Have you ever thought about this? Your job dissatisfaction can be a gift?

For me, it was. Situations of strong dissatisfaction, frustration and suffering made me wonder and consider new possibilities. Above all, they led me to a path of more intentional and conscious choices. Pain was a motivating factor for change. The will to leave behind states of suffering led to the most structural changes that helped me become complete and consequently brought me closer to the professional contributions that make sense to me.

But I am not alone. In the Career Redesign® project hundreds of people have already been helped. Most of them Portuguese. So far, in the eight years of this project, all of them arrived motivated by the idea of wanting to leave behind the suffering they felt in their professional lives. They came confused, knowing what they didn’t want but without concrete answers about the direction to follow. Today, these people are also grateful for the situations of dissatisfaction they had to deal with.

These experiences acted as a wake-up call for people to understand what is important to them. The type of life socially accepted wasn’t what they aspired to. They realised it was okay to want different things more in line with who they are, and we can have more meaningful lives by making some adjustments. But sometimes it is more difficult to change, and the transformation process can be challenging.

Notice that in the title i mention that dissatisfaction can be a gift, which means sometimes isn’t!

On what does it depend?

On your attitude towards the way, you deal with it.

In our society, work has been seen as an activity with a purpose – producing a material good, performing a role or a service – to reach a result that has social utility and economic value.

Therefore, career thinking is very much associated with what will enable such financial reward and what is valuable to others. To others! Not necessarily to us. It does not necessarily imply synergy. And this is where the assumptions start to fail.

Once the goals have been fulfilled, and financial needs met, the typical symptoms of unconstructive experiences with little or no meaning in our daily lives start to emerge.

Younger millennials (born between 1980 and 1999) and Z-generation people (born from 2000 onwards) clearly assume that there are more important aspects. Namely the sense of meaning, contribution, concerns about the future of our planet, the easier and quicker ways of doing things, among others. All this counts. So, when they start working, they feel at a crisis. They don’t recognise the work methods, the management principles.

This trend is not limited to people of these generations. It is widespread and highlighted in the post-pandemic period. Therefore, the term ‘the great resignation’ has emerged. The expression was suggested by professor and organizational psychologist Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University. He observed trends in the American labour market that led to many people voluntarily leaving their jobs at the end of the pandemic and returning to normality at a time of economic recovery. In fact, this has happened mostly in the US, but we can see it globally2)   

What is known is that the uncertainties and disruptions brought by the pandemic caused people to reassess their priorities. Some of them have taken the decision to leave their jobs and pursue a different lifestyle. They have discovered in the last two years that there are other things they value and have not even known about, like the quality of family life. The pandemic has put people in touch with their thoughts and emotions and activated different levels of awareness.

What seems to be clear in the various studies 3) 4) 5) on this topic is that people are looking for more than just a job, considering the definition I shared above. They seek to make more conscious and intentional choices.

So, they ask themselves where and for whom they want to work, where they want to live, whether it makes sense to return to the office or work remotely, how to accommodate the needs of children and older family members, etc. People aspire to build a life that makes more sense to them.

In my point of view ‘a great resignation’ is not simply given up a job, but rather a move to realign the key priorities in their lives. This trend is not new. It has gained expression with the various changes in the labour market as stated by Herminia Ibarra, researcher, and professor at the London Business School, who has been studying the topic of career change for 20 years. One of the major findings of her work is precisely this: any change in the environment can be a driver for reflection on what you want and how you are going to approach it. Given the effects that the pandemic caused in a transversal way in everyone’s lives, it is natural that this tendency is noticed with greater emphasis.

In Portugal, the expressiveness of these effects is not yet officially known. However, I can speak of what I observe and know through the experiences of our clients: We have always supported people who feel deep professional dissatisfaction and want to solve it. So far, the tendency was to do a Career Redesign® process alongside their active working life.

What I have observed since the beginning of this year has never happened: people come to us after they have been made redundant without having alternatives waiting for them. Simply because they are clear that they have reached their limit.

What also comes to us are the collateral effects on the people we support, resulting from the successive departures of colleagues from their and other areas in the companies where they work. This leads to an overload of work on the one hand, but also to internal change in the Organisation where they are.

So, I don’t need official figures. The experience I have through our clients’ experiences makes clear the emerging trend: we as employees and individuals are in a movement of affirmation for what we want.

For companies, there are undoubtedly losses of knowledge and skills that threaten the strength of their business and the quality of their value at a time of great change in a world where all help in transforming business is vital.

Fortune has conducted a study5) with Deloitte involving 117 CEOs, in which it identifies the challenges experienced by organisations. This study states that:

  • 73% of CEOs feel the threat of there being a shortage of people and skills in the next 12 months
  • 57% say the biggest challenge is attracting talent and 51% say it’s keeping talent.

So, this issue matters to everyone.

In Human Resources forums it is advocated that because of all that has been addressed here, there should be a greater focus on humanising organisational cultures, creating a connection between companies and employees, and generating a more satisfying and happy collaboration experience.

What is also important to denote is that with the departure of many, opportunities may emerge that would not otherwise be available. I have just witnessed this with one of the people I follow.

After several conversations with her bosses, stating his dissatisfaction, and suggesting a new direction for herself within the organisation, she didn’t get any concrete answer. Only words of acknowledgement of her work. In other words, a ‘pat on the back’. Until the day she had the final conversation about leaving because the relationship had lost its meaning and this person did not feel able to live with certain decisions that he considered completely inappropriate and even unfair. In this same conversation, she was offered a new position in line with his talents. The reason? The person who was taking on that role had resigned within the previous hour!

I could tell you dozens of stories like this. I work with the reality on the ground. The one that is not shown in the media and corporate media. On the contrary. There is even an attempt to hide what is happening. But for the more attentive ones it is enough to note what is the most talked about topic in Human Resources Management forums – the attraction and retention of talent!

Returning to the theme of this reflection, I believe that by now you are asking yourself what depends on you so that your dissatisfaction may become a gift?

1º Accept what you feel in your professional life.

One of the people I have been helping confessed to me the other day that one of the reasons why she did not explore earlier the signs she has been feeling for so long was the fear of being childish! Of having daydreams. Because the accepted norm is to be unhappy in what you do, because what matters is to be well paid!

When you accept what you feel, you are halfway towards taking the steps that turn your dissatisfaction into a potential lever for achievement. Because we are predisposed to explore the situation, to be different, to act in new ways. And this is where the potential of successful change lies.

When people discourage themselves from wanting something different, minimise themselves, go into denial and victimise themselves, they only intensify the problem. If this is the case, dissatisfaction will be an accelerator for even greater disparities that can drift into mental and physical illness. As I have seen so many times. In these situations, it takes a lot more to get out of these states. It takes various professionals to support the same person. Not to mention the financial investment that all this entails. Everything would be simpler if the person respected and valued their feelings.

2 º Bet on your self-knowledge.

This aspect is the basis of a work of realignment and redesign. it involves getting to know yourself in terms of skills, qualities, strengths, and values, but also clarifying what contribution you want to make to others, to society and to the world. From my experience, whenever this answer is clarified, everything becomes easier. More naturally it is possible to adjust the GPS of professional choices. in addition, there is no doubt that greater resilience is gained in the face of the adversities that arise in the construction of a new path. Part of the process of gaining that clarity is to start from the assumption that we all have a limited time existence and what we would like to achieve during it. When we approach the subject in this way, we break out of the usual mould of thought that we adopt in everyday life and the conditions are created for new perspectives. It is also by clarifying the contribution that it becomes clear whether the person prefers to create their own project or to start a new collaboration.

3º Carefully evaluate or explore the entity or area with which you want to collaborate, if you are considering changes at this level.

In this sense there are several factors to consider.

  1. The style of the manager to whom you will report. People who seek realignment, in my experience, prefer managers who are open to ideas that are different from their own and who give autonomy and space for employees to do the work in the ways that make the most sense to them. They allow learning by doing and welcome mistakes. They also value having the space to participate in parallel projects of their own interest with the approval of their manager.
  2. The existing conditions in the Organisation that allow them to pursue the contribution they want to make in line with their values. Often people appreciate the work they do, but not the entity or the manager for whom they develop it, because these do not take into consideration aspects that are more important for people, such as respect for the collaborators, valorisation and recognition and others such as sustainability, social responsibility, and the impact they have on society.

Also, for those who want to develop their own projects, it is important to clarify who their right clients are and which ones they do not want to collaborate with. Qualifying your clients is essential, otherwise you may be doing what you value and like, but risking a stressful collaboration experience.

4 º Communicate assertively what you want and what you don’t want.

Many times, we silence what we think and want to say. But by doing so we are feeding our state of dissatisfaction. Self-affirmation is a liberating act. Moreover, silencing what we believe to be relevant is an exercise in judging ourselves, where consciously or unconsciously we do not believe in the potential that our opinion can offer to the situation. We do not believe that our word matters. When that is the paradigm in which you operate, you are contributing to your own state of dissatisfaction. In the limit the no is certain. But verbalising what you think and what you want, in a systematic way, can make you gain the strength you often hope to gain in a single interaction.

Not to speak at the moment, is to leave the subject in your system for later, at home, with family or even with friends to debate in a critical and negative way what you think. Influencing a negative experience with those who can least influence your experience at work. It’s taking the topic to be debated in the wrong forum.

To sum up,

Professional dissatisfaction can be a gift. It depends to a large extent on you to explore this possibility.

The ‘great resignation’ movement evidences the growing trend of more and more people seeking to realign their professional lives according to the life that makes more sense to them.

In Portugal, there are no official figures on ‘great resignation’ but the subject exists and has already reached the Career Redesignâ project. Never as in 2022, we received so many people who resigned without having alternatives. Simply because they reached their limit.

It’s up to you:

  • Accept your dissatisfaction and explore the hidden possibilities that lie within it,
  • To invest in your self-knowledge to reach those possibilities,
  • Having criteria to evaluate which new professional relationships are aligned with you,
  • Communicate assertively what you want and what you do not want. Sometimes this is all it takes to live the difference you desire.

If you want to turn your dissatisfaction into a gift, then allow yourself an exploratory session. All you need to do is allocate 1 hour of your time with me. In person or online.

Taking this session can represent for you the beginning of the end of your dissatisfaction and the first step that brings you closer to the gift of fulfilment.

SOURCES OF INFORMATION:

1) Definition of work by sociologist João Freire and taken from the Inpertinent Podcast ep. 42 – society – are we what we work?

2) Career Coaching Community of Practice – Webinar: ‘The Great Resignation!’

3) ‘The great resignation or the great rethink?, HBR

4) ‘The great resignation is a misnomer’, HBR

5) ‘The great resignation is no joke’, Fortune

6) Webinar ICF – ‘The gift of being unfulfilled at work-changing the perception of work experience’.