Let’s face it: we can’t all work for one of Fortune’s Top 100 Companies or non-profit organizations. And in fact, a large percentage of the population works in for-profits whose products/services employees don’t necessarily find meaningful. Thousands of people walk McDonalds’ corporate halls who would never eat Big Macs, and thousands more do their best work to advance the cause of things like staples and light sockets.
If you have an indifferent or even aversive reaction to what your organization produces or stands for, can you still work there? The answer is yes, especially if it isn’t practical or you aren’t in a position to lend your talents to a company that’s a better fit. Here are some recommendations for coming to terms with the situation and making the best of it.
In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the stress and discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time. For instance, you may like your job writing copy for an oil and gas company while preferring to use alternative fuel sources in your home. One way to ease cognitive dissonance is to acknowledge it. Instead of pretending the problem isn’t there, tell yourself that it’s okay to be a little inconsistent. You’re only human after all.
If you have recently soured on your company’s mission, put that aside for now. Recall why you took the job initially and how enthusiastic you were on your first day. Write down all of the benefits you derive from working at your company (salary, perks, networking, etc.) and ways this organization is helping you make progress toward your big picture career goals. Ask yourself if your negative feelings about the organization are fair and/or grounded in reality. Remember that no workplace is perfect and it’s unhealthy and non-productive to focus too much on the way things should be.
Have you lost faith in your company as a whole, or just a particular leader or department? This is an important distinction to make so that you aren’t tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If there is an internal job posting that looks intriguing, you might consider a lateral move, or if there’s a program that will allow you to temporarily work in another area in a different office, you might think about a job rotation. Should you need or desire to stay in your current role, can your organization provide free coursework or training that will further your skill set, or volunteering opportunities that exercise a personal passion?
Teaching a protégé everything you’ve learned during your tenure is a terrific way to renew your excitement about your own path and everything you’ve accomplished. Presenting your organization and its opportunities in a positive light will encourage you to look on the bright side yourself. You can either sign up for a formal mentorship program or simply volunteer to meet with a promising younger colleague. Don’t forget to set clear expectations for the relationship and encourage open communication.
You might also close a value disconnect by becoming a change agent. Intrapreneurship is the practice of entrepreneurial skills and approaches by or within an established organization. The focus is on innovation and creativity and transforming good ideas into profitable ventures. Look for existing intrapreneurship opportunities such as a standing innovation committee, and if none exist, create a network of peers and sponsors to help you get your ideas off the ground.