Unhappy at work? Whatever your reasons are, it’s best to tackle them straight on. You don’t want to make any rash decisions, of course, but letting things simmer won’t do you any good, either — it’ll only lead to an explosion eventually.
With that in mind, here’s a five-step plan for addressing your unhappiness in the workplace:
1. Determine Whether You’re in a Slump or Facing Something More Serious
Slumps come and go. We all experience them from time to time, even in the best of workplaces.
When you’re unhappy at work, you have to take into account how long you’ve been feeling this way and what triggered the feeling. Next, ask yourself if this is a situation you can realistically pull yourself out of. If the answer is “yes” — or you’re not sure — take some time to see what happens. Try not to dwell on the feeling. If after two weeks you’re still not feeling like your motivated self, start to explore the other possibilities. Whether personal reasons, like feeling disconnected from the company, or professional reasons, like losing passion for your work, are the the cause of your unhappiness, it may be time to make a change.
2. Identify What Needs to Change to Make You Happy
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to figure out exactly what will make you happy again. One place to start, though, is with a good, old-fashioned pros and cons list.
Start by writing down all the things you know you don’t want at work. Then, dig deep to figure out what you’re really looking for in your job. Be specific.
Concerns like “I want more money” are fine and totally valid, but a higher salary alone might not be what ultimately makes you happy. True happiness usually stems from deep within yourself. It comes from things that give you satisfaction. These things could range from more decision-making authority to a more flexible schedule that promotes work/life balance.
Unsurprisingly, the list of things that make you happy tends to change as you move through various stages of life. If you’re feeling unhappy at work, it might be because the job that was once ideal now no longer meets your new set of needs in your new stage of life.
3. Determine the Best Way to Make These Changes
You may need to make a change, but that doesn’t mean you need to make a change as big as leaving your organization.
Are there any internal tweaks that would satisfy you at your current employer? Perhaps you could look into taking on new responsibilities within your department or move to another department altogether?
Some organizations are admittedly more flexible than others, but you shouldn’t assume your current organization can’t offer a solution that works for you. If you think it’s possible to make changes at your current place of employment, talk to your manager. If, on the other hand, your unhappiness stems from something deeply ingrained, like the workplace culture, then it may be time to look outside your current organization.
4. If You’re Searching for a New Job, Keep It to Yourself
You may find that simply making the decision to move on puts a spring in your step and makes you feel better instantly. You may want to share the good news with certain coworkers — but don’t let this feeling cloud your judgement and make you impulsive. Moving on often takes longer than expected, and internal shifts in an organization may work in your favor: For example, a manager who once made you miserable may leave the organization, and you may decide to stay as a result.
Anything can happen. You might very well change your mind about finding greener pastures. Respect the organization and yourself by showing restraint. Stay away from gossip, even if you’re the source and the subject.
5. Keep Things in Perspective
No company is without its faults. No matter how much you love what you do or the company you work for, at some point, you’ll face situations that remind you “they don’t call it ‘work’ for nothing,” as the saying goes. But even then, you should be thankful that you have a job. If it’s one you want to keep, great. If not, you can always take action to make things better.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Atrium Staffing blog.
Michele Mavi is Atrium Staffing‘s resident career expert.