January 14

I hate my job – so what now?


 The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones. (Rick Hanson)

It comes to us all one day, whether that's a Friday afternoon as you close your laptop and sigh with relief that another week is done, or whether that's Sunday afternoon at 3pm as the tension starts to rise in anticipation of what awaits us on Monday morning. We've all been there, and while every job and every situation is different, there are some useful things we can do to reflect and take action. 

A good starting point is to consider your hopes and ambitions when you took the job. What did you dream of being able to achieve what difference did you aspire to make? This can provide a benchmark against which you can compare and evaluate the current situation. 

What is the gap between that hope  - the “Why”, to use Simon Sinek’s phrase - your purpose, cause beliefs, and values. What's the gap between that and what you have today? Is it now impossible for those aspirations to be fulfilled? Or, as is true in many cases, has the situation slowly changed? Or maybe in the busyness of life, you've lost track of what it once was. 

Just understanding this gap and reflecting on the causes may indicate a clear set of next steps. But it's worth reflecting on what you actually dislike so much. If you say the pay is too poor, it will be worth digging a little deeper. Often, feeling that we are underpaid is an indication of a poor value exchange. You're not feeling that this exchange of time for money is equitable. 

If you say you have no job satisfaction, reflect on whether you ever did in this current role or what has changed. That change may be situational. But it may be personal, potentially even down to you. 

If you say what you dislike is a particular person, then consider what your part is in that. Is it all about them? Or is it more about your interactions with them? 

This may feel like hard work and a lot of effort. So it's worth considering if you would even want to invest any effort in making it better. And I'm guessing that you probably do because otherwise you wouldn't be reading this post. 

If you feel it is worth the effort, grab a cup of coffee and start by drawing a word free picture to represent what you want your world to be like in say a year's time. This “map without words” can be challenging to do but as you draw it, there will be thoughts and realisations that occur to you. Hence the reason for not including words - images often spark phrases or memories for us. That could be that you remember when you performed a particular role, or used a particular skill and how much fun it was.

It may surface thoughts in you that an aspect of a job is not serious enough, or respected enough. But the important thing in any role is that you get to use your strengths, and build on them. But at the same time being clear on your “Why”. 

Once you have this picture and the thoughts that it has stirred, then you can get moving on a job hunt or, if it's not irretrievable, perhaps you can talk to somebody in your current organisation and explain your thinking and ambitions. That may not be possible if you feel there's a toxic environment or that you have a toxic manager, in which case it may be that the only way is out - but it isn't always the only way.

The next thing to think about is  - is this all just about you? And how do you know? If it isn't just about you, get some thoughts from people in the same situation who you can trust to not share your feelings and thoughts with others.

Be careful - while a consensus can help, sometimes the people around us or the environment  (I'm thinking Reddit and Twitter here) can be more of an echo chamber reflecting back to us what we say, rather than challenging us. Beware too the “mood hoovers” and “black cloud generators” who may not be as willing as you are to make the necessary changes.

If it's really not just you, build yourself a guiding coalition to try and change something within the organisation. 

But if it is you, build a list of options. Identify the first steps as experiments and get going. Life is short. Sometimes we are better off drawing a line under something difficult and putting it down to experience.

It may be that having reflected this far you realise that how you feel about work is more situational - more to do with something in your whole life rather than just work. Maybe there's something you can do about that or you are doing about that outside, but at the same time, be sure to speak to your manager. Many organisations today seem more interested in helping people to grow and stay rather than feel their only option is to quit. 

Life thrives when it flows. A life of giving is like a river, fresh, flowing, and full of life, beautiful and happy. Water kept motionless is just a swamp, stale and sad. Which would you like to be? (Solve for Happy – Mo Gawdat)


job dissatisfaction, love your job, unhate your job

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