Hands up if you’ve heard that money problems can cause the demise of a perfectly good relationship? Me, too. Oh, and been there, done that. Well, so can being miserable in your career – whether your job is street cleaner, social worker, mother or president of the entire planet. It doesn’t matter, your levels of satisfaction impact everything.

Let’s start here, with some of the reasons people go to work:

Group A:  Purpose – I love it!

Group B:  Stimulation – my brain gets a kick out of being utilized

Group C:  Money – pay check to pay check, or love having lots of it

Group D:  Boredom – got to fill the time somehow

Group E:  Habit – uhhh, do I have a choice?!

And some of the reasons people are unhappy at work:

  • It has never occurred to them that doing something they enjoyed and were good at was an option.
  • They lack basic communication and boundary-setting skills and therefore keep finding themselves in disempowering situations where they feel not trusted and under-appreciated.
  • They don’t know how to ask for what they want.
  • They don’t like the boss or co-workers.
  • The values of the organization clash with theirs.
  • They are uncomfortable asking for help from a coach or other expert, preferring to try and figure things out alone – and so it drags on…

The majority of people fit into groups C, D and E and spend 40 plus hours a week (over 50% of their weekday waking hours) being broke, bored or on autopilot. It’s no wonder people proudly sport t-shirts with “Living for the Weekend” and “T.G.I.F.!” on the front. Who wouldn’t want a weekend to come around if half their weekday life was spent partially comatose, drooling at a desk.

Sylvia came to see me for this very reason. “I’m asleep at work! I don’t like the people or the place, the job itself has okay moments but I’m really overwhelmed,” she was almost crying. “Worst of all it puts me in a bad mood and my fiancé, Tom, has just about had enough of me. I’m worried about the impact it’s having on my relationship but I’m too scared to make a change. There are no jobs out there and I don’t want to end up in the same situation – or worse! – again.”

As we talked, Sylvia slowly began to hear herself answer the hardest question ever asked; the question that most people have no idea how to answer… What do you want?

Sylvia had been so focused on her fears of losing Tom and how awful and powerless she felt on a day-to-day basis, that it hadn’t occurred to her until now to explore what she wanted. It turned out that during her 15-year climb up the corporate ladder of accounting Sylvia had been finding it harder and harder to navigate the politics, growing work load and increasing levels of responsibility. All her energy went into getting through each day, so when she arrived home at the end of the day she had nothing left to give and often opted for a glass of wine or television just to numb out from feeling bad. She was grumpy, had mastered the art of pointing out all of Tom’s flaws and things he hadn’t done, was often disconnected from her relationship, and the concept of waking up feeling joyful with an authentic smile on her face seemed like a pipe dream.

Raise your hand if you’re looking forward to spending the rest of your life with someone who’s miserable at the end of each day? Nope. Nor me. Career satisfaction plays a significant role in happiness levels. People who are unhappy at work are typically unhappy to some degree period, and coping behaviors such as drinking, eating, smoking, or Internet browsing are often present. Let’s face it, if you’re drowning your sorrows you’re probably not listening too well as your honey shares how her day was…

To be fair, the concept of doing a job you absolutely love and that causes you to expand your potential and connect to your purpose, is a fairly new phenomena. But having the communication and boundary-setting skills to make where you work right now more enjoyable, this is a basic. Everyone deserves respect and appreciation, plus the opportunity to do their job well. But sometimes you’ve got to ask for it. And this is what Sylvia discovered.

A job that seemed like entering the gates of hell on a daily basis, became one she enjoyed. Sylvia began to ask for the positive feedback she needed (she was getting plenty of ‘constructive’) and this increased her confidence; she began to proactively say ‘no’ to things that wouldn’t work for her, and to ask her boss for more notice on projects, so she felt more autonomous. In these small ways Sylvia chose to empower herself, and they made all the difference. It turned out that she didn’t really need a new job, she needed a new approach!

You’re probably wondering about her fiancé, Tom? Did she make the changes in time? How did it work out? Well… as her confidence rose at work, as she began to feel more respected and trusted, that authentic smile became a daily way of expressing her new found joy. And, no surprise, Tom loved that because it made him feel like he put it there.

Clara Chorley

Career Satisfaction Coach for Strong, Smart Professionals; Founder and CEO of Clarity Unlimited. She has an extensive and unique background as a Career Satisfaction Expert, business consultant and humanitarian.

Clara grew up in England, has lived in Germany; India; the Hawaiian Islands; Rwanda; and now resides in San Francisco, California. She has traveled and worked across 4 continents and 40 countries with organizations as diverse as Fortune 500 Ernst and Young, to humanitarian Millenium Village Project. Developed over two decades and 40 countries, Clara’s powerful 4-step process: T.U.R.N.™ has helped women and men around the world find satisfaction and fulfillment in their work (and therefore their lives). She is author of the book T.U.R.N.: 4 Steps to Clarity in your Life and Career, and creator of the online program: T.U.R.N. 4 Steps to Career Clarity for the Unclear Professional. An international speaker, Clara is a proud TEDx presenter, and currently lives in San Francisco, California.

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