that’s the right advice.

Now that’s not saying you shouldn’t have great expectations for yourself. There’s a world of possibility and opportunity out there and there’s no reason you shouldn’t have your share of it.

But when it comes to a job where you have other people to answer to and work with and maybe even manage, that’s a whole lot of expectations intermingling – and clashing! Everyone has them. And if you spend too much time focusing on what others should be doing but aren’t, well, that’s a lot of time devoted to disappointment rather than achieving things that are good for YOU.

My philosophy is to make note of the people around me – how they act, their skills, their shortcomings, and how they treat others. This stuff is good to know. But then I try to figure out what I can do to make the most of the situation. I used to try to “fix” everyone else, and I learned that wasn’t going to happen. I also used to get mad and complain to a select few who were all too willing to trade complaints. Somehow that didn’t make things better either. I just got angrier and more frustrated.

And then I realized the best I could do was focus on things I myself can control – like my own attitude, perspective, focus, and actions. You can start fresh any time, of course. But when you’re starting a new job, you have an even better chance because you can build relationships from the ground up.

Here are two basic things to think about:

Boundaries – Right from the start, you need to know what your job is and what it isn’t. I’m sure most of you at one time has found yourself taking on work that someone else wasn’t doing right or that your boss asked you to do basically because s/he knew you’d say “yes”. And then two years later, you wonder why you’re stuck in a corner doing all the crap while other people are being promoted around you.

Now I’m not echoing Nancy Reagan and telling you to “Just say NO!” You want to look for opportunities in order to do well both for your employer’s sake and for your own career. Just set some boundaries for yourself that include knowing when to say “no” and when to say “yes”. I’ve worked side by side with people who stayed all hours of the night while others at their same title and salary left around 5 or 6pm. Guess who was happier?

One note about that: Some places require extraordinary hours from their employees and expect that of everyone. But only you know what you’re willing to live with. What you create now is what will be expected of you tomorrow.

Extra thought: If you’re building your career, long hours and hard work may be a price well worth paying. But if you’re not enjoying yourself and there’s no tasty carrot at the end of that stick, think about whether all that effort is worth it. Maybe, rather than putting all that time and energy into something you don’t really enjoy, you can instead focus on finding a job that fits your needs much better – and then put all that effort into something you actually care about. Plus it’s a new chance to build those relationships from scratch. ๐Ÿ™‚

Networking – Your best best for getting things done and moving ahead is to create healthy workplace relationships. This way, when you are in crunch mode or a crisis arises, you have people to turn to. And later on, as you look to move up the ladder or at least to a different job, these are the people who will be there to help you. And provide references if you choose to leave. Networking with both internal people and those you meet in the course of business is key to the rest of your career. Plus, it just makes the whole thing more enjoyable.

From your first day at the job (or starting at any point) build your relationships with sincerity and generosity. Don’t look for whining buddies to sit around and moan with. They’ll only bring you down. Look for positive people who can make your work life much more enjoyable and who will be there for you later on. And you for them. It makes your work life so much better! (For those of you giving me the raspberries right about now, I’ve been there and tried the other way. And I can tell you…the way I suggest works much better.)

BUT…remember that first point about boundaries. This is a two-way street and if you’re always bailing people out and all you get is thanks and another one of their problems to solve, don’t be shocked if they’re the ones getting promoted!

Oh…there’s lots more I could talk about; but for now, even if you just follow these two basic approaches (and of course do the best you can in your job), you’ll find yourself a lot happier with this whole working-for-a-living thing!

The more you take responsibility for your own happiness, the happier you’ll be. Or so I’ve found in my own life. ๐Ÿ™‚


About the authorโ€ฆ

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. I too used to care about what other people were not doing and getting really frustrated with the whole situation. First off, I’m not their supervisor so I’m not paid to “worry” about their inadequacy.

    I’ve bent over backwards for people and the one time you tell them that it is their responsibility, you’re suddenly the “bad guy”. These people have very short term memory. It’s ALWAYS “what have you done for me lately?”

    So I’ve learned that you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. I’m still getting used to setting the boundaries as stated above….

  2. Thanks for the great comment Mr. X!

    Although this doesn’t help you right now, you make a good case for setting up boundaries from the beginning. It’s not easy establishing a balance between being helpful and not being taken advantage of – but it can be done.

    I wish you luck where you are, and if you do move on, I wish you luck finding a place with a little more balance. Or in helping them find it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Ronnie Ann

  3. Wow – I have just found your website and my mind is buzzing from the experience!
    I wish I had found it before I resigned from a position that I loved. It was a very strange experience and one I had not come across in 20 years of working for someone else. I felt alone in what I was experiencing and could not get my head around the situation. I think if I had read this and some of your other posts – particularly the one in the art of being a receptionist I would have probaby tried to work through things and stayed.

  4. Hi Jacqui!

    Thank you so much for your kind words. I write for folks like you. Yes…if everyone decided to follow these simple ideas, the workplace would be a much better place.

    I like to think it was time for you to move on anyway. But you’ll never forget what you read and it will allow you to start fresh in your next job, helping you create it differently from the git go. Now won’t that be fun? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Best of luck! Thanks again for writing this. And please let us know how your search is going.

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  5. What can I say, I found your website a couple of weeks ago after looking for an answer on the internet for: Why aren’t they calling me? What is taking them so long? etc… And I found your website. Now I read this blog and I find that I am missing a couple of things. Great advice, and so far I have already recommended your site to about 5 of my friends. Thanks a lot. Oh, and, they still haven’t called me back and it has been 5 weeks since my last interview, but thanks to your advice I am letting it go and I have continued with my job search.

  6. Thanks Jaimoti! Appreciate your kind words and recommendations to friends. The best kind of compliment. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Smart to move on. I wish you much luck. Just curious…have you called them? If not…at this point nothing lost by a polite call and you might remind them how wonderful you are! Who knows…they could even have a new job you’re just right for. Best of luck!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

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