Over here at Happy Spectacular, we’re all about making change where change needs making, but not just for change’s sake. We’re not ‘The Quitting Company’. The smart people at Gallup tell us that 51% of us are looking for a new place to work at any given moment; clearly, we aren’t as good at making work better as we are at throwing in the towel and polishing off our resumes after a few miserable Mondays in a row.
For the record: some jobs are s#*t shows and need to be left in the dust of your well-crafted resignation letter. Some bosses are s#*t show ringmasters and also need to be professionally broken up with (and pronto). But a vast majority of work situations can be salvaged. Sometimes you have to work at your work situation to make it mutually fulfilling. Are you willing to do the work?
So you’re in a not-so-spectacular job situation. How do you give it the old college try?
Depending on your degree of not-so-spectacularity, you might need to either refresh your relationship with your job or begin a hands-on, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation effort. (Yes, it’s also possible you’ll need to run like the wind from the toxic dysfunction of the circus you call your job, but we’re focusing on focus on repair here, not resignation. More on that another time.)
REFRESH (your situation is nagging but not dire):

  1. Reset your mind. John Philbin says, “You gotta start with MINDSET– start your day feeling like you GET to do this rather than you HAVE to do this.” What do you get to do? Do you get to help people buy the houses they call home? Do you get to lead a team of people? Do you get to work the night shift so you can pick your kids up from school?
  2. Reminisce about the good old days. Remember why you went into this field, remember why you joined this company, and remember how hard you worked at getting this specific job and why you wanted it. Where are you responsible for letting the passion fade, for getting complacent? What would it be like if you imagined it was your first day again? What if you brought “Day One” enthusiasm and energy to your work?

RESUSCITATE (your situation is crossing into dire territory):

  1. Rework your work. Focus on getting the most from the aspects of your job that you really like and do more of that kind of work.
  • See if you can get other people to do the stuff you don’t like.
  • Spend time with the people you like.
  • Make it your primary job to make things that aren’t working well work well, and make your regular job the afterthought (the part of your job that you do a good job with, but might be able to put on autopilot).
  1. Reward yourself at the end of the day for doing a good job, in spite of imperfect circumstances. If you are a great employee all week in spite of it, throw yourself a bone. Jean*, one of our Happy Spectacular clients, clearly defined what it would take to make her feel proud at the end of each week, even though her coworkers and boss were not ‘her people’. She rewarded herself with biking trips and crazy-good bottles of wine (hopefully not enjoyed simultaneously). Go to bed each night knowing you’ve done your best work.
  2. Readily confront what’s getting in the way of you being happy or successful at work, and be proud as hell of yourself for doing it (because hardly anyone does this). For examples:
  • If the weekly travel is killing you, have the conversation to see if you can scale it back.
  • If your boss is an alien, have the discussion to either work it out or work in a new department with a new team leader.
  • If you’re not being paid fairly for what your industry says is average, have the conversation to discuss your value and what you think you’re worth.
  • If it’s no longer thrilling to work evenings and weekends to meet bonkers deadlines, have the conversation to renegotiate the way you work to be more efficient.
  • If that demotion doesn’t sit right (after splashing cold water in your face and taking a hard look at where you might have misstepped), have the conversation to fight for the role you think you deserve.
  • If your energy is getting sucked into a cruddy relationship outside of work (leaving you listless and dull around the edges when you’re at work), have the conversation to address the problems with him or her.

RUN (you break out into a light sweat upon thinking about fixing your work situation, you consistently develop migraines every Sunday evening, and your loved ones have started a petition to get you to quit):

  1. Review your efforts. Have you given this your all? Have you tried all of the above? If you get a new gig that ends up being equally crappy (or even worse), will you look back and think, “I could have tried harder to make that other job work?” If you’re certain you’ve done your part, it’s time to ramp up your networking efforts and figure out how to explain why you left this horrible job (without gagging) in your upcoming interviews.

The bottom line when it comes to salvaging a crappy work situation is that it can take a bit of work– yet invariably it’s the kind of work that’s well worth the effort. A certain sense of pride comes from taking control of a less-than-satisfactory job, from taking steps to rectify it and either bask in the glory of all that you’ve been able to fix, or comfort in the certainty of knowing you’ve tried and it’s time.
*Our lovely client didn’t want us to use her real name because she didn’t want anyone to think she was an alcoholic biker.

Jodi Wellman

Jodi is a co-founder of Happy Work Spectacular Life, loves red Skittles (maybe too much) and finally got a Happy Spectacular logo tattoo.