Should I Stay or Should I Go? 7 Questions When You Are Unhappy at Work
By: Heather Mundell, CPC
You're sitting in another long meeting and glancing at your watch. I can't
believe what a waste of time this is, you say to yourself. I've got five
phone calls to return and probably twenty-five new emails in my inbox.
Guess I'm staying late again. I just wish I cared more about what I'm doing
Nearly all professionals, whether they work in the corporate, academic or
non-profit sectors, have similar thoughts about their work at least
occasionally. But what do you do if you notice that your complaints are
becoming more frequent and serious? How do you know when it's right to
weather the storm and when it's time to take another tack?
Here are seven essential questions to ask before deciding whether to leave
your position. Answering these questions is the first step in taking charge
of your own career.
1. What do you enjoy and what don't you enjoy about your job?
This is a basic yet essential exercise. On a sheet of paper create two
columns. In the first list all of the aspects about your job that you
enjoy. In the second, detail your complaints. Be honest and specific. Now
compare the two lists and notice any patterns. How long are your respective
lists? How meaningful are your likes and what are the impacts of your
dislikes? What percentage of the time do you enjoy what you are doing? What
percentage of your time are you putting up with things that you dislike or
2. How long have you felt the way you do?
Like individual employees, every organization and work group experiences
good times and rough times. These rough times may be seasonal, related to
the evolutionary stage of the organization, or associated with particular
periods in the fiscal year. Are you hating your job because it's budget
time or review time? Are you in a good phase because sales are up in the
summer? Have you been complaining for two solid years? Get some perspective
about your overall satisfaction level.
3. How does your job align with your strengths and your values?
People are usually happiest when they are encouraged to play to their
strengths and values. Make a list of your strengths and values and consider
them in light of your current job and organization. How well does your job
fit you? Are you an extroverted leader in a job involving a lot of data
analysis? Are you committed to a particular cause and work for an
organization whose mission runs counter to your ideals?
4. What is your job costing you?
Even those of us in lucrative positions face some degree of "opportunity
cost" in their lives. Others face real emotional suffering. How mild or
severe is the cost of remaining in your current position? Are you working
so many hours that you've missed all of your daughter's soccer games? Is
your marriage in trouble? Are you having problems sleeping? Are you
depressed or suspect you might be? Be honest about the impact your job has
on your health and sense of well-being.
5. Will this job get you where you want to go?
You need to have a clear vision before making a dramatic decision about
your current position. If you haven't done any thinking about an overall
vision for your career, now is the time to start. What would you love to be
doing one, five, and ten years from now? How will this job get you there?
Is this job a natural stepping stone or a dead end?
6. How is your boss supporting you?
Your boss's skill as a manager is a critical factor to your job
satisfaction and success. She can give you challenging assignments, assist
your career progression, mentor you, and support you. Or she can ignore
you, dump unappealing projects on you, treat you unfairly or undermine you.
Whose team is your manager on? How is your manager helping you or hindering
you? If your boss is intolerable, it may be time to move on. Fighting to
have your boss removed or waiting for your boss to change or get fired are
rarely successful enterprises.
7. What's keeping you where you are?
Now it's time to be brutally honest. What are your primary motivating
factors for working in this position? Perhaps you've made lifestyle choices
that depend on your salary level. Maybe you spent many years and thousands
of dollars obtaining an advanced degree to get where you are. Perhaps you
enjoy the status that your job brings you. Maybe you have convinced
yourself that there is no better job out there. What are you committed to
in your life? How does your job support those commitments?
Take some time to analyze your work experience in light of your answers to
these seven questions. By noticing your desires and honoring your
aspirations, you can achieve more clarity about what you want and what is
in your way. With clarity, you can transform your vision into a plan for
However, suppose you have taken some time to analyze your situation and you
still feel stuck. Perhaps you found some clarity but you are struggling
with identifying your goals or formulating a career plan, either of which
seems overwhelming. Fortunately, you don't have to go it alone.
Many individuals who want to make significant changes in their lives are
hiring professional coaches to support them. As a result of coaching,
individuals can define what they want, make new and better choices to get
what they want, see possibilities around what hadn't seemed possible
before, and create and act on plans that are successful and fun.
If you are feeling unhappy in your work and are unsure about your next
steps, consider hiring a professional coach. A coach can walk with you down
those challenging paths that you've felt anxious or confused about so far.
With coaching, you can more readily take charge of your career and move
closer to achieving your dreams.
Heather Mundell, CPC
Visit us on the Web at: http://www.dreambigcoaching.com