3 lessons to help end disengagement in the workplace

Photo: Gregory Pruden via Flickr

The wild roller coaster ride of our careers has peaks and valleys. At times we are riding the wave of success and other times we are mired in a soupy, toxic work mess.

For many, the career roller coaster stays up more often than down. Life is good. Never looking back.

For others, the roller coaster stops. Sometimes we put the brakes on ourselves due to our own career/life choices. However, there are times that others make damaging career choices for us.

Confusion, anger, betrayal, and negativity are all feelings that invade us when our career is changed by the doing of others. Downsizing, layoffs, bad bosses can all adversely affect our careers and can turn us into detached employees.

Solution? Make a change and get the heck out of your work situation! Sounds so simple and yet crazily, many of us don’t. We settle into total job disengagement and become apathetic towards work-life, creating a resentful, bitter you.

Settling should never be an option.

Out of control

At 23 I started my first job in human resources with a large company in an entry level role. It was awful. Painfully administrative. Not at all what I envisioned I would be doing when I graduated university. However, I knew that in order to step ahead I had to put in the time and learn the foundation of my profession.

By 26 I had made my first career jump to an advisory HR role with another company. Finally doing real HR work with a super progressive organization. Within a year an opportunity presented itself for me to be leading a team. Within another year I was managing an entire department. A year later I was starting up entirely new HR divisions within the organization in a senior position. My career trajectory was nothing but up and I was in full control. Totally unstoppable.

Or so I thought.

The dreaded organizational restructure happened and as a result, I was shuffled off to a department completely outside of my profession. No consultation. No option for a different role. Simply moved with an avalanche of change.

Now, normally I am a glass half full type of guy. Upbeat and positive. But after this … man was I bitter. The career path I thought I was on had completely ended without the decision being mine. I was angry, embarrassed and totally disengaged.

Now in the grand scheme of things, my situation was very minor in terms of all the awful things that that happen to employees. I still had a job and the career path I thought I was on was just taking a momentary detour. Sounds so straight forward but I was trapped feeling angry. Stuck not able to rectify my situation. Why?

We all react differently when we are faced with work adversity. It can be a big or small work event that tips us over the edge and completely turns us off our employer. The challenge is to take control and not settle. Here’s how I did it.

Wisdom by urinal

The urinal is not your normal place to find a revelation. Get in. Business done. Get out. No time to hang around.

But sure enough there I was face to face with one of those bathroom ads in front of a urinal at a local restaurant. I can’t even remember what the ad was for but the caption on the ad gave me pause to think and changed my focus:

Push yourself because no one else is going to do it for you

Serious mind blowing stuff here.

Sure I heard this before, but for whatever reason this time, at this urinal, I woke up. I realized only I could take control of my situation. No one was going to fix my situation but me. I needed to push myself to get back on the path I wanted to be on.

So simple but when your mind is in a dark place it is sometimes hard to see the light. This urinal ad just happened to be my light.

I had a choice. Be negative and miserable. Or push to change my situation for the better.

I wisely chose the latter.

A new day

I quickly decided that my first step was to get a new job back into my profession of choice. With my resume dusted off, I applied to select companies that I thought match my values. Soon enough I was hired and happy. Kind of.

What my career upheaval made me realize was that working for any company wouldn’t fully satisfy my creative side. I truly liked my new employer but I also had other aspirations. I wanted to write. I wanted to guide people. I wanted to give back. So that is what I did.

First I started writing. 10 minutes a day. Day after day. Before long I had a book and then not long after that I started consulting. This creative side of me continued with another book and another consulting company. I pushed myself to create the work balance I wanted for me. Six years later I’m doing what I love.

What I learned

The events I went through led me to where I am today. I am telling my story in an attempt to inspire those who need it for positive change.

Here are the nuggets of wisdom from my experiences that I hope will help all those who find themselves in a state of work disengagement.

Lesson 1: Negativity is a choice

You chose to carry on all the behaviors associated with negativity. This is a choice you make. As soon as I realized that I had a choice to change, that no one else is going to remedy my situation but me, life got better. I got back to positive.

Remember, life is short. It’s up to you to make changes that give you the life you want. The key is to create personal accountability, with a no excuses attitude. This will lay the foundation for future job happiness.

Lesson 2: Step won

Your choice for change and positivity is your first step. Reading this article may be your first step. Congratulations. This is the essential catalyst of forwarding momentum.

I wrote an article on the power of making just one simple step. Getting yourself out of a negative work environment is hard. It can seem insurmountable. However, breaking it down into small steps allows you to see success and build momentum along the way.

Perhaps your step is to talk to your boss about your dissatisfaction, or write a new resume or look at a job board. All great first steps. Many of us leap straight our perfect end state and then think about all the steps we have to take to get there. The volume of steps to get to our end goals can seem insurmountable and causes total paralysis.

Break it down into single steps. Have your end state in mind but take it one step at a time. You will be amazed at the effect this has on you and the positivity it builds. Each step equals success. Each step is a win. Celebrate each win.

Lesson 3: Believe in You

I struggled to make the first step because I didn’t believe in me. I questioned my abilities and was focused on how others perceived me. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to make a move to a new job or start my own business because of how I felt others would judge me. This way of thinking kept me at a standstill.

We make up our own perceived notions of what we think we are capable of and we allow it to influence us into do nothing. We are our own worst enemy when it comes to stalling our progress because we don’t have the confidence to move ahead, being fearful of stepping out and setting our own course. Realizing that I was the only one holding me back, I was able to reset, focus and get going.

Time is precious and no one will change your circumstances other than you. Never let your perception of what others think dictate your life. Lean in, make positive change and believe in You!

Clark Glassford is the founder of My Practice Interview. The company’s purpose is to inspire others to achieve their dream career. My Practice Interview provides industry-leading services including tailored resume writing, curated LinkedIn profiles and expert interview coaching delivering results beyond expectations.