Author: Scott Duncan
Perhaps to be more accurate, what you’re going through is not unique, it’s not special, it’s not even that unusual.
I talk to a lot of people. Of those people, many aren’t completely fulfilled in their work. Of those people, some are actively disengaged. Of those people, some are being made very unhappy by their jobs. It’s hard to ringfence this type of unhappiness. It seeps into all areas of your life. Your relationships start to suffer, your physical and mental health deteriorate, it becomes all consuming.
There are lots of reasons people are unhappy in their work. It can happen slowly, over time wearing you down. It can happen very quickly – I often talk to people who realise that they’ve made a critical mistake within the first week of starting a new role.
Which brings me back to my initial point – this is not an unusual situation to find yourself in. You are not alone and you will get through this.
In my experience, true work unhappiness can have many root causes. It may be that your role is too boring, it may be that you’re dealing with unrealistic expectations. It may be that you’re experiencing workplace bullying.
Typically however, the two main causes seem to be a lack of values or cultural alignment, or an untenable relationship with your boss. I hate to break it to you, but these are fatal symptoms. Very rarely can you work through these issues. Trying to stick it out, or hoping that it will miraculously change, is an exercise in self delusion.
Reaching the conclusion that you need to change roles is hard. It’s often fraught with self doubt, uncertainty and fear. It requires you to be vulnerable, self-reflective and courageous. It is this honesty that makes me want to help you.
When I meet with people going through this (and I meet lots of them), I try and reassure them. “Yes, this is a bad situation you find yourself in”. “Yes, I see lots of people in similar situations”. “Yes, you’re doing the right thing by taking control and seeking change”. “Yes, in 12/18/24 months you will look back on this as just part of your life journey, a learning experience to embrace”.
These are not empty platitudes, I sincerely believe them to be true.
What I typically don’t share with people is my personal experience with this. During the dreaded GFC I was working for a large multinational. Business was not good. I was initially re-deployed into a different role, before my original role was restructured out of the business. I was distraught. So much of my self worth and confidence was linked to my work. And here I was being told I wasn’t wanted. It was all consuming. A decade later and I still don’t like thinking about it. But I got through it (with the support of my now wife) and I can honestly say it has made me a better consultant. It’s made me more empathetic with people going through hard times, I feel I can relate, I can still recall that sinking feeling in my stomach.
Positives often come out of adversity.
What I’m saying is that if your job is making you unhappy, you must take some steps. What steps those are will depend on your circumstances, but the starting point is acknowledging that you have a problem, and taking some control of your destiny.
Trust me, you’ll be fine, I’ve seen it all before.
P.S. I DO think you’re special.