Help feeling more motivated and less negative about work.
January 20, 2013 8:44 AM Subscribe
I have a pretty decent job but don't enjoy it and have started underperforming - how can I motivate myself to work harder again?
posted by sock of ages to Work & Money (13 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I work for a local authority (UK) and have been in the same post for about a decade, a data-wankery job. The demands of the post are quite difficult, with a lot of requests, often very urgent. The demands have increased and are still increasing. I manage two part-time staff.
I used to work very hard and do extra hours. For the last six months I have been struggling to get in to work on time, regularly being one and a half to two hours late and making up the time using leave hours. I have also found it difficult to make myself do the work I should be prioritising. I have sent some borderline-unprofessional emails to senior staff in response to requests that fail to understand some of the fundamentals of our work, don't give us enough time for complex requests, or ignore the fact that they have already received some of the things they are requesting. I don't think these have crossed the line into unprofessional, but I have been told that they show my frustration. I also do not support my own two staff well.
As for what changed six months ago, we had a particularly stressful time at work around that time, and some of the senior managers whom I respected left.
I have got into a cycle of anxiety and shame about my work performance which I think is stopping me being able to address it.
I am concerned that things may blow up on me. I may be called out for not doing tasks I should be, for poor time-keeping or rudeness. My team has now been asked to create a new system for data analysis, a task which feels enormous, maybe 60 to 70 days of staff time. I feel crushed by the thought of this and am not sure what to do. I also suspect that this system will not address the long-term performance issues in the teams I support. I have generally reached a point of being very cynical about the authority's ability to improve performance. To some extent whether the system does improve performance is not my problem, I should do the work anyway, but that inability to believe in the point of it doesn't help.
Things I have considered or tried to make myself perform better at work:
(a) better work planning. This has worked well for me in the past but isn't working now. I know what I should be doing, how long it will take and what the deadlines are, but am still not doing it.
(b) discussing my lack of performance with my manager. She is totally overloaded and I am certain would not have any suggestions that would help. My sense is that she does not want to know that I am struggling because she does not know what to do about it. No-one senior to me has mentioned my poor performance to me. I believe that my manager and other senior staff also over-estimate my importance to the authority so may be allowing me to get away with unavailability, poor time keeping etc on the belief that they need me. That is a view that could switch at any moment if they were to be given clear evidence of my under-performance. I do not have regular supervision or appraisals.
(c) focussing on things outside work to give me more of a sense of achievement, with the aim of feeling less emotionally involved in work and therefore more able to perform better there. This is not helping at present.
(d) discussing with my therapist. Continuing to do this but nothing useful has come out of it so far, though I am generally happy with my therapist and feel I am making progress in other areas of my life.
(e) talking to friends at work. They see that it is a difficult situation but are not able to suggest anything to help.
(f) being honest about my performance with a member of staff I manage who is also a friend, and asking him to sit with me whilst I do some urgent tasks. This has worked well in that I have managed to complete some things, but I don't think it's far on him and it's not a long-term solution.
(g) "fake it till I make it" around feeling negative about the authority's ability to improve. If I am able to find some evidence for improving performance in the data, I make sure I mention that to staff. This has not affected my attitude, however.
(h) emailing my manager each week to tell her what I have been working on and what my goals are for the next week. I haven't tried this, but am considering it.
(i) taking some leave and hope that I will go back to work with a better attitude. I had leave over Christmas which didn't help, and it is now a difficult time to take more time off.
(j) looking for another job. Still looking though there is not much around at the moment.
(k) focussing on the parts of my job that I enjoy, such as some technical processes, and the benefits such as generous leave, good pay and a lot of autonomy.
(l) trying to focus on the difference my work makes to the authority's support to vulnerable people. I do believe abstractly that data analysis is important in improving services and outcomes, but have stopped believing that what my authority does with my work makes any difference to service users.
(m) trying to learn new skills at work, such as SQL. Only just started this.
Also relevant is the fact that my authority is making very considerable cuts to services. This now seems unlikely to affect my team directly in terms of loss of posts, though our workload will probably increase. The cuts in general are part of what is affecting my morale.
My questions are: do you have any suggestions for how I can improve my work attitude and performance? Have you been in a situation where you turned around your work ethic whilst staying in the same job?
Thanks, and sorry for the length.