Dissatisfaction isn’t the Problem – How to Handle Dissatisfaction
If you aren’t currently disappointed with someone or something, you will be soon.
Aspiration is dissatisfaction.
Dissatisfaction is inevitable. Collecting unhappiness is a choice.
Make dissatisfaction useful before it suffocates effectiveness.
5 reasons dissatisfaction multiplies:
#1. Forgiveness isn’t in your toolbox.
Your dissatisfaction bucket gets heavy because you never pour anything out.
#2. Powerlessness is your way of showing up.
You feel you can’t do anything about your dissatisfaction.
#3. Confusion about the nature of dissatisfaction.
Think of dissatisfaction as motivation, not a thorn you can’t remove.
#4. Adapting is something others do.
You expect people to adapt to you, but you don’t adapt to others.
Those who can’t adapt always become dissatisfied.
#5. Dissatisfaction that you experienced dissatisfaction.
The habitually dissatisfied justify, prolong, and magnify dissatisfaction, even after resolution.
When issues are corrected, you think, “It’s about time.” Or, “You shouldn’t have screwed up in the first place.”
Habitual dissatisfaction continues, even after concerns are resolved.
Your dissatisfaction bucket gets heavy because you don’t know how to deal with the realities of organizational life and relationships.
People who deal poorly with unhappiness accumulate unhappiness.
Eventually, you get to the point where it’s not worth it and you walk away.
Begin with you:
On a scale of 1:10, how frequently are you dissatisfied? 10 = all the time. 1=almost never.
What level of dissatisfaction is acceptable?
Dissatisfaction is part of organizational life. Avoid being dissatisfied with yourself when you experience dissatisfaction. You might also avoid anger, resentment, worry, and other soul-sucking emotions.
Ask your team, “On a scale of 1:10, how frequently do you sense dissatisfaction from me?” 10 = all the time. 1=almost never.
- How much dissatisfaction is acceptable?
- What are useful ways to deal with dissatisfaction?
How might you answer the above questions?
How to Survive in an Unhappy Workplace (HBR)
10 Ways You are Causing Your Own Unhappiness (Psychology Today)
What to do if You’re Miserable at Work (CNBC)
6 Strategies for Managing a Cynical Team (The Muse)
The big question for me is what do I do with my dissatisfaction?
Does dissatisfaction motivate me to improve the status quo or do I accept it and act like a victim—-helpless.
If you are committed to continuous improvement, there is always some amount of dissatisfaction on your plate.
But too much dissatisfaction can be overwhelming. I like being at a 3.
Thanks Paul. Enough dissatisfaction to motivate, not so much dissatisfaction that it overwhelms or demotivates.
It’s interesting that we rise up to meet dissatisfaction when we think we can do something to resolve it.
Related to yesterday’s post–is our self-image—problem-solver or victim?
Most organisations deal with workforce dissatisfaction with a similar approach to parents feeding small children “You’ll have what you’re given, and you’ll like it”.
Or the other approach of old-fashioned parents, responding to complains from a child following a clout round the ear “There’s plenty more what that came from!”.
Thanks Mitch. On the other hand, When we expect organizations to make us happy, we’ll end up unhappy.
But your point is important. Dissatisfaction is an opportunity when we strive to create vibrant teams and organizations.
Your dissatisfaction bucket gets heavy because you don’t know how to deal with the realities of organizational life and relationships. The key that I see in your discussion. Life itself is full of dissatisfaction but it is really how one manages those dissatisfactions that colors you and gives you satisfaction. Recognize that no one is perfect including yourself. Start from there and it is really an upward journey. Celebrate little bits of satisfaction along the way and just get on with it. Trust me you will feel better, more content and you will smile.
Thanks Roger. Unrealistic expectations of others creates dissatisfaction. “No one is perfect.” The inability to honor imperfect progress is a sure way to carry a heavy dissatisfaction bucket!
I’ll add that people who have lots of expectations on others and few expectations on themselves are always unhappy.
BAM! “Your dissatisfaction bucket gets heavy because you never pour anything out”. The power quote of the week.
I think once that unhappy mood gets going in the work place it is hard to get it out. Often it requires change. You need to engage it at the start, often you will find its just one or a few that are trying to deal with their own failures to bring others down. Yes as a leader you still need to own it since it is your team. Not saying its all your fault but it is your job to fix it.
Thanks Walt. Your point is well taken. There is danger to the power of dissatisfaction. It’s a downward pull that’s hard to overcome.
A timeless and vitally important topic, beautifully expressed and explored here. Buddhism faces this issue head on by reminding us that attachment is the root of suffering—although many say suffering should more accurately be translated as dissatisfaction.
Dwelling on dissatisfying feelings and thoughts amplifies them and increases suffering, while accepting that life will always include some levels of dissatisfaction frees me from the tendency to magnify what’s “wrong” and miss the lessons and growth opportunities.
Eckhart Tolle talks about how we all have a “pain body” that seeks to be honored and fed by latching onto others’ pain and dissatisfaction, and collectively blaming common foes (the dud boss, the frustrating client, etc.) for our shared woes. Boy, did I go down that path a lot in my 20s, 30s and 40s … and 50s.
Thomas Merton (who became a scholar and promoter of Zen later in life) expressed it beautifully in his 1940s autobio, Seven-Storey Mountain: “The truth that many people never understand,” he wrote, “is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most.”
Thanks for all the insights, Jim. The idea that dwelling on something magnifies it, speaks to me. Plus the problem of dissatisfaction that leads to blaming is too often true.
I am rarely dissatisfied, I can usually find a way to redirect my actions or motivations to empty my bucket from time to time.
I however have an employee that is perpetually dissatisfied and makes sure everyone around her knows it. I have little control over what can be done about it because she actually does her job well, but the loss of morale is unquestionable the most resounding issue. most employees try to avoid her at all costs, to the point of putting extra work on themselves so they do not have to interact with her.
I have tried so many strategies to reduce her dissatisfaction but nothing seems to reduce it. I’m at a loss what else can be done.
Thanks Lisa. And congratulations on emptying your bucket from time to time. My observation is that people who can’t manage dissatisfaction only grow more dissatisfied with the passing of time. The trouble is that the problem is inside us. A change on the outside only offers momentary sanctification, if at all.
1. What is the major source of her dissatisfaction?
2. Does she think she comes across as a dissatisfied complainer?
Great questions for Lisa’s employee. Perhaps a 360 assessment would help. Those who can’t see themselves need others to help them see.
Sometimes you need to make the problem visible. One of my former students, David had parents who were constantly arguing and fighting. When he brought it to their attention they denied it or said we don’t argue that much.
For one week, David kept track of all the times they fought and argued. Mon-4, Tues-3 etc–he also tracked how long each argument took.
He then created a bar graph of their arguments and presented it to his parents. They were shocked into the reality of how often and how much time they spent arguing/fighting.
Lisa could try a similar approach. Keep track of every complaint and negative comment this employee makes over some period of time and then create a graph. Make the problem real and visible and then show it to the employee. .
I have found some people don’t even realize how much complaining they are doing.
Thanks Paul. What a great illustration.
I’ll add that I’ve committed to not complain for an hour. But, sadly, sometimes I only last minutes. It’s shocking.