So, You’re Happy at Work, Right?

Ok, maybe you’re not, and you’re far from alone. You can, however, separate yourself from those other disengaged souls by following three simple steps. And it almost goes without saying, if you don’t take action here, who will?


“Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run

There’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

— “Stairway to Heaven” Led Zepplin

Well, are you?  If your first response is a snarky comment, read on: you may be among the 70% of Americans who recently said they are unhappy, uninspired and less engaged at work.

It is commonplace to point the finger of responsibility at organizations for this sorry state of affairs. Blame the profit motive! Blame leaders and managers for focusing on the what and how of the work, and too little on who is doing it! Blame the American psyche for letting a culture of work define us! Blame, blame, blame.

Organizations and their leaders and managers do bear responsibility for helping increase employee engagement, but ultimately so does another stakeholder in this equation – you.

Navigate your own route to career satisfaction

Here are three steps you can take to change the road you’re on.

  1. Self-assess why you’re not engaged. Figuring out what’s potentially causing your career dissatisfaction begins with asking yourself the following question:

    “Where is my current work out of alignment with what I really need?”

    Here are some possible responses:

    • Are you still drawn to your current field, but your role is out of alignment with what motivates you? Maybe you work in a passionless environment; your current situation is simply not clicking with why you entered that field in the first place. Maybe you’re not allowed to work autonomously, meaning you’re not trusted to execute the role as you see fit.  Maybe you’re not being given opportunities to master your craft.

    •  Are you still drawn to your current field, but your work/life arrangement conflicts with your deepest values and what energizes you? Your work and home lives each suffer as you struggle to find the time and energy to nurture them.

    •  Or are you no longer passionate about your current field? Perhaps you can’t escape the nagging feeling that the potential for more purposeful work sits inside of you waiting to be released and nurtured. When our purpose – our ability to make meaning and provide value for ourselves and others is shrouded – the meter on our personal energy tank can quickly slip toward empty.

  2. Help yourself find potential answers. You don’t have to travel the road of examination alone. Some insightful authors have done some very good research and writing around this issue. The array of resources, though, can be overwhelming, so here are three aligned to the above situations:

    • You’re still drawn to your current field, but your motivation has left the room.Take a look at Do More Great Work by Michael Bungay Stanier.  This small volume is packed with activities that help you align what you want to do in your current work environment with what your organization needs.

    • You’re still drawn to your current field, but your work/life arrangement is out of whack. Take a look at The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. Their approach gets you to focus on what energizes you in all aspects of your life. Armed with that information, you’re in a better position to make decisions about where you can provide the most value to your organization, your family, and yourself.

    • You’ve got that nagging feeling that you want and need to do something entirely different. Take a look at Finding Your Element by Sir Kenneth Robinson. Robinson provides a rationale and a series of exercises that get you to examine – and unleash – that which potentially sits at the intersection of your passion and your capabilities.

    These three volumes can help move you away from an ongoing negative assessment of your current situation to a positive panorama of what could be. In short, they help you see yourself, what you want and need, and how you can begin to take charge.

  3. Get an accountability partner. Self help can be a strong step, but it can also come with its own hidden land mines. Our inner critics can hijack the conversation and get us to back away from our intention because doing so means personal change.

    To counter the inner critic, enlist someone you trust to be a talking partner – a family member, a close friend, a work associate, or especially a personal leadership coach. Whomever you enlist has to maintain enough objectivity to call you on yourself. It has to be someone who can

    • be a source of powerful questions that will get you to reach into your heart and stretch you outside of your comfort zone;

    •  help you fashion career goals that increase the likelihood of achieving greater career satisfaction; and finally

    • challenge you to take the actions that will get you to where you want to be.

    Avoid voices that direct you to what worked for others or for them. The voice you need to listen to here is your own.

You know this much: you’re on a path, and it’s not the one you want to travel. The above three steps are not the complete answer, but they’ll help you begin to shift your perspective away from what is to what could be.

Jeff Ikler