You’re slumped at your desk, surfing the web, and doing almost everything but work—and no one seems to notice. The days drag by, void of fulfilling tasks. So, what gives?
There are several potential causes for all of these slow days at the office. It’s possible you’re being mismanaged, or you’ve become part of a matrixed organization and you’ve just slipped through the cracks. Perhaps your position is funded externally and you have no direct manager onsite, or you’re just plain burned out.
Whatever the cause, it’s time to acknowledge the issue and come to terms with the fact that you’re likely the only one who can solve it. So, how can you salvage this situation? Here are a few things to try.
Check in on checking out
Let’s start with a mindful check-in.
How are you feeling about the position, workplace, co-workers, or your future with the organization? Are you still inspired by its mission, or are you overwhelmed with the issues? If you’re dealing with challenges at work, you may be shutting down without even realizing it.
Take a moment for some honest reflection to consider where you are mentally, and see if that’s playing a significant role in your daily outlook and behavior at work.
Who is responsible?
Let’s dig deeper and try to figure out the source of the dysfunction.
If it’s “them”: When I was in high school, I interned at an organization where most of the company employees were reading novels at their desks—this was before Facebook. It was a shock as well as a learning experience.
Offices completely void of mentorship, onboarding, and direction do exist and it's possible you're working in one. So consider whether you can rise above and perform your job within this setting, or if it's perhaps in your best interest to start looking for a new job.
If it’s you: Taking responsibility for this issue may take some soul-searching. If you’ve shut down at work and subconsciously quit, recognize it. Does that mean you want to actually quit, or do you instead work on overcoming these feelings and try to make it work? To help make your choice, have a chat with someone form human resources or approach your supervisor. Commit to finding ways to get that work passion back.
Revamp and revitalize
If you’re checked in, and feel ready to take on the world, but your days are still empty and dragging by, counter your boredom with some simple routine adjustments. Here are a few basic things you can do to manage the mundane. And remember, it usually takes work to make it work.
Review your job description and create an inspired to-do list. It may look something like this:
Assist department directors with operations, marketing, and programs with letter writing, grant writing, gift processing, database management, data entry, and clerical support of the prospect donor base.
- Seems clear enough. But, if you aren’t involved in any of these projects, talk to your team, set up a group meeting, or reach out individually to see what you can take off of somebody else's plate. Remember, if your position is new, your colleagues may not be in the habit of delegating. Do a bit of research and determine what your department has accomplished in the past and use this as a guide moving forward.
Work on special projects and assignments as needed.
- This catch-all section in a job description can lend itself easily to different outreach activities in your attempt to fill your schedule. Dive into existing projects or create new ones, such as writing or updating content for the department website, or creating and organizing a deadline calendar. You could also suggest and lead regular brainstorming sessions to initiate new ideas. Determine where your organization needs support, set up meetings with your manager, and present ideas. Don’t be afraid to be upfront and let others know that you have time on your hands, but frame it in the same conversation where you're offering your time and expertise.
If your manager and colleagues are not as helpful as you'd hoped, consider whether it’s possible to reach out and collaborate with other divisions. Volunteer to sit on interdepartmental committees, foster collaborative relationships across departmental lines, and find outside-the-box ways to get involved and show your commitment while adding important experiences to your resume.
You are who you surround yourself with. Build a network of positive influences, talk to your mentors, or find a mentor, and get to know your most productive co-workers, including your organization’s change-makers. No luck? Try looking outside the organization for positive inspirations.
A great place to find potential mentors are professional development conferences. A well-prepared, thought-provoking question at the Q&A session could create an opportunity to approach them after the talk. Don’t be shy. Thank them for their presentation, maybe ask a follow-up question, and engage in genuine conversation on how it applies to your work. If you feel like there is a connection, ask to stay in touch. Other examples of where to find mentors include:
- Managers at organizations where you’ve volunteered,
- Fellow members of professional development groups, or
- Past professors or teachers who had a positive influence on your academic and/or professional trajectory.
If your issues can’t be solved by these fixes and you feel like you’re throwing water balloons against a brick wall, that may be a sign. To determine next steps, ask someone with institutional experience. What are other people in similar positions to yours, in other organizations, up to? Be open and recognize when it’s time to move on or change departments.
If everyday is a slow day, make sure you recognize and try to address potential causes, such as poor management, insufficient onboarding, or a failure to incorporate a new hire. Determine if it’s an external issue or if you’ve mentally checked out, and work to get that spark back. And, if you’re hitting a wall inside your company, look outside your organization for inspiration and assistance in the form of mentorship or institutional insight. Remember, it’s worth it to give it your all, but know when to say "when." If you’ve tried everything and nothing seems to be working, it may be time to make a change.
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About the Author | With a background in the performing arts and journalism, Caroline Rodriguez understands the chaotic course of career change. She’s been a reporter, teacher, and co-manager of a yoga resort. Her passions include women’s rights and encouraging girls to study science.