YOU QUIT YOUR JOB?
OH. WHAT HAPPENED?
Hmm. For each of my past jobs, I have started out very confident and passionate, and I have ended up very unhappy and unconfident. And I have then stayed in the job, unhappy and unconfident, for way too long.
There are many reasons:
- Persuasive advice from conservative friends & family: Stay in your good-paying & secure job; another job will simply have another set of problems; the job market is never safe so don’t risk it; loyalty is rewarded, so stay there; short tenures look bad on resumes; maybe your standards are too high; what about all the good things about this job?
- It is surprisingly easy to distract yourself from dissatisfaction. Once you get into the office, and start working through your tasks, you can often disregard everything except for those tasks, and you can get a sense of achievement from your tasks, so you end up ignoring and distracting yourself from your own unhappiness.
- I think this goes doubly for Nice, Positive and Female people. If you’re Nice, you don’t want to cause problems, and you keep making excuses for other people and situations. If you’re Positive, you keep believing that things can change, and you make the most of what you have. If you’re Female, you have been shaped to help and support others, so it is hard to put yourself first.
- It is easy and (crazily!) somewhat enjoyable to stay in a disliked job and then criticise everything. As I’ve mentioned before, criticism and negativity can result in feeling superior and appearing smarter to others. So they offer their own perverse rewards. Drama, drama, drama.
- And – this is difficult to explain – there is a psychologically abusive relationship happening, and it results in a really awful state of un-empowerment that holds you, frozen, in your job
Well, I reckon when you start out, all confident and passionate, at a company, there might be a time (or two) when you think, “If [that happens], I’m going to quit! Stuff that!” This is when you are empowered. But the power balance can change. And you might, gradually and subtly, start allowing yourself to be treated poorly. I think this is part of the Nice/Positive/Female phenomenon.
Then: Maybe you tell your manager that you have low job satisfaction. (They didn’t ask, of course. You have booked time with them, to tell them, because you are being proactive and assertive.) And maybe your manager listens intently, and is shocked, and talks at length about how to improve this situation, and promises that things will change. And maybe you wait. And you feel good that you were proactive and assertive. And you wait. And 3 months go by, before you know it. And one day you’re alone with your manager, and they say, flippantly, “How’s it going?” and you say, carefully, “Ah, well… I still have zero job satisfaction.” And they look at you, surprised, and say, “Really? Nothing has changed?” And you feel really confused, and you wonder to yourself, “What are you talking about? How could anything change? Nothing was ever done when I gave feedback the first time!” And then they say, “We can’t have that. We really need to change things for you.” And they are scribbling action items in their notebook, and you think, “Um… Well, surely they are going to change something now, because they must see that I’m pretty serious about this feedback. I said ‘zero job satisfaction,’ and there’s nothing more serious than that.”
But you know what has happened here? You are in an abusive relationship. What-they-say is not what-they-do. In the back of your mind, you start to realise that nothing will change, and that, in a way, you have been duped. And then there’s a power shift. Because you did the right thing – you said What You Want – and it was completely ignored, which essentially means that you have been told to keep doing what you hate. So now, every minute that you follow this command, you are subsconsciously telling yourself, “I am stupid. I am doing something I hate. I must not be worth much, because my happiness, job satisfaction and feedback mean nothing here. I must be so stupid to stay here. And yet, I am still here, so that proves it, I’m stupid.”
And that’s when you are un-empowered. And you get awfully, awfully stuck. You have lost your confidence; you don’t feel smart or skilled anymore. You are frozen in your job. You don’t think that anyone else would want you. You don’t even have the confidence to look at job ads.
OK I HAVE 2 MORE QUESTIONS
HOW DO I STOP BEING FROZEN AND HOW DO I PREVENT THIS WHOLE THING FROM HAPPENING
Great questions. Thanks for asking.
I’m sure many people would have many answers for these. My suggestions:
- Go to interviews. It doesn’t matter what interviews, really, but you need to see other workplaces; other possible coworkers; etc. You will see that you could easily step into those workplaces and make them better.
- If you are too frozen to even look at job sites, ask a friend (see below) to set you up with an interview.
- Take a day off work, and sit in a coworking space or a cafe where freelancers work. Hopefully, you might see people who are enjoying their work, and you might get some perspective: What would it take to feed myself? What would it take to work in a cafe? (If they can do this, I can.) Seeing how little you need to survive – in comparison to your current wage/security/unhappiness – can be important.
HOW TO PREVENT STAYING IN AN UNHAPPY JOB
- Before you start a new job, and during the first 3 months, create a WANT LIST, for example: “I find the work challenging, I like my coworkers, I am learning, I feel empowered, I have an annual performance review, Smart decisions are made here, Feedback is welcomed & actioned, There is low staff & clients turnover, Staff & clients are happy, I am happy.”
- Set reminders, every 2 months, to check this list. Grade every point (high/medium/low) according to how you currently feel. And if you ever give feedback at work, and you are promised that there will be change, add the feedback to your list, and set deadlines for the feedback to be actioned.
- Add this item to the list: “If unhappy, privately & strongly disagree with conservative friends & family.” (I’m not sure if that will work, but I don’t know how else to counteract conservative advice.)
- Assign yourself a Guardian. Ask them to ask you for your Want List every 2 months, and if they see that you are scoring badly on the list, ask them to advise you to book some job interviews, and to sit in a cafe for a day. And if you don’t follow their advice, they have the right to set up interviews for you.
YOU ARE WEIRD