5 questions to ask yourself when in a difficult job

shutterstock_49368244Over the years, a good number of my friends have been in difficult job situations which have made them unhappy. Difficult can be anything from being overworked, to having a problem with a co-worker, having a bad manager or even being harassed.

Sadly, this is a reality and one that many more people are faced with. Therefore, if you find yourself in that situation and you’re wondering what you should do about it, here are 5 questions you should ask yourself before making a decision about your future.

1. How bad is it really?

Start by assessing the situation. Is it a bad period that you’re going through, but until then things have been going pretty good? Is it related to a particular high stress job or event that may soon be over? If this is the case, it could be that this situation won’t last and you will soon be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Though it may not seem like it, ask yourself whether this may be situational and a possible solution is in sight.

On the other hand if this is a repeated scenario playing out every day, perhaps a colleague who is constantly abusive, a boss who is always critical, or a general stressful working environment day after day then this may be a more long term negative situation which will be more difficult to solve.

Depending on how likely you think the situation will be solved, this should influence your choice of deciding to stick it out a little longer or leaving as soon as you can.

2. Is it affecting my health (mental and physical)?

Being in a bad/stressful situation at work can influence your physical health as well as your mental health. For example if you start eating lunch at your desk or even skipping lunch due to too much work, you are missing an important meal in your daily routine and not giving your brain the break that it needs to recharge.

Perhaps you are also not eating in the evenings due to long working hours, coming home late at night and feeling so drained and exhausted that you are not bothering to make a meal. Again, this will result in weight loss and weakness. You need to make sure you are regularly keeping your body healthy.

If you are in a stressful work environment you can start to feel anxious and not be able to disconnect from work. You may find yourself constantly worrying, with work always on your mind (and on your phone) it’s increasingly difficult to leave work at work. This may result in difficulty sleeping, which in turn can make you snappy, unhappy or even depressed, and will diminish your productivity.

Finally, if you are extremely unhappy about going to work, scared of going or unable to get out of bed, paralysed by the thought of being there or crying when you leave, these are negative symptoms to be taken seriously.

Do not compromise your health to reach a point where you are on medication, seeing a doctor or a therapist and leading a miserable life. It’s not worth putting mental and physical health at risk for a job which ultimately is making you unhappy and where the benefits do not seem to outweigh the negative.

3. What can I get out of this situation?

Even if the current work situation is looking dismal, you may still be able to get something out of it. For example perhaps you are learning new skills that will be extremely useful to you further down the line. Or perhaps you have some fabulous co-workers with whom you are learning lots and who are making your experience more worthwhile.

It could be that you are intent on building your network and that despite a few difficult situations your job is allowing you to do so. Or it could be that you really enjoy what you’re doing on a daily basis and feel like you can get a lot of satisfaction out of it.

Either way, ask yourself if there is something that you can get out of this situation that will be beneficial to you and makes it worthwhile to stay a bit longer.

4. Why am I staying?

Good question! Are you staying because you think you can get something out of the situation (as above)? Are you staying because you believe that despite the bad attitudes this is truly fantastic work experience and it’s worth staying to learn more? Or are you staying because you want to have more than 6 months accumulated experience somewhere on your CV?

All of those are valid reasons to try and pull through and stay just a little longer in that difficult situation. Many of the people I know have stayed for precisely those reasons and it can pay off.

However, if you’re staying because you’re afraid of being unemployed or if you’re throwing yourself back in there every day thinking you are learning resilience when in fact you’re suffering, it may not be the best idea to go back. Know your limits, set your objectives, and make sure you’re staying for the right reasons.

5. What makes me happy?

At the end of the day, the most important question you should ask yourself is what makes you happy.

Is it interacting with people, creating content, managing and organizing large events? Beyond that, is it being able to work alone and have your own freedom, is it the team spirit, or feeling that you’re constantly learning?

No matter how much you think you can stick out a bad situation, ask yourself what you can pull out of it that makes you happy. Is there anything at all? If there is truly nothing you can identify, then perhaps it’s time to move on.

Identify what makes you happy and do your best to work that into your professional life.

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