Jane Boucher helps you find success—and enjoy working for it!
- Posted on Oct 29, 2008
Lots of us have been there. Stuck in a job that gets us down. You know the feeling. You dread Mondays. You watch the clock, praying for the workday to be over. This can be a recipe for misery. On average, Americans spend 80 percent of their waking hours at work. That's way too much time to be unhappy. Every job has its challenges. Everyone has bad days at work. But if you find yourself screaming, "I hate this job!" once too often, it's time to change your life a little—or a lot.
Do It Today
I used to be a high school counselor. I loved talking to at-risk kids. But you wouldn't believe the mounds of paperwork thrown at me. For every student, there were multiple evaluation forms.
I'd push the forms to the side of my desk for a few days, a few weeks. By the end of my first month on the job, I was so swamped with paperwork I hardly had any time to talk to the kids.
I stayed late one night to do my evaluations, now a towering stack of papers.
Lord, I shouldn't have let things get to this point. Please show me how to get through it. Feeling revived, I picked up the first form. Page by page I worked through the stack. There was no other way.
Solution? I set a regular time to get the work I liked the least done first. Then I could maximize my time with the kids.
We've all got a lot coming at us—e-mail, voice mail, customer complaints, presentations. If you let the negative aspects of your job build up, at some point they'll become your entire job. Tackle the nasty stuff first so you can focus on the part of your job you enjoy.
They're Called Coworkers for a Reason
Do you realize most of us spend more time with our coworkers than with our family and friends? When relationships with coworkers are troubled, your life will be too. Like a marriage or a friendship, work relationships require effort, thoughtfulness, respect and clear communication.
My friend Lynn did her job well and didn't understand why people snubbed her. No one ever asked her to lunch. Conversations were strictly business. One day Lynn overheard two coworkers talking about her. They called her a know-it-all.
My advice: Talk to those coworkers. Don't confront them; talk to them. Ask, "What can I do to help us work together more effectively?" Using the word "I" let them know she wasn't finding fault but was willing to work on their relationship.
She found out that the tension stemmed from her tone of voice and body language. Lynn had a habit of crossing her arms, which coworkers interpreted as standoffish. Her voice took an authoritative tone in conversations, even if it was because Lynn was just making sure that she was understood. Lynn tried to modify her behavior. Her coworkers were impressed that she opened the lines of communication. The effort alone did a lot to smooth over hard feelings.
We All Have One
A boss, that is. And there are all types, believe me. Bonnie, a hospital head nurse, put in long hours. But her boss, the chief of staff, didn't appreciate her dedication. "He constantly berates me about problems that are out of my control," she said. "The harder I work, the more he yells."
I told Bonnie what my father always told me about difficult people: Kill 'em with kindness. Go to her boss and ask, "Is there anything I can do to help you?" The first time Bonnie tried that, her boss snorted, "What? You don't have enough to do?" Bonnie asked again the next day and the day after that. Her boss gave her flippant responses. But on the fourth try—quite possibly out of exhaustion—he gave Bonnie a real answer. Bonnie followed through with the request, and her boss couldn't help but be grateful.
"The whole time I was praying for my boss," Bonnie said. "Every night I'd ask the Lord to give him peace of mind. I guess I got some peace too!"
The key was that Bonnie always stayed in control of her emotions. By being sympathetic to her boss's problems, Bonnie got him to drop his defenses and see her true intent—to build a better relationship. Within a year he recommended Bonnie for a promotion. And she's still praying for him.
Be a Learner
The quickest way to fall out of love with your job is to stop learning. When you expand your knowledge or skills, it gives you a sense of accomplishment, which in turn makes you feel more successful and content.
Some jobs don't easily lend themselves to new opportunities. Or maybe you've hit the ceiling on promotions and new projects. Take Mark, my next-door neighbor. Five years of working at a department store, he was promoted to manager. Aside from the title, his duties remained the same. "I'd feel ungrateful complaining after they gave me a raise," Mark said to his wife. "But I don't feel fulfilled." Looking over the company's policies, Mark's wife noticed a tuition reimbursement option. Why not take some classes on the company's dime? "The store was near a Hispanic neighborhood. I always wanted to learn Spanish," says Mark. He wrote up a proposal, explaining how becoming bilingual could benefit the company. His request was approved.
Feel bored at your job? Look for new ways to challenge yourself. To grow. It's up to you.
Be a Giver
I love my professional speaking career, but a few years ago I really got stressed out. That's when my best friend's favorite saying came to mind: It's more blessed to give than to receive.
I found a battered-women's shelter in my area and asked if I could speak there free of charge. Am I nuts? I wondered. I've got five days of speaking engagements and here I am setting up a mini-conference. For free!
My friend was right. That talk at the shelter turned out to be one of the best meetings of my career. Vanessa, whose husband hit her while she was pregnant, told me: "I wanted my son to grow up in a loving home. I didn't have a job or a place to stay, but one night I walked out the door with my baby and never looked back." Vanessa's courage motivated me to take brave new steps in my own life.
Most companies have community service programs. Get involved. It might give you a newfound respect for your company. And when you help lift others, you always end up lifting yourself.
Know When to Say Goodbye
Okay. So you've tried everything and you still don't love your job. Maybe it's time to stop swimming upstream. The job may not be the right fit for you.
I once found myself in this predicament. My boss was beyond difficult. One day while I was on the phone with an elderly client, he came over and screamed, "Why the heck are you wasting company time on that old man? You know he's not worth the business." My client heard every word. I politely got off the phone. Then and there I made up my mind. I couldn't change my boss, but I could change my situation. It's like the Bible says, "And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave...." Two weeks later I started my own business.
You might not be able to leave a bad job right away. Make the best use of your time there. Don't stop trying with your coworkers—someone you reach out to now might put in a good word for you later (when a prospective employer asks for references). Polish your resume and send it out. It's easier to find a job while you have one. Above all, keep a positive attitude. That's what you want to bring to your new job, a job you can love.