Have you been ruminating for a long time about wanting to change your job or career, or leave your workplace, but you don’t? You may be stuck in thinking that the only way to greater satisfaction is to leave your current employer, and that greener pastures lay elsewhere. However, on the back of a good day or two, all is forgotten (momentarily) and so you soldier on. But then it hits you again, like a battered syndrome. The merry go round of workplace truth. It could be cultural or team dynamics, boredom, or monotony, wrong career – a ride filled with the must do’s and should do’s where the joy of work disappears. It’s not a happy feeling, it’s almost destabilising.
I have written about career inertia before, and while that is not what this piece is about, it is important to identify what is causing any loss of joy, or your workplace truth, as this is key to getting to the other side of your merry go round and making the changes that you need to make for yourself with greater clarity. Perhaps one of the below scenarios resonates with you:
- You’ve already started looking elsewhere but have a nagging feeling that your possible future career choice might be a bad idea because you’re talking yourself into something you don’t truly believe is right for you. You toss and turn at night and develop an anxious internal dialogue, worried that the opportunity won’t work out anyway, or will be more of the same so you let it go.
- You may be unhappy partly due to your managers’ management style, an over-controlling manager, in an environment that doesn’t appear to value individuals’ contributions which frustrate your basic needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
- Not doing something that you love anymore; lost interest, a cog in the wheel, numb with boredom, yet don’t want to seem ungrateful so you don’t mention it. You think that the only way forward is to leave.
- You feel unchallenged, perhaps even think you hate your job, but the people are nice, so you stay.
- You love your work and are good at it, but you feel disconnected from the bigger picture, or don’t connect well with team members. This impacts your engagement and discretionary effort.
- Maybe you are running away from something but haven’t quite figured out what it is, or maybe you just don’t want to leave, but you know that your use by date is up in this specific organisation.
- The business is restructuring, and you are uncertain of your future career. You think you should get out before it happens but would ideally love to have a future there. You feel very ruffled.
Whatever your scenario, to remain in this state negatively impacts our well-being, and so to do nothing is a cop out. It’s like living a lie because you can’t really talk about how you feel – to do so would risk exposure. You have become a smiling actor, feigning interest, and engagement, but slowly dying inside. An imposter, your smiles hiding your true feelings and concerns and you are desperate for a way out. Yet, you can’t find the ammunition to drive the change that you need. Inauthenticity has become your middle name.
Most of us don’t set out to ruminate over our problems and just want to be happy at work and focus on thoughts that make us happy. However, when something frustrating, threatening or insulting happens to us – something that is difficult to accept – it can be very hard to let it go. You may have had a negative interaction with your manager, were blindsided by a decision that impacted you, felt overlooked, rejected, excluded, misunderstood, or made a scapegoat of. You then became obsessed with feeling ‘on the outer’ questioning everything and everyone. Whatever the reason for your response, you just haven’t been able to let go of it. Perhaps you are trying to make sense of it in your mind, even trying to learn from it, or you are just seeking validation that this shouldn’t have happened. Just thinking about it, upsets you.
With setbacks or difficult encounters, if we ignore the cracks for too long, the cracks slowly grow as does the amount of time that we paste a smile over the top of our frustration, boredom, or disinterest. The happiness of others around you makes you feel ungrateful, so you continue to lie. You play a game, just to stay in the game. A narrative in your mind begins to play out because you feel inauthentic and what began as ‘I don’t love my job’ shifted to, ‘I cannot stand this life any longer’.
Despite any negative, lousy events that may have transpired at work, it’s important to find a way to bounce back from it, process it wisely, open a dialogue with an influential or wise other, or choose to leave. Clearly your self-talk isn’t helping you and you are most likely not really talking about how you feel, or at least to the right people. You may benefit from the expertise and guidance of a career coach to help you frame this correctly, through facilitated reflection, self-insight, and solution focused discussions. With a coach, you may be able to turn your negativity, disappointment, and failure around quickly and use it to fuel your continued growth and success.
To remain in this state is not managing your career, this is inertia at its best. Wearing a mask, faking a good attitude, and putting on a show to display acceptable emotions is exhausting especially if you do it day after day, forcing yourself to display the kind of presence to keep a role. Misdirected energy drains our reserves, and rapidly leads to burn out. The coaching relationship helps you to do something about being stuck, ‘lifting the bonnet’ on your real issues and helping you move forward through talking about how you really feel and emotionally processing this to lead you to acceptance and the release of negative emotions.
Our coaches adopt a narrative approach working at the level of our identities, and addressing the collective narratives that shape our stories, the way we talk about things and the choices we make when deciding what to talk about and what to leave unsaid. Through story telling we create meaning of our life experiences and careers which can be used to bring about transformational change through and with a powerful career coach.
Many of us are quick to blame the environment that we work in for our dissatisfaction, but there are things that we can do ourselves and if we follow through, may well realise that it is not a shift in job that we need, but a shift in mind-set, thought processing and in telling our managers of our needs. If our psychological needs at work are met, we are more likely to be happy.
Here are a few tips, to help you either endure or learn to enjoy jobs that you may not be ready to leave, but if you’d like to explore how career coaching may benefit you, we are only a telephone conversation away.
- Any career transition can send you loopy, but you should be able to see promise in what you’ll be able to learn through the process. Whether it’s taking on a promotion, changing organisations, or starting your own business, you might feel well outside your comfort zone, but you’ll also feel excited about everything you’ll learn.
- Perhaps you can’t be entirely open about how you are feeling all the time, but there may be someone at work to share your concerns with and who may be able to shed some light on how to approach your situation.
- The complicated nature of a significant career decision might make you feel completely preoccupied, especially if you spent years studying for a certain career and then it falls well short of your expectations. An anxious internal dialogue that you experience as a common response to anxiety, can overly focus on facts and logic, to avoid the uncomfortable strong emotions. While being rational and using reason can of course be a great thing, it can also signal denial. With big decisions, there will be uncertainty but it is important to learn to balance your head and heart, take pressure off yourself, because you don’t have to know all of the answers right now. Careers always evolve and the next positive change may well be right around the corner. Whatever you choose, move forward with confidence.
- You should feel happy and excited about a career If you feel a sense of foreboding at the thought of getting started, this could be a warning sign that you will regret this decision later. Listen to your gut and ask yourself, what is it that you dread about taking this step. Make sure you are running toward something, not running away from something and if you are running away from something, take the time to understand your reason for running.
Career reflection and self-insight is the best gift you can give yourself. Doing this with a career coach can help you to define your purpose and align your actions with your values, identify your strengths and weaknesses. By reflecting on your past experiences and achievements, setbacks and challenges with your coach, you can use this knowledge to make informed choice about your career and career path. This includes strategies to open up a constructive dialogue with your manager or someone influential who can help to facilitate any career goals you have for yourself. Don’t make a bad career move you’ll regret, talk to someone first.
If you’d like to have an initial complimentary and confidential chat, please contact Diane Kane, Practice Director Careers at deliberatepractice on 1300 deliberate (1300 335423) or at firstname.lastname@example.org