As you walk into work each morning, do you think to yourself “Wasn’t I just here yesterday?” Do you get a mean case of grumpy-itis every Sunday night?Do you feel totally unmotivated at work and ask yourself “What am I doing?”
Who hasn’t been there? Of course, if you are completely miserable you should work on a plan to get the heck out and land a new job or a situation that works well for you. BUT, there are things you can do to make your job support you! Short of walking in and quitting without having another job or a plan, here are some things you can do to regain some control over your work and start to make work actually work for you.
- What’s Bugging You? — Do you love your job but hate the people you work with? Maybe you actually don’t like the work and want to move into something different? Do you feel unappreciated? Unrecognized? Bored? Figuring out what is driving you nuts is a good first step. You may not even realize why you are so frustrated. It takes some soul-searching to figure out what is really bugging you. Work through it, and keep asking “why?” Why do you hate your boss? Why do you hate that project? You may just surprise yourself with the answers. Instead of saying “I hate my boss” you may discover that “I hate my boss since he talks down to me and insists on reviewing everything, which makes me feel untrusted.” If you can chip away at the heart of the problem, then you’ll be better able to face it and, hopefully, fix it.
- What Do You Want? — Once you’ve figured out what’s bugging you, you should also try to figure out what you want. Do you want more trust? Authority? Respect? Freedom? Maybe you want to learn about something different, move into another field, or work with different people. It’s very liberating to identify what you want. Maybe you realize you want to become a graphic designer instead of doing project management work. The trick is figuring out how you can use your current position to get there.
- Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open — Instead of being angry (or while being angry) about everything happening at work, try to be objective. Observe what is going on. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn by watching the people you work with. You want to understand what is and is not important to them, how your coworkers interact with each other and, most importantly, what motivates or ticks off your boss. Let’s say you are in a meeting and feeling totally checked out, or, even worse, angry about how the meeting is going. You can find some relief in being objective and jotting down stuff you notice. For example, you might observe:
- Bob was angry that two people were late to the meeting.
- Bob repeated that we have to “be prepared for the conference coming up in three months.”
- Cheryl proposed a new idea, but Bob asked for data to back it up.
- Sue was doodling the whole time of the meeting and she seemed irritated.
It doesn’t take too long to start seeing some patterns. You may already know these things, but don’t assume. There is power in documenting what you see and starting to connect the dots. Once you figure out the patterns, you are understanding what spells success at work and with your boss.
- Abracadabra –Put these three things together for some magic. Once you realize why you feel so lousy at work and also what you want, you should connect the dots between what you want and the “rules” that you have observed. You can figure out how and if what you want supports your company’s/boss’ goals. For example, you realize that you are sick of the mindless spreadsheet work that you are doing and feel like you are being micromanaged. You want to become a graphic designer, even though it is indirectly related to the project management work you are doing. Your boss is worried about planning for a conference that is coming up and responds well to requests supported with data. You propose that a big presentation for the conference could benefit from some graphic design help. You pull out some data showing how visually appealing presentations are more successful, and then you propose to be the person who coordinates the work of your graphic design department (or you could offer to do it yourself if you won’t step on anyone’s toes). You promise to keep your micromanaging boss posted, explain that he will have full editorial control, and show how this additional task will not impact your current work. BAM! How can he say no to that? If, for some reason, he does say no, than his response just gives you more clues for how to approach it next time.
This isn’t easy, but it really works. The burden is on you to connect the dots between what you hate, what you want, and what your office and boss need. You can do it!