Feeling miserable or disengaged with your job? Stop blaming your employer and do something about it yourself.
That advice comes from Todd Berger, president and CEO of Chicago-based Redwood Logistics with more than 400 employees. Employers may make various efforts to increase employee engagement he says. Still, “at the end of the day, it’s up to employees to decide whether they will be happy or miserable.”
There are risks to being miserable. First and most obvious is the fact that you’re miserable. Since you spend at least a third of your waking hours at work, being unhappy during your workday may make it difficult to have a happy life.
Second, if your unhappiness is visible to those around you, your co-workers may find you a downer and may not want to spend time with you. (Unless they just want to share your misery, but that’s not healthy for anyone.) Worse, your employer may start thinking about replacing you, especially if you’re perceived to be dragging down the morale of your company or department.
Before any of that happens, here’s what to do:
1. Fish or cut bait.
“Not every culture is right for everyone,” Berger says. You chose to join the company, and you can now choose to either leave it or try to make it right for you. “Make a conscious decision whether you want to make the best or the worst of the situation,” Berger says.
If your employer really is a bad fit for you, then don’t wait around. Brush up your resume, visit some employment sites, look for contacts on LinkedIn, reach out to your network, and get started on a serious job hunt–or get serious about starting your own business. In a still-strong economy, now is a good time to be looking for work. That may or may not be true in the future.
2. Consider becoming a joiner.
“A company can host happy hours, after-hours events, philanthropic opportunities, or internal programs such as mentorship to help build engagement and camaraderie, but it’s up to the employee to participate,” Berger says. The same goes for learning opportunities such as workshops or webinars.
Being a joiner is much riskier than being someone who sits on the sidelines criticizing the company’s offerings and the people who take part in them. You could wind up looking foolish, wasting your time on something you don’t enjoy, or having to make small talk with people you don’t like. On the other hand, you might learn something new, make new friends or valuable business connections–and you might even enjoy yourself.
The only way to find out is to give joining in a try, starting perhaps with just a single event. The more you choose to give company events and educational programs a chance, the more engaged you will become.
3. Shadow someone in a different job or department.
This will give you better perspective on the company at large as well as on your own job, Berger says. “Maybe a certain process of theirs can give you an idea of how to do something differently that will make you more productive. If anything, it will spark different conversations, which will spark ideas.”
And if you’re bored or feel stuck in a rut, this is a great way to shake things up.
4. Take a class outside of your traditional role.
“Consider attending a coding class if you’re in sales, or an Excel course if you’re in public relations,” Berger says. “Then find a way to apply what you’ve learned to your current role.” Doing things that help you–or force you–to think along unaccustomed lines will let you see how you can expand your current job, he says.
5. Take on more responsibility.
“It may be that you’re bored, and that may mean you don’t have enough on your plate to be challenged or to drive excitement,” Berger says. You can address this by asking for more responsibility, and by looking for opportunities to take on more responsibility if you see something that needs doing but isn’t getting done. “Sounds crazy, I know!” Berger says. “By doing this, you’re stepping away from repetitive tasks and projects to a more creative position.”
6. Compare your job to your favorite hobby.
Most of us are willing to spend many, many hours on our hobbies and we may eat, breathe, and live sports data, or hiking, or scrapbooking, or whatever it is we love. Berger suggests putting the same energy we spend on learning about our hobby into research for our jobs.
Of course, the very definition of a hobby is something that you don’t do as part of your job, so this advice may not work for everyone. But it does make sense to take a close look at your job and see if you can bring some of what you love about your hobby into your job and your workplace.
7. Invest in your company’s culture.
“Think of ways to contribute, and what opportunities you can create to start conversations with people at the company you don’t know well,” Berger suggests. “Part of engagement is liking where you work and the people you work with.”
Think about organizing a happy hour, outing, or amateur sports team, he advises. The more you get to know the people in your company, the likelier you are to find some whose company you truly enjoy. And finding people you really like at your workplace? That’ll take you one big step closer to loving your job.