The Importance of Caring Less at Your Office Job

rainbowAn updated version of this post is published at QuietRev.com.

Years ago, when I moved from my small hometown in Michigan to New York, I took administrative temp work to get my “foot in the door” and get a full-time job.

One of my temp assignments left me especially miserable. The person managing me would hurl insults at another employee. The job–stuffing envelopes–was brain-meltingly boring. And of course, as an HSP, all this affected me greatly.

I got home and (surprise!) complained about it to my husband.

I remember that he said, matter-of-factly, “Call your temp agency and quit the assignment. It’s not worth you being miserable.”

My first reaction was, “I can’t do that!” I committed to the assignment. They were counting on me! I don’t quit things.

Then he asked me: What’s more important? My mental health or finishing a temp job for some company that couldn’t care less about me?

He was right. There was no reason for me to care so much about this job. So what if my quitting inconveniences the company or the temp agency? Who cares?

When I was a kid, my dad used to jokingly say, “You gotta look out for Number One”.

“Number One” is yourself. Ultimately, your workplace doesn’t really care about you. You are replaceable. You have to look out for your HSP-self first and stop worrying about everyone and everything else.

A few months ago, a friend was struggling at work. She was overwhelmed by too many responsibilities and was ready to quit. I posed the question to her: “What would happen if you didn’t get all your work done on time? What if you couldn’t finish all the tasks?” And her response was something like, “I guess it wouldn’t be the end of the world…” But I could tell that she wouldn’t even consider letting some things slip through the cracks. She was a hard worker who cared about her performance.

She was either going to do a great job, or no job at all.

I told her, “You are ready to quit your job. What will it hurt to try caring less first? If you can care less, then you won’t feel so stressed about not getting everything done. Just do the best you can. That’s all you can do.”

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ep06_blogpostimageLook. I know you care deeply about details, my HSP friend, but please remember that worrying and stressing about your job isn’t productive. You probably care more about your job than many people do; you are loyal, committed, and hard-working. But when you stress because you feel like you aren’t doing good work, or that you are behind on a project, ask yourself, “Who cares?” Hopefully this will help you put it all into perspective and take a little stress off your shoulders.

Like this post? Listen to Episode 6 of the Highly Sensitive Person Podcast about the same topic.

Comments

  1. Thanks for this useful reminder Kelly! I nearly killed myself – quite literally, I had a nervous breakdown – in my last job because I was trying to do the job of three people. As an HSP (who didn’t know it for a long time) I grew up letting people impose stuff on me, and trying to prove myself worthy of their acceptance and love by going way beyond my capacities. To prove what? When I finally faltered out of sheer exhaustion, ‘Who cares?’ was indeed the question which forced me to see the ugly truth. Since then – that was three years ago – I have started looking out for Number One and I feel so much more balanced, serene and happy. And it comes as no surprise to me that the job I left was not filled by anyone else! No one else would be so ridiculously committed to doing a job which needs three people to do the work well. It was a lesson I needed to learn and hard as it was it has really helped me to move on.
    Go well,
    Vera

    • Vera, thank you so much for this heartfelt comment. I am happy this post resonated with you. For us HSPs, we care so much that the concept of *not* caring never crosses our minds! I’m glad you were able to get out of a toxic job environment!

  2. This is so true. You can still do a good job even though you don’t care as much. Your performance won’t suffer but in my cause get better. By not being stressed out you make fewer mistakes and you are more pleasant to be around. My co-worker asked me why I wasn’t affected by an event at work. I replied because I don’t care. I do my work, that I am paid to do, and I do it well. Why get upset about something you can’t change.

  3. Thank you for this, it’s exactly what I needed! I’m really struggling right now in a very toxic and unorganized firm I started working for 4 months ago. I want to leave more than anything but need the job. Trying to figure out how to block it all out and it’s been very tough.

    • Lisa, you and I are in the exact same position. I started working at a completely unorganized, highly unprofessional firm about 4 months ago as well. I am being compared to my predecessor who had about 3-4 years of experience doing exactly what I do. When I started, my training literally was only about 1 day and a half. The attorneys working at the office are EXTREMELY unapproachable so everything I did, I had to learn on my own. They claim that I am not working at even 50% of my capacity, yet I kill myself trying everyday. And I feel as though I am the one doing most of the work. It has gotten to the point that I am suffering through a mild form of depression. I cannot remember the last time that I was happy. All I can think about on my free time is work and about how they feel as though I am extremely incompetent for this position. It is hard for me because I am a HSP as well as a perfectionist, so to have people question my work ethic is killing me. I semi need this job as well but it has gotten to the point where it has become unbearable. I plan on quitting very soon and although it makes me feel bad that I am essentially giving up, I need to put my health first and I need to take the time to make myself happy. I wish peace of mind for you as well.

  4. Thanks again for sharing. I’m at the position at the moment where I am doing 3 people’s job-again (because I am the only one who cares and will do it). I’m super-stressed, exhausted etc etc. I really need to care less, but it’s really hard for me as I have pride in my job. NUMBER ONE is really the most important. I will try!!

  5. Kelly, I just discovered your site today, and have been wrestling with not only being an HSP (thank goodness I finally know what it is, rather than thinking it’s something I didn’t have enough therapy to cure in my 20s!), but with this notion of caring LESS at work. I was like Vera and Lisa and Marina for years — I’m always the GO TO GIRL, the one who can do everything, learn everything, communicate effectively with everyone, soothe ruffled feathers, and was still willing to do more. DO MORE / DO IT BETTER has been my mantra from childhood onward, only back then it was “I’m going to love people better, not cause pain.” Then I grew up and that expanded exponentially to everything. But since I turned 40, my gut feeling keeps speaking up: “You’re exhausted, we don’t wanna do this anymore, where is this getting us anyway, aren’t you done?” You’re right, it never occurred to me to let anything go, or to become the “I don’t care” girl. The guilt is definitely the worst thing to wrestle with…but I’m starting to see that this is more of a survival issue, a health issue, a sanity issue. Besides, let some of the lazy buttheads in my office take some of the load for a while. 🙂 Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Dear Kelly,

    thanks so much for your blog and all the colourful pictures you are creating in my head – and of course – most of the situations are fully true for myself.

    I am active in a German HSP-community and I am already a big supporter of your website – so I posted it to my German peer HSPs. Carry on with this nice and very! helpful website!

    http://www.xn--treffpunkt-hochsensibilitt-4hc.de/11590502nx46300/nuetzliche-links-zu-anderen-seiten-die-sich-mit-hs-und-den-damit-verbundenen-themen-beschaeftigen-f16/kelly-is-blogging-englisch-t6053.html

    Have a nice week and probably hearing from you soon,
    1753

  7. Hello!
    I’m sitting here at my office desk, holding back my tears, after reading your last sentences above – they were directed straight at me! So absolutely true and I recognize myself fully. One job that I now see is NOT fit for a HSP person is HR – I have been taking other people’s worries too hard! About 400 persons…
    I am about to change to another job within the same company which hopefully will be less stressful!

    Wish me luck 🙂

    Anne
    Anne Groening recently posted…HSP Podcast #07: Explaining HSP to Your PartnerMy Profile

    • Hello Anne, thank you for your comment. I’m glad my post resonated with you! I have thought about HR before. I would enjoy being able to make positive changes to people’s workplaces and work lives, but I would also take things too hard, and too personally. Good luck at your new job!!

  8. Even though this post is old, Thank You for posting it. I don’t consider myself HSP as the acronym goes…. But after working for quite a long time at one company, I asked myself the same question this past Friday “Why should I care so much about my job anymore when others, including supervisors and management does not?” And then I did a search on Google and found your post. The question, became the answer “Just do not care so much about my job.”. This is my new motivation going forward.

  9. worrylines says:

    Hi Kelly,

    How do you start to not care? What kind of approach should I take? I plan on leaving this summer regardless of whether I have another job lined up. It’s just not worth it anymore. I wanted to leave last summer but the jobs I applied for are only getting back to me in the last month or two. How can I cope until then? We have a lot of big meetings coming up and I’m the one that will have all of the preparation responsibility dumped on me while others are out of the office. I am anxious beyond belief about getting this all done and have told my boss this. She pretends to care but I have quickly learned my pushing back doesn’t hold any weight. When I started there we had an assistant in our department but she left and they never replaced her. I am doing everything she did, everything I am supposed to do in addition to covering for those who are slacking and/or out of the office. I have sacrificed a lot for the good of the company and I’m tired of it.

    • Hi and thanks for sharing. Well, if you know you are leaving in the summer, doesn’t that take some stress off you? That means you really don’t need to care as much!

      When I feel myself tightening up and starting to stress and obsess, I actually ask myself this question: “Who cares?” “Who cares if [fill in the blank] doesn’t get done?” It helps me put things in perspective. (I mean, obviously if you are a medical doctor or something super important you shouldn’t say “Who cares?” but in office jobs, this tactic has worked for me.)

      I guess I would need to know what specifically is still stressing you out. You said you were doing preparation for meetings–like, preparing agendas, materials, etc? Are people taking too long to get back to you? I guess I need more details and maybe I can give some actually useful advice! 🙂

  10. Hi Kelly,
    Not sure where to begin. I have been at my job for 34 years yes it’s a long time!!! I love my patients and for the most part my job. I have done it all here. I Guess you could say I’m the go to person. If something needs fixing or done my boss comes to me but when it comes time to talk to him about things he blows me off. The stress is about to kill me but I was raised to shut my mouth and do as I’m told.
    I really don’t know where to begin…I have co workers that are beyond lazy, don’t show for work and are actually praised for it. Like I said I wasn’t raised that way. One particular person tries to come and do my job which I’m trying my best to bite my tongue . This person believes she is beyond valuable which I suppose isn’t a bad thing but if she’s going to do my job I would appreciate it being done correctly. I have tried showing and telling her what to do (which was like talking to the wall) like I said I have tried telling my boss we need to go to lunch and have a talk just to laughed at in my face.
    Then there is the “new” girl who used to work here before and left years ago . Since my boss is cheap couldn’t find help and since she was in trouble and lost her job yes I suggested he hire her back… Big mistake !!!! Proceeded to give her a paid vacation right off the bat which I might add she has taken more then full advantage off. You can count on every month her missing at least a week of work and yes I cover and do her job, which I have no problem doing but when I have asked for a little extra pay again I get laughed at.
    Then at the end of the day I am expected to stay after the heat in the winter or ac in summer is turned off while everyone else leaves and are paid til 5 as I am. My husband has to,d me numerous times I need to quit but and I have thought about it… I guess I care to much I have helped build the practice up just to watch it being destroyed by my co-workers.

    • Hi Debbie, thank you for sharing. I can empathize with your story. I hope I’m not overstepping here, but I would agree with your husband. What is most important is your happiness. The BUSINESS is not a living and breathing thing. You are more important than the survival of the BUSINESS. It will carry on without you (and if it doesn’t, that’s ok–businesses close all the time). I just hope you can find some relief.

  11. I stumbled across your blog last nite and found this post. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

    My job is being outsourced. Truthfully, I’ve been ready for it to be over for over a year now. I have been tasked with training the Management Company taking over what I do. Instead of doing less – I’m doing at least twice as much. Trying to keep up with an intense workload AND trying to train my replacement who doesn’t know the software, our industry or the company operating practices.

    I’ve been near or in tears more times in the past month than I can count. My eating has become a disaster because I’m not taking the time or energy to fix a healthy meal.

    I’m finding myself rephrasing the questions you’ve asked above. What will happen if I don’t teach my replacement every single thing about what I do? What happens if I don’t write a step by step guide on how to do the job? They’ll figure it out just like I did. Or the company will find another way to get it done.

    Thank you so much for writing this post and sharing your experience – even though it was done long ago. When my mind was ready to hear what you had to say, I found your words.

  12. Office jobs often feel like people are faking they care anyway!

    We are all getting a small chunk of the companies massive profits, so whilst the directors work less than 20 hour weeks and spend most of that time in golf gear with other directors, why should you give a crap that you need to get something released by the end of the week? It’s an arbitrary date that means nothing to me…or anyone else!

    Putting it simply…I stopped caring years ago 😛

  13. imjustdelaney says:

    I know this post is old, so I don’t know if it’s still being monitored…but I came across this on a Google search. I’m pretty sure I’m an HSP. I’m also a perfectionist. I also work in government, as does my husband. He always reminds me to let things roll off me easier, but I don’t know HOW. I CAN’T seem to care less about my job–not because anyone else gives two poops, but because I DO. I LOVE what I do, but it’s more the people and the lack of efficiency and decision-making that gets me. The only thing I can figure out to do is document, but that doesn’t seem to help either. I don’t know what to do because everything at work is mounting stress on me. I’m 33, burned out, but can’t quit because of financial reasons. My only sanity is telling myself that I’ll be here longer than all the people that out-rank me. :-\

    • Hi and thank you for your comment. I’m sorry you are unhappy at your job. 🙁 I hope you can find a way to feel less stressed about the inefficiencies at your workplace.

  14. Dear Kelly, I listened to your podcast and it is really eye – opening to me.
    However, at my job it is really difficult the care less (I think). It’s drudgery. Not because it’s boring or easy. On the contrary, I have a difficult job (according to me) with a huge responsibility. And that is making sure that everyone gets the right salary…on time.
    I’m not a Payroll administrator, but an allround administrative assistant. Yet my job entails making sure that everyone gets their salary. I find it difficult because I don’t have a background in financial or legal subjects.. It’ s my first real job… After two months and a few days I feel like dying….’I can’t handle it.’ That’s what I feel. That’s what my whole body tries to tell me. I get panic attacks and it’s the worst at sunday evening…’Before this job, I did ‘easy’ jobs like dishwasher, cleaner…and so forth, as a job student…It’ s not easy to ‘not care’ if your receive angry mails and phone calls from people who don’t receive their money one time….And the worst part is….That I understand these people completely. I feel like drowning….I want to give the best service…Because it’s about a really sensible topic, namely money….My job is important…but I can’t handle it.
    Sorry if this sounds desperate.

    • Hi Linda, Thanks for your comment! (Re: your second comment: all comments must be read and approved, that is why your comment didn’t show up right away). I’m sorry you are having such a difficult time at your job! 🙁 Remember that “caring less” doesn’t mean doing a bad job. It doesn’t mean letting the quality of work lessen. It means *caring* less in your head. If someone calls and yells at you, it means not taking it personally. However, this is VERY difficult for someone like me to do. I used to work a support job where I had to deal with angry people and I was not cut out for it. It wore on me. My spouse, for example–would not be bothered by angry people at all, because he doesn’t take things personally. Of course I wish I could be more like that, but I’m not. This doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with us! Sometimes it helped me to remind myself to care less. But that doesn’t solve everything all the time.

      My first question: are you overwhelmed? Do you think your boss has simply given you TOO MUCH work? If so, then please tell him/her. Maybe some adjustment can be made–if he/she is setting you up for failure by having way too much work that cannot be completed successfully.

      However, if you don’t think the amount of work is too much, then *SOMETHING* has to change, right? Yes, getting people their correct money on time is very important. But look at it this way: you said you feel like you are drowning. You hate the job. You are miserable. Would you consider quitting and getting another job? If the situation is THAT dire, then what does it hurt to care less and put less pressure on yourself? If you take a more relaxed approach–tell yourself, “everyone is gonna get their money. I might make a few mistakes, but I always fix them. I’m doing the best I can.”

      I know these things sound ludicrous for someone who takes pride in their work and getting people their money on time. But you also have to look out for yourself.

      • Hi Kelly, thanks for your kind reply. I’m sorry if I sounded impatient.
        I think my comment came from a reaction of panic.
        I sent my comment yesterday evening. Sunday evenings are the worst for me.
        I often get panic attacks then.
        However, your podcast and your blogpost actually helped me. This morning, while driving at work, I kept telling myself out loud: ‘I’m not going to do this job that long. I’m going to do what I can. If it’s not enough and the bosses say it’s not enough…. The worst thing that can happen is that I get fired. But what do I really have to loose? I don’t like this job anyway. New possibilities wil come.
        Keeping this thoughts in my head helped me the whole day long. My stress was significantly less today. And my job…? Well, I’m not on the top of my game, but I was not less productive than during other, more stressfull days.
        I’m so happy I found your blog and podcast.
        I become happy while listening/reading your posts. My whole life I’m told to ‘toughen up’, ‘to not take things so personally’, ‘stop crying, you’re an adult’.
        I feel ‘wrong ‘ in so many ways. During my teenage years some people litterally asked (in my face) ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ Of course, this made me cry and startle (in my case).
        And now, there are suddenly people (like you) out there who tell me it’s okay to be like me….It’s a relief.
        I’m sure you made a lot of people happy/happier.

        • Thank you, Linda! What kind words. I’m so glad you came up with a mantra!! Even though the job still stinks, it can help to know it’s temporary and that life will go on. Worst case scenario, as you said–you get fired or quit, but life will go on, and you will find better things! 🙂

          • Linda Van Loon says:

            Dear Kelly,
            Today it was a strange day. Today I had ‘The Talk’. That means, ‘I’m fired.’
            It was a bit of a shock, but not that much as I expected. My boss acted very calm and humane. He praised my courage and attitude, but that I was not fit for this stressfull environment. Also, he promised to look out for another job in the same company, because he saw the good in me.
            It was as if I ‘felt’ it coming. I feel very strange and yet relieved.

          • Oh wow!! I’m sorry you were let go but I am glad to hear you feel relieved, though!! The next job will be an improvement! Thank you for sharing with us.

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