By Klaus Döring
I have experienced it many times. I have written about it many times. Nothing changed yet. Of course not! Even in times of pandemic, a workplace remains as a workplace. Even as a home office.
Fact is, nowadays, the modern workplace can inflict dangerous levels of stress on employees even more than decades ago. Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of “Dying for a Paycheck,” argues that these practices don’t help companies – and warns governments are ignoring an emerging public health crisis. Jeffrey Pfeffer is not the only one. Hundreds more followed Pfeffer’s footsteps.
We’ve all fallen victim to a job that seemed to suck the souls out of us. You might know the feeling — undue stress, high expectations, little return for hard work and so on. In a society that values hard work and professionalism, it can be difficult to recognize you’re in one of these toxic work situations.
Perhaps you’re the loyal type who’ll do anything for your employer, no matter the personal cost. Or the income is great, so you suffer through rough workdays to achieve your financial dreams. Others absolutely love their jobs but just can’t bring in the income they deserve. Whatever the reason, it might be time to let go of a toxic job if you find yourself saying “my job is killing me” and seek a better future. Here are five signs your job is killing you, along with how to find a better one.
It can be difficult to decide if you should stick through a rough patch at work or move on to something better. But how do you know if you should leave your job? Here are some signs that your current job is not adding value to your life.
- You dread going to work. It can take some time to get adjusted to a new job. But if you’ve been at it for months and still have trouble walking through the door without your chest tightening, it might be a sign that it’s time to move on. Don’t spend your life working at a job that fills you with constant dread.
- There’s no opportunity for advancement. So, you’ve been with your company for some time, but it seems like you’ve hit a wall. Perhaps you’ve been passed on multiple promotions or you’ve asked for advancement opportunities and hit a dead end. Why stay at a job where you aren’t allowed to grow and achieve your very best?
- You work with toxic people. Toxic people in the workplace can be a killer. Sometimes it’s just one or two coworkers who you can learn to live with. Other times, a manager or supervisor makes it impossible for you to succeed. You’ll probably never feel comfortable or happy in a workplace filled with negative energy.
- The work is too easy or too challenging. Work with no challenges is boring. You need to face challenges so you can overcome them and grow in your confidence. At the same time, a job that is much too challenging can make you feel incompetent and stressed. It’s important to find work that allows you to face and solve obstacles while not killing yourself in the process.
- Work is impacting your personal life. If your job is causing so much chaos that you can’t sleep at night, it’s probably time to move on. Likewise, a job that cuts into your personal time can take a hit on your family and social life. Everyone needs downtime. Don’t let your job suck everything out of you.
When you’ve finally decided enough is enough, make sure to resign with grace. You don’t want to burn bridges, lose a potential reference or hurt your valuable reputation. Show your employer respect if you want to be respected in return.
Just because you’ve resigned doesn’t mean you should drop everything and skate through your last days. Show some self-respect by continuing to perform your job to the best of your ability. You are still being paid for your time, so make sure you are earning that pay fairly. Finish your last days with grace.
Of course, a stressful job can definitely affect your health negatively. People can only undergo a certain amount of stress before their bodies begin to suffer. Stress can cause headaches, insomnia and even paralysis when severe enough. It can also trigger symptoms of underlying mental illness. Overloads of stress can go as far as causing conditions like hypertension and stroke.
Of course, it’s okay to quit! Not all employers and employees are good matches. Don’t spend your life being miserable because you feel obligated to stick with a dead-end job. Yes, your employer may be disappointed when you go, but that’s their problem, not yours. Just be sure you are quitting for the right reasons, not because of a personal vendetta. Also, make sure you’ve given a new job enough time to make an accurate assessment — it can take two or three months before you feel comfortable at a new job.
But some leaders are taking this idea of stewardship seriously. Companies such as Patagonia, Collective Health, SAS Institute, Google, John Lewis Partnership – which is employee-owned – and Zillow provide a template of what might be different. As I said, SOME leaders. Really only a very few. Not enough. I guess most leaders really don’t care about their staff.
People get paid time off and are expected to use it. Managers don’t send emails or texts at all hours – people work, go home and have time to relax and refresh. The organizations offer accommodations so that people can have both a job and a family life. People are treated like adults and have control over what they do and how they do it to meet their job responsibilities, not micromanaged.
If your job is causing undue work stress in your life, take a moment to reassess the situation. It’s easy to have an overachiever mentality — until it makes you sick or shatters your personal life. Take some time to assess your life — your work responsibilities, your level of quality personal time and your health. If you want to be happy, it’s important to keep these areas of life well-balanced.
Most importantly, the companies are led by individuals who take their obligations to their people seriously. SAS Institute has a chief health officer whose job is not just to control costs but also to ensure employees are as healthy as possible. Bob Chapman recognizes that everyone who comes to work at Barry-Wehmiller is “someone’s precious child” or family member.
People need to choose their employer not just for salary and promotion opportunities but on the basis of whether the job will be good for their psychological and physical health. Business leaders should measure the health of their workforce, not just profits.
And governments concerned about the healthcare cost crisis need to focus on the workplace, because workplace stress is clearly making people sick. None of this is necessary – no one should be dying for a paycheck.