Don't feel trapped in your job

By Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D. President, Discovery Surveys, Inc. - Only 54 percent of employees feel they have a good future with their current organization. Why do they feel this way?

Some have doubts about the future of their organization. They fear that the company could go out of business, merge with another, or be acquired.

More often they feel their performance is not valued.

Ironically, our research also shows that most of these fearful employees will stay with their organizations anyway and continue to live in fear and unhappiness. Here's why they stay:

  • They are scared to death at the prospect of trying to find another job.
  • Staying in a job where they don't feel valued has shattered their self-confidence.
  • They assume that there aren't any opportunities elsewhere
  • They fear losing their health benefits.
  • They can't envision themselves working somewhere else.
  • They don't want to leave the friends they've made
  • They're scared of change.

The result is that they feel stuck, trapped, and paralyzed.


Move to the Tension - If you are feeling down about your current job, one sure way to make the situation worse is to do nothing. Do you really want to report to work every day feeling scared and unhappy? Be proactive. Start figuring out a way to change bosses, change jobs, or change organizations. You CAN do it!

Be Aware of the Concept of "Person-Situation Interaction" - Change can be very good. You may be working in a situation that no longer is right for you. Ever notice how when professional athletes switch teams they seem to get a new lease on life and their performance often improves dramatically? If you feel you are not performing up to your capabilities, the problem may be your current employment situation, not you. A change of venue can have a major positive effect on your performance.

Clarify Your Objectives - One day Alice came to a fork in the road. She asked a Cheshire cat in a tree which way she should go. The cat asked, "Where do you want to end up?" She replied, "I don't know." He said, "then it really doesn't matter which road you take."

One of the many reasons that people become paralyzed at the thought of looking for a new job is that they don't have a clear goal. They are not sure what they really want to do next and so end up just spinning their wheels.

Become a Detective - What do you do if you are unhappy at your present job but have no idea about what you want to do next? Put on a trench coat and pretend you're Columbo or stick a Tootsie Roll pop in your mouth and pretend you're Kojack. Start asking questions of everyone you know such as: "What do you do on your job?" "What do you like about your work?" "What do you do on a typical day?" What credentials or experience did you need to land this job?"

The more questions you ask, the closer you will come to clarifying your career goals and identifying what it is you want to do next.

Network - Contrary to popular thought, looking for a job on the web or the Sunday paper are the least productive methods. You need to rejuvenate your network of past co-workers, friends and relatives. All of them are good potential resources to help you figure out what you want to do next, as well as where there might be opportunities. The odds are very good that your new job will come from a referral from someone you already know. [The lead for my first piece of business as a consultant came from my mother-in-law.]

Get Thee to a Career Counselor - You may need some help. A session or two with a career counselor can help you figure out what you should do next and how you should get there. It will also provide you with both structure and motivation to help you move on with your life.


Life is short. There is no need for you to be unhappy in your current job. If you feel stuck, just make up your mind today that you're going to change your situation.

Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D.
9 Blair Circle Sharon, MA 02067
Voice - 781-784-4367 Fax - 781-784-6450
E-mail -
Web -

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