During the past few weeks I have been in training preparing for the upcoming tax season. We have been learning about all the new tax law changes that Congress has implemented. It is always an adventure trying to sort through how the new laws are going to impact how we do our jobs. What sounds like a simple adjustment can have a major impact on every call that we take and add minute’s worth of explaining convoluted tax laws to taxpayers.

So, as you can imagine, this experience can be quite frustrating. To make things worse, during training, there was one person that was constantly negative. (OK, there were really probably about 3 people that traded off being negative at different times, so it felt like one person was negative the entire time.) It got to the point that I felt like they were just being negative for the sake of being negative. At one point in training, I finally blurted out, “You can’t just be negative all the time! At some point you have to decide to either fix it, deal with it, or leave.”

After a muttering of laughter and quiet applause subsided, I was left to meditate on the simplicity and profoundness of what I had just said. Let me fully break down what this statement means to me.

No matter what the venue or arena, when you observe that something that isn’t as it should be you make a choice as to how you are going to handle it. Although there are any number of ways to react to the situation, I think that there are only three choices that are the best: fix it, deal with it, or leave.

Let me walk you through an example. Let’s say my wife…um…yeah…never mind, let’s go with a safer example. Let’s say that management comes up with a fantastic new policy that is probably going to make my life miserable. For amusement’s sake, let’s say they have decided that all contact representatives should hop on one leg while they take calls because they believe it will improve circulation, which helps improve focus, therefore improving accuracy.

Step 1 – Fix It

The first thing I need to ask myself is, “Can I fix this? Can I, or a group of my peers, get management to change this policy?” If the answer is absolutely “No” then I need to go straight to Step 2.

If the answer is “Yes”, then the next question is, “Is it worth the effort?” If it’s not worth the effort, then I need to go to directly Step 2. If it is worth the effort, then I need to get to work on it!

But I’m not out of the woods yet. I still need to ask myself, “How long will it take to fix it?” If it will be resolved immediately, then obviously I’m done. I can rest my poor legs. But if it will take a while, I have to go on to Step 2.

Step 2 – Deal with it

If I’ve determined that I can’t fix the problem, or I can’t fix the problem immediately, I have to decide “Can I deal with this?” or, at least, “Can I deal with it until it is fixed.”

The problem is that dealing with it means accepting it, not just putting up with it, and griping about it and making the life of everyone around you miserable too. I think that a lot of people say and think that they are dealing with it, when in fact they are not; they are wallowing in it.[1] Wallowing in it is not dealing with it.

Also, a lot of people tend to skip Step 1, and they go right to this step. They never stop to ask themselves if they can fix the problem, or they never think that it is worth the effort. God forbid, if it looks like it is going to take a long time, they are likely to assume that they can’t fix it at all.

Now, if you have determined that you can’t fix it (or it’s not worth the effort or it will take too long), and if you are mature enough to accept that you cannot deal with it, it’s time to look at Step 3.

Step 3 – Leave

This is either the easiest step or the hardest step. For people who tend to copout, this is the easiest step. For people who are afraid of change or fear uncertainty, this is the hardest.

At this point, I have already determined that I can’t fix the problem, or I can’t fix the problem immediately, or it’s not worth the effort. Also, I have decided that I can’t deal with it or, I can’t deal with it until it is fixed. Now I have to decide to leave. Notice, I didn’t say that I have to decide if I want to leave or not. I said, “I have to decide to leave.” That is because I have already made up my mind that I have to leave. If I can’t fix the problem, and I can’t deal with it, then the only option left is to leave.

Now, if faced with this decision, if I start to waiver and I can’t do it, then I have to go back and look at my other options, fix it or deal with it. The bottom line is: I have to choose one. I can’t daydream about fixing it and never do it (well, unless that’s a coping mechanism to help me deal with it, and I don’t gripe about it.) I can’t pretend to be dealing with it and really be moping and wallowing in it and making everyone in my presence miserable. And I can’t always be talking about how “I’m gonna leave this place someday!” and never actually have the guts to do it.

So, I have decided to make this little theme my mantra. The hardest part is actually abiding by it. It’s much easier to whine and complain, rather than take action to fix something, or to decide that I am just going to have to deal with something.

[1] Note: That’s why the title of this blog is not: “You gotta either fix it, deal with it, wallow in it, or leave!”