October 18, 2017

Career Advice

How to Get Your Groove Back – Part Deux

By: Claire Kittle Dixon

Last month we talked about why employees lose their hustle. Specifically, we covered three of the six most common reasons people tell me they have fallen out of their groove – lack of challenge, not feeling financially rewarded, and geographic mobility. This month we are covering the other three reasons (which will make last month’s reasons seem like child’s play!) and the big-picture take-aways about how to regain your hustle.

1. Organization dysfunction

Every once in a while I have a phone call that sounds like this:

Bob: Hey, Claire, I gotta get out of here. This place is dysfunctional. It makes the government seem like a well-oiled machine.

Claire: Zoinks. What kind of dysfunction? Is change possible? Can you be part of it?

Bob: Oh, you have no idea! It would take a miracle worker (or a board that is paying attention) to solve these problems.

The sad truth about organization dysfunction is that it is incredibly difficult for any single employee to correct alone. It almost always boils down to senior management problems and a board that either isn’t paying attention or doesn’t want to get its hands dirty.

If you find yourself in a dysfunctional organization and you don’t see any obvious ways to improve the situation, you may want to dust off the resume and start looking elsewhere.

2. Burnout

It’s not unusual for me to have conversations that sound something like this:

Bob: Claire. I’m burning the candle at both ends. I’m completely overworked and I feel as though I spend all my time in one endless meeting. I work such long hours that Gretchen growls when I come home because she doesn’t recognize me. I gotta get out of here and regain my sanity.

Claire: Is Gretchen your dog or your wife? In any case, have you told your boss you’re overworked? What did she say about it?

Bob: No, I figured it was obvious. I think half the staff feels this way.

Not so fast, Bob. Your boss may not realize just how overworked and overwhelmed you feel. But before you barge into her office and tell her as much, make sure you think critically about what the problem is. According to the Harvard Business Review article Employee Burnout Is a Problem with the Company, Not the Person, there are three common culprits of workplace burnout:

Excessive collaboration – Too many meetings, emails, and interruptions

Weak time management disciplines – An organizational culture that makes it difficult to say no to low-value meetings and other time-wasters

Tendency to overload the most capable with too much work

Once you’ve identified which of these factors are at play, it’s time to talk to your boss and explain the situation. Make sure you come armed with solutions such as reducing meeting frequency, eliminating time-wasting practices, hiring additional staff, or offloading some of your work on another employee. You might also suggest that the organization employ the use of software such as Microsoft Workplace Analytics, which can track how much time is being spent on meetings, emails, etc.

Of course, this is no easy conversation to have. You may find yourself standing up to a powerful organizational culture that values overwork and excessive meetings. Be prepared for the “You’re not a team player, Bob.” response. If your boss favors the status quo to improving efficiency and production, you know how to reach me!

3. Irreconcilable differences

The phone rings. You know who it is.

Bob: Claire, I don’t think I’m in the right place. My boss and I are like oil and vinegar, I don’t fit in with the organization’s culture, and I’m just not ethically comfortable with some of the tactics our organization employs. Now, I know what you’re going to say: I should talk to my boss, right?

Claire: Bob, you’re a quick study. But, ironically, I don’t think you need to talk to your boss this time. I think you should send me your resume and we’ll explore opportunities.

Bob and his employer are facing what divorce lawyers like to call “irreconcilable differences.” It’s highly unlikely that a conversation (or even 100 conversations) will lead to a situation in which Bob and the organization are on the same page. In circumstances like this, it’s probably best to move on to a place that is a better fit for you.

So, now you know the six most common reasons employees lose their hustle. But what about the big-picture take-aways? I’m glad you asked.

1. You CAN change things!

There is a very real chance you can have an influence on the very things that made you fall out of love with your job in the first place. Your proactivity may help you fall back in love and regain your hustle.

2. The grass is not always greener.

It may be that you just need to hit “reset” in order to appreciate where you are. Remember the Pina Colada song? It’s possible that you already have a great job in an organization with a healthy culture and stellar people. Finding those things in the next opportunity is not guaranteed.

3. Communication with your boss is critical.

If you complain to your friends, spouse, and strangers on the Metro, but you aren’t proactive at work, then you can rest assured that nothing will change. Communicating with your boss can work wonders. And if it doesn’t, then you can move on with confidence in knowing you tried to make it work.

4. Don’t give up on the free-market nonprofit world because of one dysfunctional situation.

There are plenty of healthy, high-functioning organizations out there — many of which would love to hire you! So, think twice before leaving the free-market universe!

Of the six reasons I cited that people lose their hustle, you’ll note that “lack of fulfillment” wasn’t one of them. That’s because I never hear from people inside of our world who are unfulfilled. Yet, I hear from countless people outside who are clamoring to get in! Bottom line: we are lucky to be working for liberty!