For many of us, work takes up a large proportion of our working lives – over a lifetime it amounts to literally years spent away from home, family and friends. So, if you’re not happy at work, this can seem like a massive waste of time. This blog outlines the personal benefits that come when we are satisfied at work and, given that we’re all only here once, it’s important that we strive to gain some sense of joy out of our working lives.
This YouGov survey gives some excellent insight into what drives us at work. It estimates that around 16% are dissatisfied at work. If this sounds like you, the first thing to do is identify which aspect of your job is getting you down. Failure to do this upfront, will mean that you could struggle to rectify the issues in the future.
There are many reasons why people don’t get what they’re looking for at work. Common themes include:
MoneyIf you don’t feel you get paid fairly for what you do, or that others doing a similar job are paid more, this can cause significant upset.
InsecurityIf you believe your job is unstable or you’re worried about being laid off or fired, this can cause excessive stress in your life.
PromotionIf you don’t see any opportunity for future advancement, you can start to feel as though you are outgrowing your job and this can lead to dissatisfaction.
ColleaguesWho you work with can make or break a job. If you don't like the people you work with, or you’re not working with people that you get along with or respect, this can lead to unhappiness.
The first thing to do is to try and recognise the difference between fleeting episodes of unhappiness at work and ongoing dissatisfaction. We all have bad days and – sometimes weeks – when we can’t seem to do anything right. Try to put your emotions to one side and establish whether it’s a temporary situation that will right itself given time, or evidence of a deeper problem that needs addressing before it affects your well-being.
There are a number of ‘self-help’ ideas you can try to ensure you get the most out of your job.
Make positive changesTake control of your situation and try to change whatever you can on your own. Speak to managers and colleagues about your worries and work with them to develop strategies that will help better the situation. Ask for a pay rise if money is the issue; speak to your line manager or HR about mediation if the problem lies within your team; make a formal request for flexible working if your work/life balance is adrift. Often dissatisfaction arises when we feel powerless to change things, addressing issues face-on really helps.
Establish the true source of your unhappinessNot many people can claim their job is perfect and everyone has days when they wished they'd stayed in bed. Try to establish whether your dissatisfaction is definitely linked to your work - it could be that work has become a focus for your unhappiness. Have a good look at all aspects of your life and make sure that it is your job that is causing your unhappiness, rather than your home or personal life. Be honest with yourself: will your dissatisfaction follow you into a new job?
Look what else is out thereOnce you're sure your job is the issue and have tried to address the problems you’re experiencing, it might be time to do some research and find out what else is out there for you, job-wise. Look for employers who could be a better match your needs, prepare your CV and submit some applications. It may seem drastic, especially if you have been with your employer for a long time, but sometimes it can really help to see what else is out there – and give you a real confidence boost when you see that your skills and experience are in demand. Even if you decide not to take a new job, there is no harm in conducting a proper assessment of the job market and being prepared.
If a change of job is what you need, have a read of this blog on career planning, so that you are clear about what you want so you don’t get stuck in a similar situation in the future.