Why Context Can Make Or Break Your Work Life

Are you thriving at work?

Often, I hear leaders in work situations where they feel unhappy, don’t feel like themselves, and are convinced that the problem must be about them. They take responsibility, thinking that if they could just figure out how to work better with this one colleague, or fit in better with a team, or if they could just work harder or in a different way, they could make it work.

While it’s great to own up to your challenges, you can’t always fix a work problem by putting your shoulder to the wheel. In fact, I have frequently found that leaders can gain in happiness and energy by making sure they are working in the right context based on their own style, values, and other attributes. Like a sun-loving plant in a shady corner of the garden, sometimes a leader isn’t feeling like their best self because they are in the wrong situation.

For instance, you may not be thriving because you aren’t aligned with the people you work with, the leaders of the company, or your boss. You might not be in agreement with the values of the company culture, how people interact, company priorities, or transparency of leadership. Something about where you work may not sit well or right for you. Sometimes it might be clear what these things are when you give it some thought, or sometimes it is just a gut feeling, where you can’t point to one exact issue. Some people like direct cultures that are more intense, some like more indirect, easygoing cultures; some are drawn to formal workplaces, and others to relaxed and informal ones.

What I know is that if your context is wrong, it will be hard to feel content, whether at work, at home, or in your community. Figuring out where you thrive and what you need to be your best self is the key to success. The sooner you can understand what situation is best for you, and adjust accordingly, the better.

I have observed in my work that when people stay too long in environments where they don’t thrive, or shine, they start to become a smaller self versus their biggest and best self. They become hard on themselves to make it work and they push through, or wait and hope things improve. They wait one more year and then one becomes two. It’s a leadership skill to know when to leave, and to know when it’s not about a lack of ability, but about a context that isn’t right for you.

If work has felt uncomfortable for you for a long time, pay attention to that. Think about which contexts make you feel most alive and productive, like your best self, and work towards putting yourself in those places where you can best thrive.


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