Do You Recognise the 6 Early Warning Signs of Distress at Work?

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Some of us aren’t very lucky and have probably experienced issues and challenges with a job. Whose fault is it? It’s extremely difficult to say for sure who’s to blame (and shouldn’t be your main concern), but it could be signs of distress at work, thus, falling out of alignment from your goals.

Does your job no longer excites you? Throwing yourself into the dense jungle of work isn’t going to make your problems magically sort themselves out; it’s going to make things worse.

Is there a trick or shortcut? Nope, the only way is to identify the issue for what it is, as it is. 

Be forewarned that badly matched jobs do happen and it’s completely normal. If this happens, you have to make meaningful changes. Don’t beat yourself up too much for it; no jobs are perfect. Stay away from those that suck the soul out of you and move on. 

There’re many people who’re distress at work and they’ve taken great pains to make a change and learn from their experience. Here’re the 6 early warning signs of distress you may have experienced at work:

1) Feeling Lost & Out of Place

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Do you remember the horror when you turned up for school, only to find out there’s a test and you didn’t study for it? This shouldn’t be how you feel during work.

Feeling lost and out of place may be a sign of lacking concentration and interest in your job. Although this may happen once in awhile due to honest mistakes, but if every task your boss hands to you consistently leaves you with a shock or a nightmarish feeling, it could be a bad job fit instead. 

A fish that is continuously assessed on its ability to walk or climb a tree will eventually lose all its motivation to keep trying. Stop finding faults with yourself, instead, take a step back and assess the real issue here. 

People who’re well-adjusted to their work feel comfortable and confident in what they do because they can make solid contributions and have direction. If you don’t feel this way, your self-esteem may take a hit. So if you’ve been questioning yourself all the time, maybe you’re simply in the wrong place. 

2) Acting Avoidant  

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Is going to work something you dread? Does waking up first thing in the morning make you sigh deeply? If you did try to improve your circumstances but still can’t see a future with your job, you may feel a strong desire to avoid going to work or have any kind of interaction with your colleagues.

Avoidance is not recommended by psychologists. Avoidance occurs whenever you know there’s a problem but you choose to avoid dealing with it, which can exacerbate the problem and is a selfish thing to do, especially if other colleagues are involved in the same projects. 

Spare some time to think carefully about your job fit, and talk to your boss or close ones to get their opinion. By making the effort to ensure your skills are suited to the job, you can gain new-found motivation and kill any feelings of avoidance. 

3) Not Playing Up to Your Strengths

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First and foremost, your job should be aligned with your strengths and not your weaknesses. If this isn’t the case, then it’s time to start sourcing for other options. 

One mistake many people make is they do not introspect carefully enough about their competencies and the goals they value. If you don’t know what your strengths are or what you’re passionate about, how can you find purpose in what you do? 

When your current job proves more of your weaknesses than your strengths, then it’s highly unlikely you’ll be pumped up for the long haul. If you want to make this work, do yourself a favour and start identifying the problems. Come up with solutions and have a meeting with your manager, who often should know better as he or she has a broader perspective on the company. Let him or her know what difficulties you’re facing and they’ll do their best to help you if they have your best interest as an employer.

4) Being Clueless & Oblivious 

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Do you feel like everyone else on the team are on the same page, yet you’re the only exception? The colloquial term for this is, “not having the same frequency” –  in other words, you’re clueless & oblivious; the rest are getting it but you’re not. This can spell trouble if you’re involved in projects requiring teamwork. 

It doesn’t matter what field you’re in; if you’re not aligned with the goals and strategies of the company, and have repeatedly made the same mistakes, this is your wake-up call.

Just like the pitfalls of avoidance, you should not ignore this tell-tale sign. It’s good to try and be more involved, interact more with others, or try and get aligned with your co-workers. However, like a relationship lacking chemistry, sometimes this cannot be forced if you’re simply not suited to the current workplace. When you’ve tried your best to see eye to eye with others but it still isn’t working out, explore other options. 

5) Deadlines & More Deadlines

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Are you the last few people to leave the office? Do you lack drive to complete tasks on record time? These are signs that you must take note; perhaps subconsciously, you have stopped caring for these deadlines and now they’re coming back at you. This can also mean you’re losing your sense of direction which puts you in limbo. 

Sense your surroundings and pick up subtle hints. Are your co-workers facing the same problem or is it just you? If you’re alone in your sluggishness despite being given the same tasks as others, then you should be concerned about your work efficiency. 

6) You Constantly Doubt & Blame Yourself

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When you constantly doubt your work performance and blame yourself for mistakes, something’s not quite right. Once in awhile, we try to manage how we feel and perhaps blame a bad day on our bosses. However, at the end of the day, when you repeatedly blame yourself for the situation you’re in, the job may simply not be for you. 

There’re many other signs one can look out for, but these are some of the more obvious ones which you might want to take note of. Feelings of anxiety and depression are telling signs that something isn’t right.

Perhaps a change in environment or a talk with your a senior personnel who isn’t in direct conflict of interests with you may help. When the feelings of helplessness overwhelm you and it feels quite useless to do anything about the situation, it’s important to speak to a career professional and seek their help on your future career advancement.

Recently, I had this experience myself, and my mentor told me about the “2-years rule” in career advancement. Staying in a role for more than 2 years makes you too comfortable to make anymore changes in your career. Hence, you may stagnate after that. Unless you’re involved in a dynamic role that provides challenges and problem-solving skills most of the time. 

Ideally, you should aim to be a jack-of-all-trades in your early years and then move on to be a specialist in your later years. Employers nowadays look for a diversity of skill sets instead of just someone who can do one job.

Job seekers who have dabbled in many other fields are an asset to the firm because of the wealth of knowledge they bring in as well as the adaptability that they’ve shown previous employers – especially if you have been in different industries before.

I wouldn’t have known this if I hadn’t taken the time to have a chat with someone more experienced than me, so don’t be afraid to talk to others!

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