Every job comes with rough patches, even if it’s the “dream job” you doodled about in your eighth-grade notebook (I’m not quite the editor-in-chief of Vogue but close enough, right?). Maybe the boss you love leaves, or a toxic coworker is getting on your nerves. Maybe the company’s going through a rough patch (like, I don’t know, a global health crisis), or maybe business is booming and you’re dealing with the side effects of not having enough resources or team members to keep up.
The grass is always greener on the other side, so it’s tempting to start thinking that our exhaustion or dissatisfaction at work is the fault of the job. If only we worked with a different company, had a different title, or were in a different industry, we’d be satisfied. However, there’s a fine line between settling for a job that won’t bring you fulfillment, and just having a bad day (or a string of bad days). So, how do you know if you should be looking for another job or if you just need to reevaluate how you’re managing your current one?
Here are five signs that you’re just going through a rough patch at work (and how to push through it):
1. A “mini-break” helps you feel better
Of course, everyone is miserable returning to work after a beach vacation or a birthday trip, so don’t base your emotions off of a full-on vacay (we’d all rather be drinking piña coladas on a white sand beach). But taking a mental health sick day or a three-day weekend should give you a little more purpose and relaxation when you’re back at work. Of course, a day off isn’t enough to erase burnout, but it should be enough to eradicate some of the dread and exhaustion when you get back. You might even feel a refreshed passion for the mission of your company or completing that project you’ve been working on.
2. You’re annoyed about the small things
If you get annoyed because the internet goes down, the printer is jammed again, or the break room is out of coffee pods, you’re likely just having a bad day. You might even have moments of annoyance about a coworker who disagrees with your pitch, or frustration when an intern messes up the spreadsheet. Things don’t always go our way and it’s normal to feel irritated when they don’t.
Especially when we feel overwhelmed with responsibility or a heavy workload, the little things that are normal trial and error or technical difficulties can set us off. If you’re finding that one little thing can ruin your whole day, take a few deep breaths, remember that it’s simply a minor inconvenience (emphasis on “minor“), and take a break like walking down the street to get a latte (especially if an outage of coffee pods is the problem).
3. The main issue is that work is monopolizing your time
Maybe you love your team and enjoy the work you’re doing, but you’re just doing way too much of it. If you’re expected to have your iPhone or laptop on you at all times (like your boss expects a response to emails at 10pm), or you’re regularly working well into the evenings or on weekends, your exhaustion is likely coming from a lack of work-life balance. The good news is that you don’t have to quit your job to feel better.
Instead, talk to your boss about adding an intern, assistant, or sharing projects with coworkers if you can’t finish work during normal office hours. Also, let your team know that you won’t be checking Slack or your inbox after a certain point in the evenings (like 6pm), so to make sure any urgent messages get to you earlier. Here’s the key: stick to your cutoff time, and resist the urge to work or check your emails after your workday is over. You’ll work better tomorrow because of it.
4. You’re not as good at your job as you used to be
If you’re feeling frustrated about making little mistakes you never used to make, or you’re less engaged and passionate, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need a new job. Instead, make some deliberate changes to the job you currently have. A lack of motivation or engagement might mean you’re ready for a new challenge, so talk to your boss about taking on some new responsibilities that are interesting, or go ahead and ask for that promotion (you’ve earned it!).
If you’re making more mistakes or just don’t feel as confident as you used to feel, it’s likely self-doubt creeping in. Ask for a performance review from your manager that will either eradicate imposter syndrome or clue you into what to focus on to be better, rather than just aimlessly feeling like you’re not good enough. Communication is key with both feelings of self-doubt and lack of motivation.
5. You haven’t “small-talked” in a while
When you’re drained, it can be nearly impossible to muster the energy to ask a coworker how their kids are or share a funny article with your work wife. If you really hate your job RN, think about the last time you had a conversation with your coworkers that wasn’t “when will that spreadsheet be ready?” or “what’s the status on that project?” If it’s been a few days (or you can’t remember the last time a conversation did not revolve around deadlines), Slack your team an anecdote from your weekend or call up a coworker for a five-minute coffee break. Getting out of the work-only mindset 24/7 will help ease exhaustion and stress. Bonus: having friends at work is proven to help you succeed (shoutout to my team for also being some of my favorite friends #success!).
…and 3 Times it’s Actually Your Job:
1. Your boss does not respect your work-life boundaries
Work may be monopolizing your time and causing burnout, but communication with your manager (as well as the self-control to shut off your laptop after 5pm) should provide a lasting fix. If your boss or team does not respect your time boundaries, or you feel penalized for not working well after the normal hours, it might be time to find a different company that respects their employees’ personal lives and mental health.
2. You have “Sunday Scaries” (every night of the week)
Sunday nights are always rough, no matter how much you love your job. It means the weekend is over and you’re back to to-do lists and meetings tomorrow. However, you should feel back into the swing of things and focused at work, come Monday or Tuesday. If you’re feeling that looming anxiety of work the next day every night of the week? Something’s not right, and you’re probably not as fulfilled or passionate about your job as you could be.
3. You have physical symptoms
If you have constant stress headaches or get stomach aches before meetings because you’re nervous about how your boss will react to a presentation, your body is literally telling you that this job is not good for you. We spend the majority of our lives at work. Of course financial stability is important, but why spend the majority of your life in an environment that physically hurts? Listen to your gut (literally) and pay attention to stress, anxiety, or fear at work that is manifesting as physical symptoms in the body. If you don’t think that more communication, better work-life balance, or taking a break would provide long-term relief for the physical symptoms, it might be time to hit the job market.