What to do when work isn't working anymore

It can be tough to admit when the work you're doing isn't working for you anymore. I've been there. Every time the phone rang, I cringed.

It felt like moving through sludge.

There were the days when something good happened and I could convince myself that maybe things weren't as bad as I'd made them out to be the day before. As the good feeling faded though, the sludge-y feeling would seep back in.

If you're cringing too, please know it is OK to feel this way.

It doesn't have to reflect poorly on you, or on your employer. Like any relationship, it's healthy to see when something isn't working and find ways to make it better for both parties.

So, why is this work not working for you anymore?

Because you want to make a difference in a way that's meaningful to you, and it doesn't feel like you can do that where you are right now.

Read that again to let it sink in.

Whatever it is that is making you unhappy at work has to do with what brings you meaning. That might be a better salary or title, and it can also be a supportive environment or seeing the difference you make in the people you serve.

What can you do to make work better?

One option is below, and a second I'll explore in a follow-up post.

Part 1:  What happens if you stay where you are?

When I was cringing my way through work I felt I had to stay, because of the paycheck, and because I didn't know what I'd do next, and because I worried that I'd disappoint people I respected by leaving without a good reason.

No matter why you feel you need to stay, it's possible to cringe less.

To do that, we need to find a way for you to feel valued, and feel you're contributing something you value.

Right now ask yourself:  How am I making a difference today?

It's likely countless ways, some small and seemingly-inconsequential, and others that you do without realizing and people appreciate without ever telling you directly.

All of that counts. It's time to start noticing.

These might help jog your memory:

  • Would a project not have been as successful without your involvement?
  • Did you listen to someone's idea, helping them to flesh it out?
  • Did you clean up spilled coffee so the space looks nicer?
  • Were you told thank you? For what?

Noticing how you already make a difference is going to play an important role in work working better for you.

You can hate your job, and still feel good about who you are when you leave at the end of the day. Make it your goal to do that, and it will make getting up in the morning easier.

Over time, you may even find that you like what you do again and find more ways to do what is meaningful to you right where you are.

From now on, I want the last thing you do before leaving your desk to be answering: 

How have I made a difference today?

Post it on your calendar or to-do list so you see it, then make a running list on your phone or desktop with your answers.

Do this for one week and something will change. No doubt about it.

In fact, I'd bet it's less than three days before things start to look different.

When it does, I want to hear about it!

You making a difference is making a difference in my life. That I can assure you.