It’s Tough Being a Burden in the Workplace

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female civil servant in my mid-40s. I’m worried because although I don’t have the confidence to continue working at my job until retirement, it’d be very hard for me to change jobs while raising kids.

I’m from the generation that grew up during the Employment Ice Age, so I spent a lot of time working as a non-regular employee after graduation.

Now, in my 40s, I’ve found full-time employment, but it’s in a position outside my expertise. My other coworkers surpass me both mentally and physically.

All I can think is that the person responsible for hiring me made a mistake. The whole time I’ve been working here, I’ve felt like apologizing to the people around me and like I’ve just been blessed with great bosses throughout my working life. But I tell myself, “Anyways, just put up with it for another year” and “Patience prevails.”

I was recently transferred to a new section, where there are a lot of younger and very capable people, and I just feel like such a burden. It’s awful. I also can’t keep up with the rapid digitization.

I don’t have the fundamental abilities needed to be a functioning member of society, and I’m only getting older. I feel like I’m a bad example for my kids. Even if I’m lucky enough to receive training in specialized skills, I’m barely able to keep up with the content.

— N, Yamaguchi Prefecture

Dear Ms. N:

I can really empathize with the pain you’re feeling from not being able to keep up with work that’s outside your area of expertise. It’s regrettable that you got a late start in life due to spending a lot of time working as a non-regular employee after graduation and missed the opportunity to gain those fundamental abilities.

However, it’s not like you’re getting complaints from the people around you about your work performance, And you’ve been putting effort into your training. It seems like the people around you get that you’ve got a positive attitude. I don’t think there’s any need for you to feel like you’re a burden.

How does having a chat with your boss about your work sound? It’d be great if they delegated more tasks suited to your skill set that you could do confidently.

I also think you’ll feel more comfortable if you communicate with your colleagues, the ones who are easiest to talk to. Sharing information and talking things out with them would help you relieve your worrries.

People tend to feel overwhelmed and like running away when there are a lot of capable younger people at the workplace. But you who went through the Employment Ice Age and are raising kids — you are admirable too. People who have lived through tough times and made it out the other side acquire strength equivalent to their experiences.

Please have confidence in the fact that you’ve lived your life with gritted teeth.

— Junko Umihara, psychiatrist