The Bluest Monday of the Year

Welcome to the first Monday of 2016... If you are not happy to be back at work, you are not alone. Depending on what source you look at (Forbes, Gallup,, there are roughly twice as many “actively disengaged” workers in the world as there are “actively engaged” workers.

There are a few common culprits for workplace discontent. It is great that you've had some time off to recharge your batteries, but getting back to work now evokes a sense of dread. Figuring out which one of these thorns is the biggest pain for you might offer you some clues about which way to make a move.

1. Working too much

You feel tired already in anticipation of the long hours and long weeks ahead; right now, your next holiday now seems light years away. Your work takes up so much space that you have little time or energy left over for your life. We often blame this on a lack of balance. But it’s more likely that it is a lack of alignment. Work-life integration does not mean throwing out boundaries, allowing work to consume every corner of your existence. What it does mean is having work that (em)powers your life, rather than drains you of your life. For people who are purpose-aligned in their work, time tends to goes by quickly, not slowly -- regardless of the number of hours. Work leaves them excited, not exhausted. 

2. Dead end street

Have you stopped learning and growing? Maybe you have enjoyed some success in your career and you have moved up the ladder fairly quickly. You are great at your job and you do it well -- better than most. You have a level of mastery, so your job duties are not stressful. The issue is that now, you can’t see anywhere to go from here. You don’t have good mentors. Maybe you look up at the senior leadership of your company, and you have no idea how you get there, or you’re not even sure you want to. It doesn’t matter whether it’s because there’s a glass ceiling or because growth is stagnating in your industry, there simply aren’t opportunities for you to spread your wings, to experiment and expand your skills.

3. Void of impact

You're putting in a lot of effort, investing your heart and soul in a business, a project or a cause. And it's not that the people around you are slacking on the job either. But you are simply not seeing the kind of results that you'd like to see. This could stem from a variety of root causes, ranging from poor organization structure to inefficient decision processes to a lack of accountability. But it all leads down the same wasteful stream, where tons of time, talent and resources are expended, achieving little to no impact, This can be maddening if you care about making a difference, and will eventually lead you to burnout.

4. Not your people

Even if we work only a standard 40-hour work week, we spend an inordinate amount of our waking hours at work. In fact, we probably spend more time with our colleagues than we spend with our family members. It could be that the people and the culture of your company don’t fit you well.  You don't have to go out drinking with your office mates three times a week. But if you can’t have a good laugh or bond with your co-workers once in awhile, you’re probably not going to be as happy spending time in the workplace… and you certainly won’t look forward to reuniting with them on Mondays when you're not with “your people”.

5. Underused gifts

We all have special talents and personal gifts to share with our colleagues and communities. These are the things that we are better at than most people, the things we do that make the biggest difference to others, to our teams, our organizations. They are the things that, in some way, we are uniquely qualified to contribute… whether it's an authentic way of inspiring people, adeptness at some specialized task, insight into improving process, or an interesting perspective on a problem. And whether we realize it or not, we feel a sense of frustration when those gifts are not required of us, or go unrecognized in our work. 

6. Outmoded rewards

In the Western world, we tend to have an underlying belief that if we put in a certain amount of effort, it will lead to a predictable level of performance, which will in turn earn us some fair reward. As Daniel Pink talks about in Drive, that one dimensional carrot-and-stick model of motivation is outmoded. He points to three other non-traditional notions of what drives people -- autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Chances are, one or more of those may be missing for you. And maybe the rewards you’re getting just aren’t a good fit for you. Maybe you’re getting a cash bonus when you’d rather have extra vacation days. Or maybe you’re receiving public accolades when you’d prefer to be given more responsibility.

7. Mismatched values

Maybe you love your boss and you love your colleagues. The hours are decent. You get generous vacation time and the work is not too stressful. Your talents are well-utilized and you feel appreciated. You see your hard work generating tangible results. From all appearances, everything seems great, so you’re not sure why you're unhappy. Take a moment to consider whether your personal values are well-matched with the mission of your organization, or with the business goals of your clients. Often when there is something deeper that is  causing that rumbling of discontent, it comes down to values. Do you agree at a core level with the greater WHY behind what you're doing every day at work? 

If any of this sounds vaguely familiar to you, then maybe 2016 is the year for you to make a change. Maybe it is time to make a life for yourself, because you're no longer satisfied with just making a living.