3 Questions to Ask When You Feel Frustrated at Work


Since starting my company, I've had the opportunity to spend time with hundreds of teams in various locations throughout the US, through our work together related to leadership, people development, and culture.

In this time, I've observed that there are a few key questions we can ask ourself when we feel frustrated with someone at work to increase our own happiness, while in turn creating ripples of positive impact that improve the overall culture of the organization.

1. Have you shared your feedback directly?

"Whispers" have the power to slowly and painfully poison an organization. Talking about each other, rather than to each other, is quite simply, one of the key differences I've observed between thriving and struggling teams.

When I sit down with a leader from an organization who shares feedback with me about someone on his or her team, I often ask, "have you shared this feedback directly?"

In a thriving organization, the answer is, "oh yes - he's well aware of it, we talk about it often, and he would tell you the same thing."

In a struggling organization, the answer is typically "no," "kind of," or "not really."

If you have an opportunity to give someone constructive feedback, I recommend using my mini-formula of Truth + Heart. This means: telling the truth as you have experienced it, from a place of compassion and kindness. This means being honest and straightforward, with the person's growth and learning in mind.

Helpful phrases to use include, "I've observed," "I've noticed," and "I've experienced."

2. Have you asked for clarity?

Frustration often stems from a lack of clarity, or from making assumptions that simply aren't true. This can be heightened when working with people in different roles, in different offices, or with different styles.

I find that this often stems from something seemingly insignificant, that then snowballs over time. Some examples of ways that we can create more clarity in order to reduce frustrations and create a happier, more productive working environment include asking the following types of questions:

  • What is our "in office" policy? Are we expected to be in the office during working hours? What does this look like/what does this mean? What do we consider working hours? If we have options for flexible work hours or remote work, what does this look like and what can we expect from each other?
  • How do we agree to communicate with each other? What are our preferences for communication? What are our expectations for responsiveness? If some members of the team travel heavily, how can we reach them in a pinch, while acknowledging that they might be on a plane or in client meetings?
  • What are the norms of our office? Do we have a stated open door policy where we expect people to work with their doors open, or do we encourage people to shut their doors to create heads-down focused working time? Do we take phone calls from our cube, or encourage team members to take phone calls in a conference room so that the shared area can remain quiet? Do we welcome pets in the office?
  • What are our roles? How can we create clarity in order to fosters ownership and accountability, while also building a culture that encourages an "all hands on deck" mindset?
  • If we have a flat structure or practice a version of holacracy, at the end of the day, who is responsible for making a decision when we are at a standstill? How do we deal with an underperforming team member when our self-managing team is stuck? And how can we balance self-empowerment with a desire for clarity and leadership?

Creating clarity up front is a way to create more easeful, joyful, and productive interactions down the line.

3. Are you assuming positive intent?

It can be easy to interpret a short email as rude, or a direct comment as offensive. However, what if we assumed positive intent - that perhaps the email was written quickly, or that the direct comment was a way of getting to the point more quickly, and therefore saving everyone on the team some time?

When we experience a negative reaction to someone else's behavior (or perceived behavior), it can be helpful to pause, breathe, and remind ourselves to assume positive intent.

Practicing the above strategies will not only help us to feel happier and more productive at work, but they also have the power to create positive ripples of impact within our organizations, which over time, creates the type of culture that we all want to be part of.

How to Be a Better Leader, Teacher, Meet-Up Organizer, or Spin Instructor

Ever walked into a gathering, a spin class, a team meeting, a yoga class, a conference, or a workshop, only to find everyone standing around in silence, looking at each other awkwardly? 

Whether we are leading a running meet-up of 5, or a conference of 5005, there are a few simple yet powerful things we can do as organizers, teachers, leaders, and facilitators to be more effective leaders and to increase the enjoyment and the outcomes of the experience for everyone involved. 

1. Say Hello.

This sounds painfully obvious. And, I find that way too frequently, it simply doesn't happen. As an organizer of a group or the leader of a course, part of our role - whether we like it or not -  is to hold space for the participants who are in attendance. A simple "hello" or "welcome" can help to break the ice, create conversation, and make people feel safe and welcomed into the experience you're leading.

2. Introduce Yourself. 

I know, I know. This sounds almost as painfully obvious as #1. But it's often absent. If you are teaching people something, leading an experience, or even just bringing people together in service of a cause that all of you care about, introducing yourself is important. This initial level of connection matters. And it sets the foundation for everything that follows. Before we attempt to learn anything, we must first get into relationship with each other.

3. Remember that It's Not Actually About You. 

While the teacher, leader, instructor, or organizer has a large impact on the experience, the experience isn't actually about the teacher, leader, instructor or organizer. The experience is about the participants. And as leaders - of whatever we are leading - we must remember this. 

I stopped going to spin classes for a long period of time due to my annoyance with the number of spin instructors who seemed to follow the same process of: walking into the studio, hopping on the bike, blaring the music, pedaling as hard as possible while simultaneously spewing commands, and never once stopping to acknowledge (or seemingly recognize) that there was actually a room full of participants filling all of the stationary bikes in the studio.

As leaders, it's not about us. It's about the people we are with. We must remember this first. 

4. Remember (or at least try to remember) People's Names. 

I will never forget a small tragedy that occurred many years ago, when I took a team member onsite to meet one of my most beloved client teams for the first time. This was a client I had worked with for many years, a client that felt like family to me (and still does), and a client that had been a great partner to our organization in many ways. 

Despite extensive coaching and discussions with this team member before we arrived onsite, when I began introducing him to my beloved client team, he tuned out, and when I finished the introductions, he immediately replied, "I'm never going to remember your names anyway." In that moment, I knew that I would never bring him onsite to visit my client again. It wasn't that he couldn't remember people's names; rather, it was his blatant disregard for trying. 

On the flip side, I was visiting with a client a couple weeks ago, leading a presentation during their annual retreat. Over lunch, I was talking to one of their regional leaders about what it's like to work for this particular organization. He shared his experience of joining the organization, after coming from a large global bank. "There", he said, "everyone was anonymous. Here, Our CEO says hello to every single person in the hallway by name. That is why I love working here."

Much has been written over the years about the power of remembering people's names. If you struggle with memory, here are some tips on how you might improve.  And I believe that at the end of the day, it's not as much about your memory as it is about your willingness to connect in a meaningful way.

5. Connect To Your Passion.

Hopefully, if you're leading something - whether a running meet-up or a two-day leadership conference - it's because you care about it deeply. Typically, when we lead from a place of passion, we are wildly effective leaders. When we get lost in the land of logistics, performing, or over-analyzing how the experience is going, it's easy to become disconnected to that passion. 

Before leading anything, take a couple minutes to connect to your "why." Why are you doing it? What do you most love about it? And how do you want to hold and honor that "why" as you're leading the group?

As I always say, leadership happens in the moments: the moments where we say hello, the moments where we pause to introduce ourselves, the moments where we connect with the others in the room, and the moments where we allow ourselves to show up authentically in service of the stuff we care about deeply. 



Considering a Career Change? Start Here.

What do I really want to do with my life?

If you're like many of my clients, this is a question you've asked yourself at least once.

Maybe it's something you're thinking about right now. 

It's a big, scary, and sometimes overwhelming question. It's a question that often seems to defy logic - especially if your current job looks pretty darn good on paper and isn't really that bad.

But here's the thing.

We get one chance at life.

We get one chance to make the type of impact we want to make in the world.

It's an important question.

While our typical starting point involves looking at what we want to do, I suggest a bit of a different approach. 

1. How do I want to feel?

Usually, we have no clue what we want to do.

But it's typically pretty natural for us to identify how we want to feel.

Start here. 

Don't overthink it. Be with whatever arises. 

Then write it all down. Sit with it, reflect on it, come back to it, and add to it as you're inspired to do so. 

Here's my list. 

Inspired, creative, radiant, expansive, alive, flow, connected, love.

2. What do I want my life to look like?

Second, think about how you want your life to look and be. This means reflecting on the following:

  • What do I want my days to look like?
  • How do I want to spend my time?
  • Who am I surrounded by?

Spend some time reflecting on your vision for the next chapter. Remember, you're not focusing on what you're doing but rather how things are. 

Get creative and get specific.

If you're a visual person, draw it out. Make a vision board. Let it simmer and add to it as more details come to you.

Here are some of the key pieces of my list. 

I start my day with reflection and journaling. Mornings are reserved for independent, creative work. My days feel impactful and meaningful and free and expansive and spacious. I travel and work in beautiful, interesting, inspiring places and connect with interesting, inspired, and inspiring people. I connect with others in a deep, meaningful, and lasting way. I have choice. I focus on the things that feel most important, fulfilling, meaningful, and impactful. The work I do brings me joy. I spend quality, joyful time with the people I love. My days are bright and colorful and involve time in nature.  

3. What makes me come alive?

Finally, think about the things that make you come alive.

These might be actions, they might be places, they might be talents you sometimes forget you have.

If you're not sure where to start, start here:

  • How do I most love to spend my free time?
  • What brings me joy?
  • What did I love to do when I was younger?
  • What are the gifts I love giving way to other people?

My list looks like this:

Being in nature, travel and adventure, beautiful, colorful and delicious food, inspiring and inspired people, places, and perspective, deep human connection, possibility and transformation, teaching, learning, growing.

Then, step back and take a look at what you've written down.

What do you notice about how you want to feel, how you want to be, and the things that make you come alive?

You might find this list to be a little squishy. You'll notice that it doesn't start with resume review or LinkedIn updates.

You're right. 

Einstein said "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." 

Jumping straight to the job search without first looking at how we want our life to look would be just that.

If we skip straight to the "doing" and start applying for jobs without first looking at the "being," we'll end up back where we started.

Even if we're doing work we love, if we're doing it in a way that doesn't feel good, we're not going to feel fulfilled.

I share my lists with you because they've been a constant compass for me.

They've also caused me a few "oh $%&! moments when I've realized that while I was doing work I loved, I was going down a path of creating something very different than the vision I feel so strongly about.

They've forced me to be accountable and forced me to stop, step back, and make some changes in service of what's most important. 

So, while considering the question of what you want to do, I invite you to pause and instead ask, how do I want my life to be? 

Then, after you've spent some quality time with this question, we can tackle that resume review. 


Not feeling overjoyed to go to work each morning? You're not alone. According to a Gallup Study performed between 2011 and 2012, only 13% of employees are "engaged" at work, and a whopping 63 are "not engaged."

In many cases, these feelings are warning signs that flash before us, urging us to make a change, uncover what it is that our heart is truly called to do, or take the leap toward pursuing our passion.

In some cases, however, we find ourselves lacking joy and feeling unengaged even while doing work that is an expression of our purpose in the world.

In these cases, a few small shifts can help to make you feel more alive, more engaged, and more connected to your work.

1. Replace "I have to" with "I choose to."

How many times do you find yourself stating....

"I have to work late."

"I have to finish a big report."

"I have to go out of town this week."

If you're like most people, it's pretty often. These statements are problematic for two reasons. First, they remove all sense of personal choice. And second, they have the potential to quickly spiral into a place of workplace heroism, where we find ourselves in a place of comparison with others about all the things we have to do.

For the next week, try replacing "I have to" with "I choose to." Because in almost all cases, it's the truth. We choose to be employed, we choose to say yes to taking the job, we choose to write the report, and we choose to get on the airplane. 

Practice this subtle yet powerful shift in language, and notice the impact.

2. Find the bright spots.

It can be all too easy to get caught up with - and sometimes, even partially obsessed with - the things we don't like about our job. The burdensome process of submitting our travel time and expenses, the fact that we all have to be in the office for the weekly sales meeting, the fact that we can't roll over our vacation days - the list goes on.

As we focus more and more on those things, we often lose sight of the good stuff - the things we actually love about the company, the things that led us to take the job in the first place, the things that cheer us up even during a really stressful day.

Make a list of all the bright spots about your job.

Include everything from the mission of the company, to your coworker who always makes you laugh, to the fact that you can wear jeans once a month, to the things you truly enjoy doing throughout your day. 

Take a moment to update your list at the end of each workday.

3. Express gratitude. 

Most of us have heard a lot about the incredible effects of gratitude on health, happiness, and success. Expressing gratitude can increase our overall level of wellbeing, it can help us live longer, and it can make us more successful in the workplace.

Much of the gratitude research out there focuses on individual practices such as a gratitude journal. While I fully support this idea and have witnessed the impact both personally and for many of my clients, I propose taking it a step further - especially in the workplace.

Once a week, take time to express gratitude to at least one person you work with. This could be in the form of an email, a hand-written note, a phone call, or an in-person visit. 

Sincerely express to your co-worker what you're grateful for, and why. You'll be amazed at the impact this has both on you, and on the recipient. 

I'd love to hear from you in the comments- what are the things you do that keep you feeling engaged and alive in the workplace?