Yesterday, we talked about how to examine organizational culture when looking for a job. But the assessment doesn’t stop there; your relationship with your job changes over time and unforeseen challenges can arise. What happens after you’ve been on the job for a while and start to feel burned out, at odds with your coworkers, or that you’ve hit a wall in your growth? Consider these questions and solutions.
Not being challenged?
- Do you feel you’ve outgrown your job?
- Do you think you deserve a promotion?
- Do you find yourself regularly searching the internet for jobs while you’re at work?
- If you’ve had your job for several years or more, if you work for a very small organization, or if you’ve recently learned a lot outside of work that’s upgraded your skillset, you might find your current role a few sizes too small. Consider asking your manager for a change-up: could you take on some meatier assignments, work from home one day a week, swap some tasks with a coworker? Think about whatever might help you feel more engaged, and pitch the top few ideas.
- Just because you’re a superstar employee doesn’t mean you won’t still sometimes have to ask for what you want. It could be that your boss has been slow on his plan to fill a position, or that some of the most stellar work you’ve done hasn’t yet been seen by a key higher-up. But you won’t know unless you ask! If you think you should be promoted and it’s a possibility in your organization, see Forbes’ “moving on up” to-do list to help plan your approach.
- If you have extra time on your hands, ask your manager if you can do some professional development: find a workshop, conference, or class that relates to your work and could spice up your routine. Check out Brazen Careerist’s tips for getting to yes with this ask.
Feeling burned out?
- Are the organization’s values not aligned with your own?
- Are you feeling unhealthy as a result of your job?
- Is the stress level in your field especially high?
- If org culture silently mandates two hours of unpaid overtime a night, or if you want to set up paper recycling in your office and management doesn’t, you’re likely to feel ‘values friction.’ Initiate a frank talk with your manager about why the practice in question is a problem for you. As an individual, you may not be able to enact org-wide change, but you might be able to come to a compromise that eases your pain. And there may be reasons or precedents for the standard that you’re unaware of, so even if you can’t change the policy, understanding its roots might be some salve.
- Constant sleep deprivation and unhealthy eating as a result of your job, as well as regularly occurring bad dreams about work, are all signs that it’s time to take a hard look at how you’re spending your days—both physically and mentally. Try some of MindBodyGreen’s healthier-at-work tips for a month and see if your symptoms lessen. If they don’t, it could be your job and not just your posture that’s bumming you and your body out.
- Some jobs are inherently more stressful than others. Medical specialists who care for patients, social workers, and aid workers often sustain higher levels of daily stress than the average office employee. Not everyone is cut out for high-stress work, but if you want to persevere, help is available. Many of these fields have recognized the unique challenges their workforce faces and now publish information on the best ways to deal—these articles on “stress-less nursing,” social workers using positivity to beat burnout, and best practices for aid workers’ well-being are great examples.
Having people issues?
- Does your boss have unreasonable expectations?
- Do you have trouble connecting with your coworkers?
- Have you talked with your boss to set boundaries? Especially if you’re great at your job, many bosses are likely to keep piling on the work unless and until you say uncle. (Ah, the perils of being great!) But they don’t want the quality of your work to drop any more than you do, so speak up. Read these three career experts’ tips on how to present your case for setting up a more manageable task load.
- If your coworkers are a source of stress, “the greatest leverage is in your own behavior,” says Dr. Rick Kirschner, coauthor of Dealing With People You Can’t Stand: How To Bring Out The Best In People At Their Worst. “If you change what you’re doing, then they’ll change.” For some specific examples of this idea in action, see Alison Green’s “Ask A Manager” posts on handling bossy coworkers, defensive coworkers, and needy coworkers. You’ll get a good feel for some strategies that often work.
Give whatever solutions you try an earnest shot (meaning repeated attempts if necessary, and some patience). If you really try your best and still don’t see improvement, you might consider moving on: you gave it your all, but now you’ll need to take your talents elsewhere.