15.7  Your Job is Killing You and You are Letting it Happen!

Your career affects your quality of life in multiple ways. It gives you purpose. It fuels your imagination. It supports your lifestyle and it supports you and your family. If it is good it makes you happy and life is good. If it is bad not so much...

Why does your career happiness matter? A bad job affects everything in your life – your health suffers, your relationships suffer and your career future suffers.

Make a mistake about who you allow to employ you and your life becomes a house of cards in a windstorm.

The most common complaint I hear as a career counselor is job stress.

We are now in an overheated labor economy where companies are unable or unwilling to hire enough people to properly staff companies. Some companies have a long history of abusing their employees with ridiculous hours and mountains of work – way more than can be accomplished – way more than should be expected - with no relief in sight. The pressure is on to do more and more if you want the next promotion or the next raise or the next IPO… Workers are expected to be available at all times and in all places with “instant on” required.

You really don’t have to take it. You can do better… better hours, better pay, and a better commute if you put your mind to do it… If you are educated, motivated and can develop a plan to change…. you have options in the current job climate … but only if you do the work to get to your best place.

The alternative – well – the stress might just kill you…

I worked with a very talented accountant who was seriously underpaid and seriously overworked. And totally stressed. His salary after 5+ years was ridiculously low and he was working 60 to 70 hours per week - continuously… not just on occasion.

He was stuck. His personal life was on hold. He absolutely needed to pass the CPA exam to move forward in his career. But he was being sabotaged by his circumstances. There were not enough hours left in a day to study for the exam. When he managed a day off to study he got calls from work that disrupted his studies. He was failing to pass and thinking it was him. It wasn’t.

After much anxiety he realized that he was never going to get to where he wanted in life unless he made things happen - unless he carved out time to succeed. It took time, a leave of absence, and a huge amount of drive and discipline… and he turned off his phone when he needed to. He passed the CPA, got a new job with a great company, and got a significant raise.

How do you know if your job is stressing you beyond what is tolerable or healthy?

Think of yourself as the engine who could… until suddenly you can’t…. you can’t manage the demands that are being made of you. You know you are under stress because you are not coping well. You are having trouble sleeping. You are disinterested in the things that previously gave you pleasure at work. Your boss and coworkers do not respect your down time - calling, texting, or emailing you in the evening, on weekends, when you are on vacation, at all hours of the day and night - expecting an immediate response.

The World Health Organization recently included Burn-out in the ICD-11 diagnostic tool used by medical care providers and is characterized as an "occupational phenomenon" that is work-induced.
    … resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy.
Burn-out may include insomnia, chronic fatigue, difficulty concentrating, apathy, irritability, anxiety and getting sick more often and consequences that may include physical problems -respiratory problems to gastrointestinal issues.

Just to be clear, some stress is useful. A little stress is productive… I drove an air cooled VW Bug in college. If the fan belt was stressed - too tight it snapped and the engine would burn up. A little red warning light came on. If the fan belt was too loose it slipped and the fan didn’t cool the engine properly. Again a bad situation and engine burnout. The fan belt needed to be just right for the engine to perform at its peak and move my Bug down the road.

The Problem - Jobs Without Boundaries

One person called saying he needed my help to figure out how to deal with work related stress. He wanted me to help him figure out strategies to manage the stress – to adjust to it. He thought there was a magic solution that would allow him to stay in his position – at least until he vested.

He was working 80 hour weeks with no clear work boundaries. His stress was affecting his emotions, his physical health, his sleep, his family, his ability to find time to enjoy life and his relationships.

Bosses and jobs with no boundaries seem to be the curse of the digital age. Eventually it catches up… It is one of the best ways to drive talented employees to leave.

When your important relationships are affected by your work stress you have a five alarm fire going. When work stress affects our relationships – the people we love – it is way past time to bring in the professionals. Your relationships are the sustaining factor in life and in your health – immediate and long term.

The Solution - So what can you do if your job is killing you?

Change jobs. It is as simple as that. This is going to be challenging but doable. You have precious little time for the things that give your joy in life. You also have no time to look… No wonder you are stressed.

You might try to salvage your situation. Assess if there is any hope for internal change that would make the situation more manageable. Maybe have a talk with your boss. If that doesn’t work, you have to come to the realization – you probably have to leave your company to preserve your health, your sanity, your family and your career.

Develop a timeline for your change plan. Start by clearing your head so you can figure out what to do. The best way to do that exercise. Find a place near work and walk out at lunch - take a long lunch and walk, go to the gym, run, or do yoga (you are not a 9 to 5er so do a longer lunch so you can cut the day into two half days by exercising at noon).

Do some research. Find a better place to be. Go to Google and type: “best companies to work for” or “companies with the best work environment”. Search for lists on the best companies or worst companies to work for by industry, by occupation, and by location. Start your preferred company list and work it! Then set a goal to leave your bad employer or job by a specific date, create your job change timeline.

Why stay in an intolerable situation

People hesitate to make change because they are so overwhelmed with their lives they believe they do not have the time to look for another job. Treading water is not a good place to be. You eventually have to find a shore to land on.

People also hesitate to change jobs because of the high salary or the unvested bonus they leave on the table.

Do yourself a favor – find a place that isn’t going to kill you.

How can you do all that when you are already overwhelmed? Get organized! Start with a to do list. Be sure to schedule exercise, sleep, and yes - fun or your job + your job search will run you over and you will be good to no one including yourself.

The only way to survive craziness is to plan your sanity…

Motivation for change is driven by discomfort. No one makes a change unless they are pretty unhappy. No one calls me because they are happy where they are. People call me because things are so bad that they have hit bottom and they are desperate for a solution.

In my experience, when a person makes a change they increase their salary – more than making up for what is left behind. Take a look! Everyone is hiring! Salaries are climbing! You do have options if you carve out time and create a solid plan.

If you cannot do it alone… get help!

Rewrite your resume. Tailor it to jobs in companies that are in your field with good work environments…

Change your LinkedIn settings. That is easy and takes seconds. Use your updated resume to revise your LinkedIn profile. Make sure it is perfect in every way and that it makes you look like the professional you are! Let employers know you are looking.

What Next?

Find a company that makes you happy! Find a boss that values you! Look on LinkedIn and on Indeed for jobs posted by the companies on your best companies to work for list… Use LinkedIn and figure out if you have any contacts employed in them. Call them! Companies are much more likely to hire an internal referral than a web applicant.

Salaries are definitely climbing with the current labor supply/demand situation. I just finished working with a woman who got a raise, plus an annual bonus package, and a signing bonus. She left a horrible situation where she was expected to be available around the clock and to travel extensively. Her new company insists that employees work 40 hours per week, lets people telecommute and they want to know if you are unhappy with anything so they can fix it! Who knew!!! Yes, there are companies that will value you and want you to be happy so you can be productive.

Companies are driven by the bottom line. In a service driven economy people are the most important asset a company has. If a company loses the talent that drives innovation and keeps exciting products rolling out the door - the company will ultimately fail. No one who is at the top of the talent pool will work for them.

I am guessing, if you set your mind to it, develop a plan, and use your contacts, you can get a job at a better company, with the same or a higher salary and better working conditions.

Copyright, Cici Mattiuzzi