Falling out of love with your job is pretty common. Heck, being in love with your job in the first place actually puts you in a pretty small minority of professionals in the United States. According to Gallup’s last “State of the American Workplace” report, only 30% of this country’s workforce is “engaged,” meaning that they are: “involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and contribute to their organization in a positive manner.” Now, to me, this definition doesn’t sound like the sort of passion that a lot of people equate with someone who loves their job. It sounds more like the ingredients to a successful marriage: involvement, commitment and contribution. While you may not be able to fall head over heals for your job, you might be able to get a little more out of your 9 to 5 by putting a little more in every once in a while. So, let me be your love doctor for the next few minutes and we’ll try to figure out what exactly the problem is.
The first thing that you should do is a self check-in. After working the same job for years (or a string of virtually identical jobs), it’s quite common to develop the same sort of restless resentment that you might feel toward a significant other that’s slowly, inevitably dragging you down. While some may experience their job satisfaction in this conscious, focused way; others might be too caught up in going through the motions to even process how they feel about the work that they continue to slog though, day in and day out. In order to do a proper self-check in, you need to be both objective enough to re-evaluate your job (your coworkers, the work you do, your boss, the company culture, ect.) and in touch with yourself enough to know when one of these environmental work factors will be too unpleasant to make peace with.
While you probably know what you don’t like about your job, just humor me for a minute. Try and think back to that time when you first joined the company. What appealed to you in your first few months at the company? Was it the work? Was there a sense of camaraderie between you and your team? Was it the unlimited vacation days and memory foam beanbag chairs? Was there even anything that you liked in the first days or did you grow to enjoy the job more over time? Once you’ve filled yourself with (hopefully) warm memories about what used to get you in to work in the morning, try to remember when things started to sour.
They say that “people don’t leave companies, they leave supervisors.” One of the most common reasons that people fall out of love with their work is a supervisor that makes that work a whole lot more difficult. Now, this could be a personality conflict or maybe they’ve given you a workload more appropriate for an entire department than a single person. Fortunately, this problem can be solved with a little communication. If you can’t stand your supervisor, reach out to someone in HR to see about a possible transfer. It’s that easy. Well, not exactly that easy, but a lot easier on your well being than grinding your teeth every time your boss walks into the room. If the people that you work with are driving you crazy, then stop working with them! If you work for a relatively large company then there’s likely a new spot for you to be shuffled into if you are persistent enough. If you meet resistance, don’t be afraid to pull out the “these people are driving me out of your company” card. Chances are that the higher-ups would rather transfer you to a different department than spend the time and money it would cost to replace you.
If it’s the work itself that’s getting you down, this might also be solved by movement within your current company. While you might not be able to join the legal team on a whim, there’s no reason why you can’t express your desire to go in a different direction with your career and the work that you’re doing.
If you’ve done your self evaluation and tried to get away from the thing (or things) that drive you crazy, and things still aren’t working out, you have 2 choices. The first is to find another job, straight up. The second is to keep working at it. Though it’s sort of a recursive loop, you have to be engaged with your job to be engaged with your job. You can’t just go through the motions all day and expect to get much satisfaction out of it. Try putting forth a little more effort and thought into what you’re doing: brainstorming big picture ideas for your department, going the extra mile to produce great work or even collaborating with some colleagues that you don’t usually work with directly. If you snap yourself back into your job, you might be surprised to find that the only thing that changed was you!