Three tools to handle tough times at work

A recent study by Right Management found that 60% of workers intend to leave their jobs when the economy improves. Many of my friends and colleagues are in that boat too. Their jobs are demanding more work for less pay, the boss seems unsympathetic, and morale is at an all-time low.

Unfortunately, the job market doesn't seem to be in a hurry to get a lot better, so I am offering three simple tools that will help improve things now: a circle, a book, and four squares.


It's amazing how much we can accomplish if we stop worrying about what we can't control and focus more on what we can control. I like to use the Circle of Influence to help visualize this for any problem.

Let's say I'm dissatisfied with my job and I'm worried I might even get laid off. I can't control the economy and ultimately I don't decide whether the company keeps me or not. But what about the things I do control? I can make myself more indispensable than ever. I might realize that my boss is feeling the same pressures I am and try to be a better employee for my boss. I can enroll in some training classes after work or join a professional association to become more competitive in my field.

People can use the Circle of Influence to look at their own situation, stop feeling like a victim, and take control.

A Book

Books can sometimes fuel inspiration, provide great ideas, and kick-start us into action. Love it, Don't Leave it: 26 ways to get what you want at work is that kind of book. It's full of practical exercises to help you get what you want from your job.

Four Squares

Some of the worst companies I've worked for have provided me with the best job experience. Every job has its ups and downs, but it's important to continue to be productive and mentally present as long as you are physically present. I recommend a simple exercise using four squares to help maintain perspective on whether your job is really right for you.

First, clear your current job from your mind.

Second, get a blank piece of paper and draw the four squares shown below:

Third, brainstorm a list of criteria for each box. This forces you to separate what you must have in an employer and a job from what you would like to have.

Finally, compare the four squares to your current gig. If you are missing any 'must haves' it's time to plot your exit strategy. If all your 'must haves', it's time to put your nose to the grindstone, read that book I mentioned, and focus on your Circle of Influence.

Good luck!