Let me explain what I am sharing in this book. For the past 10 years, I designed various tools to help people be at peace with their relationship with work. Then, I took the most successful of those tools and crafted them into The Work Relationship Healing Process that I’m sharing with you today.
I have based the work I do on the following proposition:
- Work hurts because our relationships with work are damaged. The damage stems from the fact the relationship is one of inequality, not in alignment with our gifts and talents, does not fulfill us, and does not reward us with the lifestyle we desire.
- Work should serve us by providing an avenue through which we get to express our gifts and talents
- We can heal our relationship with work if:
- We understand the cause of our “hurt”.
- We understand where the lack is in our relationship with work.
- Forgive and accept.
- Design a relationship with work that serves us.
The Work Relationship Healing Process is a journey from darkness into light. The first process step is called Discovery. The goal of this step is to understand why our relationship with work is causing us pain. Here, we will journey into the depths of our unhappiness. We will take a deep dive into our relationship with work, and look at it from various angles. Our aim here is to identify the true source(s) of pain in our relationship with work. Once we have identified the pain, we can work more effectively to heal it.
The second step is a two-part step, focusing on Forgiveness and Acceptance. In this step, we will focus on forgiving that which has hurt us in our relationship with work and accepting “what is” in our current circumstances. In this step, we move into the light as we release pain, anger, and resentment.
In the third step, you will have the opportunity to design a relationship with work; a relationship that you desire and that will serve you. This is your chance to create what you want. In this step, you get to give a voice to your wants, your desires and needs.
Before we go any further, I want to talk about the importance of a healing process such as this. Process, and utilizing processes, is a tried-and-true method that supports our journey of moving through pain into peace, and then into manifesting our desires. Why? In my experience, healing works best when you can proceed through it in a methodical, step-by-step manner that allows you the time and space to consciously and willingly make decisions to change and heal along each step of the way. If we could snap our fingers and magically be done with the pain, that would be fantastic. Unfortunately, that’s not reality. Most of us need to take time to look at our issues, look at what we’re resisting, and make the conscious choice to change our beliefs and actions.
The Work Relationship Healing Process will take you from a place of pain to a place of peace. Along the way, you will have the space and the time to consciously progress through each step. To willingly decide to take the next step in the process or to decide you are not ready to move forward. In other words, the process gives you complete ownership of your experience. You define your pace. You have the opportunity to experience how each step feels. How it feels to be free of pain, how it feels to be free of regret and anger and resentment. How it feels to be at peace. And most importantly, how it feels when you get to design your healthy relationship with work.
Lastly, I want to explain why I focus on work in the context of a relationship. Our lives are a patchwork of relationships. We have relationships that are romantic, those that are familial, those with friends, those with acquaintances and we have business relationships. The list goes on and on. Some of these relationships serve us, they prosper us and make us feel good about ourselves. Some have the opposite effect. Some drag us down, and we are not at our best when we are in them.
We need to include our relationship with work as part of our tapestry of relationships. Like many of our other relationships, the state of our relationship with work plays a significant role in our day-to-day mood, our day-to-day activities and our ability to achieve our future goals. Just like other types of relationships, we interact with work, we have beliefs and feelings about work, work impacts how we feel about ourselves, and when our relationship with work is damaged, it can have a significant impact to our life path.
Relationships are multidimensional. They are multifaceted. The nature of a relationship can change and alter based on circumstances and time. When we view our connection to and our interaction with work within the spectrum of a relationship, we can begin to see how the tentacles of this relationship impacts so many areas of our life. A one-dimensional picture of work keeps us tied to simplistic questions that result in limited answers.
However, by expanding our notion of work and seeing it as a relationship that we actively engage with every day, our view becomes holistic and broad. We can move beyond responses feelings such as “I don’t like my boss” or “I don’t like my job”, which don’t provide us with deep insight or actionable information. By taking advantage of the multidimensional nature of the relationship we can scrutinize each part of our relationship with work, thereby identifying with specificity, what parts of this relationship work for us and what parts don’t. The relationship context moves us beyond generalizations and allows us to ‘hit the nail on the head’.
When we can identify with pinpoint accuracy the parts of our relationship with work that cause us pain, it is then, and only then, that we can create lasting change and a relationship with work that works for us. This is exactly what we are going to do in the following pages.
Before we start our journey from the darkness into the light, before we start the process to heal our relationship with work, I want to share some thoughts with you:
You Are Not Alone
As I mentioned in the story of my damaged relationship with work, I kept my pain about work and the shame I felt to myself. I believed I was the only one who felt like this. Have you felt like this?
Trust me. You are not alone in feeling how you do about work. I’m focusing beyond the common “this job sucks” sentiment and talking about that deep-down gnawing feeling of desperation that takes you over when you think about work. Besides my own research, there are a multitude of studies that prove many, many people feel exactly like you do. I want to share just a few with you to drive the point home.
- An October 10, 2013, Forbes Magazine article quoted a Gallup poll that found that only 13 percent of employees are actively engaged in their work. Engaged means “they feel a sense of passion for their work and a deep connection to their employer.” Engagement also means being inspired and fulfilled by the work you do. However, 63 percent of employees said they were not engaged, which means that they feel “checked out.” The same poll found that 24 percent of employees are “actively disengaged” meaning that they “act out and undermine what co-workers accomplish.”
The key takeaway from this study: 87 percent of employees do not feel a connection to their work. They are not engaged. Every day there is a huge number of people who don’t want to be there.
- Twenty-seven percent of employees change jobs each year. Seventeen percent are actively job hunting. Forty-six percent are passively looking for a new job.  When you add up the percentages here, you are looking at 90 percent of employees that want something new and better in their employment.
- Fifty-nine percent of employees would leave their profession if they could. Ouch!
- Ninety-five percent of human resource leaders admit employee burnout is sabotaging workforce retention. 
I venture to say we are at a crisis point. Work hurts, and if anyone doubts that, these statistics support the argument. Again, I share this information with you to let you know you are not alone. And, there is good news here. These statistics do not need to represent a permanent condition. You do have the ability to transform your relationship with work.
It’s Not Your Fault
I want to spend a few minutes to drive home another critical point. The way you feel about work is not your fault. You did not do anything wrong. You are not to blame.
In my coaching work, I have found that people spend an inordinate amount of time blaming themselves for the condition of their relationship with work. We berate ourselves for not being smart enough or not being successful enough or not being (you can fill in the blank). I’m here to tell you that this is not on you. Further on, we are going to identify the factors that lead to a damaged relationship with work. You will see that rarely did any of your actions lead to the negative state that your relationship is in. Until we get to that section of the book where you can see this for yourself, I ask that you trust me and release any self-blame that you are holding onto.
Right here and now, in this very moment, take a deep breath. And as you release the breath, also release any blame you are holding towards yourself. Just let it go. It was never yours to begin with.
The Current State of Our Relationship with Work
Let me share a secret with you. A dirty little secret. It’s a secret we all know. In fact, we allude to it all the time. We say, “Thank God it’s Friday”, we ask, “Is it Friday yet?” We’ve named Wednesday “hump day,” cheering the fact we’re on the downhill slide to Friday. We moan about it being Monday. Songs have been written about it: David Allen Coe’s “Take This Job and Shove It,” Rush’s “Working Man,” Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5.” There are a multitude of movies and TV shows devoted to this “secret”.
Despite the slogans, songs, and movies, we dance around the outside of the secret. I say this because although we joke about it, complain about it, do we ever have deep, honest conversations about it? Do we ever tell our friends and family how work truly makes us feel? Do we ever tell our friends and family how negatively work has impacted us? Do we talk about the fact that it has affected our confidence, our self-worth, our belief in our ability to achieve? Probably not. Have we spent any time asking ourselves how we got here? Have we asked ourselves how did this relationship with work become so messed up? Probably not.
Not talking about it is how we hide this secret. We don’t talk about it in ways that matter.
We need to start telling the truth. First, to ourselves and then to others if necessary. Work hurts. Our relationship with work is hurtful. It causes us pain.
You know what I’m talking about – the feelings that drove you to read this book. You have felt feelings of not wanting to go to work, not liking your job, resenting your employer, or wishing, wishing so hard, that you could find something to do in this world that you love.
The statistics I noted earlier in this book make a loud statement about society’s current relationship with work. If 87 percent of workers feel some degree of disengagement from their work, then we know there are endemic problems with our relationship to work.
The statistics tell us that our relationship with work is not fulfilling us. It is not rewarding us. It is not giving us the opportunity to express ourselves and give of our gifts and talents. The statistics tell us that our current relationship with work is in need of great healing and transformation. But you already knew that, didn’t you? You have known this for a while, deep down in your gut. In your heart, you knew this.
A Picture of a Damaged Relationship with Work
I’ve spent quite a few pages now talking about the fact that “work hurts” and that our relationship with work is damaged. What I want to do right now is share a story with you that I think paints a good picture of what a damaged relationship with work looks like and the impact it has not only on the individual experiencing it but to their family as well.
What does a bad relationship with work look like?
I had a client named Rosie. Rosie had a job as a call center service representative. Each day she took calls from people having issues with the products sold by the company she worked for. This job was meant to be temporary. Her husband had been laid off, and Rosie took this job as a means of supplementing her family’s income until her husband could get back into the workforce.
When her husband did find employment, about eight months later, Rosie had the opportunity to quit. However, the family enjoyed having the extra income that her job provided so she stayed.
The problem Rosie faced was she did not like this particular type of work. It wasn’t bad work; it just wasn’t satisfying. But she did it day after day. The job had become one slow, monotonous never-ending grind. I met her after she had been at this job for nearly six years.
As the years had passed, Rosie worked without feeling job satisfaction and fulfillment. She became more and more disengaged. For her, the disengagement manifested as showing up every day, but not being truly present, slogging through the calls, and going home at the end of the day, her emotional and mental energy sapped, and her spiritual energy drained. Additionally, since she wasn’t engaged, she wasn’t expressing her gifts and talents. She wasn’t thriving.
When Rosie became my client, I met a woman who no longer believed in possibilities, a person who had lost her sense of self, a person who felt shame because by the time she got home at the end of the day she had very little to give to her children and husband. A long time ago, she stopped directing her career and had surrendered to the negative impacts of her poor relationship with work. In short, I met someone who was suffering from a damaged relationship with work.
Does Rosie’s experience sound familiar? Does any of the following sound familiar?
- Are you going to a job day in and day out, doing work that isn’t what you want to be doing?
- Are you going to a job day in and day out, and, at the end of the day, you feel unfulfilled?
- Do you feel emotionally and mentally spent at the end of the day because you spent the whole day trying to fit the square peg (you) into the round hole (a job that doesn’t suit you)?
- Have you stopped directing the course of your career?
- Have you given up hope that your situation can change?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, then you have a very good picture of what a damaged relationship with work looks like.
Years ago, before I healed my relationship with work, I had a casual conversation with an acquaintance. She asked how I was doing. As part of the societal ritual of small talk, I said that I was doing okay, but I was really looking forward to Friday. She responded with a comment that has stuck with me all these years. She said, “Isn’t it amazing how we wish our time away.”
All the names in the stories shared in this book have been changed as well as specific circumstances.