Q. I'm one of those non-essential federal workers, sent home because the president and Congress couldn't get their acts together. Although I'm back at work, my heart isn't in it. I'm not the only one who feels this way. Being sent home as "not necessary" is one heck of a slap in the face. My supervisor says "get over it," but that's not working so well.
A. Stop letting congressmen decide your worth -- they can't decide much of anything.
If you feel angry, powerless or like a pawn in a political game, you're not alone -- we all do. What makes it harder for you is you're internalizing it because of a label, one that only means your position isn't critical to national security, not that your work doesn't matter.
Some people go into federal service to serve the public or common good. Many desire the security and benefits. Some simply luck into the job and stay, without ever asking, "Is this truly what I want to do 20 years from now?"
Many employees, federal or not, feel what you're feeling at some point. Some call it a mid-life career crisis. They wonder, "Is this all there is?" It happens to some workers when a low or mediocre performance review comes as a slap in the face or they learn they'll never move up in their company because they're seen as lacking the "right stuff." For others, it's when their teen asks in disbelief, "That's what you do all day?"
These moments can force a re-evaluation, which can lead to reaffirmation or positive change. Do you consider your work meaningful? Ultimately, we can't depend on others' perception to validate our worth. Even if others sing our praises, if we don't feel our work matters, outside applause rings hollow. If you decide your work has real value, spit out the "non-essential" label you've swallowed.
If not, you've had a valuable wake-up call.
So ask: does your work matter in the way you want it to -- or do you need a better psychological paycheck? If so, and you take positive steps toward a new career, the furlough paid you twice.
Q. Last week I found myself getting irrationally angry over little things. I tried to remain calm and under control, but couldn't and inexcusably snapped at co-workers who didn't deserve it. I also turned bright red and sweated through my clothes at key moments. What do other women do when menopause throws a monkey wrench into the work day? Is it unprofessional to warn people ahead of time or better to apologize after the fact?
A. While some women dramatically rip off their jackets and fan themselves through hot flashes, most quietly weather their personal power surges.
To deal with irrational anger, acknowledge the body/mind connection and try to manage it. Few of us take advantage of the many ways we can adjust when sudden physical changes unsettle our emotions. Simple strategies include increasing a workout, pausing before speaking to short-circuit unexpected anger surges, mentally flashing on a scene that immediately calms you, getting acupuncture, using natural herbs and reminding yourself "this too shall pass."
Finally, while many consider menopause a taboo topic, your manager and co-worker can't adjust to or support you unless they know what's happening. In a professional way, mention that you're going through a difficult time and appreciate their understanding, but also acknowledge that it's your job to do your best not to share your personal challenge in unintended ways.
Dr. Lynne Curry is a management/employee trainer and owner of the consulting firm The Growth Company Inc. Send your questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Lynne on Twitter @lynnecurry10 or through www.workplacecoachblog.com.