6 Telltale Signs Your Job is Unhealthy
“A little hard work never hurt anyone…!”
It seems like we heard that a lot growing up, either from a parent admonishing us to get busy doing chores, or an elder chiding us to get serious about earning a living. Either way, the implication was we were shirking around in a prolonged childhood, and needed to take on adult responsibilities. It would require a little work, but it wouldn’t hurt anyone in the end.
We’re grown up now, working in the 21st century economy, and we know better.
We’ve learned that with any amount of hard work comes stress. Going to work and earning a living are now major preoccupations in our lives, and some of our biggest sources of stress.
Day after day of doing even a little hard work adds up to a lot of stress, and often leads to devastating effects on health and wellbeing. In his recently published book, Dying for a Paycheck, renowned management professor Jeffrey Pfeffer pinpoints four major workplace stressors: work-family conflict, long work hours, low control over the work environment, and job insecurity.
In an earlier study, Pfeffer and his colleagues found that job insecurity increases the odds of developing a physician-diagnosed condition by about 50 percent, while long work hours increases mortality by nearly 20 percent. The overall effects of workplace stress on health is more acute for women than men.
Research also shows that it is actually healthier to be without a job than to continue in a highly stressful one. Leaving is often the best thing to do in a situation where your job is literally killing you. Taking positive action towards moving on, such as updating your resume, can help re-empower you while also addressing the stress of job insecurity. (A free resume builder can help should you move in this direction.)
Regardless of whether you work in a toxic environment or a healthy one, you will experience stress, both good and bad. Being aware of how it affects you and your emotions can make a big difference on your health and wellbeing.
Here are 6 signs your job is unhealthy:
- You’re joining in the gossip game
Gossip is the hallmark of a toxic workplace, and poisons the whole environment. Norms of civility have fallen, communication has broken down, and people get what they want through manipulation rather than negotiation. It’s against your value system to gossip, but now you’re finding yourself buying into the dysfunctional system and playing the game. You’re starting to take cheap shots at others, and joining in those rip sessions about dreading coming into work, looking forward to 5 o’clock, and complaining about everything in between. What’s worse, you feel a burst of energy when you participate, only to be regretful later.
- You’re experiencing brain fog
One of the other big telltale signs your job is unhealthy? You’re losing your mental edge is a good indicator that your system is getting tapped from reacting to the stress in your work environment. Increasingly, you notice you’re less able to focus. You’re spending more of your day on unproductive activities. On top of that you’re losing your sense of judgment about your own work, especially whether a task is complete. More broadly, you’re not getting as sharp a read on things, and your intuition is missing things it would ordinarily detect. You might even be questioning your own value, even though others say you are producing quality work.
- It’s starting to feel like burnout, but you are not really sure whether it really is burnout
Your body naturally reacts to stress in the workplace, but you can’t say whether those reactions are due to managing stress effectively. You wake up already tired, and end the day even more so. You don’t feel energized after what anyone else would say is a good day, and it is getting harder to look back on a job well done. You’re becoming easily irritable, but not sure whether it can be solved by addressing a fixable work issue or it’s frayed nerves. And you’re having gut feelings that it’s time to leave, but then turn around and doubt them. This is another one of the majors signs your job is unhealthy!
- You’re in it only for yourself
When your worklife is in balance, you genuinely enjoy the workplace camaraderie, and are energized by being part of something greater than yourself. But when it’s not and you’re getting run down, you start detaching from anything that feels like too much effort. That’s when you “go underground” or try to be invisible. You’re no longer concerned about how your behavior affects your colleagues, business partners, and customers. You start thinking you’re the only person doing any work, but at the same time you don’t want anyone asking you for help.
- You’re starting to throw good after bad
Psychologists call it escalation of commitment, and it’s all about doubling down on a losing cause, hoping to prevail by sheer effort. You might actually be working more and overdoing things, hoping it will compensate for whatever deficit you’re feeling. Things are starting to feel forced. You find yourself pursuing projects just to show others, and become preoccupied with low-value tasks. You spend a lot of energy trying to figure things out, literally losing sleep over it. And that is likely leading to your work-life balance getting way out of whack, such that you seldom visit friends and family.
- It’s interfering with your normal life, and even though you’re aware of it you’re not really addressing it
This is one of the most obvious signs your job is unhealthy, and it’s also the easiest to let slip. Whether it’s sleep, eating, recreation, or your own wellness habits, you’re neglecting taking care of yourself. You might have taken up smoking, drinking, or gorging on comfort food. Your immune system is likely getting weakened, and you’re getting sick more frequently. Your personal and social life has declined such that you spend weekends alone just trying to recover enough to face another week. Overall you find your fun meter bottoming out.
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