We’re not that into our jobs. No, really. Most American workers are unhappy with their work and calling it in.
Last year, CBS News did a report on the American worker and found that 51% are disengaged, meaning they do the bare minimum to make their paycheck. Another 16% are “actively disengaged,” meaning they spend time at work complaining about the job, the company, and anything else they can think of. The keyword is “actively.” These are the employees who are acting out of their unhappiness, spreading negativity, and ruining workplace culture.
A study from Gallup puts that number higher: they say 70% of the American workforce have checked out and it's costing employers $450 to $550 billion every year. The costs are in lost productivity, absenteeism, high turnover, theft, and on-the-job accidents.
Given that there are more than 100 million people working today and most of us put in 40 hours each week, that’s a lot of negativity and frustration for employers and employees to handle.
If you’re reading this, there’s a high probability that you’re leading a work life of quiet desperation. But what if you don’t have to?
This article will share some of the steps for falling back in love with your job again. Ultimately, it may mean leaving, starting a more fulfilling side hustle, or evaluating your attitude as the first step toward changing the work environment in a positive way.
Assessing the Problem
Many people just resign themselves to hating their jobs. If they go in on Monday morning, they may start to worry and fret about it on Sunday night. Then when Monday comes, motivating themselves to get out of bed can feel almost impossible.
Some jobs are like a turtleneck you feel compelled to wear in the winter. On one hand, a turtleneck can feel warm on the coldest days. On the other hand, a turtleneck can get uncomfortable and constricting in a hot office. Some jobs are comforting at first, paying the bills and helping keep the family afloat. But, just like a turtleneck, they can start to get scratchy. After a while, it may feel like you’re going to choke.
Having a steady paycheck to fulfill your responsibilities is important. Some people just don’t like change, so they stay in a job they hate longer than they should. Others may be working toward the promise of a pension or retirement benefits. Although change is hard, it may be necessary to help you re-engage and find a little more joy at work.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
It's true that even good jobs can give you bad days. Take a first step toward determining if your job is that bad by taking a hard look at its benefits versus its drawbacks.
According to CNBC, there are six areas that signal issues that need to be addressed:
- Are you still learning? You’ve stopped learning anything new in your job. It’s strictly same-old, same-old, with no way to advance, no training, and no challenges.
- How long is your commute? If you’re in a low-paying job and have a long commute, is there a role closer with a similar pay rate that could save you lots of time? Commuting generally produces anxiety, so decreasing the time and money you spend getting to work could make your life easier.
- How’s your pay? Money isn’t everything, but if you hate your job, it’s the only reason you’re there, right? Lower wages have a negative impact on stress, family life, and your overall health, according to one study. The U.S. unemployment rate is historically low, which means there are more jobs to choose from when you’re finally ready to make a move. Also, it's a candidate-driven market, which means employers in your field might be paying a little more to entice you to come on board.
- Is your work environment unhealthy? If you don’t like your coworkers or your boss, it might be time to go somewhere else. Beyond dampening your enthusiasm for the job and slowing productivity, working in a negative environment can make you sick.
- Are you bored? Being bored can lower your creativity, energy, and self-esteem. You can do better.
- Is turnover high? If employees are jumping ship, there’s usually something wrong with how management is treating employees. In large companies, this is often a systemic problem that you can’t impact.
While change is rarely easy, the truth is that if you’re experiencing one or more of these problems at work, you might be happier addressing them rather than ignoring them.
It’s possible to love your job again, but it’s going to take a little work.
Who’s Responsible and What Can You Do?
Robin Walters, a Recruiter for a software engineering firm, says, "The best sales trainer I ever had told me, 'You can’t make a sales rep close a deal but you can create an environment in which they want to sell.' My point is that employers can do a lot to create a better work environment, but employees should have skin in the game, too."
Thinking about what would make a better work environment should help you get to the root of what in your current job is demotivating you. Once you’ve figured that out, you’ll be able to determine if you can initiate changes that could turn the job around or if it’s time to throw in the towel.
Here’s the rub: change starts with you. If you wait for your employer to create a motivational and positive work environment, you put all the power in their hands to fix your situation. Good luck with that.
How to Effect Change
Take the advice of Human Resources Today. They suggest:
Employee engagement is more important than ever.
Retaining and attracting the best employees requires
a great company culture. And that’s everyone’s job.
Many times those actively disengaged employees we talked about earlier are a primary contributor to the terrible workplace environment they’re complaining about. Negativity breeds more negativity, so employees struggling with a bad work environment need to look to their own attitudes first.
Thinking about who is really responsible for workplace gossip and negativity goes to the heart of creating a culture of accountability, an environment that, according to Medium, is lacking in most organizations. Accountable organizations have engaged employees that take responsibility for their work and their attitudes. We should note that “employees” includes managers, administrators, and everyone else that gets a paycheck from the organization.
The idea that the employer and employee are equally responsible for creating a great work environment is extremely empowering. The American worker has the ultimate power in the current economy to reinvent themselves as freelancers, find another job, or try to improve their current situation.
If you don’t love your job right now, it’s up to you to fix it. The question is, what are you going to do about it?
Taking Action: Try These Things to Get Your Groove Back
Before you try for greener pastures, consider whether you have attempted some changes in your day-to-day grind — because, really, making your workplace better starts with you.
Here are some suggestions that may turn things around:
- Lead by example by dumping negative attitudes
Instead of complaining, turn the conversation positive. Is there a clique at work you’ve fallen into that is perpetually negative? Walk away from conversations that pull you down and start new, more positive relationships.
- Try smiling more and frowning less
It’s going to take practice, but a more positive attitude is just as infectious as being a negative Nellie.
- Avoid workplace gossip
This can be a hard habit to break. Try a one-day-at-a-time approach. Go through one entire day without spreading gossip. At the end of the day, reflect on how that made you feel. Then try day two.
- Set goals
You can set positivity goals for each week, just like you’d make a list of things to do.
- Support employees having a rough time
Offer to help. If your boss is stressed, ask if there’s something you can do to lighten the load.
- Find something that motivates you at work
Take on a new project, watch a Ted Talk, or reconnect with a coworker that inspires you over coffee.
- Sit down with your boss and have a conversation
Talk about ways you can improve the work environment. If you’re bored and would like more responsibility, discuss it. You might be shocked to find out your manager has been agonizing over how to improve things. Your initiative could make a big difference.
The point is to shake up whatever old routines are bringing you down to see if the job can get better. This process takes practice and it isn’t going to happen overnight.
The Bottom Line?
We know that our work matters. We spend a lot of time and effort in the workplace. Now, it’s up to you to make sure it’s not wasted time.
If all of these efforts fail, maybe it is time to reach out to your favorite Artisan career coach and begin to make some positive changes in your job and in your life.