Getting a Grip – Handling a Full Plate

Getting a Grip - Personal workplace advice from Handshake 2.0 Dear Getting a Grip:  My employer just doesn’t understand how much I have on my plate right now.  My mother-in-law has cancer, my son has turned into a soccer star so we’re constantly traveling to his games, and the plumber botched a repair job so we’re washing dishes in the bathtub.  I’ve had some negative performance reviews and I keep trying to tell my boss that things will get better.  Why can’t he take the “this too shall pass” attitude that I do?

Dear Bathtub:  Because this too shall not pass.  No matter what life has put on your plate that seems too much to stomach, as soon as you force it down or dump it in the potted plant when no one is looking, life will serve up another heaping helping of itself.  Life’s like that.

What makes for positive performance reviews is not how soon you can make what has happened go away, nor how much of life you can keep from happening (or attempt to), but how you handle what does happen.  Because it will keep happening.

Acquiring skills to cope with challenges, or even to triumph during them, is very difficult in times of high stress like you’re under.  Nonetheless, now is the time to begin.  Learning requires trial-and-error experimentation.  We all make errors.  With negative performance reviews under your belt, your boss will either appreciate your efforts or fire you for being too much on his plate.  Either way, you’ll have readied yourself for positive performance reviews with your current employer or your new one.

Getting a Grip:  Simply becoming aware that today’s challenges will be replaced by tomorrow’s can be fortifying.  The crisis reaction of “Oh, no, life has happened again!” eases into the productive response of “Ah, here’s life again.”  If life is a feast, an overfull plate can seem overwhelming.  A few utensils can help us fork up bites we can chew, even savor.


Need to start “Getting a Grip” on a personal problem at work?  Need workplace advice?  E-mail your question to [email protected].

Getting a Grip, a workplace advice column for Handshake 2.0, is written by Anne Giles ClellandGetting a Grip regrets that not all questions can be answered, personal replies are not possible, and questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.


Getting a Grip appears monthly in Valley Business FRONT.  A version of this column appeared in the September 2009 issue.

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