View Full Version : I feel like I may fail at this job

10-04-16, 01:11 PM
Hi there,

4 months ago I got my first job in my work field at a great company. My main responsibility is to learn as much as I can, and I am starting to get involved in projects. I get a lot of freedom to make my own choices on how to spend my time. However, this freedom also means that I am responsible for my own choices, I have to be the one who sets my goals and who chooses how to get there. This basically means that I am both my own student and teacher. I have to teach myself software development, which is not an easy field. My colleagues all work for other companies, many of whom I have only met once or twice. As time progresses, I get more and more requests from my colleagues or my employer to do tasks for them, or to help with projects, which on the one hand I feel responsible to do, and in theory these practical assignments are good opportunities to learn, but on the other hand I can only get limited help from colleagues, so I have to figure out a lot on my own.

This situation makes me afraid that I may fail and (eventually) lose my job. I already have made some mistakes, which are small, but I see how this may be damaging my reputation; not greatly, and not beyond repair, but I have to get my **** together or this will go wrong. What I am doing to prevent further mistakes is by communicating more clearly what I can and cannot do, by asking more supervision and by being more careful in what tasks I accept. It doesn't feel very good to do this, because it's not fun to show my limitations, but it is necessary, because these limitations are there whether or not I want it.

I have chosen a very big challenge, and I realize that the challenge may be too big. I am not saying that I will definitely fail, or that it's too late, but I think it's time to start thinking about this possibility. If I fail, I want to fail in a way that is least damaging to my career and reputation, and that of the company I work for. I think this is possible if I don't let projects fail because of me and if I keep acting with integrity, so that if they let go of me that this can still happen in the least painful way. Fortunately I think I can do this. Also, I should try to learn as much as I can, so that I have a good basis to start working at another company. I am getting some certifications that definitely can help getting me employed.

However, I should try to prevent getting fired and do well at my job. This means that I should keep doing the things I mentioned above (things like good communication), I should strengthen my relationships with colleagues and ask more help from them where needed, I should get more overview of my tasks and increase my productivity and finish tasks quicker. I have already made some progress with all of these in the last 2 weeks, and I should continue doing this, because there is still a lot of room for growth.

Still, it may not be enough. Obviously I don't want this outcome, but if this will happen I want to know that I did my best, and I want my employer to know this as well.

There is a battle going on in mind; on the one hand, I feel the urge to put my head in the sand, to evade all the tasks that make me feel inadequate, or ashamed for procrastinating them. On the other hand, I feel the urge to fight; to make a plan of action, listing everything that I can do to get control over my situation and all the tasks that I need to do, and start working on it.

I have put my head in the sand during my studies, and I am still paying the price for it, and almost every time I started working on what I have been evading, I discover that it is not that difficult after all. I finished my studies by learning how to fight more effectively, and how to keep fighting long enough to get good results. I know that this is what I should do now.

Tonight I have to meet a deadline. I will need to work at least for 3 hours in order to meet it. It is 7 o'clock right now, so if I start now I may finish in time. I have procrastinated this task for a while (plus there were a lot of other responsibilities that kept me from working on it), but if I finish it now and sent it to my colleague it will probably be alright. So, this is what I should start doing right after writing this post. After that, I will try to get a good night of sleep, and tomorrow I will think of a plan for all the other tasks, and solve them one-by-one.

Writing down these thoughts makes me feel slightly more hopeful, but I am still worried. Please let me know if you have ideas on what I can do.

Kind regards,


10-04-16, 02:24 PM
I think there is some middle ground between "doing well" and " getting fired".
just keep following the plan you've written out here and be sure and keep communicating with your employers.
best of luck to you !

10-05-16, 02:48 AM
Thanks stef! You are right, I could be not the "perfect employee" I imagine that I have to be and still be employed. I can even be a sub-mediocre employee for a while and still not get fired for it, especially if I have a positive attitude and if I keep working on myself.

A short update: yesterday I could not get myself to get working, I was still too stressed about it. So, I decided to call a friend and talk about my thoughts. I knew from experience that I have a tendency to be very harsh to myself when I made mistakes, and this in turn causes me to isolate myself from other people, which could mean that I completely shut myself off from the world (happens less and less) or that I just don't share my struggles with people (which happened here), telling myself that "I got myself in this mess, I should be ashamed of this and not tell anyone, they can't do anything to help anyways". Writing my OP here was one step to break myself out of this isolation, and having a conversation with my friend about it was another step. Now I don't feel alone anymore, and I can think more clearly.

I decided to get some sleep first, and set the alarm early to work on the project. I woke up around 3:30 AM, took a shower to wake up and started working. I finished the report and handed it in a few minutes ago, before my colleague would start working, so that he can see it in his inbox.

I will get ready to go to work now. I will start early, so that I can get more out of the day and so that I can show my positive attitude. Even though I only slept 3-4 hours, I still feel surprisingly sharp (probably because of the adrenalin rush that I get from pushing myself to finish this project).

The first thing I will work on at work is relatively easy (but important). I will spend at least 2 hours on it. Then I will try solve a more complicated issue (the one which worries me the most), hoping to get it out of the way today. If I find out that I can't do it alone, I will ask a colleague for help later this week.

After work I will go running (which helps me relax), then I will organize my home for 25 minutes (which is not very organized and needs hours of work to organize, but I will do it in little steps), and then I will have a cup of coffee with my brother. I will make sure that I sleep early, so that I can catch up the hours that I missed tonight.

Some small changes that I will make to how I work:
- I will at the office whenever I can. Sometimes I worked at university, but I think that I can conclude now (after trying that every now and then for a while) that I am more productive at the office and (just as important) my employer can see that I am working. I will try to arrive 15 minutes early, so that I can start working on time.
- I will plan better and update my calendar accordingly, so that my employer and colleagues can see what I have been working on and so that I can work more effectively, and have a better overview over my time (so that I can better judge when to say "yes" and "no".
- I will track my tasks using Wunderlist.
- I will set goals for every day. They should be SMART. I will set goals that need to be done, so the more urgent/important ones should be done first. I think the number 1 reason that this happened is that I worked on things that were not very urgent and important, instead of those which were, because they were appealed to me more. I can still work on these goals (kind of as a reward), but only if I get the urgent/important ones out of the way first.
- I will use the pomodoro technique more. It works like magic, I am still amazed by how much difference this little habit makes to my ability to focus and my productivity.
- I will make sure that I report my hours on time. This is a very small change, but I can see how it is frustrating to the person who does the back-office (who is the wife of my employer), and I should not lose any points over this.

Ok, I see this list is a bit long, so I will set these as rules that I should follow to the letter from right now, but I feel like I can learn these habits relatively quickly if I give myself some time.

To finish this post... I feel much more hopeful again, especially after tackling the first item on my list. I feel like I can do this. I will do my best at work, and up my game, but I will definitely be patient with myself as well, and realistic.

10-05-16, 09:27 AM
Something I have been doing lately to make changes is to slowly introduce rules, or norms, or standards, or whatever anyone wants to call them. I had some trouble keeping my room clean most of the time; it would get dirty and I would give it a good clean once in a while, but it would be dirty most of the time. After finding some gnats, I made a rule "no food scraps left in my room," and I give myself no lee-way on that. As soon as I finish a meal, I have to take the dishes out, clean them, and put them away. The gnats have disappeared, but my room has also stayed cleaner over all just from making this one little rule about food scraps. It might be an energy thing, and keeping one thing organized has leaked over into other things, and now my room is more clean overall because I don't allow a dirty dish to sit at my desk after I have finished eating.

10-05-16, 05:14 PM
Thanks Bluechoo! Those are some very good ideas, I will steal them from you ;). I use the same strategy of slowly raising my norm to other goals (such as sports and now work habits) and it seems to work really well. What helps me too, is rewarding myself for sticking with habits, for example earning one euro per day for sticking with a habit, which I can spend on sports gear. I could do the same for keeping my room clean... for example earning 1 euro per day (for a month or so, which is long enough to build a habit) that I can spend on some new clothes if I keep my clothes/laundry organized (not on the floor), which would be a nice step forward.

I had a very productive day, and this gives/gave me hope that I can do this. However, I just got the report back, and it seems that my colleague is not happy about it, which makes me feel very anxious again. He wants to talk to me about it at the end of the day, and he has to drive halfway through the country for it (hopefully he also has other appointments). I fear that I may be in trouble.

What I know is that I did my very best at it, and I understand his side (it seems that our idea of the report did not match). I will continue to do my best, even more, I am learning a lot from all of this and I will use that to become better. He gave me a lot of feedback, and I will once again wake up very early to process all of it.

The rest of tomorrow will be extremely busy. I expect to work more than 12 hours, and I have more work than I can handle (multiple appointments going on at the same time), so I have to make some compromises.

I will not put my head in the sand, but I will use these challenges to get stronger.

I may have damaged my reputation with some colleagues (and possibly my employer), but I hope that it is not beyond repair. I will not give up. If I get through this, I see a good future.

Edit: ...and if I don't get through this... well, I will start over again somewhere else, taking with me all the lessons that I have learned here. And the future can still be good.

10-06-16, 12:08 PM
Phew... the workday is over! It was not that bad. My colleague was not angry, he just communicated very directly... this time by adding a lot of exclamation marks and snarky comments to the feedback of the document that I handed in. Still, he didn't think it was that bad, but his communication did not reflect that.

I talked it over with a colleague, saying that I was worried about this, and she asked me some questions. I told her about what happened a few months ago, when he gave a lot of sarcastic feedback to me in the presence of customers, while I was doing my best (and I just started working there). She said that this was not acceptable behavior, and that she noticed it before with him. I said that he is a good guy, and that I respect him, but that he did cross a line here. She contacted him and he said that he did not mean it. Later today, when we met, he asked what was the matter. I told him what bothered me, and he said he was sorry for it. I said "ok, thanks I appreciate that". We talked about the work, and he adviced me to work a bit less hard, to communicate my boundaries a bit better. He said that I just started my career and that it is logical and ok if I take my time to learn things. He said that you just have to learn some things from experience. I liked that he said that. He also said that he liked my previous work, and that if I work as systematic as I did there, that it will be fine. So, that also gives me some confidence that I am doing ok and that it will be alright.

The rest of the day was a big rollercoaster. I started working around 6 am, improved a lot of the feedback that he gave me (so that I could go prepared to the meeting). I arrived at work at 7:45 am, continued working on the report, and then the people from our partner company arrived. I discussed some things for the meeting that we would have, communicated that to a colleague, and at 9 am I started an 11-day course that I will follow (which the other company gave). In between the course, I had to jump out a few times to go to the meeting with some people from the government that we are doing a project for, that was going on at the same time. That went on all day. Around 16:15 I met my colleague, and and hour after that I left the office.

So, crazy day. Now that the day is over I am much more confident that I will not be fired on the short term, even better, that I don't yet have to prove myself, but that I have some time to learn and make mistakes every now and then.

On hindsight, I see that I was overreacting a bit, but still I don't think this was wrong. It caused me to fight hard, to get my **** together, and I learned a lot from it. I could also have given up, but I am glad that I didn't.

This evening I give myself the freedom to do whatever I want. I will go to bed before 10 pm, so that I can sleep a nice 10 hours. Time to find a healthy work-life balance again, there is no need for more of such crazy days (at least not for a while).

10-06-16, 07:49 PM
I'm really glad things worked out for you jacksper.

There are a lot of jerks in the workforce. I know you said he's a nice guy and all but a person who treats others like that doesnt care about peoples feelings and are not nice guys. Good for you for talking to your coworker. You've kept him from continuing his abuse on you which would have hurt you and probably ultimately your performance a lot. Most people don't speak up so I find it really strong and brave of you to do so.

10-24-16, 09:46 PM
I'm really glad things worked out for you jacksper.

There are a lot of jerks in the workforce. I know you said he's a nice guy and all but a person who treats others like that doesnt care about peoples feelings and are not nice guys. Good for you for talking to your coworker. You've kept him from continuing his abuse on you which would have hurt you and probably ultimately your performance a lot. Most people don't speak up so I find it really strong and brave of you to do so.

The reality is unfortunately you have to put your feelings at the door before you go in for work and even if your ADD/ADHD magically went away tomorrow, they would still find something to badger you about and believe me if your name doesn't come up as the subject of gossip or ridicule they have plenty of other coworkers to talk about.

It's just that we have to live with being ADD so we hyperfocus on our screwups more than our peers so it feels as if we're always the center of their ridicule.

It's a dog eat dog world out there and in the workforce, it's human nature for most people to take pleasure in seeing others fail because they don't want to see you doing better than them.

12-04-16, 06:58 PM
Your in a high tech position like me, requiring the ability to be highly functional and stay focus. Of course we are going to worry about that. The best advice I ever got about this was, only concentrate on the things you have control over and not the stuff we have no control over. Just do the best you can. That's all you can do. But we all share the same worries and concerns! Best of luck to you!