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Unhappy at Work? Ask the Right Questions

20 January 2016

Over the past few months, I’ve spoken to a number of executives who are dreadfully unhappy in their jobs. Not surprising? Perhaps. Although some were wondering if they were the only ones feeling this way. In their words - “It seems like everyone else is perfectly content in their jobs”.

Not so.

As I say to them - it may be that others are just better at pretending to be happy. 

For those of you who’ve been following my blogs, you know that I’m a strong proponent of being more self aware. It’s no different here. Being more aware about your values around work is key to unlocking why you are unhappy.

Here are some questions to help you uncover personal insights -

Is this the right company for me?

Specifically, do you know what matters most to you with regards to work? And are they in sync with the values of your company? 

Don’t under-estimate the stress caused by working in a company that doesn’t fit with your values. People often rationalise that they can ‘make it work’ but it’s not worth it no matter how attractive the salary or promotion. Not only will it not be a good fit, the danger is that your focus and strengths will not be appreciated; and over time it will impact your performance ratings. 

Are you more corporate or more entrepreneurial? Do you thrive more in large corporates or smaller businesses? Larger corporates tend to have more process and structure whereas smaller businesses tend to be more informal and relationship focused.

When interviewing, don’t just look at what’s written in the company’s mission statement. Look for evidence in their actions. Their real values are reflected by what they do, not what they say or publish.

Is this the right job for me?

When you’re good at something, you’re naturally promoted into positions that leverage your strengths. This may actually move you away from the type of work you enjoy. For example: you may be strong strategically but what you really enjoy is diving in and getting things done with your team. A senior leadership role that is more strategic vs operational may not be the best job for you.

In some cases you may consider a complete career change. The ideal job is one that sits in that ‘sweet spot’ where it leverages your strengths while enabling you to do what you love and is personally meaningful. For example: you may be a financial whizz, but at heart, you’re a people person and love being in the outdoors. Bringing your financial genius to start your own outdoor adventure company may be a better fit than a senior finance role in a corporate. Don’t be afraid to listen to your heart. Your inner voice is there for a reason.

When was the last time your work had meaning and you truly enjoyed it?

Try to recall what specific aspects did you enjoy the most about that job. Perhaps the previous role allowed you to exercise more creativity which you find fulfilling. Take a hard look at your specific daily tasks and ask yourself what activities you’d ideally like to do more of, or less of, if you could tweak your current role. Once you’ve figured that out, think of a win-win solution that you can approach your manager with. Look for opportunities where you can continue learning and growing in areas that interest you to keep you challenged at work.

Why did your job have meaning previously? We are more engaged and perform at our best when we can see how our work helps us achieve our important goals in life. Find ways to link your personal and professional goals so that you can bring meaning back into your job. 

We spend a good part of our day at work. So why should we accept spending most of our day uninspired, dissatisfied and generally feeling ‘bleh’.

Make sure you’re asking yourself the right questions. Take ownership of you and your situation and understand what makes you happy at work to get the job and career you love.  

Work gives us purpose and meaning in life. Enjoying it as well is important.

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