How to light a fire that’s burned out

Dear Joan:
Up to about two years ago, I had always considered myself able to weather any storm in my career.

I was excited about extra projects, had good ideas for improving workflow, and didn't let obstacles get me down.

Then, about two years ago, my supervisor became consistently critical of my work, my suggestions, and even my personality (I'm rather quiet), and refused to promote me.

For the last several months, I've had a new supervisor who has recognized my efforts and promoted me. However, the previous stressful negative criticism has left me feeling burned out and as unenthusiastic toward extra projects and pursuing further promotion as some of the people around me.

Do you have any suggestions for recovering confidence, enthusiasm, and stamina in a career I still love?

After a beating like that, it's no wonder you're licking your wounds.

Be kind to yourself. Your self-esteem was abused for so long, you probably began doubting your own ideas and abilities. You can't bounce back overnight.

Start to rebuild - but slowly. If you expect enthusiasm and solid confidence to suddenly reappear, you may plunge into deeper self-doubt and depression at the first mistake you make. Don't beat yourself up!

Slow down. You were promoted during the past several months, so focus on your new job, not the next promotion. Build some successes on your new job by being thorough, offering new ideas and reveling in the recognition and satisfaction that you receive. Start small and build from there.

Keep any letters or memos praising your work. Keep a log or file of your good work and accomplishments. Review it often.

Surround yourself with things that make you feel good about yourself. Put awards, snapshots and mementos near your desk. Rearrange the furniture, clean out your files and purge your work area of things that remind you of your former supervisor.

Since you love your career, you may be able to recharge your battery by attending a job-related seminar. A stimulating seminar might provide a fresh perspective and put you in contact with some invigorating people.

Spend time with enthusiastic co-workers. If the people around you are burned out, spend more time with people outside your immediate work area. If your boss bullied your co-workers, they probably found comfort in their mutual resentment and anger. Don't get caught up in this negative spiral that feeds on itself.

Reinforce your self-image in your personal life. Surround yourself with supportive friends and relatives. Pursue hobbies and interests that you enjoy. Begin a regular, vigorous exercise program to energize you and build confidence.

Watch the way you talk to yourself. Most people wouldn't say to their worst enemies the things they say to themselves. Constantly remind yourself that you are a self-motivated, intelligent, worthwhile person. Focus on your good attributes and repeat them frequently to yourself - especially when you're feeling down.

Perhaps, eventually, you'll be able to salvage some good from the ordeal. After all, you were given an indelible lesson in how not to manage people!

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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