I recently ran an off-site and the check-in I used to begin the second day of the session was a simple but powerful exercise using post-it notes.

I asked everyone to take two post it notes.

On one post-it note, I asked people to write down something they’d like to feel more of at work.

And, on the second post-it note, I asked people to write down something they’d like to feel less of at work.

Then, I asked everyone to go up and put their “more of” and “less on” post-its on two separate parts of the wall, grouping similar words together as they went.

Unsurprisingly, even in a large, diverse group, some very clear clusters quickly emerged.

When it comes to how we want to feel at work, we are more alike than you might think.

We want to feel more connected, more respected, more valued, more seen & heard. We want to feel like we matter and that we belong.

And it seems, that many of us want to feel less frustrated.

One of my coaching client recently shared that she experiences a lot of frustration in executive team meetings. So much so, that she finds herself intentionally eating at these meetings as a way to “push down” her feelings of frustration.

I had someone else share in a group coaching session that sometimes in one-on-ones when people are talking about their personal lives and she’s experiencing inner pressure to get the conversation back to delivery, she has to pinch herself under the desk in order not to interrupt them.

When I coach people who want to feel less frustration at work, I start by describing their experience as like trying to hold a beach ball underwater

It can take a lot of effort and energy to suppress feelings of frustration. It’s wobbly, and it’s precarious because our frustration tends to pop up in exaggerated ways at inopportune moments.

When you’re trying to hide your frustration it’s almost like you have a second job – you have the job of being a leader, then you have another job of pretending that you’re fine when actually your inner experience is very different “being fine”.

So what’s the alternative?

One alternative is to learn how take the air out of the beach ball. To reduce the amount of frustration that is being produced inside of us. To get that beach-ball maybe down to just a ping-pong ball of frustration.

The first step is to really understand the part of you that’s experiencing the frustration, and to get a good feel for what’s really going on for that part.

Often what coaching clients will illuminate is a part of them that’s really driven to perform, to relentlessly strive – to prove themselves. It’s often a part that is burdened by the misguided believed it can achieve its way to enough-ness. A part of them that’s perhaps  quite competitive, often fixated on ranking (rather than linking).

When we take the time (and have the support) to really get to know these parts of ourselves, to really understand what they’re afraid would happen if they weren’t behaving the way they’re behaving – we begin to empower ourselves to change,

We can start to support these parts of ourselves in new ways – and slowly begin to dissolve the amount of frustration they feel.

We can coach these parts of ourselves to feel appreciated and to appreciate the many benefits that flow from taking a more inclusive, collaborative, kind, patient, realistic, compassionate and self compassionate approach to our work.

If you’re someone who’s working hard to hold a beach ball underwater at work, I invite you to look within to discover the true source of your frustration.

If you are on the path from self-betrayal to self-fidelity and might benefit from a little guidance and support, click here to see how I can help.