Why Does Work Stop Working?

Why Does Work Stop Working?

This might sound like a strange question, but if work has stopped working for you – if it’s stopped feeling rewarding and worthwhile – this is exactly the question you should ask yourself today. In all my years of working with people who are fed up at work, I found three really big reasons why work stops working.

1: it’s the wrong work for you

Sometimes people just go into work without even thinking about what the nature of that work is. These are the people who tell me “I fell into it” or “it just came up”, and so they went into it even though it was never really the right route for them to take. There was wrong thinking or a wrong motive behind that decision.

2: it’s the wrong job because you’re no longer right for the role

In this situation you might have been perfect for the role in the first place. It might have served a really good purpose in your life a while back, but now it is time to move on.

This happened to me a while back too. I was a midwife and I loved it – I was a good midwife for a really long time. But after several years it got to the stage where I actually hated it. It felt like a chain around my neck. It wasn’t right for me anymore.

Now I look back and realise I was meant to leave that role and move into the role I am doing now. There was all this other good stuff for me to do in the world and if I’d stayed as a midwife I wouldn’t have achieved all these other things. I’d grown out of midwifery, even though I loved it in the first place.

So don’t be afraid to allow yourself to grow out of a particular role. If you feel that you’re finished with it, it’s time to move on to something better.

3: it’s the right work but the wrong environment

People say to me, “it’s a shame, because I really love my work.” Or they’ll say “it’s a shame because I love my clients, I love what I do or I get so much buzz from it, but I just can’t stand this place.”

In this situation there’s something in the environment, something sabotaging your ability to love the work you are supposed to be doing. The work is stopping your enjoyment or engagement in the situation that’s right for you. You’re not far from having the work life you will love – you just need to figure out how to make the changes you need.

If this sounds like you, and you’re thinking “I’m so miserable at work I must leave” or “I must sort this out”, remember that sometimes leaving is not the only thing you can do to resolve the situation.

If you love most of the situation you are in, it might mean you need to learn a new skill, or develop your character in some way, or even learn about developing resilience. You may have to learn how to get what you want in a hostile environment. You may need to learn how to get strength, or how to face things instead of running away from them.

Obviously I don’t know the ins and outs of your work situation. But if you find you love what you’re doing but you cannot stand the place itself, think on this before you leave. Ask yourself these questions:

  • “What could I do if I wasn’t afraid to sort this situation out?”
  • “What would make this situation better?”
  • “What action could I take to negotiate a better workplace or to create an environment where I can get on with enjoying my work peacefully?” 

If this is you, I really want you to take some time to consider your options. Sometimes I see people jumping ship to a new job too quickly, before realising the real opportunity was in them finding a way to sort this stuff out. Life is such a great teacher, and if something is coming up in a place you really want to be at, perhaps leaving isn’t your best option. Perhaps the best option for you is to stay and find ways to develop yourself to make things better.

Would this work for you?