I am a senior leader in a large, successful company that’s well-known and well-regarded; our CEO was recently voted one of the top 10 CEOs in our industry. Yet nobody would believe how much inefficiency and ineptitude abound here. We’re affected by the same headwinds that others are feeling, and consequently, in the midst of reorganizations and cutbacks. But the way it’s being handled, the decisions being made, and the lack of transparency about it all is very disturbing. I feel the top leadership is making decisions and going about the process in a way that seems to be utterly lacking in forethought.
As a result, I find myself fluctuating all day between irritation and anxiety. Some days I’m so frustrated that I know people can see it on my face. I’m getting to the point where I wonder if I should go work somewhere else, but the devil I know may be better than making a big move at this point in my career.
If nothing changes, how can I get my frustration under control so I can feel at peace and get my job done?
First, let’s unpack this. Your question tells us that you:
- Expect organizations to be efficient, well-run, and transparent.
- Have either done everything you can to make things work, and you’re now at the end of your rope—or your frustration is blocking you from having ideas as to what to do.
So, exactly how is your problem a power problem? A few thoughts:
- You see yourself as outside of the system, not as a part of it. You’re speaking in an Us vs. Them tone which tells us that you don’t see yourself as part of the organization.
- Even as a senior leader, you still don’t feel able to make a positive impact on the situation.
- You are mad at the organization as if someone has done something wrong or there’s someone who could fix it and hasn’t. This tells us that you’re overestimating people in power instead of thinking you could help.
What’s the Solution?
To be able to respond effectively, you’ll need to do a few things, including:
- See yourself as part of the system rather than as someone outside the system. If you have better ideas about how to do things, consider that you’re needed to help out.
- Reach out and talk to people about how they feel and what they see happening. Discuss together how —as senior leaders—you can turn things around. This shouldn’t be a venting session but rather a productive discussion about what’s happening and potential solutions.
- Seek out those with different perspectives to see if you have a blind spot—a missing piece of information, context, or challenges—that you’re not aware of.
A good first step is to spend some quality time reflecting inward on your intense feelings of anger and frustration. Make sure you understand what the essence of the thing is that disturbs you—try to get clear on the “why” first so you can work to move some of the emotion away.
Here’s a tactic we recommend: write it all down in the form of a story. “Once upon a time, there was a woman who found herself in the midst of a chaotic organization that…” and read it out loud to yourself. This will help you depersonalize and get some distance from the situation, which in turn can help you wrestle with these issues productively.
Once you’ve sorted through your internal feelings, talk to others within the organization. See how they’re framing the issues that you see and ask people with genuine curiosity (no leading the witness!) about how they see it. Perhaps you’re missing something and could benefit from another perspective.
If you find others who share your frustrations, join forces! Work together to craft a plan for taking some positive steps forward within your sphere of influence. There is power in numbers—new ideas, differing perspectives, helpful connections. Doing something productive will help you feel more in control and, hopefully, enact some true change that you can feel good about.