Studer Community Institute

Studer: Not happy at your job? It’s time for a change

What can employees do to make 2017 the best it can be at work?

There is data from Gallup that shows just how few employees feel engaged in the workplace. It’s a fact that organizational leaders must own. After all, they are in the position to impact a company’s culture the most.

At one of my old jobs, each Sunday I would go through a little depression because another work week was coming. That feeling stuck with me, so once I eventually earned a position where I had more influence in the work culture, I was set on creating a good environment for people to work in.

To be clear, there is no perfect workplace, and even then, it does not mean that everyone is engaged. But we should try to get as close as we can.

Unfortunately, the numbers tell us that the majority of you are not in a job that creates a great work environment. So if you’re an employee who is not in a leadership position, what can you do to make your job satisfaction better?

There are two options. First is to take steps to improve the work environment around you. The second is to find another job.
With both scenarios, there is some good news. Today the demand for workers is creating more options. It wasn’t long ago when job options were scarce, forcing employees to gut out bad work environments. To compound the problem, during this time, employee turnover was actually down. So for the companies that paid no mind to measuring employee engagement, they saw lower turnover and assumed it was due to the work they did to create a great work environment.

Now many have found out that was an illusion. Why was turnover down? Because people had nowhere to go. Now in a stronger economy, there are many more opportunities to find a job that fits.

If you are not happy where you work, search for a better fit. You are in a no-lose situation. If during your search you don’t find a better fit, you will be happier where you are. If you do find a better job, that’s great.

During the holidays, I met a person who has been working at their current job for almost six years. He is very appreciative that they hired him right after college graduation. He likes the company. But this past year has been tough. To start 2016, he met with his boss to discuss compensation because he learned that some new hires where making more money for a very similar role. (Remember: He came in when jobs were hard to find.)

The boss was very empathetic. He said he would send it to the compensation committee. At mid-year the employee brought it up again. It was put off again, but was told he would get a promotion in December and his compensation would be adjusted.
In December, the list of promotions was published and his name was not on it.

I suggested he pause and wait until after he went back to work in January to ask his boss what happened. Maybe there’s a logical explanation. During our conversation, he shared some other examples where the company had not followed through on promises. Perhaps it may be a good time for him to look for other opportunities.

At his age, the most important thing is to grow his skill set. After almost six years in the same place, how much will it grow? There’s nothing wrong with staying with the same company, but there’s also nothing wrong with looking around. He appreciates that they hired him in a tough job market. But he also needs to know that if he has provided them with quality service, he has repaid that debt.
Here’s my point: When you are not happy in a job, there are times when it’s best for you, your co-workers and your employer to just move on.

In the end, though, leaving shouldn’t be the only solution. Here are some tips to help foster a great work environment, even if you aren’t in a leadership role:

Don’t be a victim. If you are not happy at your job, meet with your supervisor. Share what you feel and why you feel that way.

Don’t complain to people. Talk with your supervisor, and include human resources if needed. However, don’t exhaust your co-workers with complaining. They are most likely thinking “If you’re this unhappy, leave.”

Take charge of your own development. Hopefully you work for someone or a company that takes time to develop people. Problem is, that typically is the exception. Meet with your supervisor, share the assessment of your own work and ask them for feedback. Close with a question such as: 90 days from now if I have met or exceeded your expectations what will have been accomplished?

Be careful not to rationalize. “I don’t want to step on anyone’s feet.” “I don’t want to cross the line.” Those are messages used to not act. After all, if you’re unhappy, why not? While you think others are holding you back, it could be you. Fear can be false expectations appearing real. Act.

Be grateful. Each day take time to list what is right about your workplace, your boss, your coworkers and your customers.

I spent the first 44 years and 11 months of my life in the North. Winters seemed to last a long time, and during those years I may have set a record for complaining. One day it hit me as I examined the looks on people’s faces when I complained. If I did not like it and was there, and so were they, it may have appeared that I did not think they were too smart either. I made up my mind that year that I needed to quit complaining. Why? The only thing holding me back was me.

A few months later I was living in Gulf Breeze.

So if you find yourself using lots of oxygen complaining, the issue may be you, not them.

Quint Studer is the founder of the Studer Community Institute and a successful business leader, speaker and author. He is also the entrepreneur in residence at the University of West Florida. 

Have a question?
Are you facing a small business or workplace challenge? Quint Studer can help. Email your questions to quint@quintstuder.com and it could be the topic for one of Studer’s upcoming PNJ columns.