Are You In The Trough of Disillusionment?

Andy Porter Andy Porter, Audacious Ideas, Career Paths, Engagement and Satisfaction, HR

I have a confession to make… I actually learned something about HR from an IT guy!  Shocking, isn’t it?  I was recently chatting with Nate McBride (go check this guy out—he has some FOT potential) and he used a phrase I’d never heard before: the Trough of Disillusionment. Turns out in the geeked out IT world this means something (I had to look it up though), but Nate used it to describe a phase you might find yourself in as an employee.  How do you know if you or one of your co-workers is currently in the Trough?

  • You secretly dream of quitting your job—in the middle of a meeting.
  • You steal office supplies. Even though you don’t need them.
  • You do exactly what’s asked of you. And not one ounce more.
  • You complain about your job and “management.”  A lot.

Sound familiar? I bet it probably does.  At least a little bit.  Let’s face it, everyone finds themselves in a trough from time to time.  It’s a natural part of having to get up everyday and spend 8-10 hours (or more) doing work. Unless you really love work (I mean really love), you’ve been in the trough. As HR Pros, our job is to help people either a) see the early warning signs and avoid the trough altogether or b) help them get out of it quickly. Here are a few ideas on how to get out of the trough:

  1. Go interview for another job.  You might be completely justified that your job stinks. Maybe you should leave. But maybe you shouldn’t. One way to test your hypothesis is to find another job you’re interested in and go interview for it. You’ll either find out that you were spot on about your current company, in which case you should get the heck out of there. Or you might find out what you have isn’t all that bad after all.
  1. Find some people who seem happy at work and go find out what the fuss is all about. You know the people I’m talking about—the company cheerleaders, the people who seem to get all the plum assignments and the ones who are so damn happy all the time. Unless they’re completely crazy, there’s got to be a reason why there so happy, right? Maybe you just don’t see it and spending some time really understanding why these folks are so engaged might just do you some good.
  1. Do something crazy—at work. Next Monday you go to work and instead of filing your TPS reports or whatever the hell has you upset a) stop doing it, b) fix it or c) start doing work somewhere else in the company where you’re interested. This strategy might sound a bit risky, but I bet if there’s really some aspect of your job that’s so annoying someone else finds it just as annoying and is happy you chose one of these options.  You’re probably saying, “No way, I could NEVER do that.” Why not? You’re a full-grown adult. You can do whatever the hell you want!

If none of these steps work for you or you’re not willing to take them, my advice is to keep it to yourself. Because really, when you’re complaining all the time about how much things suck, people stop listening to you at best and avoid you altogether at worst—which just starts the trough all over again!