What to do when you can’t leave your job.
The last thing anyone needs when they have financial commitments is a sense that their job is unfulfilling, starting to drain them and it is becoming increasingly difficult to raise the energy to get out of bed each morning to go to work and be polite to work colleagues or the boss.
Maybe you already feel trapped in the job by financial commitments but up until your crisis you’ve been able to push through and adequately bury your feelings of frustration and a desire for something more meaningful.
If you can’t quit your job (e.g. for health insurance reasons, pension or financial commitments) there are other ways to make your working life better.
Here are some action points to consider:
- Choose your colleagues carefully. As we spend so much time at work it can be important who we hang around with. Positive people with a healthy work ethic who are supportive and understanding of each other and your situation can help you to feel more motivated. Make the workplace more enjoyable with the quality of the contact you have in it. Equally, if there are people who drain you, it is okay to separate yourself.
- Set boundaries outside of work. Do you notice issues with your boundaries at work that are causing you unhappiness? You can tighten up your work boundaries by leaving on time and not discussing work once you leave the premises. Turning off notifications on your phone or email outside of set hours can give you defined quality time away from the organisation.
- Start a peer group. Starting a peer/social/support group within your workplace or from different organisations within your industry can help. Being around people who understand and empathise and can offer support can have a positive impact. Sharing common issues about challenges within the organisation or with customers can help normalise your situation and make you feel less like it’s your issue and only you who with a problem. Conversations don’t have to be centred around the unhappy things which are work-related but on supporting each other within the work environment, too. Gatherings work well when they are placed outside of the workplace such as in one person’s home, or around an activity such as bowling, or meeting for a casual coffee. If you start the group, you can decide who can join and set the ground rules, such as limiting negativity and apportioning only part of the time together to talking about work issues.
- Specialise and become an expert. Consider specialising in one particular area of work which resonates with you. Becoming an expert in this one aspect of your job might help you to maintain interest and enthusiasm for the job and boost your self-esteem as you support others with your knowledge. Several years into my career, I researched and became knowledgeable about burnout and wrote and developed online courses on the subject. When I felt I had said everything I needed to say about burnout, I shifted my attention to midlife because I wanted to stay in psychology but knew I needed a different specialism to learn about and maintain my interest.
- Request reasonable adjustments. Throughout the world there are employment laws that oblige employers to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate requests for changed working conditions. You could consider asking for a flexible working schedule, at least temporarily while you make changes to your life. Are you able to work from home one day or more a week? This could be helpful to address external practical factors or break up the interactions in a toxic workplace.
- Develop yourself. Speak to human resources and see if you can go on any courses to enhance assertiveness, time management or well-being, or see if you can have a mentor or coach. Use your time within your organisation to develop yourself. Go back to your original job description and see if you are still doing the things you were brought in to do in the first place, or if this has slipped and you need to realign them.
There are always options to make life more bearable when you feel your choices are curtailed, take a little time and stop and reflect to which ones might work better for you.