3 ways to channel frustration

Last week I had coffee with Lisa who worked with me as an intern. She’s a super motivated, talented graduate, ready for a new challenge and to throw her energy into the working world. She’d got a really cool opportunity to go and do a slightly better paid internship with a company in Oxford. After deciding it would be best for her to go, I persuaded her to take the job. We spoke every couple of weeks and quickly found that her experience certainly didn’t live up to her expectations! The “dynamic work environment and variety of opportunities in a company that works internationally”, translated into ‘data entry and data entry’. Whilst date entry is an important role, it does take a certain kind of person to be excited about doing it every day.

We met for coffee and I asked about what she’d learnt from it so far, how she was going to make the next few months better and if there was any good bits at all. The best advice I had was to of course get the most out of it. But that’s either said than done when I quit an internship after 6 days when I finished University. So addition to this wisdom I focused on the learning and actions she could take. (Beyond the obvious of leaving and finding something else.)

1) Complain and get angry.

Getting angry is not necessarily a bad thing. It shows you care and you want something more from the situation. However, complaining won’t make the situation any better, it won’t help you and certainly won’t help anyone else.

2) Learn from the situation

Frustration is normally a sign that something isn’t a right. It could be your values don’t match. The management is poor. Or your skills are totally under utilised. The most important things is that you take the time to reflect. Here are a few questions I asked.

If you were to be a manager in the future, how would you do things? What has this taught you about the kind of environment you want to work in? What has this taught you about the kind of jobs you really hate doing?

Finding what you don’t want to do is the first step to finding out what you do want to do.

3) Doing something about it

The final stage is to do something about it. This is the highest order of thinking about the situation and using it to benefit others.

In this case it could be to inform other graduates about choosing the right job and seeing past sugar coated job descriptions from recruitment agencies. It could be to approach your manager with advice on how to make roles more engaging for new staff so you don’t have to keep re-hiring people. Whatever the something is, it’s about letting other people benefit from your disappointment. The people open to learning or being challenged will be hugely grateful!


I will add Lisa’s reflections on her experience in the hope it will help other people in similar situations. In the meantime, think about how you deal with situations that frustrate you and don’t give you what you expect.

Keep learning and keep making things better for yourself and others!

Categories: Leadership, Living

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