Like other pillars in life, happiness is a relative term. It’s also a state of being that fluctuates over time and throughout seasons. Much like the ebbs and flows of a relationship or parenting, there are periods of great joy and others where, well, you’re unhappy at your job. The tricky part of navigating a time where you’re less than satisfied with your role or company is maintaining a sense of professionalism. And even more so: How do you know when you have a right to complain, and when you should find another solution? You’re definitely not alone in the dilemma: It’s estimated up to 70% of people are unhappy at their gigs.
This is a paralyzing number if you consider you spend about a third of your life at the office, according to career branding expert Wendi Weiner, Esq., “If you aren’t happy at work, chances are that it’s bleeding over into your personal life. As someone who spent nearly 12 years unhappy in my role as an attorney, I know first-hand how it can take a grave toll on other aspects of your life -losing motivation to work out and becoming distant from family and friends,” she adds.
Here, the appropriate way to articulate your attitude toward your job and how to push forward through your despondency:
If you don’t feel valued
Even when you stay hours into the night while the rest of your team heads home or you go above and beyond your responsibilities, your manager doesn’t a blink an eye of recognition. Or have you been working double-time for months, and yet another co-worker gets a raise over you? It can be frustrating and put a major damper on your desire to put in the effort, but Weiner suggests approaching the conversation with a solution instead of a complaint.
This is especially true if you’re hoping for more dollar signs. “Make sure you research comparable salaries and fair market value of someone with your credentials and work experience. The idea is to come in with a proposal of what you believe you should be making and the reasons why — specifically look to the reasons why you want to move up and why you have earned it,” she notes.
On the other hand, if you are happy with your salary, but feel like the office morale and executive approach toward appreciation is severely lacking, it’s worth addressing the issue and brainstorming opportunities for change.
“If you’re feeling seriously undervalued, consider how you both can do things differently perhaps — maybe you need to show that value in a different way for it to be recognized, and perhaps your boss needs to do things to build more camaraderie in the office to show his/her appreciation,” she shares. “The most important part is to have a suggestion of what you think can be done to remedy the problem.”
If you have too few resources
The good news: your company is exceeding their metrics and reaping in new clients, all of which come with double (and triple and quadruple…) zeros on their contract. The bad news: much of the labor-intensive work is being thrown into your court and you’re already stretched thinly, often wondering how to add more hours to your day. Not only are you putting pressure on your cortisol levels, but you run the risk of jet-setting toward burnout, causing you to feel unhappy with your work.
When you need more hands on deck — or at least a freelancer or three — Weiner says it’s time to speak up. “If you’re frustrated and unable to get through projects in a timely fashion because of external factors — short-staff, not enough staff support and other issues — talk to your boss,” she explains. “Make sure it’s in an open fashion about your frustrations, but try to make it focused on the things you need for your boss to do to get you back to being super productive in the office. The idea is to come in with a working solution of how you can be a better employee and what tools you need to get the work done and excel in it.”
If you have a personal issue with your boss
There’s a difference between an overabundance of deadlines and projects you can’t manage on your own — and a personal riff with your boss that causes tension. While you likely won’t always see eye-to-eye with your direct report, if your consistently butting heads, Weiner says it might be better to seek greener pastures than to go to a leader above them or negotiate a compromise. After all: they are your boss — and they likely will receive priority over you.
“You will be placing yourself in a worse position at the office if you begin to air your dirty laundry about how your boss isn’t fair to you in the office and is being a difficult manager. Instead, keep those negative thoughts to yourself, be the bigger person, and start your job search,” she stresses.