Everyone’s got a few work-related gripes, ranging from the benign (lousy coffee, crummy commute) to the serious (leaving work in tears). Since you spend a good chunk of your waking hours there, it’s worth examining how much stress is rooted in work dissatisfaction.
In a recent Gallup poll that asked 12 questions covering topics like opportunities and recognition in the workplace, only 30 percent of American workers are what Gallup calls “engaged” in their job, i.e. “employees [who] work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.” For employers, this statistic is a serious call to improve workplace engagement. For employees, it’s the impetus to drill down to the reason you’re present, but not “present.”
Here are a few of the most common workplace gripes, and our suggestions for addressing them.
Complaint: “I hate my job.”
Does your entire job makes you unhappy? Which parts of your job cause you the most stress? Are there areas where you thrive or specific aspects that are killing you, such as endless, aimless meetings, or the fact that the job you’re doing is not the one you signed up for. Identifying the real cause can help you decide what’s just annoying or what requires action.
>>Do a self assessment. Make a list of how you spend your work hours—and approximately how much time on each, so that you have a sense of what you’re spending the lion’s share of your energy on. If it turns out you’re spending 60 percent of your day managing an excel spread sheet instead of the creative work you signed on for, then you have a clearer idea of what’s not working for you.
>>Capitalize on your strengths. Gallup asked more than 11,000 people if they set goals and expectations based on their strengths on a weekly basis. It turns out most don’t – only 36% “strongly agreed.” If you’re unable to apply your strengths in your current situation, discuss it with your manager. The stress you feel is rooted in frustration and feeling ill-equipped to succeed. Ensuring the right people are working in the right positions is part of a manager’s job.
>>Ask for help. Lacking adequate resources or feeling unprepared will only heighten stress. Don’t tough it out. Ask a colleague for help and insight—he’ll be flattered you asked and likely more than willing to offer feedback. (More from monster.com on why you shouldn’t be afraid to ask.) Maybe it’s time to up your skill set. It’s worth inquiring with management about what kinds of classes are available or reimbursable, if related to the work you do. Find more career advice from the career section right here on Huffington Post.
Complaint: “I don’t know what my boss wants.”
You’re not the only one. Gallup says of the millions surveyed about expectations at work, more than half the participants say they don’t know what was expected of them. Your job title is the most obvious indication of what you signed up for, but not knowing how you’re doing can leave you feeling adrift.
>>Ask for a review. Approach your manager and ask if she’d be willing to meet quarterly so you can get a sense of how you’re doing. It’ll show that you’re engaged, ambitious, and invested in your performance.
>>Write it down. Discuss your manager’s expectations and decide on some actionable goals. If your company doesn’t have a formal reporting program, start a trackable sheet with your goals to refer back going forward.
Complaint: “I don’t know why I’m here.”
Nothing feels more pointless than working at a job you don’t feel connected to. And it’s not just about money. Andrew Shatte, PhD, Chief Science Officer at meQuilibrium, says the reasons people work fall into some or all of the following, starting with the most basic: They need money; they enjoy their coworkers and their work; and they believe their work contributes to a greater good.
The happiest employees enjoy the benefits of all three. Spend some time thinking about where you fall in those categories.
>>Remind yourself. Revisit the original reasons why you took the job. What did you think it would bring you—and has it? Maybe the growth has been stunted or directionless. Or maybe you’ve outgrown it altogether.
>>Reframe. Put what you’re doing in the larger context to reexamine your motivation. Are you managing a project or helping your team make improvements to the educational system? Are you handling customer service requests or maintaining your company’s stellar reputation for customer care? Sometimes how you look at a job can remind you of why you took it in the first place, and of what your efforts really mean.
>>Reach out. It’s one thing to say the obligatory hello in the morning, but how much time do you spend getting to know them? Don’t overlook your personal relationships at work—without those, an “ok” job can become unbearable and isolating.
“It’s been proven time and again, human connections ease stress,” says Shatte. “By reconnecting with colleagues and sharing common goals, you’re more likely to feel renewed and re-energized at work.” Find ways to get more connected with the people around you. Maybe it’s as simple as grabbing a coffee with a coworker, or asking a trusted colleague for her advice.
>>Align your work with your values. You may not love the job itself right now, but the reasons for sticking with it go beyond the cubicle walls. Maybe you’re saving for your child’s education, or want to set an example for your kids. Perhaps you’re taking advantage of the opportunity to sharpen your own presentation skills or deepen your experience, even if some of that feels uncomfortable right now. The more closely aligned you are with your purpose, whether you plan to stay at that job or not, the more capable you are of coping with the stress that comes with it.
Terri Trespicio is editor at meQuilibrium, the first-ever online stress management program. Additional reporting by Jen Jope.