Understand Other People

Better communication through a better understanding of behavior

When Your Job Hurts

Like wearing a shoe that doesn't fit

The statistics on employee dissatisfaction are startling. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that about 50 percent of all employees leave their job within the first six months of being hired. Findings in a survey by Right Management (here’s the link) show 86 percent of employees polled said they plan to actively look for a new position in 2013. 86% – think about that statistic! Wouldn’t you like an 86% chance of winning the lottery or of a sunny day when you are planning an outside event, or an 86% probability of receiving a bonus this year? That’s a very high number, showing that the vast majority of the working population might be getting up every single morning of the week thinking, “Is it Friday yet??”

What’s going on? If we spend the majority of our waking lives at work, don’t we want to enjoy it just a little? It just can’t be that 86% of workers are generally disgruntled. There have to be some naturally happy folks in this research group who are also miserable.

Many times the dissatisfaction felt in a job comes from the feeling that you are walking around in shoes all day that just don’t fit. You CAN walk in them, but they pinch your toes, they scrape your heel and create bunions and other problems. This is what a job that is ill-fit feels like. A person knows they aren’t at their best, they don’t feel comfortable in the role, and they aren’t able to contribute at the level they are capable of. They plod through doing what’s required, or sometimes even over-achieving, but the sense of satisfaction, or contentment, is elusive.

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Most people when looking for job think about the type of job they want: “I want to be an accountant” or “I want to work in a retail store selling high-end shoes” or “I enjoy being outdoors so I want to be a guide for a mountain club.” They identify the type of activities that might be associated with a job, or the kind of environment they think that job will be found in, and then that becomes the focus.

It is necessary to have some sense of what you like to do, and what type of jobs offer the components of what you like to do, but there are other things people often miss when considering what job and employer is right for them. Here are three things to think about when job hunting, and a couple of additional tips to improve your current situation if you feel it isn’t a fit.

If you are thinking about changing jobs, or in the job search mode, focus on the following:

  1. What is your natural behavioral style? Are you an assertive person, or an analytical person, or a rules-oriented person? Do you enjoy fast-paced jobs that juggle a lot of different things, or slower-moving jobs with clear boundaries and processes? Knowing thyself is important. Finding a job that requires the skills that you naturally possess is a lot better than trying to fit into something that really isn’t you.
  2. What do you care about? What motivates you? Many people get into a job and don’t feel it is the right cultural fit. If you are a strong supporter of environmental issues, you want a job with a company that behaves in a responsible way toward the environment. If you are interested in doing well, and getting paid handsomely for it, you want a company that focuses on ROI and believes in compensating employees. Identify your value set, and then identify that of the company to see if there is a match.
  3. Be sure to get clear role definition and accountability. Ask your boss or employer, “What does success look like to you for this role?” Ask how they are measuring success and what the priorities are for the role, and seek feedback on a continuous basis. Ask specifically, “What am I doing well and where can I modify for success?” Everyone wants to get a good performance review, but a rubber stamp won’t help you. Seek details.  And, if you’re not sure if you can leave so you want to make the best of where you are now, a couple of other things to think about:
  4. Watch your attitude. Yes, attitude does sometimes make the difference. If you are feeling disillusioned, or unconfident or frustrated or angry, see if you can switch to a more positive approach. Sometimes you can change the situation just by reframing your approach. Sit up straighter. Talk more positively. Seek ways to problem-solve. Take breaks and get a fresh perspective. Whatever works for you, do it.
  5. Understand your boss. Yes, that’s right – most people want the boss to understand them. After all, isn’t that why the person is in charge in the first place? But instead of waiting for the boss, you can take charge and create a new relationship: Understand his or her communication style. Listen to their values, and what they care about. Present your comments in a manner that respects the boss’s style. Just like you should know your audience in general communicating, you want to take the extra steps in communicating with your superiors. Watch, listen and modify wherever possible.

Putting these ideas into practice could help you either get clearer about your next opportunity, change the current situation, or generally make it easier to understand why you are unhappy, and how you can find some contentment. 

Beverly D. Flaxington teaches at Suffolk University.

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