If you’re miserable in your job, you’re most likely pretty unhappy in general. After all, you spend most of your waking hours at work. Add in technology that makes it easier than ever for many office workers to spend their off-hours answering emails and crossing off items on their to-do list, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Sometimes, only solution in the long-term is to get a new job. If you have a terrible boss, or your industry is failing, or your corporate culture is a bad fit, you’re probably going to have to move to see real improvement. But even if that’s the case, there’s a lot you can do right now to make things just a little bit better.
1. Look for opportunities to have autonomy.
Research shows that autonomy and freedom are more crucial to personal happiness than money. Of course, if your evil boss is a micromanager, you can’t exactly insist that she back off and let you do your thing. However, you can attempt to improve communication in the hopes that she’ll feel comfortable enough to leave you alone a bit.
Failing that, look for projects, inside and outside of work, that allow you to develop your skills while exerting some control over your working life. Maybe another department has an opportunity that could bring your career to the next level (or at least help you find a better job in the near future).
Even skipping the commute a day or two a week could help. If your employer allows occasional telecommuting, now might be the time to ask.
2. Take responsibility for making things better (without beating yourself up).
Do you feel in control of your life, or do you think that external factors determine your fate? Your answer says a lot about your locus of control, which is a concept that describes your perception of control over the events of your life.
The inventor of the concept, Julian B. Rotter, warned that locus of control is a continuum. In other words, it’s not a matter of being one thing or another. Nor are you born as you are and stuck that way. By taking small steps — remembering that you have a choice, for example, or engaging in positive self-talk — you can improve your perspective and be happier.
3. Surround yourself with positive people at work and outside of it.
“…you are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends,” said productivity guru Tim Ferriss in his book, The 4-Hour Workweek. “If someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker.”
You can’t pick your coworkers, but you can choose which ones to seek out. Spend as much time as possible with positive teammates and resist the urge to focus on the negative aspects of your job. Venting can become fixating pretty quickly. Don’t turn a bad day or week into an extended rough patch in your career.
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