I was listening to a conversation on the train recently between two smartly dressed commuters. Both were complaining about their jobs, their bosses and, in short, their lives.
I got the distinct impression that this was an often repeated dialogue as they told their anecdotes of being short-changed for promotions, working with idiots and being managed by egomaniacs.
There was an interesting dichotomy in the debate, snippets of the conversation focused on their home lives, families, community interests and political views. These grown-up people making responsible decisions every day saw themselves as powerless in the workplace. Why is this?
We have all found ourselves in jobs at one time or another that we hated. When Friday evening was a chance to offload the stress onto others and Sunday evening anxiety kicked in around the same time as the Antiques Roadshow.
There are three options available to those who find themselves in the same situation as the unhappy commuters:
1. Change what you can change: we often have more influence than we realise. If work is a pain in the nethers, get a transfer to a more interesting role. Apply for a secondment, or talk to your boss about ways in which you could enhance your experience. Improve your relationships with colleagues, take a course, and learn something new.
2. Get your head down: if you can’t change your environment, colleagues or boss and you can’t change your job, your options become more limited.
3. Get your coat: there will be times when your work environment is so dreadful, your boss really is a monster and brain cells are diminishing by the second. Now it’s time to walk away.
You might not be able to move for economic reasons. You might love your job and hate your boss. If this is the case it’s time to shut up. Yes, that’s right, give up complaining whinging and whining. Stop being the office bore. Find things that interest you about work, find something positive in your boss and zip it.
It’s your responsibility to manage up, find highlights of the role and have some fun. Don’t become the toxic tormentor who sucks the life out of every interaction. It will make you ill, destroy your relationships and you will sleepwalk through life as the 'victim' in the office tragedy.
Leaving a job can be a difficult decision, but it can also be a hugely liberating experience. It's easier to find a new job when you're already employed, but never damage your physical and psychological health for the sake of the wrong job.
Having a conversation with an objective person outside the organisation and your family can open your mind to many other ways of living and working. There’s a huge difference between the occasional bad day and constant unhappiness. If your experience is the latter, it’s time to consider the words of Confucius:
'Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.'
- What is the passion in your life?
- What would you pay to do?
- How would you fill your days if you were a multi-millionaire?
The answers to those three questions will give you a good indication of your true calling. Then consider:
- Does anybody get paid to do this?
- How could you get paid to do this?
- What is stopping you?
It’s scary doing something new, but sometimes you have to shut your eyes and jump. Don’t waste another day, take back control of your destiny and get a life!
Angela O’Connor is CEO of The HR Lounge and president of The HR Society.