What do you do for fun when you leave work? There are so many choices such as volunteering, exercise, music or just some quiet gardening in the yard? What happens when you’re not enjoying the activity? In some cases you might stop doing the activity. In others cases you may seek to change something. It’s not as common to find people who just quietly keep doing something in their personal time when they’re unhappy about it. So why can I find so many people at work quietly carrying on but readily admitting they don’t like something.
There are a number of things at play in our working lives which can influence our actions such as:
- Maslow’s hierarchy tells us Physiological and Safety are the most important needs for humans. To feel these two needs are fulfilled we usually need money which we get by working. If Maslow is right the esteem and self-actualization don’t need to be as fulfilled if we feel fulfilled in the higher priority items
- The economy is a volatile thing these days. People hear stories of high unemployment in some places and worry whether they’d be able to find employment elsewhere. Job hunting can be a scary prospect
- The gravy train can be comfortable. I know numerous people who have figured out how to stay below the radar, be good at being mediocre, and just keep collecting a paycheque. I just wonder when the gravy train is going to fall off the rails for them
Despite all this I’d like everyone to take a step back and look at your working life! When I’m unhappy about how things are going I see myself as having three choices:
- Seek to learn more about the thing making me unhappy to see if I’m wrong. In some cases I grow to accept something by learning more about it
- When I cannot accept it I work to influence change with the thing making me unhappy (or if I ‘own’ the item I get on with changing it)
- Leave … quit … find a new job. It’s my career and no-one else is going to look after it for me. I fear terminal mediocrity so when both steps 1 & 2 fail I move to this option
It doesn’t matter what your job is. To sit quietly and accept something you don’t agree with just doesn’t make sense to me! You will not be at your best when you get into this mode of quiet compliance. You can make all the excuses you want and point lots of fingers. You will still end up being mediocre when you accept things you don’t agree with. So take ownership for your career by taking action! My three choices are actually in the order I take action but every situation is different.
If you’re a manager and are sitting there thinking “yeah … they need to make a choice”. I’d ask you to take a step back as well. Are you creating an environment allowing people to take action? Your job is to create an environment for your team(s) to be at their best so they can deliver great results and continually improve. When you fail to do this you will have to accept your team as mediocre. In my opinion that’s pretty career limiting for yourself as well. So perhaps you need to start by taking action yourself!
So where do you stand? What do you do about situations you’re unhappy with? I run into too many unhappy people. Why don’t they take action? How wide spread is this issue? Please take this quick poll and watch for future blog entries on this topic.