What to Do When You Feel Fake at Work
Have you ever felt like you’re being fake at work? Keeping your head low, hiding out in the bathroom, wearing a fake smile?
It’s exhausting! But more importantly, it’s a sign that you need a change.
However, before we get to that, let’s take a closer look at what being fake at work really means:
- Your boss calls and asks you to tackle an interesting new project and your first response is to wonder how you can get out of it.
- You’re sitting in a meeting with your head down, pretending to take notes, but really just playing games on your computer.
- Your face hurts from pretending to smile and care about other people’s personal stories.
- You’re offered a big promotion, and instead of cheering, a voice inside your head starts shouting “Nooooo.”
- You spend time wondering how much severance you’d get if you were fired or laid off.
- You excuse yourself from office happy hours to “get back to work,” but the truth is that you’re going home to watch TV.
I don’t have to tell you about the toll this behavior can take on you mentally, emotionally, and even physically.
Trying to be something you’re not—in this case, happy at work—can cause all sorts of issues. You get tired. You get unmotivated. You get stressed. You get anxious. You get that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach. And eventually, your manager and co-workers will catch on.
The bottom line: Soldiering on with a pretend smile and the lie that “PowerPoint is my life!” (when it’s the number one thing you hate in the world) isn’t helping you, and it definitely isn’t helping your career.
So let’s talk options:
Stay at Your Job
If you stay at your job, you’ve got to resolve that fake feeling. And that entails making changes.
To get started, spend a week keeping a daily journal. At the end of each work day, record what you liked doing, what you didn’t like doing, and anything that really stressed you out.
At the end of the week take a look and bucket everything into one of these three categories:
1. Things You Hate
If there’s anything you can stop doing, pass off to another colleague, or just talk to your boss about shifting around, make a note of it and work to get it off your plate.
For the things that you must do (but you don’t like), is there any way to make them easier? Can you do them first thing before the day starts so they’re off your desk? Can you set a timer and have a race with yourself? Can you just plan on taking a few more breaks?
Get creative and brainstorm ideas—sometimes the tiniest change can make a huge difference.
2. Things You Enjoy
Now, look at this list. Can you take on any more work here, or offer to do more tasks similar to these? For example: If you like helping people learn the ropes, can you offer to do more company training?
Take a look and see what, if anything, you can add to the work that you already enjoy. Once you’ve got a few things in mind, set up time to talk to your boss about making it happen.
3. Things That Stress You Out
This bucket has things that might be interesting or could become fun if you just had more learning or help.
So cast a beady eye over this list and ask yourself, “Is there a company or free online class I can take to help me learn this skill?”
Or, “Can I talk to my boss about getting more help?”
Or even think about asking for an assist from a co-worker who might have more knowledge than you and could help you enjoy these tasks more.
Find a New Job
I know, this is a scary option!
But if you’ve already tackled option one and discovered that you absolutely hate everything on your plate, then staying at your job isn’t helping your company, and it especially isn’t helping you.
All you need to start job hunting is two hours a week. Use one hour to research and identify interesting jobs and companies, and use the other hour to reach out and connect with your network and let them know you’re looking for something new. It doesn’t have to be a huge deal, especially at first. Instead, just tackle it one piece at a time. When you’re ready to start applying, you can begin spending more time on the process.
And remember, the sooner you dedicate time to the job search, the sooner you might have a career that makes you smile—for real this time!
Regardless of which option you end up choosing, remember this: You deserve to have a job in which you can be yourself.