Career Transition

What To Do When The Thrill Is Gone

dissatisfied at work

We all get dissatisfied at work from time to time, but if it’s been months since you felt excited about going to the office, it’s time for some self-diagnosis.

The unemployment rate was 5.5% in February, and in some industries, it is now a very good time to job hunt.

If your anxiety about Monday morning starts on Friday night, as you feel the weekend ticking away too quickly, here are some questions to help you determine if you should say or you should go.

  • Is it getting harder to drink the “Cool”-Aid? Outings to drink craft beer and in-office yoga classes can be fun, but if the company does not pay you fairly, that “cool,” seemingly employee-friendly culture that lured you may now seem insincere. With wages stagnating for most Americans according to the Economic Policy Institute, you may realistically have to move to a better-paying company to get a decent raise. Typically, the incremental raises companies mete out to existing employees can’t compare to the bump you’ll get at a new job.
  • Have you lost autonomy at work? Getting a new boss or going through a merger can turn a good job into a bad one overnight—or they can be temporary transition points that don’t matter much in the long run. If the change means you’ve lost control over decisions you used to make or how you apply your skills, it may be time to leave. Staying may be dangerous to your health. In reviewing 228 studies, researchers at Stanford University at Harvard Business School found that the workplace factor that has the highest impact on mortality is having low control over your job.
  • Is work-life balance a distant memory? If you’re working two more hours a day than you were in 2007, you may be burning out physically. You may also be at risk if your life has changed and you have a lot more work at home—perhaps because you have had a child or become a caregiver to a parent or spouse. Work-life pressures don’t necessarily mean you have to quit your job, but you may need to negotiate some workplace flexibility before you implode. The study by Stanford and Harvard researchers found that employees whose work obligations prevented them from meeting family responsibilities had a 90% higher rate of reporting poor physical health than those who didn’t.
  • Are you “too” X,Y or Z to get ahead? Many corporate cultures only favor the advancement of people who fit a narrow demographic band. If you’ve realized you will never get fair treatment in your current situation, why not consider other employers who have a better track record—or starting your own business, where there is no ceiling on your achievement? Low organizational justice was the number two factor that contributed to doctor-reported illness among workers (number one was lack of health insurance) in the study by Stanford and Harvard researchers.

It doesn’t surprise me that, given women’s slow progress in winning gigs as corporate executives, many are ditching stagnant work situations. Women have been starting their own businesses at 1.5 times the national average between 1997 and 2014. Meanwhile, the number of startups by women of color grew 216% in that period, compared to 68% for all women-owned firms, according to research commissioned by American Express OPEN. In many fields, it’s very possible to earn more than you did as an employee in solo business, once you get established. Entrepreneurship is a lot more fun than beating your head against the wall of your cubicle for the next five or 10 years.

About the Author

Elaine Pofeldt is an independent journalist who specializes in writing about entrepreneurship and careers. She was a senior editor for Fortune Small Business magazine, and her work has appeared in Fortune, Money, Forbes.com, Inc. and Crain's New York Business, among others.