Why am I so impatient? Why?? Tell me now! Oh my gosh, why have you not told me yet!?
We know a thing or two about impatience in the workplace. It can sneak up on you when you least expect it; it can drag you down and hurt your performance, damage relationships, and spread like wildfire. But where does it come from? And how do you deal with it?
In this article, we explore the meanings of patience and impatience, how to identify it in the workplace, where it comes from, why it’s important, and, most significantly, how to increase your patience.
A broad, psychological definition of patience is the ability to keep calm in the face of disappointment, distress, or suffering. Workplace Insight, a professional-culture magazine, describes patience as the ability to ask questions, wait for answers, consult with others, and go with the flow.
Impatience in the workplace is often caused by high-pressure environments with a high demand for quantifiable results and employee fear of reprimand. In other words: stress. Causes of impatience can be stress, fear, and worry in any type of situation, but it’s especially prevalent in the workplace. If you feel like someone or something is letting you down or not performing up to par, you can become impatient. Time is also a huge factor in workplace impatience. Deadlines are everywhere and anxiety over not meeting them is a perfect recipe for impatience.
Today, especially in Western culture, hard work and efficiency are everything. ‘He who hesitates is lost’ could be the tagline to most office cultures. It’s hardwired into what we do and how we do it.
Impatience can look like a lot of different things. It could be snapping at a coworker because they haven’t sent you an important document yet. It could be your boss shouting at you in front of your peers for losing a client. It could be a coworker completely losing it because the printer jammed right before an important deadline. Or maybe a supervisor getting frustrated at a subordinate for asking too many questions.
For you, impatience might look like cutting corners in an assignment to get it done faster or snapping at people when they’re not giving you what you want.
Impatience is a lack of willingness to take a step back and evaluate the situation calmly. What this means is that tempers flare, people get agitated, and the stress only increases.
Why is patience important in the workplace? Well, as we’ve indicated, impatience can have a snowball effect, infecting more people and increasing a culture of fear wherein no one is doing their best work. In other words, if someone doing their task slowly is making you impatient and you show that impatience, you’re likely to stress that person out and cause them to do a worse job. Not only that, but your impatience will bog you down, causing you to work more poorly as well.
Studies have shown that patience in the workplace directly corresponds to positive effects on creativity, production quality, collaboration, and long-term sustainability. Patience is important because it cultivates a work atmosphere of forgiveness and understanding, which are always more conducive to good work.
According to Workplace Insight, practicing patience can
So why is patience so important?
It gets the job done and it gets it done well.
“But I’m impatient!” you say. “That’s the whole point! What now?”
Don’t worry – we’ve got you.
A 2012 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that patience as a personality trait is modifiable. Even if you identify as an impatient person, if you find yourself losing your temper or just getting exasperated more than you want, there are definitely ways you can adjust your way of thinking and get on the track to becoming more patient. So, read on for ways to increase patience, especially in the workplace.
Self-awareness is a great place to start. Take stock of yourself and find out how you physically react to impatience so you can see it coming. Does your skin crawl? Does your pulse speed up? Do you feel like shouting? All these can be signs that your impatience is about to bubble over and it’s a good time to take a step back.
If you figure out what triggers your impatience, you can anticipate those triggers and either mitigate them before they happen or learn how to deal with them in a healthy way. Some people find that a need for instant gratification triggers their impatience. They want the results NOW. What is it for you? Maybe a coworker who needs a little extra guidance on their tasks?
Now take those triggers and trace them back to their source. Do you want instant gratification because you want quantity over quality? Try reminding yourself that often, good work needs time to simmer and hard work doesn’t happen instantly. Does your question-asking coworker bug you because they slow you down? Try remembering that you were once less experienced and needed guidance as well.
When practicing the “trace it back” technique, you may often find yourself needing to understand where someone else is coming from or what their different experience may be. Pretend, for example, that your project coordinator is always late to your weekly meetings. You’ve recognized the signs and realized you’re getting really impatient with him. At this point, put yourself in your project coordinator’s shoes. Do they have another weekly obligation that conflicts that you don’t know about? Practice empathy, take the time to learn about the other person, and you may find yourself not only feeling better but helping someone in need as well.
The easiest way to ease impatience as it’s happening is to take slow, deep breaths to calm the mind and body. Breathing exercises are actually one of the best ways to combat anxiety in general, which makes sense because anxiety and impatience are closely linked. Gaiam has some great tips on specific breathing exercises to increase patience. And if breathing mindfully doesn’t work, you can always physically take a step back and go for a walk to clear your mind.
Now that you understand where your stress and impatience is coming from, maybe you can find ways to get rid of those triggers altogether. Do meetings that don’t start on time make your blood boil? Consider catching up on your texts while waiting for the meeting to start or playing a simple game on your phone. Does your daily commute make you want to shout all of the bad words? Try leaving for work earlier to deal with less traffic, or listen to a calming audiobook on the drive in.
Like all skills worth having, patience is something you can develop with practice. Don’t expect to get it perfect the first time. Instead, try starting with smaller, lower-stakes situations to practice your patience. Did someone beat you to the office microwave during lunch? That’s a zero-stakes situation. Practice taking deep breaths and relaxing while waiting your turn to nuke your meal. Even offer to let a few other people go in front of you. That’s a great way to practice patience so you can be ready for larger-stakes situations.
If you made it to the end of this blog without getting too impatient, congratulations! Patience isn’t easy, but we applaud you for all of your efforts! You’ve got this. Both in and out of the workplace, patience is a vital skill and one worth honing. But with these tricks and insights, we are sure you’re going to become a patience master!
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