Are you stuck at work? Good news! You dont have to be stuck at work!
Indeed, I myself spent ten years longer in a career than I really should have.
Read about my own personal experience of being stuck at work.
Or read my step by step guide below to find out how to get unstuck at work
Step 1 – Work out why you feel stuck
Make a list of all the reasons why you feel stuck at work. On one side of a page make a heading ‘reasons I’m stuck’. List all the reasons, be they real or perceived. On the other side of the page list ‘possible solutions’ and get creative about how you might overcome each one. If you realise most of your reasons are in fact not real, but beliefs you have either bought into, or created yourself, then I invite you to seek out a coach who will help you unravel these. There are a number of ways to do this; for example I use techniques such EFT which can collapse limiting beliefs in one session.
Are you Stuck at Work? Step 2 – Is the relationship with your boss the problem?
Is the relationship with your boss the problem? You’ve probably rehearsed a dozen conversations with your boss in your head, and actually only had one or two ‘real life’ ones because a) it’s never the right time b) something more urgent always comes up, c) you’re never sure what reaction you’ll get or even d) are you kidding? I can’t approach this person!
I know! I’ve been there. I’ve had several challenging bosses in my time. The common feelings I experienced with each one of them were vulnerability, victimisation and fear. Your experience may be different; either way it’s not nice having to face your boss week after week feeling less than good about yourself.
After the third challenging boss, I began to question myself and realised that feeling victimised was something I needed to confront within me, rather than something they needed to do differently. If there is a common thread amongst the feelings you’ve been having maybe you also need to consider whose problem it actually is? As painful as this might be, if you’ve experienced the same problem with more than one boss, or you’re in a team where everyone else is getting on just fine, it might be worth taking a look at yourself.
Once I’d addressed the fact that the problem was indeed mine, I sought help from my coach. When I became more confident about myself and gained a feeling of self worth, I coped much better with the situation and was able to have conversations that showed them I was no pushover and that I could, and would stand up for myself.
What was apparent however, was that I still attracted bullying bosses. On the last occasion I discovered the secret that would finally conquer this negative reaction once and for all. The secret was to find love in my heart for this person. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do, but once I had wholeheartedly embraced the idea, the situation resolved itself immediately.
The fact that I loathed my boss made finding love for them incredibly challenging. I went home on the Friday having had enough of the walking on egg shells, the rants and the raves. I vowed to understand their behaviour, rather than judge it as I had been doing. By the end of the weekend I felt genuine compassion for this person and by Monday morning I watched as their behaviour towards me miraculously changed. This person still bullied many of the others on the team, but it was as if I’d had an imaginary bubble placed around me that bounced back any negativity. People asked me what had happened.
If you’d like to understand a little more about the power of love in the workplace, and how you might be able to overcome any challenging relationships you have, then I’d be very happy to support you through the process I used.
Are you Stuck at Work? Step 3 – Is your physical environment supporting you?
Do you prefer being indoors all day, or outdoors? Or do you like a variety of locations? I like working indoors, but I do like a view. I feel stifled and uninspired if I’m staring at four walls all day long. I hadn’t recognised quite how important this was to me until I had an office with a view. I realised that almost every office I’d ever worked in hadn’t afforded me a view.
You may want to consider how your environment is supporting you, or not, and if you can, make some changes. If it’s not possible to move your desk, or work from home more/ or less, then consider taking more regular breaks. Rather than spending lunchtimes hunched over your desk, take a walk outside. And instead of those ad-hoc meetings round the water cooler, suggest you move outside.
Of course, if your surroundings are stifling you to the point where you know it’s affecting your mood, then some serious changes may be required. If you feel you need more exposure to natural sunlight than you’re getting and your mood is low, then you could try a SAD light. They come in different shapes and sizes and are fitted with natural light bulbs that cast a slightly blue ray, rather than the indoor lights we’re used to that throw off an orange glow.
Moving your desk and getting the proper lighting sorted out won’t solve a genuine desire to breathe in fresh air and get physical in the outdoors. Likewise, if your knees are suffering because you spend half the day crawling around on the floor, it could be time for a career change.
If your health and wellbeing is coming in at a poor second to the other factors involved in your work, then you may want consider what might happen if your body makes up its mind for you.
I’m currently working with a carpenter whose back is giving him daily trouble. He’s given up his well regarded loft conversion business and is about to launch a new, office based business.
If you’d like to consider some options but you don’t know where to start, I’ve written an e-workbook called, Exploring Possibilities which takes you through a process of discovering how you really feel about your current work, and what you might do instead. I also run workshops in Hertfordshire taking small groups through this process of discovery.
Are you Stuck at Work? Step 4 – Carve out your job to suit you better
If you have been in your job six months or longer and have some element of responsibility and accountability, then you’ll probably notice how it’s evolved as you’ve added your own unique stamp on it. Equally, if someone else came into the role, it would change again. In other words, jobs naturally evolve as the people doing them evolve. I invite you to be a bit more pro-active in this process!
Yes, it can be done. In the final year of working for a large corporate, I wrote a proposition suggesting I became the group’s career coach and presented all the benefits. They saw that I would be using my newly acquired skills and talents as a coach much more effectively than my original job, and my proposal was immediately accepted. This meant that having gone from what was originally a pretty depressing situation; I ended up in my dream job!
More recently the Michigan Ross School for Business has developed ‘job crafting’ – an exercise that takes individuals through a process of altering their jobs in such a way as to better suit their skills and interests, thereby increasing their job satisfaction. In other words, you can craft your job to better suit you, just as I did.
Personally, I think it’s beneficial to go through this kind of exercise with someone who can remain objective to your situation. First, you need to understand which of your specific skills, talents, and strengths are currently being underutilized, and think about ways your current job could be adapted to make the most of them.
If you need help understanding what your keys strengths are, there are other ways to get clearer. A tool that’s available to download is the Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 which includes a personalised Strengths Insight Report, an Action-Planning Guide and a web-based Strengths Community.
Alternatively, my six session coaching programme will help you get clearer on your values, skills, interests and strengths. We would also consider your overall life-plan, look at your network of potential supporters, and you’ll get to explore all your possibilities.
Are You Stuck at Work? Step 5 – Do you feel supported?
It’s incredibly important to feel supported. If you feel as though no one is on your side, or that you’re being judged at every turn, even the smallest of changes will seem like a huge hurdle to you. If you can find a trusted ally at work to brainstorm ideas about how to get unstuck, then do it. If you feel this would make you too vulnerable, find someone outside your work. If you feel it would benefit you, ask your boss if they will invest in the services of a professional coach. A progressive organisation will see this as a positive way forward; and if not, invest in your own. Finding someone you can relate to and who will help inspire and uplift you will make all the difference. You will feel more confident and able to create new possibilities that help you feel better about your work; and it will give you the resources you need to be in a stronger position to seek out a new career if that’s what you desire.
One of the things that many of us find difficult to do is ask for help. Being vulnerable isn’t a quality anyone enjoys about themselves, but I’m sure that when you see it in others you find yourself admiring their honesty. I have no doubt that your compassion is stirred and your innate desire to help rises up. It’s also easier to help someone who is vulnerable, than someone who is stoic. If you can recall a time when someone asked you for help, how did you feel? I know that I feel valued and worthy. So when I’m plucking up the courage to ask for help, I often think of it as doing the other person a favour! Asking for help is not a weakness; it’s a sign of strength.
Are You Stuck at Work? Step 6 – How happy are you outside work?
If you’re focusing on your work as being the sole source of your happiness, then you probably need to develop a wider perspective. All work and no play makes Jack a dully boy. There’s more than a smidgen of truth in this and if you haven’t managed to achieve a level of personal satisfaction in your life as a whole, then this could be the time to start looking at the bigger picture.
You’ll want to consider the quality of your personal relationships, what interests you have and what you do to relax. Just as importantly you’ll want to think about your relationship with yourself. Does your inner critic surface way more than you’d like? Do you embrace time alone, or do you avoid spending time with yourself at all costs?
Developing your relationship with yourself will play a big part in getting you unstuck at work, because with more confidence comes a belief that other things are possible.
Are You Stuck at Work? Step 7 – Moving through fear
Ultimately, the key to getting unstuck is acknowledging your fear and moving through it. One of the first self development books I ever read was ‘Feel the Fear and do it Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers. The title alone speaks volumes. Most of us have a certain amount of fear when facing change. Fear of the unknown, fear of loss, fear of failure, even fear of success can create enough resistance within you to stay as you are. Even if you loathe your current work, I know that fear can be so debilitating that it could keep you there until something makes you change; usually some kind of crisis. If all you’ve ever known is the familiarity of what you’re doing now, then it’s difficult to imagine doing anything else. Where do you start?
I have a number of suggestions to help you move beyond your fear:
1) Speak with people you know who have made a change at work. Think about people who enjoy their work; talk to them about their careers and ask how they got where they are. As a rule, people love to talk about themselves, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a few willing subjects. You might be surprised how differently their careers started out.
2) If you enjoy reading, find books about people who have moved beyond fear. There are plenty of self development books on the subject and the one I mentioned above is still a great read.
3) Go to the case studies section of my website and read how my clients have moved beyond where they were to a more fulfilling experience of life and work.
4) Seek the help of a professional. When I changed my career, I needed the support of someone who would help me understand my fears and empower me to move beyond them. I work with clients using various techniques to move beyond fear including EFT. It helps uncover the core issue that keep you stuck, gently releasing it so that you can more easily move on with your life.
My passion is to help people who want more meaningful and fulfilling work, and if you think you’d benefit from further help in the form of a coach, I would be delighted to talk with you.
-About Sandra Swan-
I am a professional life coach based in London, Luton and Harpenden specialising in mid-life career change and stress management. I also work with HR Managers & business leaders to help individuals and teams reduce stress through increased resilience.
I offer a free no obligation 20 minute consultation, or sign up for free 21 page e-workbook ‘Exploring Possibility – A Mid-Lifer’s First Steps to a More Meaningful & Fulfilling Career.