Oh, No! Oh, No! It’s Off to Work I Go!

“He said ‘Son, I think this is killing me’ as the smile ran away from his face. ‘I’m sure I could be a movie star, if I could get out of this place!’”
“The Piano Man” by Billy Joel.

How many people reading this post LOVE their current job? If you do, you are very lucky.

Over a decade ago, I worked in a bookshop. I loved it. I worked a Friday – Tuesday week, so with shorter weekend hours, I was never going to make much money from it (this was in the days when $10 per hour was a “good” retail wage – unthinkably low today). But my fellow staff and customers were awesome and almost every day I’d get to open a box of newly delivered books – it was like Christmas! There was not a single day I woke up thinking “$%^&, I have to go to work today.”

How times change. Back then I believed that doing a job just for the money was the worst possible reason to ever have a job. These days, for thousands of people, it’s become a way of life.

An article I read on LinkedIn today reported a mere 19% of workers in the United States and Canada were “satisfied” with their job. That’s a pretty dire figure!

Dissatisfaction at work can become a bit of a vicious cycle. You are unhappy, so you stop putting your all into your job. You stop backing your own abilities. You stop looking for career possibilities when you get overlooked for advancement. You lose focus on what you REALLY want to do with your working life. But you still need the money, so you keep working till something better comes along. You hope. If it doesn’t, you become even more dissatisfied.

It reminds me of a song from the stage show and movie “The Producers”.

People say “Well, just leave!” But they must know it’s not that easy. There is rent and bills to pay, mouths to feed. Those things won’t happen if you “just leave”. Besides, where would you go?

Stuff reported today that New Zealand’s unemployment rate rose to 6.4% last month. It might not sound too much, but that works out to over 150,000 (give or take 10,000) New Zealanders out of work. Sure, some of them don’t actually want to work, but large numbers do. The news is full of reports where hundreds of this type of people applied for a single, minimum-wage position. That’s far from encouraging.

Having being burned myself, I’m also dubious about investing too much time and money in further education or training, as it adds even further expense (or student debt) into a venture that may not get you a return on your investment.

Even for those who stick with their job just for the money, the threat of redundancy or restructuring is ever-present. The government went on a state services slaying spree a couple years ago (and then they wondered why “Wellington is dying”) and New Zealand Post appears to be laying off staff faster than they can deliver actual mail. In some of the most heartless corporate cases, even when companies are making record profits, they are still laying off staff.

Is it any wonder growing numbers of people are feeling unhappy and insecure in their jobs?

I dearly wish I had an answer to this problem. But I don’t. Fortunately Ilya Pozin, the author of the first article I cited, has some suggestions on how to improve your outlook:

Get to the root of the problem.
Simply hating your job isn’t enough of a reason to throw in the towel. What’s really keeping you from feeling positive and engaged at work? Find where the problem (or problems) lie and begin to establish a solution. For example, if you’re feeling underutilized and bored in your position, ask yourself how you would feel more challenged. Set up a meeting with your manager, present the situation, and ask to cross-train or take on some work more closely aligned with your interests.

Leave your misery at work.
One of the simplest ways to encourage a cycle of continued distaste for your job — and ultimately your entire life — is to bring your on-the-job negativity home with you. This can be especially challenging if you have a family. Try to create the mythical element of work-life balance by leaving your work mindset in the office. Consider heading to the gym or a fitness class as soon as you get off work, playing recreational sports, or even making time every night for your hobbies. This will keep your mind focused on other positive aspects of your life and refresh you for the next day.

Block out negativity.
Misery loves company, and this holds especially true when it comes to complaining about hating your job. But it’s best to avoid venting your frustrations to your coworkers because it may leave everyone feeling even worse than before. Instead, try to actively find a way to improve things. If there’s one process taking place in the office that you know is annoying everyone — unnecessarily long meetings, for example — come up with a few different solutions and present them to your team. This will drive engagement through reactivity rather than negativity.

Be better.
When your job sucks, you may start to think you suck, too. Remember: You aren’t your job. Keep from wallowing and look for ways to improve yourself professionally. Begin attending networking events, seminars, and conferences within your industry to gain traction and stay up on the latest trends. You may also consider taking online classes or participating in professional development offered through your company. This will allow you to develop new skills and expand your resume, making you feel more fulfilled. Your boss may even take notice of this and put your new skills to use.

Bond with your co-workers.
Increase your on-the-job engagement by making time to get to know your co-workers better. According to a recent Jobsite survey, 70 percent of respondents said having friends at work is the most crucial element to a happy working life. Your negativity may have been causing you to distance yourself from co-workers without even realizing you were doing so. If you truly come to like those you work with, you can gain a new appreciation for your position and the company as a whole.

Manage your bad days.
Everyone has bad days, but having several in a row can be especially challenging. A bad day often starts out with a number of problems or unlucky happenings, then by lunchtime you’ve classified it as being altogether awful. One small event doesn’t have to setback your entire day.
Break this bad habit by regularly taking a step back to assess situations before you jump to conclusions. If you’ve had a number of setbacks, consider taking a short walk outside or even breaking for lunch earlier. Giving yourself a moment to leave the situation for a short time to realize you might be overreacting.

Know why you’re sticking around.
If leaving isn’t an option, ask yourself why exactly you’ve got to tough it out. This may be in regard to your pay grade or the fact that it’s a necessary step in your career. Keep your reasoning at the forefront of your mind to make working your crappy job just a little easier. Whenever you’re feeling down about your job, remember that it’s paying your bills and filling your resume for the time being.

Your job may suck, but you should still be actively attempting to stay engaged and manage your own happiness.”

PS: I promise my next blog will be much more positive, cheerier or contain cute pictures of cats. AF

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