Unhappy At Work? Try Redefining Your Job Description

There are times in life when you may question what you’re doing and where your career is going.

Especially in law, the environment can be especially cutthroat, stressful, and challenging. Other lawyers or law firm personalities grate on your nerves. And, the pressure of billable hours—among other responsibilities—begin to take their toll.

In the current economy, however, quitting your job is not always the best or easiest solution.

“Job searching and changing jobs is not a trivial matter. It is often costly to career momentum and earnings as much as it is a boon,” explains Amy Wrzesniewski, an associate professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management and coauthor of Turn the Job You Have into the Job You Want, to the HBR Blog.

Instead of pining after options and attending countless, fruitless job interviews, why not—instead—amend your current job description?

Just because you are a first-year, second, or senior attorney, it does not mean you can’t change your day-to-day operations and responsibilities in the office.

“There are often real areas for movement and change that people tend not to recognize,” continues Wrzesniewski.

For example, many professionals are dissatisfied with their job when it holds no meaning or purpose. Jobs that provide little opportunity to learn or leave a person depleted at the end of the workday also increase unhappiness, according to Amy Wrzesniewski, an associate professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management and coauthor of Turn the Job You Have into the Job You Want.

As a mid-level or senior attorney, perhaps you’ve reached a point where there’s limited learning opportunities in your position. So, if work has become routine or unfulfilling, try picking up probono cases.

Or, find a younger associate and become a mentor.

The added stimulation of training another associate or the satisfaction in taking charity case work will lead to higher satisfaction with your current position, in general.

“Stronger emotional connections at work lead to a myriad of positive physiological and social effects,” explains Sigal Barsade, the Joseph Frank Bernstein Professor of Management at The Wharton School, to the HBR Blog.

These emotional connections also depend on your interpersonal relationships. If you can’t change the nature of your work, try to change the people with whom you work.

For example, maybe you’re sick of the micromanaging antics of your current supervisor. If so, find out if you can work with another senior partner or attorney in the office. Volunteer for cases that will steer you toward a different professional team.

Make a friend and get invested on a personal level with a colleague. Transforming an officemate into a friend can lead to much-appreciated breaks from the billable-hour grind at midnight on a Wednesday.

Finally, if you are a law firm manager, recognize signs of discontent among your ranks.

Has anybody put on a lot of weight recently? Have you noticed rumpled attire—wrinkled coats, shirts, and ties—on the part of an associate? Has there been increased complaining, gossip, or short tempers at the office?

If the answer is yes to any one of the above questions, your office may be suffering from low morale.

To combat the summertime blues, consider approving department transfer requests, switching up traditional case teams and experts, taking on a few bleeding-heart probono cases, or approving multiple vacation days.

As long as opportunities for change remain open at your firm, employees will find ways to be happy there.

-WB

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