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The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and total well-being of their employees first. Register for the 2020 Employee Recommended Workplace Award at: employeerecommended.com. This series of articles supports the award.

“I do my job because I need money. I don’t enjoy it.”

What percentage of employees go to work each day with this kind of mindset?

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Chronic job regret can, over time, wear down our mental health and cause frustration. We might act out in ways that negatively affect our social relationships at home and at work. We may even make a knee-jerk decision to quit our job, hoping a new one will change things.

Many times, however, a new job is not our best solution. One American study found that 23 per cent of people who change their job regret their decision.

This microskill explores options for self-managing job regret pro-actively versus reactively.

Awareness

Whenever we get caught in a situation where there’s a difference between what we want and what we have, it makes sense to look at what we don’t like. The natural tendency is to look outward. Often, we forget – or choose not to – look inward.

To expand your awareness, begin by answering the following questions to determine whether you’re experiencing job regret:

  • Why do I regret going to work each day?
  • What is it I don’t like about my job?
  • What have I done to try to improve my perceptions about my job?

Some of the factors that can cause job regret are the quality of social interactions with a manager and peers, the degree of psychological safety we feel, the level of purpose and enjoyment we get from work and whether there’s an understanding of how our current role will help build our career. In addition, one factor that can magnify existing job regret is our behaviour. Bringing a bad attitude to work can negatively affect the quality of our relationships with our peers.

Accountability

Once you’re aware of what you believe you can control, your next decision will be around what you want to do. One way to take control of job regret is to change your mental framework to thinking about your role as a stepping stone, rather than as a prison sentence.

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If you don’t feel challenged or valued, or you’re unclear as to how you fit within the organization, focus on what you can control by shifting your mindset from a negative to a positive one.

This puts you in a position to focus your mental energy on what you can do to improve your situation, or what you need to learn to position yourself for the kind of future you want.

Action

Whether you’re going to stay in a job for the short or long term, there are things you can do to reduce your feelings of regret that will help you feel like you’re more in control.

  • Change your mindset: Change your frame of reference from forever to the next 90 days. Then decide what you can do that could have a positive effect on your mindset while going to work. Stop and look inward at your attitude and behaviours.
  • Be honest: If your current job is not rewarding, why are you in this job? If it’s because you have gaps in skills or education, then focus your energy not on regret but on what you can do to improve your situation. If you need more education or skills, you may be surprised at how many opportunities for retraining there are once you focus and look. Be clear that moving past regret in some cases will require commitment and hard work. If nothing more, it’s certainly better than the alternative.
  • Make decisions based on facts: If your attitude and behaviour are why your job is not enjoyable and are contributing to your regret, changing your job likely will not make things better. Being open to feedback, being willing to ask for help and being committed to learning what you can do better can help you make more informed decisions.

Read about the 2019 winners of the award and watch a video from the winners here. You can also purchase the benchmark report that outlines findings from 2018 at this link.

Bill Howatt is the founder of Howatt HR Consulting and a co-creator of the Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

You can find other stories like these at tgam.ca/workplaceaward.

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Download our e-books: Inch by Inch, Make Life a Cinch; Little Steps to Big Change; Staying Afloat.

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