What You Need To Do If You Feel Like You're Failing At Your Job

by Katina Mountanos
Fox 2000 Pictures

Work is hard.

But sometimes, it seems like everything is going your way. You catch yourself getting into the groove: You know which Jim to email about your computer issues (yes, not CFO Jim), or how to use the fax machines without asking or when to sip your wine during those awkward dinner-with-coworkers moments.

One day, though, you stumble. It starts with something small. You notice a few spelling errors in your email. You spoke too quickly during a meeting. Whatever.

But it causes you to feel a little nervous --  because you can't possibly be crushing your career and be dating and do your laundry two weeks in a row and find time for brunch with your mom. Adulthood doesn't work like that, with everything always working out perfectly.

So you continue to put pressure on yourself to be absolutely perfect (because what other option is there?),  until a small mistake turns into a seemingly huge one.


Your weeks become consumed with this horrible feeling of I-hate-work-I-can-never-go-back-how-can-I-call-out-sick. Sunday night scaries happen every night of the week. You feel like you're walking on egg shells when you arrive at the office.

How do you handle those moments when work feels like it just isn't working?

Take a breather.


You'll. Be. OK.

Seriously. Take a minute to breathe, and cut yourself some slack. It's not the end of the world if you couldn't figure out how Excel works in the five minutes your boss gave you.

And you wouldn't be here if you weren't good at your job, right? So, reflect on those times when you did do something right.

If you can't remember any of those times, start a doc where you collect all of the nice things people say to you. I swear, it helps.

Even though it seems like something small, in the moments when you're fighting back tears at your desk, skim a little through the compliments.


I promise, you'll feel a tiny bit better.

Think about the bigger picture.

I know this moment feels like you'll never recover, but will it really matter tomorrow? In a week? Next year?

Probably not.


Even though right now this slip-up feels like the most defining moment of your career, take a step back. Put it in context.

Remember your boss/coworker/client has other (bigger) things going on than you. They will forget. I know it feels like they never will, but it'll happen.

And hey — if it makes you feel better, I cried at work the other day to my boss about something so silly. But I couldn't help it because in the moment, I felt like I messed everything up.

When I got back to my desk, I wiped my running mascara so no one would notice and went about my day. But I couldn't stop thinking about how terrible I felt, and that I cried at work about a stupid mistake.


And it made me realize: I will never be perfect. There are going to be times where I mess up  —  even at a job I enjoy. Work is not like school, where you aim to get a 100 on an exam only four times a year. Work feels like you have to get a 100 every day.

It's just not possible, so forgive yourself for a minute.

Assess your situation.

OK, but what if it actually is that bad?

What if every single moment you feel like someone is holding you down or preventing you from being your best self?


I've been there, too. I've been so frustrated and confused with navigating the politics of an office, where I wanted to just walk out. I ached to never come back and say good riddance. Anything felt better than being there.

That's when I knew it wasn't just a “shake it off and move on” type of scenario. I couldn't just dust myself off and keep going because every day there was sucking the life out of me.

I knew after assessing my situation I had to get the hell out.


What I'm saying is you have to know when to draw the line. It's different for everyone  —  and quite frankly, it's a very difficult thing to do. But don't become numb to these moments. Work shouldn't always be awful.

So, if it feels like work isn't working more often than not, make a move. Don't get stuck  —  no one should spend 80 percent of their life dreading their 9 am.

All in all, as I've progressed in my career (2 years down, woo!) I've slowly come to realize that sometimes,  work is work.

It's not going to be rainbows and butterflies and beer in the office kitchen and spa rewards for giving a presentation all the time.

For some reason, when I entered the working world, I had this insane fantasy that it would be, that I would love every moment of every day.

But even though work can be challenging at times, it should mostly be a time where you're growing, learning and having a bit of fun along the way.