We try to avoid this situation as much as we can, but we aren’t be able to, for a number of reasons.
We don’t know ourselves
We don’t understand ourselves. We’re all hard to work with in very particular ways: nasty, selfish, immature. But we don’t know the specifics, because we’re not encouraged to find out.
Our colleagues just want to be friendly and get their stuff done. Our friends or families cannot help us, cause they don’t work with us. So we end up with such a poor level of self-awareness, we have no clue of what kind of culture we’d really like to join.
A standard question early in an interview should be “In what ways are you difficult to work with?”. But it’s hard to know. And hard to understand others too. It’s hard enough to understand ourselves, let alone trying to work out the craziness of other people. They all seem so nice…at first.
Ideally we would send them and us a set of psychological assessments and have a few years of professional psychotherapy, before getting that new job or employing that new person.
In the future, this might no longer sound like a joke. People will wonder why it took humanity so long to get there.
We haven’t experienced great working places
Working in different jobs, most of us had our job mixed with some darker stuff: being overstressed, poorly paid, micro-managed, lacked autonomy or purpose. In short, miserable. It leaves scars which we carry with us to new jobs.
And now, what we’re looking for is mostly what the previous job didn’t have to offer. Without reflecting about what we like and dislike, without taking a broader look at what a great job means for us.
And why we’re secretly scanning any new workplace, to catch when something resembles a negative past experience. We are on the look out for any signs of smelly culture. And we’re a little suspicious when we start in a place where we’re given autonomy, time to think and we’re well paid.
We should look for ways we can discover our own values, how they manifest in concrete terms. One such way is to consider companies we admire and name those values we admire, the characteristics, the kind of people they attract.
We don’t have courses in being a good colleague
Most of the time, we work without much information. We don’t learn about how to collaborate, how to give and receive feedback or how to be emotionally mature. We don’t take classes in school or on the job, we don’t talk about it with our job colleagues. So we go in and out of jobs without really understanding why some jobs don’t fit us. We take our other work colleagues to be simply stupid, we’re not like them at all.
Instinct drives us
Working used to be a straightforward process. People worked in the places near to where they were born. They worked on the land, on a farm, factory or public institution until they retired. It was terribly unsatisfying and unrewarding. All that seems ridiculous now.
So now we work for pleasure. It’s all about what we like. It dictates how we feel about jobs. To work too long in the same job feels too last century. We don’t accept too many compromises. The best thing to do may be to quit really quick, perhaps only after a few months, on a Wednesday afternoon, without taking the time to reason about it rationally, to learn. The rushed decision seems like a sensible idea…the next job will surely be better, we say to ourselves.
It won’t be.
Job satisfaction is a moving target
You want your job satisfaction to stay ever so great: you’ve just started a new job, everything seems exciting, colleagues are all nice, with lots of things to learn and grow, the prospect of getting a promotion after a year or two. Everything seems to point to the maturity that you were looking for. You get a new job and you want that feeling to be permanent.
And the job satisfaction stays nice and well for a while, but what is really permanent is your desire to try new things, to learn and grow. Because in every job, your satisfaction and learning are rising at the beginning, when you’re learning a lot. But what you notice is that, after some good amount of time, you reach a plateau. You feel you aren’t learning as much as you used to in the beginning. And you want something more, something different. It is a natural pattern for most of us. And this pushes you to change your interests over time and to look for new opportunities.
Expectations are running blind
We change our job when things are not to our liking any more. Because we can, and because we have so many options to choose from.
We really hope that this new job will have everything that the previous jobs didn’t have. We see what we want to see and, for the first few months, everything seems green and beautiful. We don’t seem to remember that history repeats itself and we’ll one day be dissatisfied with this as well.
We should, with patience and acceptance, do a quick exercise to remind ourselves that there are people working in this new company as well and that they will, for sure, after a while surprise us in ways we don’t appreciate. And that we will do the same. And continue, regardless, with compassion.
All of which is why you will end up in the wrong company, doing the wrong job. Perhaps you are already doing so.
But it’s not really your fault. No one ever teaches us how to do these things, and so, of course, we crash.
We will, as employees and as employers, over time, eventually learn. This madness won’t go on. Too many people suffer. We will learn to work with emotional intelligence and have a better human-to-human interaction.
In a few decades, at least, we’ll be learning to do this, most likely.