Business development · 4 September 2019

What to do if you’re stuck in a work rut

Dissatisfaction and disillusionment can affect even the most outwardly successful business leaders and managers. If your work mojo dries up when you’re at the top of a company, it can be damaging for your physical and mental health, your personal life, your team and the long-term viability of your business. 

Yet, lethargy and exhaustion are surprisingly common problems. Our recent research found that over 14% of Britain’s directors, executives and senior managers (aged 40+) reported they “very often felt…stuck in a rut for quite a period of time”, with a further 10%+ who persistently felt “very demotivated” (12%), “low energy” (11%), “unfulfilled” (13%); and/or “trapped here” (13%).

SMEs are generally ‘happier’ places to work

The good news is that people working in small businesses are far more fulfilled and consistently happier than in medium and large-sized businesses.

The bad news is that business owners are notably more likely to fall into a malaise, with nearly 30% saying they are very demotivated often or all the time.

As members of the sandwich generation, many proprietors and executives in the 40+ age bracket are squeezed on three fronts:

1. Running a business (with responsibility for a team)

2. Caring for children

3. Having elderly parents who need increasing levels of care.

If you are the proprietor dealing with your own work misery, the stress can be significant. Furthermore, if you have a senior team member who is unhappy and demotivated at work, the ramifications will be felt by the entire team.

Poor leadership undermines morale

This will lead to employee disengagement and attrition. Worse than simply a lack of motivation it can put you on the downward spiral to serious mental health challenges. Here are some strategies that will help you bust the work rut:

What to do to if you have a key manager who’s stuck in a rut

When a senior staff member is stuck in a work rut it can have serious ramifications for the entire team.

Rather than focusing on short-term quick boosts, longer-term initiatives that work to keep senior managers engaged, pay huge dividends.

Motivation and engagement should be underpinned by continued support in order to achieve maximum wellbeing – just as physical wellbeing and fitness are only achieved through regular and consistent engagement in exercise.

Creating the right culture is the starting point: openness and vulnerability from the top down are vital.

Many managers who have moved up the ranks are unwilling to let their bosses see weakness, fearing it may be the end of their careers.

By giving your managers room to express their concerns you will be able to address them head-on.

Enlightened firms like insurance giant Aviva, for instance, offers mid-life MOTs to all workers aged 45+ with three key aims: Review wealth, work and wellbeing at the mid-point in their lives; Reposition towards a longer working life, and Retain the talent held by this growing population.

Overcome the ‘fear factor’

Bill Gates famously said, “everyone needs a coach… we all need people that give us feedback, that’s how we improve”.

Coaching/mentoring for every member of the team provides critical support, often simply listening to the individual’s personal as well as professional concerns and flagging up issues before they become problems.

Coaching is good for all members of a team

And for those senior members of staff who would benefit from a career move, helping them identify their transferable skills and other opportunities is both good for the individual and the company. After all, we only have one life – it goes very fast and it is better to move on to something else rather than be stuck in a rut.

What to do if you are a business owner stuck in a rut

unfair business contracts
Here are the ways you can climb out of your own work rut.

Being a business owner can be a lonely place. You feel unable to show any vulnerability or fear for the future – this is your business dream and you need to make it work.

Speaking with someone who has no agenda can be a lifesaver, giving you the space to think clearly.

Returning to the job market may not seem achievable, it could mean the end of your business and you may be concerned you no longer have the relevant skillset needed in the job market.

Taking the time to assess the skills you had before you launched your business and those that you have learned during your time as an entrepreneur build your confidence and how you how your skills can be used elsewhere.

If you are brave enough you could simply step back and look at what you really want out of life. What would you like to achieve in the next phase of your life?

Allow yourself to become excited again by starting something new and different, something that fits more with who you are now.

It is important to remember that we all experience career highs and lows. If you are stuck in a career rut, acknowledging the problem will be your first step out of it. Only by tackling work misery head-on can we prevent serious mental health issues from arising.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Kedge started her career working for the UK’s first public affairs consultancy and researching for an MEP in the mid ’80s. Realising that that environment didn’t really correlate with her values, combined with a burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit, she decided to leave the UK just as the late ’80s recession hit to set up a launderette and dry cleaning business in newly liberated Poland. Returning to the UK in the late ’90s and driven by a desire to ‘make a difference’, she transferred to the not-for-profit world, leading WellChild – the UK’s leading charity for sick children – and Sentebale – Prince Harry’s charity for African orphans. Kedge co-founded Longbow (providing leadership and succession planning for family offices) in 2016 and Youngbow, supporting children and young adults both in education and their early careers in 2017. Rutbusters came about to meet the need of her fellow quinquagenarians, the sandwich generation and older baby boomers who want to make the most of the fact that we are living longer and need to find engaging work and other activities in our fifth, sixth and seventh decade and beyond.

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