Is your career giving you the horrors? In this spooky Halloween-inspired article, Bennett Glace reveals the signs that you’re miserable at work, and what to do about it.
If you’ve ever seen a haunted house film, you’ve probably found yourself asking one question of the characters on-screen: Why don’t you just leave!? Unexplained sounds, cold spots, even disembodied voices – whatever the spooky happening, you can count on a horror movie’s protagonists to try and explain it away. It’s probably just the house settling, right?
We ask this question – with increasing intensity – because we’re confident we could never be so foolish. Surely, we’d recognize the telltale signs and pack our things right away. Blood dripping from the walls? Time to see about a hotel.
Though we shout these thoughts at the screen and use them to poke holes in cinematic logic, we rarely put them into practice in our professional lives. Last year, Mental Health America reported that nearly three quarters of Americans are unhappy in their jobs. A paltry 19% said they “rarely or never” think about quitting.
Everybody has bad days at the office. Like bumps in the night, they’re usually nothing to get too alarmed about. On certain occasions, however, things are as scary as they seem. Sometimes that voice telling you to run for the hills isn’t just in your head.
Here are four unmistakable signs that your job is haunting your life.
- Workplace Culture is Toxic
You don’t have to enjoy lifelong friendships with your co-workers, but you shouldn’t dread interacting with them. Tyrannical leaders, incessant gossip, silos, and self-interest – it can all make the daily grind a terrifying affair. It’s usually easy enough to ignore a single toxic peer or take the necessary steps to address their behavior. In many cases, there are opportunities to exorcise any animosity and work together toward creating a more respectful, productive environment. When toxicity permeates the culture, however, it’s time to make like Daniel Kaluuya and get out.
- You’re Bored to Tears
We spend a third of every weekday at work. Shouldn’t we strive to spend this time doing something that challenges, excites, and inspires us? This year’s Gallup poll on employee engagement suggests very few of us (only 34%) do. Want to hear something really scary? That’s an all-time high. When you aren’t tuned-in, you’re not just wasting your own time and resources. The same poll estimates that disengaged employees cost American businesses between $450 and $550 billion dollars each year. If you spend most of your day wishing you were anywhere else, find somewhere else to go. Don’t wait around for dispassion to curdle into despair.
- You Have to Justify Your Job
Even the best haunted house movies tend to follow a predictable pattern. Bit by bit, ghosts and ghouls begin to wreak havoc. The victims, for their part, look for ways to explain away the hauntings. This often means emphatically reminding a supporting character how the old house isn’t really so bad. They’ll eventually learn they were mistaken, but this realization almost always comes too late. People sound pretty similar when they’re stuck in bad jobs. “Yes, the pay sucks. No, I don’t get along with my boss, but . . . ” whatever the excuse, looking for the bright side in a job you hate is like staying put in that haunted house because it’s got a big yard.
- There’s Nowhere to Go
If, “Why don’t you just leave?” is the most popular question for horror skeptics, “Why are they running up the stairs?” is probably a close second. You don’t have to know Mike Meyers from Michael Meyers to recognize this trope. Pursued by an assailant, our hero decides to run deeper into their house rather than make a break for an exit. Here’s where horror movies and the professional world differ. Whatever you industry or experience level, everyone wants to ‘run upstairs’ professionally. Opportunity for growth is a major selling point for applicants and a major sticking point for unhappy employees. And advancement is much, much more than a new title or a bigger salary. It’s a sign that you’re valued and respected, that you’ve made a difference within an organization. Horror movies might recycle the same narratives again and again, but your work life shouldn’t.
Quitting your job isn’t a decision to make lightly. Where possible, do what you can to address your problems at work. Look for opportunities to clean up the cobwebs and soothe any unruly spirits. Burning sage won’t help, but sometimes a frank conversation is all it takes to make things right.
If your efforts come up short, don’t be afraid to make a break for it and write a sequel elsewhere. You’ll rest easier.
Bennett Glace is the primary contributor and Editorial Lead for the Strategic Sourceror. A prolific blogger and Procurement storyteller, he is responsible for advocating the function’s value in podcasts, whitepapers, and other impactful, accessible content.