Work Smarter//

Unhappy at Work? Here’s What You Can & Can’t Control

Some things are in your control.

Courtesy of SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock
Courtesy of SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock

A little bit of workplace stress is expected, and it’s natural to not feel gloriously happy at work every minute you’re there. But did you know that nearly half of Americans reported crying at work over the past year? Ginger, an on-demand behavioral health service, recently conducted its first annual “Workforce Attitudes Towards Behavioral Health Report.” The report shared learnings on the emotional and mental support of workplaces as described by 1,200 professionals.

In addition to the 48 percent who revealed shedding tears while on the job, 81 percent said that stress negatively impacts their work, and 50 percent admitted to missing at least one day of work due to stress.

It’s clear that today, life in the American workforce isn’t a walk in the park. The question then becomes, “Well, how can I deal with it?” To answer that, it’s also worth questioning what is — and isn’t — in your control. After all, there may be issues in the workplace, but sometimes we make things worse through our own behavioral habits. Consider these elements when trying to navigate being unhappy at work.

What You Can Control

Are you trying to be Hercules?

We get it — we all want to impress our managers. Unfortunately, this too often results in professionals biting off more than they can chew. If you have a desire to prove you can go the extra mile, focus on quality over quantity. Polish what you do take on so you can impress with your thoroughness and attention to detail. You’ll feel a weight lifted off your shoulders with a more reasonable to-do list, and the work you put out will be better than a series of slapdash presentations.

Do you use your team for support?

If you’re part of a team, you have teammates for a reason. Asking for a helping hand when you’re underwater may feel like you’re coming up short, but it actually shows that you’re realistic about your limits and open to collaboration. In the end, your boss won’t be overly interested that you completed a project all by yourself; their focus will be on the finished product. If you let your pride get in the way of your work, you may end up underperforming.

Are you making an effort to manage your stress?

Sometimes, the solutions to your work problems exist outside of work itself. With 83 percent of workers reporting that they experience stress regularly, it’s no wonder that stress-management efforts have become popular. You can do a lot for yourself at home, like these strategies:

  • Get enough rest. And no, we don’t mean four hours of sleep because “that’s what you’re used to.” Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night to ensure good health and optimal function. Waking up feeling refreshed, not exhausted, can help you start your day with the mental energy needed to combat potential stressors.
  • Meditate. Mediation is invaluable when it comes to finding mental peace, relaxing and combating stress. It takes some practice, so look into apps like Headspace and Calm that guide you through mindfulness exercises.
  • Exercise. Study after study has shown that the benefits of frequent exercise are more than physical. By releasing endorphins (chemicals in the brain that are natural pain killers and mood elevators), aerobic exercise helps alleviate stress and boost your frame of mind — plus you’ll feel accomplished after a good sweat.

What you can’t control

Is your boss a bully?

A TopResume study revealed that 71 percent of workers have felt bullied by a boss or direct supervisor. That’s… a lot. When asked about the statistic, career expert Amanda Augustine explained that “Working in a toxic work environment where bullying is part of the culture is a recipe for disaster — for both one’s well-being and career.” No wonder it leaves people unhappy at work.

You can make an effort to get familiar with your boss’ communication style so you aren’t taken aback by any comments, and try to keep perspective that it’s not you — it’s them. Keep a log of any inappropriate actions or statements to refer to if you ultimately have to go to HR.

Are expectations unrealistic?

Expectations at work can come in two forms. Sometimes, they have to do with the amount of work you have to do. Your manager has a lot on their plate, so they may not have a big-picture idea of what’s on yours. If you feel like you’re drowning, try addressing the issue in a meeting to establish how tasks should be prioritized.

The other form of expectations is trickier: the quality of the work you do. Some bosses seem to never be impressed — or even satisfied. If you’re feeling like the work you do is never good enough, you may need a new boss who will acknowledge your efforts.

The company’s culture is toxic

Company culture is often defined from the top down. If the behavior of the executives is establishing a toxic work environment — misogyny, negative reinforcement, taking advantage of employees, etc. — there isn’t much you can do. You can look out for these eight signs that a company is bad to work for, but otherwise, you may want to consider jumping ship and finding a healthier role.

If you’re feeling unhappy at work, know that you’re not alone. There are certain things that are in your control, and we encourage you to take proactive steps to improve your situation — your well-being will thank you. But if there is too much stress to manage and it’s out of your hands, there’s no shame in looking for a company that will be more conducive to your personal and professional needs. If that’s the case, be sure to pay close attention to company culture as you conduct your search to ensure you don’t end up in a similar situation.

Originally published on Glassdoor.

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