The process of finding a job is a lot like finding a mate. You seek out positions with different companies and venture out on interviews (the dating stage). Then you accept that shiny new job (the marriage stage). Finally, the excitement of being in a new environment kicks in (the honeymoon stage). But how long does the honeymoon last? One research study found that employee engagement peaks during the first six months. Even the most motivated employees can experience difficult times at work and become disengaged. These steps will help you discover why you’re in a work slump and the best ways to get out of it.
Reasons for a work slump
The first step is to consider why you’re in a work slump. Are you bored? Is your manager a nightmare to work for? Do you have trouble trusting your co-workers? Apart from reasons like these (or the fact that it may be time for a career change), you might be experiencing what psychologists call hedonistic adaptation (also known as the hedonistic treadmill). The idea is that no matter how happy something makes us, most of the time, we drift back to where we started. A well-known survey showed that despite their initial euphoria, lottery winners were no happier than non-winners eighteen months later. In her book, The How of Happiness, psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky discusses the “happiness set point.” She suggests that 50% of happiness is genetically predetermined, while 10% is due to life circumstances. That leaves 40% that is subject to our influence. Now that we know that we have some control over how happy we can be at work (or anywhere else), how do we make it last?
Ways to combat a work slump
They say variety is the spice of life. Combat a work slump by tackling new tasks and challenges. Try injecting some day-to-day variety in what you do. The happiness you get from doing anything will diminish if you do it the same way every day, so mix things up. This theory is supported by a research paper written by Wharton marketing professor Cassie Mogilner and Jordan Etkin, a marketing professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. The article, Does Variety Among Activities Increase Happiness, looked at eight studies examining how variety among the activities that fill people’s daily lives affects subsequent happiness. The research shows that for more extended periods (like a day), variety does increase happiness.
Another way to get out of a work slump is to change your perspective. Focus on the value that you are contributing as well as the value that you derive. When we appreciate our experiences, we don’t just make our happiness last; we increase it. When your team helps you with a project, show them the appropriate amount of gratitude. This acknowledgment will brighten their day as well as give your own spirits a boost.
Inspiration is a powerful tool to not only overcome a slump but also increase productivity. A study from the Harvard Business Review found that inspired employees were 250% more productive than their counterparts. Rediscover your inspiration at work by engaging in new experiences. Take a class, attend a conference, read a book, or get out and meet new people. Take some time for yourself to reflect and think. Bill Gates was known for having a twice-yearly think week. He would spend weeks away from the office to read and come up with new ideas. While a week may not be possible, consider taking some time away from the office for a brainstorming session. You can even set aside an hour daily to formulate new ideas and expand your perspective.
In the long run, a lingering work slump can be detrimental to your happiness, well-being, and career success. Don’t wait to do something about it. By addressing it head-on with these tactics, you’ll experience a renewed sense of engagement and fulfillment.
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