How to Make the Best of Being Unhappy at Work

 
 
By Don E. Sears  |  Posted 2010-03-19 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Work may stink right now, but that does not mean you cannot get through it. Here are a number of strategies for making the best of a bad situation. Start with understanding what is wrong and accepting the situation. From there, you have a solid foundation to start change, say psychology, organizational management and career experts.

You can dislike your work and workplace and still survive while you patiently assess and plan your next move, according to career experts. The key is to first recognize you have these feelings and that you will not have an immediate solution, advises Harvard University's Dr. Timothy Butler, a senior fellow researcher and director of career development programs at Harvard's business school.

"The existential nature of unhappiness is a wake-up call," Butler said in a Harvard Business Review blog. "There's some part of the self that is not being heard, that wants your attention, and that's the issue."

So what do you do with those feelings? Do not act rash or let your emotions get the best of you. Know that the feelings are there, but keep them in line, advise experts. The last thing you want to do is be known for outbursts and a source of problems in your career. Reputations on the job matter, and people talk, say experts, so do your best to keep a negative tongue and attitude at bay.  

The other thing is to learn acceptance, said clinical psychologist Catherine McCarthy in the same HBR blog: "Practice radical acceptance. Tell yourself, 'This is where I am, this is where I'm going to be for a certain amount of time.' You have more control over how you think than you realize."

Another strategy is to come up with a fresh plan after talking with friends, family or a career counselor. You may even approach a boss and talk about new plans for the current job that will help further motivate you and set you up for finding something positive in the current position even if it's hellish.

Other advice from experts is to make a list of things that you like about your current job, something China Gorman of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) calls a "benefits log." (in the HBR blog post):

"You may be thankful to have health care and other benefits. You may like your coworkers, or the fact that you have a short commute. Maybe there's a great gym on-site, or you enjoy the opportunity for travel or the mentoring you do. Listing what you do like about your job will help shift your perception and keep you from feeling so trapped."

Another key is to understand that there are other opportunities out there, even if it may feel like they do not exist. 

"Stuck is just a perception, not a reality," said Darcy Eikenberg, president and CEO of Coach Darcy in the article "Are You Stuck in Job Prison" for Careerpath.com "You're never really stuck until there are no more options, and you'll never know what the options are until you start exploring them."

One way to help re-energize your career, especially for information technology workers, is to gain new skills, new certifications and meet new people. Put yourself out there, network and invest in your future. 

"Learning new skills or technologies, meeting new people and facing new challenges [are great ways] to keep your mind off the fact that you aren't in love with your job," said Lauren Milligan of ResuMayDay.com in the same Careerpath.com article. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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