Monday isn’t the best day of the week even for people who love their jobs. Also, those things that annoy you at work are probably everywhere, right? Almost every office comes with someone who eats other people’s food out of the company refrigerator. Most places have at least one manager who doesn’t feel like he’s managing if he isn’t timing your bathroom breaks. However, it’s not unusual to come to a point where the rewards are almost nonexistent and the list of annoyances keeps growing. So, the question morphs from, “How am I going to get through today?” into “How can I ever go back?” At that point, it’s worth seriously asking if the job is doing more harm than good.
Nobody can give someone else a magic formula that will predict the tipping point when you know you’re better off somewhere else, but before you go, it’s worth taking a few steps first.
Take a Breather
Ideally, take a long weekend and do something that distracts you from work. Also, practice leaving work at work every day by disconnecting from work email at home and screening out calls from coworkers.
Boost Your Motivation
Consider Daniel Pink’s “motivation trifecta”: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Unfortunately, the people who need to read Pink’s books (hint: managers, supervisors, and executives) are often the least likely to read them, or if they do, they don’t often take them seriously. That said, it’s worth asking yourself if you can find a way to be more autonomous in your work, or identify the tasks that you have the most control over. Part of the reason it’s so important to disconnect from work at the end of the day, especially if you work in an organization that allows little autonomy, is that you at least have control over how much work bleeds into your personal time.
Regarding mastery, if you are feeling fed up with your job, the last thing you probably want to do is pursue professional development to become even better at something that is annoying you. I’ve been there, and I completely get it. Since we are still dealing with a tough job market and the goal here is to keep work bearable so you can figure out exactly what you would like to do, it’s worth stepping back and thinking about anything you do now that you would like to learn more about.
For example, maybe your job involves event planning, project management, bookkeeping, developing elaborate Excel spreadsheets, etc. Even if you feel that you are already good at something, but would like to develop more advanced skills, identify what you would like to work on and approach your boss with the request. Not only will you have the possibility of scoring some time away from the daily grind while you go take a class, but your boss probably will see you as a go-getter and admire you for being proactive about your professional development.
Purpose is often what we find lacking at work. It is so easy to become so involved in the annoying details and drudge that we lose sight of why the organization exists in the first place or the reason we were hired. Create a calm space for yourself and see if you can come up with at least one positive contribution that you make to at least one other person by going to work. This really is not enough to build a satisfying career on, but it can help you get through the week. Also, make a note of all the good things you do and what people thank you for. Surprisingly, just expressing your own gratitude, either to someone else or in a journal, can help increase your overall sense of well-being. So even if you feel like you work with and for ungrateful jerks, there’s still a way to make this work.
Identify Satisfiers and Dissatisfiers
Before you write your letter of resignation, it’s a good idea to consider what you like about your current job and what you don’t like. Is the job rewarding in a way that is satisfying for you? What would be more rewarding? By rewarding, I don’t mean incentive programs and employee recognition initiatives. While those can be a nice bonus if the environment is already healthy and the job is already satisfying, they aren’t going to make a bad fit work.
Focus on What You Want
Develop your own professional goals, and start taking the steps you need to take. This might be as simple as setting aside time each week to brainstorm where you’d like to be in five years. Another possibility is meeting with a career coach or counselor. One constant in life is change, so if this is an unhappy chapter your career, take comfort in the fact it will end. Ideally, with some reflection and planning, you can try to have it end on your terms.
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