There are many reasons why we may not be happy at work: the job may be too challenging or not challenging enough; the environment may be negative – filled with conflict, unreasonable demands or bad behaviour; something within us may not feel right – declining physical or mental health, or we may have simply lost interest in our work. We may have lost respect for our manager, or no longer support the aims or values of our organisation. Sometimes a more general dissatisfaction with where we’re at in our life – a yearning for more meaning and satisfaction beyond our work – might trigger a restlessness or desire for change. Often dissatisfaction at work stems from a combination of these factors, but ultimately it boils down to a lack of alignment – between you and your job or you and your organisation.
Rather than blaming yourself, your boss, your organisation or the rest of the world, take a closer look at this lack of alignment. This means firstly taking a good look at yourself – understand your strengths, talents, interests, personality and values. Then work out which of these are not being expressed through your work and how critical this is to your job satisfaction. For example, your work may not be that interesting, but the environment is great and you can see how your job contributes to a broader purpose – this may be very rewarding for you. Or you may have a job that’s easy and interesting, but the environment is toxic – can you live with this?
Once you see a lack of alignment, ask yourself three questions:
- Can I change the aspects of my work that are not aligned with my core needs, strengths and values?
- If so, what and how?
- If not, can I accept the aspects of my work that I’m unable to change?
If not, you are probably at the point of having to make some serious changes. Think about changing roles within your organisation, seeking alternative work, or ask yourself if you’re up for a complete change of career direction! Whilst this sometimes seems daunting, surely life’s too short to be miserable for the roughly 50% of our waking week we spend at work.
When the wheels of your car are out of alignment, steering, efficiency and safety are all compromised. In the same way, if you and your work are out of alignment, you’ll soon go off course, suffer wear and tear and eventually burn out. Take control of your own job satisfaction – work out what’s really important for you and find the courage to seek it out. Don’t wait until the wheels fall off before taking action!