Does this sound familiar? You are grateful to have a job, but it is literally nothing more than a paycheck. Your energy level is low and your excitement is non-existent. Every team meeting causes you to roll your eyes in anticipation of the inevitable bull that will be dished out, but you know you are better off than being in the unemployment line.
God bless our companies -- even the worst of them give us a paycheck that clears every two weeks. OK some of them don't clear, but most of them do. I have a lot of respect for job creators, both sole proprietors who create jobs for themselves and freelance opportunities for numerous contractors, as well as the big companies of the world that employ hundreds and thousands.
But often smart companies do stupid things that destroy our morale. Often times, they don't even realize the affect they are having (sadly).
Here are some examples that you might recognize (and, no, I'm not a psychic):
• Leadership spends millions on beautiful office space, but neglects to pay vendors, improve products and support its people.
• Senior management changes its strategy every few months when the wind blows another direction. Just when you start to get a stride and think you might succeed at the prior strategy, they change the game on you, without even asking for your feedback.
• The company changes its internal slogan, prints it on a ton of posters and plasters it across every office, because if it's in writing, it must be true.
• The company ignores declining morale and has the audacity to wonder out loud, "Why is our turnover so high?"
• Your company touts its philosophy of work/life balance, but every time you ask for a day off, your manager gives you that look.
• For those in sales: Your company believes the answer to growing revenue is hiring a ton of salespeople and expects them to increase revenue tenfold in months, even though the new product line is not totally hashed out and the average sales cycle is a year. On top of that, turnover is so high (the revolving door) that prospects have been repeatedly called by various sales reps, resulting in the reputation of the company on the street being poor, at best.
And saving the best for last...
• No one ever thanks you for how hard you work. Never. Like, ever.
It is possible that you're in the wrong field or company, or that you need to approach your work in a new way. But for the vast majority of employees, the company they work for is neglecting its core assets (the employees) at its own expense.
Evidence indicates that employees are the largest non-financial drivers of success in a company, and that if leadership was attuned to their employee needs and the culture they have built, it would result in better performance. Bottom line, if they treated you better, they would be even more profitable. So yes, I am giving you permission to say it: "It's their fault."
Point is, your company may be dragging you down but there is something you can do about it. Here are some tips:
• Meditate. Let me explain. To me, this is 10 minutes where I set my alarm to a soothing ring tone and close my eyes. I will do this in my car in a parking garage (literally). I either focus on what I really want from my life, a goal or desire, or simply focus on resetting my energy.
• Take five deep breaths at any moment during the day, especially when you get frustrated.
• Take a walk. Step away from your desk for 15 minutes and get some fresh air.
• Go network after work. It allows you the chance to get out of your comfort zone, meet interesting people, and discover new options out there in the world. Often these events are free or cheap, and many provide appetizers and wine. What have you got to lose?
• Use your vacation time. Even if you don't have a lot of expendable funds, plan a week off and think of new ways to expand your horizons (i.e. take a hike, go to meetups, do something out of your comfort zone).
• Stop fighting back. Try diplomacy as a tactic. If your first response to your manager's email is to tell them why you can't do something (with an attitude), try the opposite tactic. Or vice versa, if you take on too much and never say anything (stewing in your own juices), sit down with your manager and show them how you have organized your to do list. Explain why you believe you have prioritized items correctly. Say it without any bitterness and get their buy in. It's possible you can come to a new understanding of how to tackle your job and get some valuable (and long overdue) recognition.
• Create a vision board. We all know this, but if you haven't done this recently, go to a craft store and grab some magazines, glue sticks and scissors and start pinning all of your wildest dreams. Keep it in a location where you can see it every day. It will inevitably open you up to new possibilities in your life.
Conventional, practical wisdom says you should just be grateful to have a job. But I think we are way past that. Yes, we need income to eat and pay the bills, but I think our evolution as a species is screaming at us to find greater meaning from our lives. Some of us may find that by creating our own companies (and learning what not to do from the ones we worked at previously). But those that currently own and run companies also need to do their part and be more attuned to how they are managing them.
Until these companies we work for get their act together (if they ever do), we can at the very least, create the most meaning and enjoyment out of our lives. Unfortunately, we won't always get senior leadership to pay attention, at their own peril, but we can make the most out of our time at their companies and use the security of a paycheck to expand the potential in our lives.