Sunday, September 27, 2015

Being chic in a difficult work environment


It’s all very well feeling empowered by our chic ‘good vibes’ when we are in our own environment, one that we have total control over such as our home.  However what can we do to protect ourselves when we are in a work environment and it’s an unhappy and oppressive atmosphere, and changing jobs is not an option?

A reader who feels that her ‘chicness feels secondary to survival right now' has asked me this, so I’ll do my best to offer some tips and ideas to get you through the day.  Thinking back to different jobs I’ve held, some were fine and some had awful people who made the day-to-day not so pleasant.

Look to myself first

Firstly I’d make sure that I was beyond reproach.  I admit I do find it hard to get motivated at times, so if I’m being frothy and pretty but not doing my work then others have every right to be grumpy with me.  I’m not saying anyone else is guilty of this, but I was.  So whenever I was feeling put upon I’d look to myself first to see if there was any way I was contributing.

Along the same lines, I’d also ask myself if I was gossiping, complaining or being passive aggressive.  Again, I’d turn the spotlight onto myself and choose to take the high road by being respectful, pleasant and 'staying in my own lane' (minding my own business).

Create a safe bubble

Next I would work on creating a safe bubble where I could do my work, protect my energy and go home at the end of the day ready for a relaxing evening.  I would not let my evening be ruined by a draining day at work that I'd let come home with me.  I’d remind myself that when people are not nice it says more about them than it does about me. I'd also not let them take any extra time from me.  If I'm still chewing over something later on at home they are stealing my peace there as well.

Unhappy people often take it out on someone else.  When I tell myself this (and it certainly is true) it always makes me feel better.  Even though I work with my husband now and we run our own business, we still may encounter an unhappy supplier or customer and they really used to get me down.

Of course I'd try and help them out but sometimes I'd just have to step back and know that nothing I could do would make them happy and that it’s just how they are.  That takes the pressure off me to try and ‘fix’ everything, because I can be a bit of a control freak and if someone is not happy I want to help them – sometimes even if they don’t want it!  (I am learning… slowly).

Incorporate things that make you feel good

In her email to me, our reader said that perusing my blog gives her hope when she is lunching at work.  I do this too – if I’ve had an encounter that has drained my energy or made me feel bad I raise my vibration either by telling myself a better story or I’ll go online and read one of my favourite uplifting blogs.

When I’m out walking or travelling home on the bus like I sometimes do, I listen to positive and informative podcasts.  Before I had an iPod I’d always have a favourite small book in my bag – Anne Barone’s books went to and from work countless times with me when I worked in an office and would bus into the city every day.  In my lunch break I’d go out for a half hour stroll, buy my sushi and come back to my desk to eat it (my desk was preferable to the food hall).  I’d read something inspiring whilst eating and be ready for the second half of my day.

Having a little stash of items like makeup, perfume, handcream and chewing gum for fresh breath in my bag always helps me feel more pulled together and ready for anything.  I’d always touch up after lunch.

Have a high vibration

All of these things lead to raising your vibration and you know you have a high vibration when you feel good.  I believe people can sense your vibration, just as you get a vibe from others.  Some people can be energy bullies without realising (just giving them the benefit of the doubt here) and if your energy is low they may feel justified in attacking you in small or big ways.

By doing everything possible to keep your vibration high you are more protected from these people.  Being healthy and happy goes a long way towards a high vibration so look after yourself and think good thoughts.

You can choose

And finally, at the end of the day it’s your choice about the circumstances you find yourself in.  You can weigh up whether it’s worth it for you to stay in this situation and make the most of it, knowing that you won’t be there for the rest of your life, or you can say to yourself ‘I’m really unhappy and I’m going to make plans to transition into something else’.  Making that decision can bring incredible coincidences into play and just putting it out there can start things off.

Make a list of your ideal working environment and read it often, and, why not expand it out to your ideal lifestyle?  I’m done this myself and can see things slowly (and sometimes not so slowly) shifting to match that picture I’ve painted for myself.  It’s both exciting and empowering (and sometimes a bit scary) knowing that I am in complete charge of my life, even if it doesn't feel like it at times.

I’d love to hear any thoughts my lovely readers might have on thriving in spite of an ongoing non-ideal work (or other) situation – please do share your collective wisdom.  Even if you think it’s just a tiny thing it could spark off a life-changing thought for someone else.  You may think I'm overstating this but it's true, sometimes I've heard a brief snippet that has given me a great idea that I have put into action and it's changed my trajectory (for the better!).


  1. Dear Fiona
    I have even following your blog for a while. Your posts always bring some fresh air to my life. Thank you so much.
    I am n transition of getting my second part time job which is something I am long after. I still like me existing job though.You had a point there that it is always the people at work make a job feels different. I used to be upset about not being liked. But I have realised everyone is different. Everyone has his/her choice on how to treat people. Their choice needs not to influence how we think we are. Also, while I have a good working relationship with most of the people, I always remind myself that my aim at work is to complete all the tasks given at my very best. I am not there to make friends or to socialise. It helps me focus because I am not disturbed by any negative encounters with people. I also like your idea of not letting work issues to steal our out of work life. Same that it is inappropriate to bring our personal life or issues to work. They have to be separated. Self praises at work is very important to me. Whenever I think I have done something well, even it looks very minor to others, I praise myself. I believe self motivation is very important. My belief is to accept the emotions whatever has caused them, and to do whatever I need to do. We are able to create our own job satisfaction.

  2. Thank you, Anonymous, for your great points, especially not to take personal issues into work - it does go both ways! Best wishes with your second job, you will go far with your good attitude and positivity.

  3. Wonderful advice, Fiona! I also like Anonymous's advice as well. I wish I had had this advice when I was working outside the home. :)

  4. One of your best posts Fiona!!!! If you read my blog you know I left a very very bad job (I was there 20 years!) for a much better job. I was abused by tormenting women even though I was senior to them. I had all kinds of trick to keep myself together under extremely trying circumstances and my tricks worked except on the very worse days. I ALWAYS dressed beautifully every day, made a nutritious lunch and brought reading material that was inspiring (somethings Anne Barone books!). I made a scrapbook of images of women working and I kept that with me and thumbed through it at lunch for inspiration. My self-esteem took a beating though but in the end, that was the impetus to leave. Also, I did "Ladies Room Exercises" each time I used the rest room. This kept me energized and made me feel I had control over my work day. For three years, I did 20 wall presses and 20 lunges. It really helped me keep in shape too. As well, I put myself in an imaginary plexiglass box which gave me the perception that you cannot touch me too deeply or hurt me anymore. That was probably the most helpful thing of all. As well, I was unfailingly polite and courteous and held doors, said good morning and good night and was generally kind without letting others who could hurt me get too close. This all saved my sanity until I could raise my self-esteem to get out. Looking back, it was like a concentration camp and a friend who is a counselor told me I had "institution mentality" which is what kept me there so long. I do believe personal style and chicness reminds us who we are during trying times. I write this to help other readers. Blessings for a marvelous post Fiona!

  5. Tracy, that's exactly what I was thinking when writing this post - 'wish I'd known all this then'. It's been almost eleven years that I've been in my own business and AWAY from office politics (and I couldn't be happier).

    Donna, thank you for your beautiful advice. Those horrible ladies must have been beyond jealous of you to be so nasty. I love the ladies room exercises and would like to adopt them myself, merci!

  6. Hi Fiona,

    I agree with your comments and those of everyone else here so far as it goes for typical situations. Like everyone, I've had my share of challenging work situations over the years, and these approaches help navigate the great majority of them successfully.

    What I have encountered as well over the past couple of years, though, is something that is severe workplace harassment -- and, really, truly, there close to no control. It exceeds the boundaries of work because of networks of people and technology -- and, of course, money and power. It is constant even though it originated at work.

    It includes being isolated, ridiculed in various ways, and being blocked from doing things I want to do. Cyberbullying and hacking are part of it. This weekend was crazy and included having trojan viruses sent to my home computer that took a couple of hours to remove. It's hard to focus and maintain a sense of positivity in this kind of situation. Even if I want to do something, I feel no trust to do it because I've burned badly by sabotage when applying for jobs and so on. And, also, I don't know what will get this psychological harassment to stop, yet will allow me to live a life I actually want. The bullies don't seem to know anything but passive-aggressive communication. Nothing is clear. I have come to the conclusion that "fun" is what they want -- the "fun" of destroying someone's life.

    The good thing is that being able to read your blog and a few others restores an appreciation for the ideal of "chic living" (and sane living) and a hope that I can return to a more normal state soon. So, thank you very much for that.

    This is a situation that I would never wish on anyone, even the people who are behind it.


  7. Alison, I'm so sorry that you're having to put up with this situation. The way you describe it sounds almost unbelievable - are people really that awful? That's a rhetorical question because obviously they are.

    Please don't give up, you will find a way out. All the best to you.

  8. Alison, I am so sorry about your situation. I have had the same terrible situation for a couple of years and it this summer it worsened and I had a stroke from the stress. I am now on medical leave 6 weeks so far) and after being away from work I am not sure I can ever return to the bullying and stress. I am 50 and had planned on working at least 12 more years. My tormentor, a younger woman, had other co-workers isolating and bullying me as well. Please keep a close watch on your health. Your body can only take so much stress.

  9. Mischief Managed, gosh, you poor thing. I'm glad you are away from this evil woman now and I wish you a full recovery. Best wishes for a new job in time where the people that you work with appreciate you.

  10. Thanks for your feedback Fiona and Mischief Managed. MM - health is definitely a priority in this kind of situation

    I never would have imagined this kind of thing would be possible, however, I can now see it is. There are academics who have written about it, and living it is terrifying. Yet again, yesterday, I came across a staged accident in the street. A motorcyclist in all red and black was knocked off his bike as I came out of my building -- he was fine and it looked like something that a stunt driver would do for a film. I've seen similar "accidents" before over the past year or so.


  11. Hi Fiona,

    I seem to always find my way back to your blog and it's just what I need on that day. A belated welcome back from your hiatus, from me :)

    I think advice on how to deal with a workplace is sometimes going to be met with an "easier said than done", which is unfortunate because it's usually true. When I was stuck at my old job, it was important for me to be strict with my boundaries that balanced work and home life -- it was just exhausting otherwise. I also relied on the one ally I made at the office to help me through focusing on various mini goals throughout the day ( homage to an old HTBC post :] ). And eventually the mini goals I set got me into the much better place I'm in now. I think there's something to be said about managing what you can, and only what you can, so as not to feel overwhelmed.

    ~ Lenna

  12. Hi Lenna, so great to hear from you all the way from fabulous NYC. Thanks so much for your wise advice, and I agree, lots of advice is easier said than done. I do it myself all the time (not take the advice and carry on complaining) but it doesn't make it any less valuable. Thanks for calling in :)


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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