Feeling stressed every time you look at your work emails, increasing dread at going to work on a Monday morning (or any morning for that matter), exasperation with colleagues, increasing frustration with your boss…. how do you know when you’ve come to the end of the road with a job?
When your job is getting you down the resulting stress is real. It can have huge impacts on our self-esteem, our confidence, our relationships and our health. It can be a vicious cycle – the worse you feel, the worse you perform in your role, the worse your relationships become with your colleagues and boss, and the more you want to get out. It can also have a huge impact on your personal life as you take the stress home with you.
How can you stop this cycle? The focus of this post is to help you to either attempt to turn the situation around, or to recognise that you really do need a new challenge and to handle your exit with dignity, at a time that is right for you.
The most important thing to do is to take a step back. By detaching yourself slightly from the situation, you remove some of the emotion, and it can be easier to maintain a level of objectivity.
Put aside some protected time to take yourself away from work and really think about what’s happening. Take a day’s holiday if necessary (don’t pull a sickie). Go for a walk, or a run, or a swim – some kind of exercise that can clear your mind and gets the endorphins going so that you can start off in a positive frame of mind. Grab a notebook and pen. Have you got a vaguely up to date job description? If so, grab that too. Now go out and find a park bench or a coffee shop, or somewhere else neutral and without distraction.
What are the best bits of the job at the moment?
If you can’t think of any, try to think about why you signed up for it in the first place. What attracted you to the job or the organisation? Write down the names of some of the people in the organisation that you respect and enjoy the company of (they don’t necessarily have to be part of your immediate team). What have been your best experiences while you’ve been in the job? Which clients have you enjoyed working with? Why? Which projects have been a success? Why? (it doesn’t matter if you have to go back a long way to think of these).
What are your frustrations at the moment?
This bit will probably be easier for you. Try to be as specific as possible when you write. Is the problem the content of the job? Have there been structural changes that you disagree with? Have you got too much responsibility? Have you missed out on a promotion? Do you not get on with your manager? Why not? If you were given carte blanche, what changes would you make to your role, your team, your organisation?
What would you rather be doing?
Have you been thinking about other options? If so, write them down in as much detail as possible. You’ve got freedom here – don’t be limited by what you’re qualified or experienced to do at the moment.
Once you’ve finished writing, take a break and come back to it later in the week. How does it feel to see all this detail on paper? Does any of it resonate strongly with you still, or does it represent a passing frustration that you have now resolved. If your frustrations are still outweighing the parts of the job that you enjoy, and you can’t see any way of that changing, it might be time to think about taking some action. You’ve got a couple of options…
1. Try to improve the situation where you are.
Spend some time formulating your thoughts into a comprehensive proposal to take to your boss. be honest with yourself – are there things about your performance or behaviour that you can adapt? Explain how you are feeling honestly, but tactfully and respectfully. It may well not be possible to carve out another role for you, but your boss is more likely to react positively if you go to them with a potential solution, rather than just complaints. Bear in mind that any suggestions you make must be beneficial for the organisation as well as your own satisfaction/career progression. Even if only a couple of suggestions are taken on board, it might be enough to increase your motivation.
2. Make a decision to leave… but not just yet.
Before you hand in that resignation letter, take a step back. Start planning what your next move might be. In an uncertain market, it might be even more of a gamble to leave before you have something else lined up. Are there projects that would be beneficial to complete successfully in your current role which would enhance your CV? When you research your next move, are you missing any qualifications or experiences that you could try and gain alongside your existing job? I would never advocate slacking off in your current role (partly because you’re being paid to do a job, so you need to do it; partly because it impacts on others in the team who will have to pick up your loose ends; and partly because it’s not good for anyone’s self-esteem to only deliver a half-baked job), however, it can be more straightforward taking on additional commitments when you are in a role you are already familiar with. The idea is to develop your desired skills, experience and qualifications while you are in one role, so that when the opportunity comes to make the next career move, the transition is smoother. If your ‘dream’ job (that’s a subject for a whole other blog post ;o) is totally unrelated to your existing role, can you try to gain experience, skills or qualifications in the evenings, weekends and holidays? That’s also a great way of testing out if the reality is what you hope it will be.
As and when you do make the decision to move on, do so quietly and with grace. You never know when you might need your ex-colleagues/boss on your side again...
Sometimes it can be really helpful to talk to someone unconnected with your workplace – it can help you to articulate what really matters and focus your efforts on the aspects that you can actually control. If you think that you might benefit from some impartial support with making changes to your own career situation, please do get in touch.