Wednesday, September 1, 2021

When Your Job Doesn't Interest You Anymore

On July 27, I had put out a post titled “Boreout is Real” – and today, I read another article that is pretty much related and which I am reproducing here. 

Since Covid and the WFH circumstance, many employees are seeing their relationships to their once-loved jobs deteriorate, as work has become remarkably different. Some found pre-existing disinterest amplified, while others discovered a new level of distaste for their positions or entire fields. And although not every worker has to love their position, keeping the relationship positive – or at least neutral – is key for many to get through the day. 

Millions of workers now at odds with their professions are in tough situations: it can be unnerving to be in a job you no longer feel connected to, especially if you don’t have an alternative on the horizon; and difficult to know whether you’re just going through a phase of disinterest, or if your spark has permanently died. 

So, what’s next? Can you ever hope to re-ignite your passion for a job you once felt good doing – and should you even try? 

There’s a very clear and current phenomenon of people experiencing a waning interest in their work, says Jon M Jachimowicz, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Harvard Business School. 

“Particularly in the beginning of Covid, people started spending a lot more time at home and that gave them a lot more downtime”, he says. “When you’re in the office and it’s hectic, you don’t have as much space and time to think. It’s hard to zoom out and think about the next month, year or five years of your life. Being at home kind of forces that on you, for better or worse. It made people start to question: how can I live a life or have a career that’s in line with what I’m actually interested in?” 

In addition to increased worker introspection, Stacey Lane, an Oregon, US-based career coach and consultant, says a drop in interest could be because many jobs were stripped down to their most essential components. Workers who may have said they enjoyed their jobs before going remote realized it wasn’t the work itself they liked. 

“Suddenly, people were no longer going into a workplace, and they no longer had those social connections. And for a lot of people, that’s what ties them to their job, whether they realize it or not”, she says. “It wasn’t the actual job they were doing – it was the culture, the people, and you just can’t translate that into remote work. It’s all really a package, until it’s not, and then you’re like, ‘eh, I’m actually not interested in this at all’”. 

Still, others lost interest, says Jachimowicz, because doing their jobs during the pandemic became unusually tough, and employers didn’t do enough to help. 

“We’re seeing it a lot in people who don’t feel supported, or who feel overworked”, he says. “The most common thing I hear these days is that employees are burned out, either because the workload has increased, or because this thing we call a psychological contract – all the unwritten trust that exists between organization and employee – has been breached. People react with a loss of interest and a desire to leave their jobs”. 

Staying at a job while your interest in work wanes is difficult, especially if that disinterested feeling has popped up suddenly. 

The most obvious solution, of course, is to leave. Lane has observed many with poor relationships to their jobs choose to quit – including clients who “hated their jobs before the pandemic, but for one reason or another wouldn’t quit”. The “major disruption” of the pandemic has opened a door for change for many workers – and many people who don’t like their jobs are choosing to walk through it. 

But, adds Lane, losing interest in a job is a normal reaction to the pandemic shake-up. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to quit or change careers. There may be ways to fire up a positive relationship with your job – even if it means simply making it more palatable for now, while you look for an alternative. 

She suggests it can help to take stock of the things you like most about your work, even if you haven’t gotten to experience them for a while. Reminding yourself of what captured your interest in the first place can motivate you to rediscover those things about your job. “It’s getting clarity about what you liked, and what you’re missing now”, she says, and “using that information for self-reflection”. 

If what you enjoyed was collaboration, for instance, you could ask to be assigned to more group projects. If it was face time with a mentor or mentee, you can work to make more time for that. And even if the ongoing pandemic means it’s not possible yet, simply recalling what you once loved can rekindle the feeling. 

Re-lighting the spark might also require switching up your routine, and finding something to get excited about. That might take the form of a side project, or a new collaborative effort with your colleagues. 

“Working toward a shared vision and goal is really motivating”, says Lane. “Stretch projects and new initiatives are where I think most people find the most interest. That’s when innovation happens, because you get a bunch of engaged employees who are just, like, on fire about something”. 

There’s quite a bit of grey area in between a job worth quitting and a job with which you could fall back in love. Realistically, some workers who’ve become disinterested in their jobs are going to remain that way, and still work, anyway. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 

To me, that is perfectly acceptable – and even for some people, it may be preferable. I do believe there are people out there who do not necessarily want to get too attached to their jobs. These people don’t want to pursue their passion at work. After all, there are plenty of things for people to be passionate about other than work. 

Jachimowicz advises that if your interest in work has waned, it’s time to have a really honest conversation with yourself about your own needs. 

“What needs is your job meant to fulfill? Just financial needs? Then great”, he says. “Do you need it to fill your need for connection? Aspirational needs? Your values?” 

One thing Covid is helping to clarify, says Jachimowicz, is that certain jobs can meet all these needs, and “people either want one, or realize they don’t need one”. 

You just have to make the distinction, and then make a decision.

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