Taking a thoughtful approach to why you're dissatisfied at work can make for smarter decisions.
With so few jobs available during the recession, plenty of U.S. workers were holding on for dear life to ones they had – even if they were miserable. But now that things are improving and more jobs are popping up, people who hate their work might be more inclined to do something about it.
According to a research report by the Society for Human Resource Management, only 29 percent of workers in the 31-to-61 age group reported being “very satisfied” with their job. The rest are either “somewhat satisfied” or not satisfied at all.
There are various things that contribute to dissatisfaction in the workplace, says Katharine Brooks, director of Liberal Arts Career Services at The University of Texas at Austin and author of "You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career." “There might be a conflict between your interests and the duties of the position; the job might be too demanding or not demanding enough; lack of training for position; lack of job security; you may have a poor relationship with co-workers or a supervisor; you might be poorly compensated; you might be in bad or unsafe working conditions; or you’re burnt out.”
The organization’s financial stability; lack of opportunities to use or hone skills, or to advance your career; poor job flexibility and work-life balance; and a bad corporate culture are other contributing factors, according to the SHRM report.
“People often stay in jobs they don’t like because they don’t realize what else they can do,” says Maggie Mistal, a career consultant, radio host and speaker. “They haven’t taken the time to identify what makes them happy or where their talents lie. They haven’t clarified their values and thought about how they’d like to use their abilities to make a difference and align their work with their purpose. Too often people assume work is supposed to be a chore so they don’t even look for anything other than that when embarking on a career.”
If you hate your job, here’s what you can do:
1. Start by doing a quick self-assessment
Brooks says you should start by asking yourself: Why do I hate my present job? Is this a new feeling or have I always disliked it? Is it the people I’m working with, the tasks I’m asked to do, the culture of the company? “Try making a list of the pros and cons of your job and what you’d want in your next job,” she says. Determine if there are ways to modify your situation while staying at the organization or whether it’s time to move on. “If at all possible, do not leave your current job until you have secured a new one.”
2. Figure out if it’s you or the job you’re unhappy with
Once you do a self-assessment, it’s important to determine whether the things you’re unhappy with have to do with you, or the job. This will help you figure out if changing jobs is the right move. For example, if you’re stressed and you want to change jobs to relieve tension, it may follow you and you’ll find the same thing in the next job, says Debra Benton, an executive coach and author of "The Virtual Executive: How to Act Like a CEO Online and Offline." If you figure out ahead of time that the stress is caused by things outside of your work life, you can avoid this.
If you’re unhappy in your job because you’re unhappy in life, the solution may be to seek help outside of the office.
3. Talk with your supervisor
If you’re not happy with your schedule, your compensation or the projects you’re assigned to, you should tell your boss. There could be ways to improve the situation, Brooks says, and it might be much easier than you think.
4. Don’t quit immediately
If you have a job that provides decent compensation and that isn’t unbearable, then consider staying put for right now, says Deborah Shane, a career author, featured writer, speaker, and media and marketing consultant. Remember that the grass is not always greener on the other side, “and new pastures are not always what you thought they’d be.” She adds, “Before you run from your current job, or decide to change or transition to another field, do the research and preparation necessary so you will be educated and qualified.”
If you’re in a situation where your job is intolerable or unsafe, you should leave.
5. Change your attitude
Maybe you had one bad experience at work that left a sour taste in your mouth. If so, try to let it go.
“Be careful about letting your negative feelings show while you’re still on the job,” Brooks says. Why? “Even though you’re unhappy and may leave soon, you want leaving to be your decision, not the organization’s. Be professional and pleasant and follow through on your responsibilities. If you’re fired, it will be much harder to find your next opportunity.”
Maintain a positive attitude and focus on the aspects of your job that you enjoy. If you can’t find one, it might be time to consider moving on.
6. Be professional
Even if you plan to quit, keep doing your job well. This way, when you decide to leave, you will have good recommendations, Brooks says. And if you’re situation improves and you decide to stay, you won’t be embarrassed about your behavior Remember: It’s never a good idea to burn bridges, no matter how dissatisfied you are with your employer or your job.
7. Set your career goals
Figure out where you want to be in five years. “Will your current role help you get there?” Brooks asks. “If not, what would? And how can you move toward that?” If you know what you want to accomplish and where you want to be, it may put things into perspective for you.
8. Look for opportunities that you’d enjoy within the organization
“See what opportunities exist to join a committee, project, or initiative in your company,” Shane says. “Volunteer to help someone you admire; someone who could teach you things or mentor you.” Engaging in projects or initiatives that make you happy could make the overall experience in your workplace more enjoyable.
9. Don’t take it out on others
Don’t treat your clients or colleagues poorly because you’re miserable in your job — and definitely refrain from gossiping or complaining to them. It’s OK to discuss with colleagues your discontent to a certain degree, but be careful not to cross the line.
10. Change your job without changing companies
If you’re content with your employer, but not with your specific role or supervisor, consider changing jobs within the organization or altering your current position to better suit your needs and/or goals.
“Job crafting is the art of reworking your job description so that you are better able to use your strengths and contribute more fully to the workplace,” Brooks says.
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