Are You Unhappy at Work?

Are you more unhappy than happy at work? If so, you’re not alone. According to a study by the Conference Board, more than half of Americans are dissatisfied with their jobs. This is the lowest level ever recorded by the Conference Board in more than 20 years of studying job satisfaction.

Research by Lancaster University found that people with low job satisfaction experienced more emotional burnout, reduced self-esteem, anxiety, and depression—all of which, when chronically experienced, can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of physical illness. Emotional and physical costs are not the only price of job dissatisfaction. Lancaster's study showed that depression and anxiety are the most common reasons that people claim long-term sickness benefits.

If so many people experience dissatisfaction, what holds them back from pursuing work that’s more fulfilling? In my many years of coaching—which include both good and bad economic times—the majority of clients identify fear as the number one barrier to making a major life change, including pursuing a new job or their own business. Some of the most common fears include:


Financial destitution

Loss of image and prestige

Inability to find a new job

No one will buy the product or service

Others' disapproval or perception of them as selfish

Inability to generate their current level of income

While the shrunken job market is a reality, many of people’s fears are exacerbated by self-limiting beliefs that cause them to ruminate on worst-case scenarios at the prospect of any type of life change. These learned patterns are very powerful. In fact, for many people, they are the number one driver of the choices they make and the results they produce. And yet, because most people are not even aware of them, they remain powerless to free themselves from their paralyzing grip.

With the right resources and an effective process, clarifying your ideal work—and developing an action plan for bringing it to fruition—is the easiest part. For most people, what presents the greatest challenge is overriding the self-limiting, habitual patterns that career transition books typically fail to cover, and which most career counselors and coaches lack the psychological training to effectively address.

Yet another factor that keeps people stuck in dissatisfying jobs is failure to align all parts of themselves with their new career or business vision. Each of us is a complex being with many different parts, each of which has its own needs, feelings, and agendas. For example, there may be a part of you that places a high value on a steady paycheck and another part that longs for the freedom of having your own business. There may be a part that’s highly career driven, and another part that wants to work part-time (or not at all) to spend more time with your child. Not only do these different parts create a lot of internal conflict and stress, fighting a continuous inner battle consumes your precious life energy and keeps you stuck in your status quo.

Just as it's critical to get all members of a team to work collaboratively toward a shared goal, an important component to making a successful transition into a job or business you love is to work with the different parts of you to achieve inner cohesion. Take time to identify the various parts, explore each one’s needs and concerns, and develop an effective game plan to resolve inner conflicts. Creating inner alignment will help you to harness your energy and move into action to create the professional life to which you aspire.

© 2016 Lauren Mackler all rights reserved