Tell me if this sounds like you:
- you promise yourself to be productive from next week, but Monday comes and you procrastinate
- you constantly think about quiting even though you used to love your job
- you get Sunday scaries – the feelings of anxiety or dread that many of us experience the day before heading back to work after the weekend.
- You move meetings as you don’t feel ‘ready’ for them or just can’t stand the idea of talking to people
If you said yes to at least one of the above, it may mean that your mental health is suffering. Whether it’s anxiety, depression, or burnout – it is worth addressing the root cause of the situation, as left alone it may only get worse.
This article is going to be very personal. As an employee who has experienced issues with mental and physical health during the pandemic and as a person who wants to improve workspace communication, I feel that it is important that I speak up about mental health at work and share advice to support those who struggle. If you have any advice you would like to share, please leave it in the comments so we could all learn.
I am not a mental health professional and if you are experiencing any issues, please follow up with your GP or mental health professional. You can also contact Samaritans, which is a free service.
Should you leave your job?
A lot of career advice I see is that if you are unsatisfied with your role or your workplace, you should leave your post. People talk about ‘toxic’ workplaces and micromanaging bosses.
I have scanned my experiences and realized that my main motives for leaving my jobs were either insufficient salary or I have exhausted opportunities for growth. But I am sure that a few of the places I worked in some people would consider ‘toxic’. I was bullied, I was micromanaged, I was told ‘but this is how it always been done’, or ‘this is a boy’s conversation’.
Yet, I showed up every day to work, hyped up and ready to smash my goals. So how was I different from others who have been through the same?
I believe that the difference was my communication skills. Growing them has helped me stand up for myself, create an environment where both my micromanaging boss and I were satisfied and create a women-at-work ally out of the boss who used words like ‘boy’s conversation’.
So if you are struggling in your role right now, and you decide to quit, that’s great. You’re probably going to feel better (at least in the short term), get a higher salary, and have a more responsible job. But if your struggles come from how you deal with work and how you communicate, it may be more beneficial to allow yourself to stop and try to learn. I guarantee that you’re going to prosper in any environment you might encounter in the future.
What are the elements of a ‘healthy’ job?
Over the years I have discovered that there are elements of my role that help me feel fulfilled at work. Even with the worst manager, I would enjoy my work and not feel overwhelmed by it if:
I clearly understand the three levels of my role: what are the must-do-basics; what will mean ‘doing a good job’ and what would mean that I am smashing it.
It’s easy to explain with an example: in my previous role, I would have a number of admin tasks that would have to be completed weekly. I was managing a fleet of cars and all the admin tasks around assigning cars, interacting with the lease company about drivers, checking licenses, and training new staff had to be completed. If that wouldn’t be done, not only I would be doing a bad job, but I would also be affecting other people’s experiences at work. As a procurement manager, I was also keeping an eye on contract negotiations and ensuring that all contracts were up to date.
As a next level, doing a good job, was when I delivered an exceptional service or saved money through my negotiations. That was not a make or break in the role, but it was an indication of doing it well. I also felt that I am doing a ‘good job’ when I networked with other people within the company and I learned about how their role was connected to mine.
On several occasions, I have come up with an idea of a project that would revolutionize the way our company was operating and successfully pitch that to the business. Doing this and delivering on said projects was my indication of doing something exceptional. My achievements were mentioned during company townhalls and I was congratulated on several occasions by senior leaders.
On the contrary, I have been in the role which, on paper, was even more amazing. Instead of managing procurement for a single country, I got to manage multiple territories and interact with top leadership on a daily basis. The role required similar skills as the previous one, so I jumped into it with no hesitation.
I have still received great feedback and was praised for my achievements. But soon I started questioning my ability to deliver the objectives and got hit with a hard imposter syndrome. Why? Because I didn’t have an understanding of what is even the basic level of my role. And when will I know that I moved from basic to a good job?
Having an achievable action plan and seing it’s progress during the year
Achievable is the key here. Last year I have made a great plan for my role. I looked at what other managers are delivering, which was anywhere between 12 and 20-odd projects, and decided to settle on the minimum number, as they have had more years of experience of implementing procurement in their territories.
The end of the year came, and I have completed maybe three with no real savings (which in procurement usually would be a red flag for me). I felt horrible, I honestly considered quitting as it made me feel that I am not good enough for my role. I stressed *a lot* before my annual review. And guess what? I received *a lot* of praise from my boss and the only direction I have heard was to focus more on analysis next year. I clearly didn’t understand what is required.
Being able to communicate clearly and openly with my boss
This is something I strongly appreciate. If I can come to my boss and share with him not only my success but also any roadblocks or failures and they support me through them and help me resolve them – I feel like there is growth in my role and even though I couldn’t do something yesterday, I can do it tomorrow. So I am definitely progressing in the role. This gives me a sense of achievement and being proud of what I bring to the table.
Can you change the impact of your job on your mental health?
I strongly believe you can change the impact your job has on your mental health without quitting.
Ask yourself these three questions:
- Do I clearly understand the three levels of my role: what are the must-do-basics; what will mean ‘doing a good job’ and what would mean that I am smashing it?
- Do I have an achievable action plan and am I seeing it’s progress during the year?
- Am I being able to communicate clearly and openly with my boss?
If you answered any of these questions ‘no’ – this is a great moment to start working on improving these areas. Learning how to talk at work will help you improve your communication with your boss. That has a direct impact on how you set your goals and objectives for the year, as clear communication will help you understand what is achievable. And last but not least, clear communication can help you and your boss evaluate your role requirements and agree on minimum / good job / exceptional performance standards.
Let me know in the comments if this resonated with you.