In my career coaching practice I am often a witness to the stress my clients feel at work. Although some stress (the positive kind) is inevitable and good for you to get going, excessive stress (the negative kind) is detrimental to your performance, health, and to your family life. Studies over the past 50 years have consistently shown that nearly 80% of those working are unhappy in what they do—and hence are stressed, and almost 60% are ready to quit their job, even without knowing what the next job would bring them. In majority of the cases that I encounter in my practice, it is their boss that causes them to suffer this fate. Next in line: their work environment, toxic colleagues, overall compensation, and promotional prospects.
Regardless of what is making you suffer this work malaise, I am convinced that there are ways of finding joy in what you do. Here are some of the tips I give my clients:
- Make a periodic audit of your job and write down what makes it great, and what makes it a threat (to your well being, career, and future).
- Now make a prioritized list from the “ threat” column and write down actions you can take to eliminate or neutralize those threats. For example, if you boss is causing you grief (majority of the complaints in my practice), then further analyze what aspect of your relationship with the boss is causing you grief, and identify remedies.
- If you are suffering from excessive and mounting workload, make a list of tasks that you are expected to complete and have a discussion with your boss about the right priorities, resources needed to complete those tasks, and what support you need to do your job. I find that many clients suffer this burden in silence to show how brave and loyal they are to their boss and to their company. Yes, certain amount of loyalty is good, but it is not worth the bad effects it creates, including to your health and well-being.
- If you are suffering from less than ideal relationships with your peers and colleagues, try to identify what you can do to improve those relationships. Do not expect to change them (you cannot change people, but merely changing your attitude in your relationship with others does wonders!). Meet with them and have a meaningful conversation that will allow you to change your role in that relationship, one peer at a time!
- If your work environment is toxic, see what you can do to change it, one item at a time. Take on some initiatives on your own and show that you care to change, rather than merely complaining about what is wrong. Once others see the positive change, they, too, will follow your lead!
- Try to expand your skill set by learning a new skill and taking on a new assignment. Volunteering for such assignments is the best way to show that you want to grow. Once you have a discussion about your excessive workload with your boss and get an agreement on how you are going to deliver on your commitments, you may find it easier to look for some assignments you can take on your own.
- Make yourself more visible to others, especially to senior management. Rather than working in your cubicle and toiling away, you can create much greater visibility for yourself by participating in activities that give you management visibility.
- Write notes of appreciation to those who have done great work, even though that work does not directly support your agenda. Send a copy of that note to their boss and to your boss. This simple (and free) act will make you visible. People will be anxiously waiting to get your notes of appreciation (regardless of you station!).
- If you think that you have reached a point where none of the above is doable, then make a plan to find yourself a new job. Bad economy or not, nothing is worth having a heart attack over a job that you do not care about!
10. When it comes to seeking joy in what you do, I am often reminded of the words the late Steve Jobs spoke in his 2005 Stanford commencement address, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other people drown out your inner voice. And, most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. Stay hungry, stay foolish!”
So, if none of the tips (#s 1-9) work for you, carefully read the last one and listen to yourself!