Recently I started working with a client who hates his job.

He is a talented, creative, generative and thoughtful person. He has vision too! He wants to design experiential workshops for unorthodox leaders so that they can create more inclusive workplaces and stimulate innovation. Rad, right?

When I’m with this client I am bowled over by the depth of his thinking, his creative ideas and his passion for creating spaces for unconventional thinkers.

Friends, I’ll even go so far as to say we need him in the world – making space for disruptive thinkers that actually care about people and our earth.

So what’s his current job, you ask?

He spends his days in an outdated and inefficient bureaucracy ensuring spreadsheets are filled out with 100% accuracy.

One of my favorite articles of all time is The Definition of Hell for Each Meyers Briggs Personality Type. Why? Because if you know your MB type (if you don’t…you can find out here) the descriptions in this article really pinpoint the kind of experiences that would make you 100% miserable.

For example, I’m an ENFJ (Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling & Judging). Here’s how the article describes my personal hell:

“Your loved ones are in dire need of guidance, but every piece of advice you give them inadvertently makes things worse for them.”

Can you see how, for a coach, this is the very idea of hell?

My purpose in life is to support people with listening and guidance. If I found that I was inadvertently making things worse – I would feel terrible.

But believe it or not, I have been in situations like that before: workplaces where my vision, skills and capabilities were not a match for the needs of the situation. And as a result –

  • I was miserable.
  • My confidence tanked.
  • The world was missing out on my real gifts.

When you are trapped, stuck, bored, frustrated, overworked, unfocused or underutilized…it can feel like hell.

But the real cost of hellish jobs is not your suffering alone…it’s that the world is missing out on your gifts too.

Hellish workplaces can happen all at once or it can emerge slowly over time.

For my client, his job started with a feeling of potential. In the beginning, he had leeway to experiment with ideas and he was able to work 1:1 with innovators. But after a year, a bureaucratic change and new supervisor shifted things. A job that had once held possibility and potential had become a real nightmare.

So – how do you know if you’ve landed in the netherworld?

Here are a few clues:

  1. You are constantly reframing your experience. “I don’t like my work, but I’m learning a lot about “endurance” and ‘going with the flow.’”
  2. You need others to confirm your suffering is real. “Can we all agree that the new boss is ruining everything?”
  3. You are faking it. “Sure! I think we should 100% add a new project to our already overwhelming to-do list. I hate weekends!”
  4. You are planning a revolution. “What if we all just lay under our desks and nap until work is over! Who’s in?”

These are strategies to manage the pain of your situation. They are temporarily relieving but do not help in the long term. In fact, some of them may damage your confidence and your reputation.

No one wants to find themselves working in hellish circumstances. But when it happens, we need a productive strategy. One that help us maintain perspective, identify solutions and new opportunities and grow in the direction of our strengths.

That’s why I designed my program: Design A Career You Love.

In this program, I provide customized 1:1 support to folks who are looking to transform their circumstances and find work they really love. Transformation takes work, but with structure, accountability, encouragement and the right strategy – it can become an escape hatch from an untenable situation.

Last month I received this email from a DACYL client:

“”I feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. That’s helped with accepting the grind to get there.  Now, in my new role, I’m using a lot of what we’ve discussed: having confidence in what I know & patience with what I don’t, keeping personal opinions out of my business relationships, and taking it slow. That’s helped a lot as I’m adjusting. I have you and your counsel to thank for that.”

Believe me, there are multiple pathways out of a hellish work situation.

If you are looking for a way out…I will happily be your co-conspirator.

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About the Author: Kate Cockrill

A little about me... I am a social scientist, facilitator, and professional coach. Through my business: Kate Cockrill Coaching, I support mission driven managers and directors with 1:1 career coaching, leadership coaching, team workshops, and retreat design. My clients include leaders in healthcare, education, research and social innovation.

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