Interpersonal Edge: Change work expectations to be happier

Dr. Daneen Skube, executive coach and therapist, addresses how an employee can change work expectations to achieve more satisfaction and happiness.

Q: Since COVID-19, I feel like I’m slogging through a career swamp at work. I’m a mid-career professional. I think I must be doing something wrong for work to be so hard at this point. When I started out in my industry, I figured work would be easy by now. What am I doing wrong?

A: You aren’t doing anything wrong because you are still showing up and doing your job. What is making you miserable is that your theory about work when you started out was inaccurate.

As a mental health counselor and executive coach for 30 years, I’ve realized most adults make themselves miserable due to inaccurate theories. If you thought when you were young that work and life got easier by middle age, then no wonder you’re upset.

The truth is the easiest problems we will ever experience occur when we are young adults. Our work and life problems become more complex with every decade we grow older. In fact, our most challenging problems usually occur after 60.

Consider that life is like school. As we mature, our subject material becomes more difficult. Obviously, a student is not stupid or ineffective because every year their courses become harder.

If there is anyone who deserves your understanding and patience, it’s the person you see in the mirror. Avoid making yourself feel worse about how work gets harder every year by understanding that problem is completely normal. You are doing nothing wrong.

You can congratulate yourself on being willing to have an interesting and engaging career that is forcing you to solve increasingly complex problems. You can frame your current challenges as a success rather than a failure.

If you put the energy you’re now spending on criticizing yourself into problem-solving, you increase your chances of solutions. And, yes, then you’ll probably get even more complicated problems.

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I often tell new clients that by working with me, they will no longer have purely crappy problems. My clients get excited about that idea until I add, “By doing personal growth, you’ll now have interesting and educational problems that mature you!”

Einstein was fond of observing that it’s impossible to solve a problem at the same level of thinking that created that problem. Most of the richer results my clients obtain occur as a result of maturing their thinking and problem-solving. Personally, I find it addictive to use my current problems as motivation to grow beyond my old limits. These days, there’s a real thrill to move beyond my former problem-solving boxes.

Make your goal (and new theory) at work to end up with more interesting and difficult problems than yesterday and both you and your career will flourish!

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist, and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel’s “Workplace Guru” each Monday morning. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.

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