Even people who love their jobs may find themselves bored or feeling dissatisfied from time to time. In fact, boredom is the top reason that people leave their jobs, according to a 2018 survey by Korn Ferry. Roughly one-third said that they were looking for a new job to find a new challenge.
Sometimes, boredom fades and you can get back in touch with why you love your job. When you’re in the thick of it, though, it can be tough to tell the difference, says leadership expert Colonel Jill Morgenthaler, author of The Courage to Take Command: Leadership Lessons from a Military Trailblazer.
If you’re bored, “You can fix that yourself by asking for new projects, showing initiative, and coming up with solutions,” she says. You can fix it internally. However, if there are external factors contributing to your dissatisfaction, that may be a sign it’s time to go, she adds.
Here are five signs that you need a change in your work life–which may also apply to other areas in your life, too.
1. Your Circumstances Are Affecting Other Life Areas
When you’re in a bad situation and the feeling of anger and depression overwhelm you or bleed over into other areas of your life, it’s time to consider a change, Morgenthaler says. “I tell people to try not to bring those problems home because the people at home can’t solve them,” she says.
Life coach Tony Gaskins agrees. When you see your job beginning to negatively affect how you interact with others, something must give. “That’s when you know that the job is affecting your mental and emotional health, and it’s a clear sign that it’s time for a change,” he says.
The data analysis and visualization company Flowing Data analyzed data from the 2015 American Community Survey to find jobs with the highest rates of divorce. The analysis found that those people with low-paying jobs (bartenders, telemarketers, etc.) and jobs in materials movement and transportation (flight attendants, bus drivers, etc.) had among the highest divorce rates. Of course, the site notes, correlation is not causation, but it’s not a surprise that low-pay, high-stress jobs may have an affect on other areas of life.
2. Your Workplace is Toxic
Negative or unhealthy workplace culture or leadership can have a significant impact on your happiness and job performance. A May 2018 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that ostracism, incivility, harassment, and bullying have direct negative effects on job productivity. Another study from the University of Manchester found that being in a job you hate is worse for your health than being unemployed.
When people are in a negative work situation for long periods of time, they will likely feel this effect on their performance. This may also lead to criticism from leadership, says career coach Anna Sulzmann, founder of coaching consultancy Desired Path. People in these situations typically end up leaving, whether “voluntarily or involuntarily,” she says. “And maybe they have tried to course-correct, and it’s not working, then the risk with that is that you do get made redundant, which can be good for you as a person once you get past the initial shock,” she says.
3. You’re Out of Alignment With Your Values
If your job isn’t aligning with your values, it may not be the best fit for you, Sulzmann says. You may be able to “fake it” for a while, but ultimately, you’ll likely get to a point where you question whether you want to be doing this work for the next 15, 20, or 30 years, she adds.
The good news is that the very longing that is making you dissatisfied may hold clues to what you need to change, she says. “You start to realize you’ve got many years of working to go. How do you make it fit with what you really believe and what you’re really passionate about? So, that kind of low-risk experimentation is useful,” she says.
4. When You Can’t Move Forward
A rut or plateau is temporary and may even be desirable. It’s when you can’t get out of it that it becomes a problem, says executive coach Allison Task, author of Personal Revolution: How to Be Happy, Change Your Life, and Do That Thing You’ve Always Wanted to Do. “We’re taking a natural break that keeps our momentum going forward, because we need breaks,” she says. “We’re going to take a little rest now. That’s totally different from colossal stuff being broken.”
When her clients feel stuck in one area of their lives, Task helps them find happiness focal points. Much like a gratitude journal, she asks them to tell her three good things that happened that day. Within a few minutes, they’re listing the areas of their lives that make them happy. She also encourages them to take care of their physical and mental health during the “stuck” period. Everything looks worse when you’re not sleeping or eating right, she says.
5. You’re Feeling Out of Control
If your work routinely throws your life into chaos, or you don’t feel as if you have any way out of a bad situation, it could be a sign that you need a change, even if it’s a challenge to make it, Task says. People who feel in control and believe that they can achieve goals, even in light of hardships, are more likely to live longer, healthier lives, according to a 2014 Brandeis and University of Rochester study.
Look at the areas where you can make choices and adjustments to your liking. Also, look at the bigger picture of your organization–and even your life–to get more perspective on the areas you can control, Task adds. Even if you’re not in control of circumstances, you can control how you react to them, she says.
Gwen Moran writes about business, money and assorted other topics for leading publications and websites. She was named a Small Business Influencer Awards Top 100 Champion in 2015, 2014, and 2012 and is the co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010), and several other books.
(Credit: Gwen Moran)