Being miserable in a job is not the normal state of existence. If this is your prevailing mood in the workplace, something is obviously wrong and needs your attention and action.

While it’s fun to run into people who gush about how much they love their work, my non-scientific polling indicates that a good many people seem to struggle with the state of their jobs. When pushed for clarity, many offer responses that single out difficult bosses, toxic work environments or feeling under-utilized and under-challenged.

The boss issue is a vexing one for many. You either find what I term coping-ground…an approach that creates an equilibrium with a bearable level of tension, or, you leave or she leaves. If you can’t find that coping ground and there are no signs of her imminent promotion, transfer or demise, then the cure is clear. Vote yourself off of her island through a transfer or job change.

The same goes for the toxic workplace. If you can’t find coping ground by creating an island of performance and respect with your team in a sea of toxicity, it’s time to go.

For the personal issues of feeling under-challenged and under-appreciated, here are a few ideas to help you remedy this problem.

5 Ideas to Move from Miserable to Motivated in the Workplace

1. Bored? Let the boss know you want to do more, (but finesse the discussion). Most bosses are overworked and understaffed and offers of “more” are typically appreciated. Be sensitive to not implying that the boss has under-worked you, but rather, you see an opportunity to take on a bit more to help the cause. Come armed with an idea that you know is on the boss’s hit list and your odds of success go up.

2. Not feeling challenged? Find and fix or, help with something big and interesting. There’s rarely a function in an organization that isn’t on the verge of automating, upgrading prior automation, striving to reduce costs or looking introduce a new project or program. Project Managers (PMs) are always on the lookout for high quality help, and a request from the PM might help you with the boss. Find the person responsible for a challenging new initiative and let him/her know that you would like to offer your help. If there’s no PM and you’re adept at herding cats and making something concrete out of something really ambiguous, volunteer to lead the effort.

3. Start something. From setting up book clubs/discussion groups to identifying community/give-back opportunities that help get people in your firm involved and working together on something other than the daily grind, these approaches can be personally and organizationally rejuvenating.

4. Consider position rotation. While it might seem like you’re being disloyal, job rotation strengthens you as a team member in the organization, and it benefits the entire organization. As in all of these discussions, make certain to apply a bit of finesse as you approach your boss or the boss of the group you are interested in joining. You don’t want anyone perceive you are running away from something, but rather, that you are striving to improve yourself and help the firm.

5. In case of emergency, work on your escape plan. Hey, some jobs, bosses and environments just suck. When you have to hang in there to pay the bills, the best tonic is taking deliberate action to strengthen yourself through school, additional training, and networking, and to begin working on the steps to move towards a fresh and hopefully less toxic adventure. Too many people lament their lot in life and wallow in their misery without ever taking action. Once you take the initial steps to get in motion, the subsequent steps become a whole lot easier and a great deal more tangible.

The Bottom-Line for Now

Running in place won’t get you anywhere. You hold your own cure to workplace misery. Is it time to get going?

This blog originally appeared at

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