It was one of those shiny blue summer days and the glinting ocean was beckoning. Having negotiated the breaking waves to get out into the deeper water I quickly realised there was a strong undertow and I was being pulled out to sea.
I was caught in a rip.
Luckily the story had a happy ending and no harm was done, but how often have you found yourself being sucked into a risky situation by either not checking for potential danger or failing to notice the warning signs early enough?
Being hired for a new role is exciting, and especially so when it’s a job you’ve tried hard to get, and you’re keen to create a good impression by working hard and demonstrating what you’re capable of.
Those honeymoon days are wonderful. You don’t mind staying behind and contribute a few extra hours when asked.
But if it appears you’re always the one being asked, resentment can start to seep in. You may be considered a role model, a “top-performer” or identified as someone with “leadership potential” which is all very nice but frustrating if coincidentally you see others not pulling their weight and getting away with it.
Dealing with Work Disenchantment
Job disenchantment develops gradually and may not be apparent even to the trained eye until a pivotal moment (which may be something relatively minor) such as a social snub, a snide comment or being called out for a mistake you weren’t responsible for.
It’s the final straw experienced perhaps after the promise of a new position that didn’t materialize. If you’re feeling frustrated and held back by the lack of opportunity or training it’s no longer enough that your pay is good, the office furniture pretty funky and you have access to the perks of day-care and a discounted gym membership.
It’s been revealed that 20-25% of people are actively seeking work elsewhere at any one time and it’s not necessarily the obvious candidates of discontent who openly voice their dislike for their job.
If work has been getting you down, understanding why that’s happening can lead to some ideas to rediscover your passion and purpose.
Because the risk is otherwise you’ll quit, today, tomorrow or on March 31st, which is International Quit Your Crappy Job Day.
The Hidden Figures of Disengagement
Diligence, efficiency and a strong wish to succeed can lead to continuing to take on more work and pushing harder until exhaustion and burnout kick in.
The first insight lost when tired is just how tired you really are and cognitive fatigue makes it hard to see what needs to be done next, resulting in poorer decisions, a lack of attention to detail, polarized thinking, loss of critical thinking and reduced imagination.
It’s been revealed that regularly working beyond 50-55 hours per week is counterproductive and not associated with any increase in productivity and performance.
It’s time to get better at saying “No” nicely to protect your mental stamina and ability to think well, and to negotiate with yourself those non-negotiables such as getting enough sleep, taking vacations when due and getting home on time (more often).
2. Invisible results
If you can’t see the results of your efforts, there’s little motivation to keep trying. Look for the opportunity to discover how your contribution is making a difference whether to a joint project, a meeting or a challenging problem.
Ask for constructive and regular feedback to help you gauge your progress.
Stay curious to what might open up other opportunities for bigger, better and more visible outcomes.
If others are taking credit for work that you delivered, speak up, lean in or create a disturbance. It’s called theft isn’t it?
3. Poor relationships
All business is in the business of relationships and it is those social bonds that create the foundation of trust, loyalty and understanding.
Start by identifying your core values and check that the company and those you work with share similar values and beliefs.
Nurturing relationships matters at every level. You may be brilliant at leading a team but are you also checking in with your peers? Do you know what they think of you? Would they stand up for you in a tricky situation?
Social cohesion makes us happy. It builds contribution and collaboration and increases your desire to stay.
Doing great work starts by establishing a safety net, where the culture is about caring about each other and feeling that you belong.
4. Celebrate fear and failure
Fear is just one of the emotions available to us. It’s normal to experience fear when in a new role or when asked to do something you’re not quite sure you’re capable of delivering. It’s because our brain wants to keep us safe, protected by familiar patterns and the status quo.
Fear is not eliminated by promotion or recognition. Many leaders admit to sometimes feeling afraid (if they don’t – look out, they could be a sociopath!) What differentiates us here is the ability to challenge the fear and take action because this is what helps to dissipate its intensity.
Failure is normal too. While you may wish to avoid it, accepting it when it occurs helps to build resilience for the next time and opens up opportunities to try something different.
Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream have a famous graveyard of flavours in Vermont. For $3 admission you can take a guided tour to see the headstones of those ice-cream flavours that didn’t make it. From Fossil Fuel, to Wavy Gravy and Bovine Divinity, celebrating failure helps everyone to feel better about making a mistake and makes it easier to move on to what’s next.
Mmm, if wavy gravy ice cream isn’t your first choice either, it’s time to focus on identifying what does excite you and what you feel passionate about, because this can reignite your purpose and help unlock your true potential.
This is about making work, work better.
It’s smarter thinking by design.