Feeling Like a Failure at Work

10 June, 2021
Q I graduated a year ago in Electrical Engineering. My university experience was demoralizing because I went from being an 'A' student to a 'C' student.

I always felt like a failure and feared that I won't get a job. But I got one anyway alhamdulillah.

However, the problem is the way I got the job is sort of informal. I always feel guilty because I didn't go through the exams and interviews, but I know that I qualify for the job.

I sometimes feel like I'm taking haram money, but then I tell myself that this is a good opportunity for me to get good experience and to work for the ummah.

Another problem is that I am reserved when I talk to men and it took me a long time to be comfortable with my co-workers (all are men by the way).

This has affected my team performance negatively and I feel like I'm failing again. What should I do? Should I leave this job?


In this counseling answer:

• It is very normal to have grades drop when you go from high school to university.

• Accepting the help of others doesn’t nullify the worth of your effort.

• You should not feel obliged to compromise your values.

Wa ‘Aleikom Salam,

Firstly, it is very normal to have grades drop when you go from high school to university.

This is mainly due to the fact that university places more rigorous academic standards than high school and the students are given more responsibilities in their work.

For example, no professor will remind you that your assignments have not been handed in.

High school teachers might give students a break. In addition to teaching academics, high school teachers are also trying to instill good study habits for their students and want to see them succeed.

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University has a completely different dynamic. Students who fail must re-take classes and, thus, re-pay tuition that helps professor’s salaries.

This isn’t to say that professors want you to fail, but simply that they are not concerned with your passing or failing; they are more concerned with students understanding the academics and the standards are high, as they should be.

Feeling Like a Failure at Work - About Islam

Secondly: Accepting the Help of Others Doesn’t Nullify the Worth of Your Effort

You seem to have high work ethics, which is a very positive and healthy thing. However, our hard work ethics and honest standards do not allow us to ask for help and/or take help because we believe that if we haven’t earned our success it isn’t worth much. I think you may be feeling the same way.

You are far from taking haraam money (unless you have left out some crucial detail here) because it seems that you did not do anything dishonest. You will be surprised to hear that most jobs are given to people who “know somebody that knows somebody”; namely, by connections.

You are working to make a living and are working hard at your job. You should be grateful for that and proud of yourself for your meeting your work commitments, regardless of how you got the job.

Lastly: Don’t Compromise Your Values, but Don’t Appear Anti-Social

Many women have conservative ways to deal with male coworkers. You should not feel obliged to compromise your values. It is important, however, not to appear anti-social in an effort to limit your contact.

In this counseling answer:

Smile, be courteous, ask people how their kids are, etc. When you get asked questions in return, give as much detail as you feel appropriate.

Many times, giving too much detail about your private life/weekends/evenings opens the door to inappropriate interaction. If you are careful about what you tell, people will respect your boundaries.

Also, giving your contribution in team meetings is essential to your progress. As long as you conduct yourself in a business, formal and professional manner nobody will misunderstand your boundaries.

Don’t underestimate yourself and give this job your best shot until Allah (swt) opens another opportunity for you.



 Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Attia Zaidi
Attia Zaidi is a writer, educator, social worker and mother. She has worked with the GTA’s Muslim community for over 15 years in various capacities. Currently, Attia runs a small private practice offering therapy for Muslim families.