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By Nathan Bailey, MA, LPC, LCMHC


Most of us spend a good chunk of our lives employed. Given it’s such a big part of our life, our experience (good or bad) will likely have a significant impact on us. You might find yourself anywhere from being bored with work to sinking into a depression because of your day-to-day experience. If that’s the case, here’s 7 questions to ask yourself. 

1. Is this a temporary or seasonal thing?

Sometimes what we are reacting to, isn’t the “most of the time” experience. Things can change seasonally or when there’s significant staff turnovers etc. What we might find is that by managing temporary stress through good self care habits, building social support and developing our resilience helps us get through the short term challenges.

2. Am I really unhappy outside of work and I’m looking for work to save me?

While most jobs aren’t perfect, it’s not unusual for us to react in negative ways because we’re stressed or frustrated in our “real life.” Maybe our tolerance for the things we don’t like about our work is on a sharp decline because we’re depleted or burned out. It might be tempting to take out our feelings on our co-workers, supervisors (or even customers). Realizing that what we’re really unhappy with isn’t work, gives us an opportunity to address the real cause of the problem. 

3. Are there changes you can make that you have control over?

There are many aspects of our work we just don’t have control over. That being said, there are some things we do have control over that we might be overlooking. Did you know that one of the most psychologically encouraging acts at work is to clean your desk or work station? It reinforces for us that we can make some improvement, no matter how small, that creates positive change. Start with this and maybe other ideas start coming to mind.  

4. Would you be happier at another internal position?

Sometimes making a change doesn’t mean you have to completely leave your organization. It could be your interests, skills or desire to do something different might lead you to a new position where you are already at. Maybe this is doing something similar but with a different team, division etc. or maybe it could be a very different role. Many organizations would be open to consider that type of transfer as they already know you and your work performance and it’s possible they support your desire to make a change. 

5. Are you unhappy with your overall job or just certain aspects?

In the realm of work frustration, sometimes we are tempted to see it as all bad. It’s worthwhile to really drill into what you don’t like. Maybe you like your organization and your supervisor but you dislike the type of tasks you get assigned. Maybe you like your overall work tasks but would get more out of doing them in a different type of environment. It can be helpful to discuss this with someone outside of your organization who has objectivity and might assist with this exercise. Pull out your job description and go through it circling what you like and anything you don’t. Compare it to your resume after taking a similar deep dive. Any similarities jump out at you? The results could be very helpful. Maybe instead of a significant “re-boot” you just need to make some minor tweaks. Or if it is time to look for something new, you start that process armed with clarity about what you like, don’t like etc.

6. Do you like your job but you’re dealing with a difficult boss?

One of the most challenging experiences you could ever have in the professional world is working for a supervisor that makes your daily work a slog. These types of situations are unfortunately not that uncommon and of course are often portrayed on TV and in movies because so many people identify with it. 

Bad bosses can be anything from individuals you like personally but they struggle with disorganization or how they lead up to supervisors who are flat out abusive. The proper response is going to vary widely based on your unique situation but the bottom line is that there are things you can do to improve your situation. This doesn’t have to be your lot in life.

7. Is it time to move on? Am I jumping too fast 

It’s easy to get to the point where you want to march into the boss’s office, slam down your resignation, say a few choice remarks and storm out (I’m thinking of George Costanza here). Keep in mind that if you don’t fully understand just why you’re so unhappy with work, you could be headed for a repeat at the next place. Take the time to reflect on the 7 questions in this blog, read related resources (I’m a big fan of “What Color is your Parachute” by Richard Bolles), talk to friends/family/mentors and make a deliberate plan to bring about change in your professional life. Sometimes just starting this process helps bring a sense of relief and freedom even before things significantly change. 

Getting Help

If you’re finding yourself stuck and need professional support, Lime Tree Counseling is here to help you. Our highly capable team offers you the care you need. We offer a range of services (anxiety counseling, marriage therapy, online counseling and Christian counseling just to name a few) in Pennsylvania, Colorado and North Carolina. Getting set up and scheduled with one of our therapists is quick and easy. Reach out today!