I was doing a workshop about passion and career for a women’s group a few years ago, and at the end I opened it up for questions and personal stories. One woman stood up and candidly shared how she felt about her job:
“I dread going to work every day,” she said. “I sometimes stand in the shower before work wondering, ‘If I slipped and broke my leg, how much work could I miss?’”
She’s not alone. A couple of months ago, another client confided this in me:
“I’m allergic to peanuts, and on my worst days at work, I’ve half-considered eating a Snickers bar from the vending machine so I have an inarguable excuse to leave for the day.”
These thoughts might sound dramatic. But for anyone who’s been in a toxic (or at least deeply incompatible) work environment and felt this level of dread about their job, you’ve likely had fleeting thoughts just like these. I know I have.
And it makes sense, if you think about it.
When you feel like you don’t belong in a particular job or company, and yet you’re simultaneously reliant on it because it’s providing for your very survival, you’re bound to feel trapped. And anytime you feel trapped, your mind is going to frantically start looking for any possible escape route.
The more trapped you feel, the more extreme the mental escape strategies. Thus, peanuts and shower accidents.
Here’s what I told both of these women:
“When you’ve reached that level of dread, there’s really no turning back.
Are there things you could do to try to improve your situation? Sure. Are there mindset changes you could make to feel a bit better about your job? Of course.
But honestly, why put yourself through that when it’s so abundantly obvious that this is just not the right place for you? That’s swimming against the current.
If you’re completely miserable, do yourself a favor and get out. Find a bridge job, if you need to. There’s no need to waste months or years of your life feeling chronically trapped and unhappy.”
Extreme dread is one pretty obvious sign that it’s time to leave your job. But there are other, more subtle signs that you’re in the wrong place and need a change.
SIGNS THAT YOU’RE IN THE WRONG JOB
If any of the following ring true for you, that’s a sign you’re in the wrong job and it might be time to start considering other options:
- You’ve tried to improve your working situation — maybe you’ve asked for more flexibility, or a raise, or the chance to work on new creative projects, or for more collaboration and in-depth feedback — and yet nothing much changes and you’re still miserable.
- When you look at your boss’ job, you have no desire to eventually step into it … or any other job within your company, for that matter.
- You can’t get behind your company’s bigger mission or the impact it’s having on the world because it’s not aligned with your values.
- Everyone you work with is chronically negative, burnt out, or disengaged, and being around them all day completely drains you.
- Imagining spending the next several years at this job nearly sends you into a panic attack.
- The stress of your job is negatively impacting your physical, mental, or emotional health and making you sick.
- You don’t like who you are at this job. You feel like it’s turning you into a version of yourself that you hardly recognize and don’t particularly like.
- You just know in your gut that this isn’t where you belong, even if you can’t logically explain it to anyone else.
WHEN IT’S WORTH STICKING WITH YOUR JOB
Just because your job isn’t currently bringing you the satisfaction or happiness you want, doesn’t mean it’s automatically a lost cause. If any of the following are true, it may be worth sticking with your current job and trying to make improvements before you give up on it entirely.
- You assume you can’t get your need for flexibility, creativity, growth, etc., met at this company, but you haven’t actually spoken up and asked for what you want. Before you turn in your two weeks’ notice, have an honest conversation with your manager about what would reignite your engagement and see what you can co-brainstorm.
- You love your company and your team, but there’s that one coworker who annoys the crap out of you and can ruin an otherwise perfectly good day. Don’t let that one person bully you out of job that is actually a great fit for you. Share your concerns with your boss, and ask if you can have limited interaction with that person.
- Your job has a lot of great parts, but it’s not meeting a particular need or desire of yours. For example, you wish it had a few more people your age, or that it was making more of a social impact, or that it gave you the opportunity to travel. Before you up and leave your job, see where else you could get that need met outside of work.
- You were happy with your job, but lately it’s been going through a rough period (a merger, a massive deadline, a restructuring, etc.), and you don’t know how to feel in the meantime. Give things time to settle down before reevaluating whether this is a place where you could be happy again.
- You don’t love your current role, but it’s leading you toward your dream job down the line. Sometimes you’ve got to work your way up to your ideal job, which might mean sticking it out through some lower-level positions or part-time gigs to build up relevant experience. But keeping that bigger vision in mind can help you get through your current day-to-day.
WHAT KIND OF RELATIONSHIP ARE YOU IN WITH YOUR JOB?
Think about this from another perspective.
If you were dating someone and you started to dread hearing from them, you found yourself coming up with excuses for why you couldn’t meet up, you couldn’t see any future with them, and you didn’t like who you were in their presence … you’d pretty quickly come to the conclusion that this relationship wasn’t working and you needed to break up.
However, if you were in a stable, loving relationship with someone, but you had a major disagreement or you were going through a rocky period, you wouldn’t automatically assume the relationship needed to end. It might just need some attention, or adjustments, or better communication to get back on track.
Try thinking about your job through that same lens.
If you thought of yourself as being in a relationship with your job … is it a healthy, equal relationship? A toxic one? Or a solid one that’s just going through a rough patch?
Share your answer with me in the comments below!
WANT TO EXPLORE THIS MORE? JOIN US IN ONE WEEK FOR A FREE WORKSHOP
Rachel and I have SO much more to share on this topic, which is why we’re hosting a FREE online workshop next Tuesday (May 16th) at 1pm Eastern to dive into it deeper.
How to tell if the problem is you, or the job (and how to fix it, either way).
If this blog resonated with you, you’re going to want to be there. We’re talking about …
- The signs that the problem really IS you, not the job.
- And on the other hand, the signs that the problem is about the job, NOT you.
- The 4 Passion Profiles, and how to tell if you’re in the wrong job for your Profile.
- How to get into the right career for your Profile.
- How to stop job hopping and finally find fulfillment.
Register now. Space is limited to 1,000 people (which seems like a lot, but isn’t given how many people are seeing this blog).
If you can’t join live, that’s OK. We’ll send you a time-sensitive replay (AKA, it will expire a few days later, so make sure you find time to watch it).
If this sounds like something your friends or colleagues would enjoy, forward it on to them! We’d love for them to join us, too.
See you there! 🙂
TOO LONG, DIDN’T READ? LISTEN INSTEAD!
If reading long blogs just isn’t your deal, you’re in luck:
We’re now recording our blogs for you!
Here’s Kristen reading this week’s blog:
Kristen (+ Rachel)
This!!!!! All of this!!!!!! Clearly I need to leave this job. I checked off every item on your the list: the negative colleagues, dreading a promotion…etc. this job is incompatible with my need for transparency, communication, organization and the need for direction. IT’S KILLING MY SOUL AND SUCKING ME OF MY DESIRE TO LIVE. I’m in a feverish search to find work elsewhere but until then I dream of winning the lottery, I drink and I cry myself to sleep. How did this happen in 7 long months? I was so excited to work here?
This is exactly what I needed. To hear/see I’m not alone is refreshing. I’m miserable in life right now. I don’t know where to go or what to do bc I have no clue where I’m supposed to be/what my passions and/or calling is.