A former career coaching client called me last week to tell me, ”I am in a bad Job – I need to get out of this company – my boss is a lunatic – can you help me again?” I told her to save her money and instead offered her 5 simple hacks to tough out a bad job.
The company she is working for at the moment is going through a rough period of transition. Morale is at an all-time low, the writing for potential lay-offs is on the wall, and a handful of her colleagues have decided to dodge the bullet and proactively quit. Basically, everything sucks, and on top of it all her boss is a bit of an unpredictable, slightly erratic, lunatic. To make matters worse the other people in management aren’t going to help her. She knows she is a good employee and she deserves an explanation and support and maybe even an apology.
Here is what I told her in the most diplomatic way possible. I told her that despite all the talk of community, mentorship and culture, a company’s priority is the bottom line. No matter how much they like her, her bosses and co-workers aren’t going to take care of her; she has to take care of herself. You may find yourself in a similar situation and you may be considering your next move.
Sometimes taking care of yourself means finding a new, better job. But, at other times, it means identifying ways to improve the current state of affairs. Here are a few ways to take charge of a less-than-stellar employment situation and make it work for you.
#1 Create a two year strategy
I know you may think that five years sounds better, but seriously guys this is 2016 and if you have the same job for more than three years you are a champ and in the minority. So, I suggest to keep it simple and strategise in two year timeframes. If you have the right attitude, then even a bad job is a great source of motivation. Stop thinking about your job as a trap and start envisaging it as a stepping stone. Create a two year plan for yourself and figure out how the time you’ll spend in this position fits into the bigger picture. Give yourself a finite time in your current role and outline what you want to accomplish before moving on. You’ll feel busy instead of miserable.
#2 Expand your role in stealth mode
If you’re often bored, not challenged and/or don’t have enough to do, talk to your manager or offer your services to other team members to take on new responsibilities or help out an overworked department. Adding variety and new challenges can help you to change your perspective on your current role. However, it’s important to make sure your primary responsibilities are more than covered before going this route. Nothing’s more annoying to a manager than dealing with an employee who simply no longer wants the job they were hired to do.
#3 Get busy networking
How often have you heard friends or co-workers say, “I hate the job, but I like the people”? If this feels familiar, put in some extra time developing professional relationships with your colleagues. Check in, plan lunches and grab coffee. Avoid and resist the urge to vent your opinions and frustrations. Instead, discuss industry topics, ask where you can help or be a good team member and share your own aspirations. Even if your job really is a total waste of time, you’ll leave it with a stronger professional network and a sense of accomplishment.
#4 Give yourself a chance to start fresh
When you’re unhappy at work, it’s really easy to fall into a funk. And, the thing about a funk is that sometimes it can prevent you from recognising positive changes and new opportunities. In other words, your workplace situation may actually be on an upswing, but you’ve become too jaded to see it. Try your best to start every day (or at least every week) with a clean slate. Let go of whatever happened in the past and give every new day the benefit of the doubt. You may be surprised by what you find.
#5 Stay engaged outside the office
If you trudge home from work only to fall asleep in front of a screen and wake up at 6 a.m. to do it all over again, any negative feelings about work will quickly become negative feelings about your life. Make sure you’re balancing your time in the office with non-work activities. Schedule dinners and outings with friends and family, even on weeknights, and dedicate time to a hobby or sport. Looking forward to doing things you enjoy will make work woes more palatable.
Quitting a job is easy, but real personal leadership is about trying and giving yourself permission to start fresh on the same job. Give it a try and if it still does not work out, start searching for a new job. My team and I are happy to help you with that. Go for it and remember to hunt wisely!