No matter where you are in the world, complaining about work is an international pastime. From working in the family business to working abroad, you invariably have stress and frustrations caused by your boss, your co-workers, or your responsibilities.
One of the biggest barriers to a healthy work-life balance is being able to deal with these stressors. I’m sure many of you reading this article have finished a particularly bad day at work and headed off to the local bar to chat s*** about work. I know I have!
Is this actually productive or is it feeding what we like to call the ‘negative mindset’? The negative cycle that comes from dealing with problems with the same people who are also experiencing these problems. Is it possible to gain from these discussions or are you just making yourself more frustrated and more likely to carry work based grudges.
These feelings of frustrations can often be magnified when you’re working abroad. Different communication styles, forms of interaction, and even the office politics are the tip of the iceberg. Simply put, it’s easy to let these differences cloud your judgment. Of course, part of the excitement of working abroad is learning to be patient with these new patterns of communication, but this doesn’t always stop it from causing irritation and stress.
Rather than finishing work and running to the nearest bar, what are some of the more effective ways to deal with these workplace frustrations, and not feed your negative mindset?
Take a breather
Sure, getting the first round in and launching into a tirade about your problem is pretty damn satisfying, but the more we talk about something, the longer it stays on our mind and thus having a greater effect on our emotions and behaviour.
From passive aggressive behaviour and the inability to answer emails in a timely fashion to impolite communication, there are plenty of channels to fuel your anxiety and frustration, but they are more often than not, behaviours born out of culture and stress, not an attempt to frustrate you directly.
Though it may be easier said than done, taking a timeout can be the perfect tonic for the negative mindset. Settling down with a book, exercising or hanging out with non-work friends can give you a better perspective. The further you are from the source of frustration, the more chance you have objectifying the cause. You could be angry at a certain person only to realize that either they’re carrying out orders from someone else or simply just don’t know any better.
Stepping away from the problem allows you to create an equanimous mindset, to get back to homeostasis, and make decisions based on objective thoughts and actions.
Avoiding Negative Friendships
There’s nothing worse than building a friendship based on your annoyance around a certain subject. Coming from the standpoint of ‘my enemy is your enemy, therefore we’re best buds’ isn’t the most solid base for your international friendship.
Being abroad, especially in a country where there is limited English, often means that your co-workers become some of your closest friends. However, checking yourself on how these friendships are developing is vital to maintaining a healthy relationship. Spending your time being critical of your workplace and co-workers not only provides a rather unstable friendship base, it also makes it harder to enjoy your time in working abroad. Don’t let your co-workers bring you down!
We’re not saying don’t befriend your co-workers, but just to be wary about why you’re meeting up or what you’re discussing. If it’s often work related, and negative at that, that’s pretty big arrow pointing you towards a new friendship group.
If you want to see what an unhealthy expat mindset sounds like, head over to the forums of somewhere like Dave’s ESL Cafe. Though this is one of the most popular ESL websites, the forums are full of keyboard warriors determined to place their negative mindset on others.
What is the problem?
Are you actually frustrated with the right action or person? In the heat of the moment it’s easy to play the blame game. Take a step back and identify who or what caused the problem. Was there a problem with the language which meant the task was not carried out how you suspected it to be? Was a co-worker’s response a little short with you because their English was limited in certain situations?
I remember my first job back in the day was working at a small supermarket where we’d have an influx of tourists during the summer. I used to get incredibly annoyed because they never said ‘please’. Seems so simple, right? However, fast forward a couple of years and I visited France for the first time. ordered a couple of my ‘pain au chocolate’ and, in the heat of using my best extremely limited French, completely forgot to say ‘please’. Was I trying to be rude? Hell no. But small language differences or deficiencies can play a huge part in how you perceive someone’s behavior.
We’ve been in the situation where your negative mindset at work has nothing to do with workplace stressors. Living in a foreign country is a hell of a transition and you may be taking your cultural frustrations out on co-workers. Moving your life and work is always a big transition, whether it’s 50 miles down the road or 5,000 miles round the world, there’s going to be stress involved.
For most of us, working abroad isn’t a spur of the moment decision, it’s a dream that’s finally being realized… and you’re going to spend your time getting frustrated?! Hell no.
Focus on the positives in life. You’re living abroad living the dream, and you have miles of countryside, a whole city, and hundreds of new foods to try. Why are you complaining about work?