Flip the script by building relationships “below, across and above in the organization.”
Feeling stuck with a job? Familiar with the dread and sleeplessness that often sets in Sunday evening, as the weekend draws to a close and Monday morning looms?
Whether it’s a great salary, decent health insurance or finally an office with a door, sometimes we decide to stay in a job that isn’t perfect. And there are a lot of us who feel stuck — a recent Gallup poll indicates that only 32 percent of U.S. workers reported feeling “engaged” or able to do their best at work.
But there is a strategy that may allow us to take that icky job and make it better, according to Kathryn Crawford Saxer, a Seattle-based executive career coach.
“Transforming a job into something you love has a lot to do with relationships,” Saxer says.
To help someone who just wants to feel more positive about their current job, she would start by coaching the worker to create and nurture strong relationships “below, across and above in the organization.”
This may feel counterintuitive because when you are feeling unhappy with work, you mostly want to just put your head down, get your job done and get out of there.
But this is not an approach Saxer recommends. Instead, the idea is to create meaningful, positive interactions so you begin to see the job in a different way.
“This means literally blocking time in your calendar to stop by peoples’ desks. Or taking some time on the way to the bathroom or wherever for a quick hello, check in, friendly exchange,” Saxer says. “This means planning several weeks ahead to schedule at least one lunch or coffee per week with a colleague.”
For a while, this strategy worked for Tasha Bishop, of North Bend. She was hired at a small, Bellevue-based software startup, where she thought she could make a difference by coaching and mentoring the employees.
But within two months, the CEO had decided that Bishop might not be the right person for the job. She then worked even harder to prove him wrong.
When she realized the pressure had become so intense that she was carrying the stress home at the end of the day, she had an idea. Though she felt drained, she invested more energy in her relationships with the clients and staff.
“Looking back, I realized that I learned so much,” says Bishop.
She found a renewed sense of purpose. She eventually left the company, but developed lasting bonds with her colleagues and customers.
She may not have realized it at the time, but Bishop was practicing a form of “job crafting,” a concept where people can redesign their current job and focus on the tasks or relationships that make their work more meaningful.
Professor Amy Wrzesniewski from the Yale School of Management describes this as more than just reframing the way we think about our jobs, but taking active steps to add or remove the job tasks that fit with our values and strengths. The result is a happier employee.
But sometimes, all the relationship-building and job crafting in the world won’t help. If this is the case, the time to quit is when you start dreading Sunday nights.
“Not just regret that the weekend is over, but that heavy, awful feeling,” Saxer says.
She recommends that her clients track that feeling over time so they can see whether it is a serious issue and not just a bad week.
Either way, it’s always a good idea to also build relationships and network outside of your current organization, keeping an ear to the ground for an opportunity that feels like a better fit.