How to Tell If You’re Bored or Just Plain Unhappy at Work
Even if you’re one of the lucky ones who landed an awesome dream job, there might still be those days when you find yourself feeling not so engaged with work anymore. You might even wonder if you’re bored or outright depressed at work. If you’re convinced that you really are living the dream at your job, then it’s time to dig deep and ask yourself a few questions that just might be able to help you decide how you can turn things around so you’re happier and more engaged with your daily grind.
Questions to Ask Yourself
1. Is the feeling seeping into other aspects of your life? “A key difference between unhappiness and boredom lies in pervasiveness,” says therapist Melody Wilding.“To assess if you’re truly unhappy, run a check of the other areas of your life. Is your low mood reserved for work and the office alone, or is it invading your personal life? If it’s damaging your friendships or romantic relationships, or you feel completely uninterested and unmotivated on weekends to pursue your own hobbies, then this is a bigger sign that you’re heading for burnout, or worse, facing real depression.”
2. Can you pinpoint an external reason for it? Author Shahla Khan tells us that unhappiness at work is often something you can pinpoint. For example, you have an abusive boss or you are overworked and underpaid. On the other hand, if you’re bored you might not be able to pinpoint a specific reason for feeling disengaged. “Typically boredom in the workplace comes from not being challenged or acknowledged enough, whereas unhappiness in the workplace comes from all sorts of other areas,” agrees career and business coach Rachel Ritlop. “Unhappiness can come from toxicity in the workplace or more deeply rooted insecurities, such as fear of rejection or criticism.”
3. What is your body telling you? “If you’re bored in your job, you may find yourself counting down the hours of the day, groaning and moaning that the weekend is over and you have to go in to work the next morning. But if you’re unhappy you will find yourself having a more visceral reaction,” says Ritlop. “For instance, you might wake up in the middle of the night with your stomach in knots, or have work-related nightmares and high anxiety levels at the office during the day.”
4. Are you being challenged? “If you have plenty of challenging work, but find yourself clenching your teeth, having a tense stomach or dreading Mondays, you are unhappy,” says Joni Holderman, founder of Thrive! Resumes. “You’re bored if you feel that there is a ton of work but it’s not sufficiently challenging or there’s no room for growth in your current position.”
5. Do you find yourself feeling angry regularly? When psychotherapist Stacy Kaiser told us that boredom and anger go hand in hand, it hit home more than we would like to admit. “Interestingly enough, boredom is actually rooted in the emotion of anger, not sadness or depression,” she says. “It’s anger that you’re in this situation, anger that you can’t leave the room, anger that you’re doing something repetitive and so on. Unhappiness is more about being disappointed, let down or sad. When you feel bored, ask yourself what you’re angry about in that situation.”
Now that you know what you’re feeling, here’s what to do about it
1. Give yourself a break. “When we’re in a negative state of mind, we can fall into thought traps,” says Wilding. “Just because you’re bored or feeling unhappy, it doesn’t mean that you are incapable or insufficient. Instead of blaming yourself for character faults, pinpoint the precise situation that’s bringing you down, whether that’s poor work-life balance, work that doesn’t use your skills or toxic co-workers.”
2. Turn boredom into accountability. “Sometimes we’re bored because we aren’t doing the right things to motivate ourselves,” says John Addison, CEO of Addison Leadership Group. “I am a firm believer in the importance of constantly sharpening your edge as a person. So instead of approaching your job as ‘another day here,’ talk to your boss, look for new projects and find ways to improve and raise your energy level.”
Addison also suggests making a list of what’s good about your job, as opposed to constantly thinking about what you dislike at work. “We live in a world with such constant stimulation — social media, technology, news — that everyone thinks everything should be constantly exciting,” Addison says. “Take a look at the situation [keeping this in mind] and ask yourself, ‘Is the job boring or am I allowing myself to become bored?’”
3. Set specific goals to improve the situation. “Once you’ve identified what’s triggering your feelings, come up with actionable steps to change your situation,” Ritlop says. “And if you aren’t already working with a coach or therapist, I strongly recommend you enlist an accountability buddy.” Once you’ve set goals to rectify the situation, put markers in your calendar (every four weeks or every three months — whatever feels right) to reflect on your progress and re-evaluate your workplace from a logical point of view.
4. Recognize when it’s time to move on. If you’ve tried to re-engage with the work or solve the problem that is making you unhappy and neither have yielded results (i.e. you’ve surpassed three check-ins based on the schedule you created in step three and nothing has changed), it’s time to look for something new. “Whether you’re bored or unhappy, if you’ve tried to implement positive changes with no success then it’s time to launch a proactive job search,” says Holderman. “The old adage that it’s easier to find a job when you have a job is really true.”
What are your tips for determining whether you’re unhappy or just bored at work? Tweet us @britandco!
(Photo via Getty)