Hate a job you can’t leave? Improve it.

December 16, 2013 by Joshua
in Awareness, Blog, Tips

“I don’t like my job and I have to get a new one.”

Probably more than half my coaching clients say something like this, followed by “Please help me.”

A recent session with a client who started that way reinforced my standard approach, as I’ll describe. The client I spoke to the other day so disliked his job he was ready to drive across the country to a city he’d never been to and had almost no connection to just to get away from it. His relationship with his job was poisoning many of his relationships because it affected his mood and feeling of ability to control important parts of his life.

As I describe to clients, I use a two-pronged approach where the second prong is as important as the first, even though they don’t think about it. In almost all cases, the second prong ends up more important than the first. The two prongs are

  1. I help my client find new work, addressing their main request
  2. I help my client improve their current work

If they don’t like their current job but still work there, they usually need to stay to pay rent or something similarly important. Usually at first when I ask about the job they want to leave, no matter what I ask, all they can tell me about is how awful it is, how much they can’t stand it, and how much they want to leave. They can’t speak calmly about it enough to plan effectively around it.

In my client’s case, he felt helpless to improve his situation at his current job — fitting the condition when emotions get intense, diverting you from making effective decisions and plans. So he was making ineffective decisions and planes

It takes time to realize if they have to stay, they might as well enjoy it, or at least not suffer. I also point out that just leaving a job they don’t like doesn’t mean they’ll like the next one more. If they don’t know how to improve their current job and they find themselves in another job they don’t like, they’ll be stuck again, feeling forced to leave again.

If they do learn how to improve their situation at their current work they benefit in many ways:

  • They can expect to be able to improve situations at later jobs
  • They won’t feel so much pressure and desperation to leave
    • They’ll have more time to find a better new job
    • They’ll get better recommendations and referrals
    • They’ll interview better for new jobs
  • They might find ways to change their jobs instead of leaving them, like finding promotions or transfers
  • Their relationships with others won’t be filled with them complaining
  • They’ll more likely find other opportunities
  • They’ll develop skills applicable elsewhere in life
  • They’ll be happier!

Client results

I gave my client exercises from my communication skills exercises series. He had read them before but never put them into practice. In a week his mood about work transformed. He didn’t start loving his job, but his desperation disappeared and he seemed to have developed an expectation for the situation to improve more with more practice. He still wanted to leave, but he seemed more comfortable taking time to research the job market in the new city and find people connected there to develop relationships with.

The ability to form rewarding relationships with people transforms everything about your work. Most advice about improving your career seems to tell you how to find new jobs, ignoring how to improve your current job.

I commonly see one-week turnarounds in my clients. This one now has a relaxed schedule to move on and is starting to form relationships with coworkers he’d been working with for a long time. He thought just getting beers with them after work would create bonds and when it didn’t he gave up. Learning and practicing structure and specific skills to communicate works. I remember another transforming her relationship with a manager whom she couldn’t understand, thereby making her life chaotic, into one where she upmanaged her manager into a calm, stable relationship. She saved herself applying to law school, a place she didn’t want to go, but had earlier seen as her only escape. I remember another client who wanted to leave his company to start a new company, despite having little experience or interest in entrepreneurship. With practice he created all the entrepreneurialism he wanted in his job without leaving, keeping his salary, bonuses, benefits, relationships, and everything. He just got more responsibility and fewer hours.

The client I’m writing this post about said after doing the exercises I assigned him, he revisited other exercises and saw them in new lights and started working on other ones. Now that he’s getting them, he’s applying them outside his work too.

Read my weekly newsletter

On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Leave a Reply

Sign up for my weekly newsletter