Making Frustration Work for You!

Government and Frustration go together like “F” and “G” in the alphabet. They are inseparable. Although this relationship is often blamed for crushing morale, high blood pressure, and attrition; it can be (and has been) transformed into fuel for action. In the right hands, frustration can be a powerful ally.

Frustration with government is often expressed from the customer’s point of view. Waiting in line at the Motor Vehicle Administration, filling out forms or waiting on the phone, or trying to get benefits from the Veterans Administration are often cited iconic examples of frustration from the customer perspective. Not much can be done to improve the situation from their perspective, and hours of people’s lives are “wasted” every year.

Frustration is also a reality for government employees. Unreasonably long hiring periods, clearance procedures, and the mass of paperwork required to do just about anything frustrates government employees as much, if not more than customers. It’s crushing for employees of all ages when good efforts get blocked by seemingly ridiculous obstacles. There is, however, a light at the end of the frustration tunnel for government employees. Good things happen when we turn frustration inside out.

If we break it down, frustration is sort of an emotional soup made from anger, disappointment, and helplessness. Frustration itself is not a bad thing. It is a natural reaction. If we have the will to do something, but something we can’t control stands in our way, we get frustrated.

Frustration has lead to some of the greatest accomplishments in human history. Time and again, people have channeled frustration to positive ends. They’ve used anger to get them off the couch, disappointment to clarify their position, and refused to accept the idea that they were helpless.

Diseases have ravaged human beings since the beginning of history. They’ve also stimulated our brightest minds to create vaccines, medicines, and add years to the average human life span.

In 1901, the Wright brothers achieved man’s first powered flight. In April of 1942, Jimmy Doolittle lead his raiders in an attack on mainland Japan that would change the tide of the war. In 1969, we landed on the moon.

On a local scale, frustration has started new programs; turned old, stale programs inside out; and prompted otherwise quiet talent to stand up and be counted. Consider how frustration has affected you.

I’d love to hear a few stories about how frustration has been put to good use – either by you or by someone (or a group) you know. How have you channeled or seen frustration channeled to do something good in your environment?

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Gordon Lee Salmon

Dave I like your jujitsu approach to dealing with frustration. When I was in government there were many times I felt frustrated with archaic systems and stupid rules that had out served their original purpose. I tried to turn the energy sucked up by frustration into stimulating my creativity and drive to be innovative. I found ways to reinterpret rules so I could stay legal and yet accomplish what was needed. At times I was able to get waivers from senior management or at least political cover to proceed. Learning to work the edges became an artistic practice that, not always successful, did at times become immensely rewarding.

David Dejewski

“Jujitsu” I love it!

“Interpreting rules” and “Learning to work the edges,” are both good skills to have. It sounds like you got your own black-belt in government Jujitsu!