When David graduated and joined his profession, he was excited. He had always wanted to be a successful engineer and did everything in his power to make the dream a reality.
At first, the morning alarm excited him. He had a seemingly unquenchable thirst for bettering himself and his work but a few years down the line it all began to fade. David no longer found his work interesting.
“I had been doing the same thing for quite some time and it was now boring. I needed a new challenge,” he admits.
David is among thousands of employees in Kenya’s corporate sector stuck in jobs they hate. For these workers, their performance is mediocre at best.
Their clarion call is to deliver the bare minimum to get the job done and earn their pay.
But what caused the total change in attitude in cases such as David’s?
Esther Katiba, a Human Resource (HR) advisor and trainer with Conversations with Esther shares that it largely has to do with the workplace culture.
She notes that factors such as favouritism, illegal practices, bootlicking, and lack of supportive managers and teams contribute to a toxic environment that saps the initial joy and fulfilment found in the job.
Yet, Ms Katiba says employees don’t have to wait until they are driven to have their jobs. By being self-aware, they can do something at the earliest opportunity.
She poses the following self-evaluation questions: Does the morning alarm bell get you excited about going to work? Do you wish that the days at work were shorter so you do the bare minimum? Can you recommend your employer to your family and friends?
Do you often catch yourself complaining about your workplace, your boss, colleagues, and everything around work? Have you withdrawn from your colleagues and team?
If these questions leave a bad taste in your mouth, she says it is evident that you hate your job and you should do something about it.
“Managers can be very mean with appreciation, be ever criticising, disrespectful and vulgar in speech, and cause career stagnation,” she observes adding that such executives are a cause for concern for organisations as they lead to talent loss and poor employer branding.
Nelson Ogudha, a HR practitioner explains that it is okay to quit a job you hate saying that if it is not giving you the "vibe you need to function properly, then tap out".
Tapping out is however not an easy option for many, especially in the current economic times when job prospects are hard to come by.
Nonetheless, Mr Ogudha cautions employees against staying put just for the paycheck saying such a decision is always delusional.
“I got a chance to speak to a friend who had resigned from a job he hated in early December 2022. I was surprised when he answered his call with a happy tone on the first ring. This was unlike previously when he would promise to call back immediately but never did.”
“Shockingly, he said to have spent half of his savings on mental health treatment and was ready to start from zero in January 2023. He learned his lesson, the package might be good though detrimental to our health,” he explains.
Ms Katiba though notes that it is wise to count the cost of abruptly quitting, likening this to a foolish builder who embarks on a project and does not count the cost.
“If quitting exposes you to survival challenges, you may need to rethink the idea or delay to a future date,” she says.
However, if the environment is unbearably toxic, she says urges quick action to avoid being trapped, stating “no amount of money will compensate for mental illness or lack of peace, so run for your life.”
Also read: How to avoid setting over-ambitious goals
Mr Ogudha says that taking leave from the toxic workplace is not a solution if you have not addressed the core.
However, changing a role is prudent as it is just like an engine overhaul that brings a breath of fresh air to the work atmosphere as you get to negotiate on the terms.
As hating your job begins in your mind before slowly sneaking into your heart resulting in mental blocks and attitudes that are hard to unravel, Ms Katiba advises that one should be vigilant to catch the negative thoughts right at conception.
“Make it your business to occasionally appraise your work environment and scan through the emerging issues.” She adds that one needs to be wary of shifting blame and often sanitising yourself while smearing mud on others.
In turn, take control of your mind and wrestle to conquer negativity while not allowing external forces to determine your career moves or the way you feel and think about your current employer.
“Be brutally honest with yourself to confront your inner man (or woman). Get yourself a confidant to guide you along. As iron sharpens iron, choose to belong where positive thinking is glorified. Gear up for change and forgive yourself to move on. Refocus. Reengineer and restrategise your next move.”