Author Topic: Totally stuck at work  (Read 10357 times)

windawake

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 435
  • Age: 31
  • Location: Minneapolis, MN
Totally stuck at work
« on: June 26, 2014, 01:07:14 PM »
I've been in my current job for about 7 months and I continue to feel more unhappy about the situation. I'm chronically underworked and have done everything I can think of to increase my workload. I've found projects I thought would be useful and suggested them, I've had honest conversations with my supervisor and director about how underwhelmed I am, and I've talked to other colleagues directly to help them with things. Unfortunately, this has only resulted in my supervisor giving me mind-numbingly boring projects that no one ever looks at after I complete them. My more meaningful projects stall because of lack of support from other members of the organization and lack of commitment to the projects from leadership.

I've been searching for other jobs regularly, but haven't had a lot of success finding jobs in my field. I requested being able to work from home one day a week which was denied. I only have about 2 hours of actual work per day and it's seriously crushing my soul to pretend to be busy for so long. I take long lunches and leave early, but I feel like eventually I'll be called out for doing even that. I feel like I have no power and no autonomy at work and don't know what to do.

Anyone have advice to offer? I'm at the point where I seriously consider quitting with no job lined up, but I know that's a bad call.


shotgunwilly

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 547
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2014, 01:31:50 PM »
I've been in that exact situation.  It's torture having to sit in an office till a certain time with nothing to do.  I'd actually rather be digging ditches. (No lie, I enjoyed this more.)

But, don't quit yet.  Not having a job makes it twice as hard to get another one. (I've been in this situation as well.)  Suck it up, and continue searching for another job.  Eventually you will find another place to work, or you will gain more responsibility at your current work. (You have only been there 7 months.)

PloddingInsight

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 308
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2014, 01:41:55 PM »
Can you use your free time to develop a skill that will help your career in the future?

Emilyngh

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 892
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2014, 01:44:04 PM »
I've been in my current job for about 7 months and I continue to feel more unhappy about the situation. I'm chronically underworked and have done everything I can think of to increase my workload. I've found projects I thought would be useful and suggested them, I've had honest conversations with my supervisor and director about how underwhelmed I am, and I've talked to other colleagues directly to help them with things. Unfortunately, this has only resulted in my supervisor giving me mind-numbingly boring projects that no one ever looks at after I complete them. My more meaningful projects stall because of lack of support from other members of the organization and lack of commitment to the projects from leadership.

I've been searching for other jobs regularly, but haven't had a lot of success finding jobs in my field. I requested being able to work from home one day a week which was denied. I only have about 2 hours of actual work per day and it's seriously crushing my soul to pretend to be busy for so long. I take long lunches and leave early, but I feel like eventually I'll be called out for doing even that. I feel like I have no power and no autonomy at work and don't know what to do.

Anyone have advice to offer? I'm at the point where I seriously consider quitting with no job lined up, but I know that's a bad call.

I understand how soul crushing it can be, but the only advice I have is coming up with personal projects that you can work on at work without it being distracting to others.   At the very least, if possible, try to do your stupid little life things at work like: pay bills, make your grocery lists, make lists of goals and plans, research anything you're going to buy online, etc.   Some may not find it ethical, but if you aren't really costing them more money and it isn't interfering with your duties, I think it's better than being bored.

Grant Q

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 26
  • Location: Houston, TX
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2014, 03:54:37 PM »
Do you have any ambitions to start a business at some point?  I would write a business plan.

Missk

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 19
  • Location: Washington
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2014, 04:08:25 PM »
Can you use your free time to develop a skill that will help your career in the future?

I recommend to develop skills as well. Join Toastmasters to network and improve your leadership and speaking skills. Join the local Rotary. These are inexpensive and invaluable ways to boost your career.

mozar

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3007
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2014, 04:52:02 PM »
Do you like the work when you do get it? Are people nice to you? If so I say stick it out until you can find a better job. I work for the federal government and it can literally be a year before they realize you are there and should give you some work. It takes a month just to get a computer. It's also good to stay somewhere at least 18 months to say you "got the most" from it. I'm in the same situation and I think its better to not complain to anybody about it and do a good job at the work you do get. I recently sat and did nothing for a month and then my co-worker had left early and I needed to get one of her projects done within 45 minutes. Now I am being sought out for similar projects and I have slightly more work to do.
It sucks but a lot of companies are poorly managed, but I think its best to put on a (fake) smile, do good work, and take your time finding a job that fits better. I also take lots of walks. There is a nice grove about 2/3 a mile from my office where I take naps and read blogs. It looks bad to my managers when I look bored at my desk, but if I am away from my desk they assume I am doing something important.
Unfortunately if you complain about it, bad managers start to think you're the problem

Thegoblinchief

  • Guest
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2014, 05:02:37 PM »
If you have outside Internet access and a reasonably private workspace, learn, learn, learn!

Mrs. Frugalwoods

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 354
  • Location: Vermont
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2014, 07:57:27 PM »
If you have outside Internet access and a reasonably private workspace, learn, learn, learn!
+1. Enjoy the paycheck and be glad for the extra time to explore/research other opportunities and interests. I know it's tough when you greatly dislike your job--I certainly felt this way about my last position. However, if you can use the time productively to other ends, go for it! Good luck!

Christiana

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 173
    • Zatera Ul
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2014, 08:20:48 PM »
My more meaningful projects stall because of lack of support from other members of the organization and lack of commitment to the projects from leadership.

This sentence stuck out to me.  I see two general approaches to this problem:  1.  Work on building your support network within the organization, or 2.  Build up your own skills and resources so that you can keep your pet projects going yourself, self-sufficiently.  I'd pick one or two stalled projects to revive, and spend my slack time working on those.  If nothing else, you can use them in a portfolio of your work, when you narrow in on the next job.

windawake

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 435
  • Age: 31
  • Location: Minneapolis, MN
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2014, 09:06:10 PM »
Nobody is looking over my shoulder at work, so I'm able to work on my own things, and I do take lots of breaks. I know some guys at the bike shop across the street and today they told me I'm welcome to come hang out more frequently and learn about fixing up bikes, which sounds pretty fun. I'm just worried that eventually my supervisor will realize that the reason I'm away from my desk is that I'm doing non-work related stuff and will become more strict. I leave 30-60 minutes early pretty regularly as well.

I would really like to start a consulting business. I just got in contact today with the mentor I had in graduate school to get more ideas about how to start. My degree is a master's degree in public health, specifically community health promotion. I don't have a lot of skills around this yet so I'd like to try to find some consulting work that I can do for low-cost or free to build a portfolio. Then, ideally, I could consult on developing, implementing, and evaluation health promotion and wellness programs. Anyone have any advice on this front?

My more meaningful projects stall because of lack of support from other members of the organization and lack of commitment to the projects from leadership.

This sentence stuck out to me.  I see two general approaches to this problem:  1.  Work on building your support network within the organization, or 2.  Build up your own skills and resources so that you can keep your pet projects going yourself, self-sufficiently.  I'd pick one or two stalled projects to revive, and spend my slack time working on those.  If nothing else, you can use them in a portfolio of your work, when you narrow in on the next job.

The issue with my projects is that I don't have clear guidelines for what they want me to do, and when I come up with specific strategies for meeting goals I'm often shot down. I've taken to not suggesting projects anymore because they are not receptive at all to this, and I've actually gotten in trouble for pursuing what I thought were legitimate projects without fully consulting my supervisor first. They won't give me work to do, they don't like it if I do work without getting their consent, and they won't give their consent if I ask. It's ridiculous.


windawake

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 435
  • Age: 31
  • Location: Minneapolis, MN
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2014, 09:12:02 PM »
Another thing I've been considering is whether I should ask for a reduction in hours. I have so little to do (1-2 hours of work outside of meetings on a good day), that I could easily do it in 60-80% of the time. The time I'd be at work would be fuller and I'd have 1-2 days a week to focus on starting a consulting business, finding a part-time side gig, or whatever I damn well please. This actually sounds ideal to me, but the concern is that they would be put off by me requesting to work less and would let me go. I also have no concept of whether this is even feasible. I might set up a meeting with HR in the next week or so to discuss whether this has been done before.

I wish I was the kind of person who could happily waste away the day, but I get so incredibly frustrated by the inconsistent policies, lack of support, and mind-numbing boredom that I can't focus on enjoying the free time. I also get resentful that I'm wasting time online when I'd so much rather be cooking, hanging with my dog, or biking around. They'd get the same amount of work out of me if I was there 3 days a week vs. 5, and I'm really struggling with the amount of my life that's getting wasted with no reward of learning, success, or fulfillment.

PS. Sorry for the rant.

Chrissy

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 947
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Chicago
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2014, 10:55:06 PM »
For whatever reason, this company is paying for your time, not your work.  In my industry, we call this, "Paid to wait".  I don't agree with the inefficiency of it, but some companies want a person available, even if they don't have full-time work to offer.  That's okay; jobs owe you money, not fulfillment. 

I once took a job, and on my first day, the boss said, "The hardest part for you is going to be learning to back off."  You've got to adapt to your workplace culture; you've got to back off.  It's okay if this company can't use you, because, with a slight adjustment to your thinking, you can use them.

You don't have to "waste away the day".  You say, instead of sitting at work with nothing to do, you'd rather use that time to start your own consulting business, and look for another job.  Can't you do these things AT WORK?  A lot of certifications can be done online, too.  Wanna learn a foreign language?  Duolingo!  According to you, they're not monitoring you very closely.  You could be getting paid to do what you want!!! 

If they decide this is a problem, and fire you, why would you care?  You want to quit anyway.

This is a golden opportunity.  Don't squander it.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2014, 10:58:50 PM by Chrissy »

BigBigote

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 43
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2014, 11:11:40 PM »
You could try taking a Coursera or EdX course (or 2 or 3 with all the time you have at work!) for free and maybe the class would look good on your resume for future consulting work you want to get into?

Balance

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 47
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2014, 11:17:33 PM »
I worked for the federal government through college. Then when I graduated I worked at a CPA office.  In both settings I learned my job very quickly and finished everything within a couple hours of starting the day.  I guess I just found ways to be really efficient at what I did. For the Federal gig I ended up being ambitious and telling them I finished all my work. They then gave me different jobs in other departments.  I ended up getting quarterly bonuses but after taxes it wasn't worth the effort.  At the CPA job even when I asked for more work sometimes they didn't have any since work was cyclical. I would just end up answering phones and reading stuff online.  In both settings it was dreadful and I felt guilty even though I was forthcoming about the lack of work. I would try to talk to your superiors about your situation or find something that challenges you otherwise you will continue to be in misery.

taekvideo

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 264
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #15 on: June 26, 2014, 11:35:54 PM »
I had a job like that the whole time I was in college... spent the time doing homework or getting my forum trolling in for the day ^^

vagon

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 238
  • Location: Sydney
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #16 on: June 26, 2014, 11:41:23 PM »
You could try taking a Coursera or EdX course (or 2 or 3 with all the time you have at work!) for free and maybe the class would look good on your resume for future consulting work you want to get into?

+1

You're getting paid to do what you want within certain bounds, realise that and exploit it.

Burgis81

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 13
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #17 on: June 27, 2014, 01:04:57 AM »
If you have outside Internet access and a reasonably private workspace, learn, learn, learn!

+ 1
amazing opportunity

windawake

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 435
  • Age: 31
  • Location: Minneapolis, MN
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #18 on: June 27, 2014, 07:14:59 AM »
Thanks guys for all this feedback. I agree that this is an interesting opportunity for personal growth. The trouble I have is feeling guilty as hell for looking for/applying for other jobs while at work. Since I do work in a cubicle where people are often walking by, I also feel compelled to look busy even though I never am. Maybe I need to get over this and just decide not to feel bad or guilty about using the free time as I so choose? When I'm applying for a job I'll reserve a conference room to myself to be less conspicuous.

I have been job searching but honestly don't want to make an entirely lateral move. I don't want to leave this crappy job for another job that's maybe slightly better. That's why my application rate is low right now, I'm being very deliberate about what I apply for. Maybe I should apply for more jobs even if they're not a perfect fit or slightly a reach for my experience so far.

I really hope I can find some consulting work which would give me something to work on at my day job. The fear for most of these things, though, is getting fired.

neo von retorch

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3371
  • Location: SE PA
    • Fi@retorch - personal finance tracking
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #19 on: June 27, 2014, 08:04:12 AM »
The problem I have with so many jobs is that they pay you for "the time you're on your chair."

My question for you is "how do you provide value to your company?" The answer might be something like an "on-call" position, where often you are not needed, but when you are needed, it's important that you're there. Or maybe you write valuable copy or complete specific tasks that the company needs to continue running smoothly.

What's interesting about just about any answer to this question is that "the time you spend" is not actually what creates value, but rather whatever it is you produce. So it's irrelevant how you get to that end, and irrelevant what else you do with your time if you can't create additional value for the company (despite your best efforts, since they actively thwart them!)

Christiana

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 173
    • Zatera Ul
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #20 on: June 27, 2014, 08:32:20 AM »
Planning, plotting, and scheming can all be done within your own thinker, and out of sight of the boss. 

Trudie

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1670
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #21 on: June 27, 2014, 08:40:37 AM »
My advice is:  stay on the job and take advantage of the opportunity to learn.

My job is very cyclical.  The first two weeks of a month are busy, then they slow down.  I am in a profession where I am required to get continuing education (CPA) so I use these downtimes to read, take CPE, and otherwise engage in topics that are useful to my profession but also my personal future.

You can take a broad view, but I would be wary of being away from your desk or disappearing across the street for too long.  Appearances do matter.  At least if you're at your desk they can't say you weren't available when they needed you.

Realize that sometimes you are paid just to be there and be available.  Yes, it's not very efficient, but that's the reality of some jobs.  I can be a busy-body and so it bothers me when I have downtime, but learn to use it to your advantage.

windawake

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 435
  • Age: 31
  • Location: Minneapolis, MN
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #22 on: June 27, 2014, 09:42:36 AM »
Thanks for the additional advice and support everyone, you guys rock.

I just want to clarify that while I am being paid to be at my desk, there is not actually any reason for me to be there. Nobody ever comes over to ask me about work-related items, I don't do work that's time-sensitive, and very rarely are meetings set up day-of. I usually do have quite a few meetings per day, but on days where my schedule is clear I don't really have anything to do. The work is a little cyclical, in that we should be doing certain things at the end of every quarter which hasn't happened yet this year, but will at the end of Q3 and Q4. However, my supervisor's other direct report and I are both on this work which does not require two full-time people, and barely requires one.

frugaliknowit

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1671
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #23 on: June 27, 2014, 11:28:46 AM »
Don't feel bad about paid to wait.  Screw them.  Build skills and look for other work on "their watch".  That's what I do.

zolotiyeruki

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3265
  • Location: State: Denial
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #24 on: June 27, 2014, 11:37:51 AM »
windawake, your description matches my previous job to a T.  I hated how idle I was, even though I was paid 6 figures by the time I left.  It was so bad, that even though I *despise* meetings, they were a welcome relief from the boredom.  I will just echo the advice given by others:

In the immortal words of my brother, "Invest in yourself!"

--As silly as it sounds, stay at work for the expected hours.  If your workplace is ok with it, you might consider going to work a couple hours earlier than everyone else, work on personal stuff for those two hours, and leave two hours earlier.  That way you still "put in the hours" but are idle less, and you free up valuable time in the afternoon/evening for family or personal time.
--Make sure you keep completely on top of your current responsibilities.
--Make sure your management know that you are willing and able to take on work.  Don't give up on that.
--Take the time to gain knowledge and skills that could translate well to your current job, or another job.  I learned a lot about (and completed a lot of) embedded programming and circuit board design in my many idle hours.
--Work on personal projects.

As long as you are meeting or exceeding your job requirements, and your bosses are aware that you are ready to take on more work, I don't see a moral issue with using your otherwise-idle time for personal stuff.  Be careful, though, if your employment contract includes a clause that says "anything you do at work belongs to us."

spruce

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 62
  • Age: 32
  • Location: southeast
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #25 on: June 27, 2014, 12:31:16 PM »
I hear you, as I'm now in my second job that is like that. I've been wondering if it's a generational gap - older folks are content with spending eight hours a day on whatever they're working on, while us younger folks would rather do the work in whatever time it takes to finish it and then get out of there and live our lives! Fortunately my job has flexible schedules, so I can take a half hour lunch, come in early, and leave early. I've been considering switching to a 4/10 schedule just so I have that extra day at home to fulfill my quality-of-life needs. 

I echo what everyone else has been saying about using the time for learning, personal stuff, and other things for your benefit, but definitely don't leave work early or take long lunches, no matter how bored you are.  You don't want to give them a reason to fire you. Find ways to make it work better for you - shift your schedule, pick up some personal projects, look busy while you're there, and then go home.  You might find a better job or this one might get better, but don't turn into a slacker and ruin the chances of having a good reference down the line!

fallstoclimb

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1084
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #26 on: June 27, 2014, 12:45:52 PM »
1 - DONT feel guilty applying to other jobs at work.  I've been underutilized at a previous job and spent the time applying to other jobs.  It never even occurred to me to feel guilty, why would you?  What do you owe them?  The only thing to feel guilty about is if you are shirking responsibilities and making your coworkers pick up your slack, which you are not.  You are an adult.  You don't need permission.  If you slack off too much they will talk to you or fire you, which is their perogative (and, it sounds like they won't).  That's the consequence.  Guilt doesn't really belong in the formula.  I understand feeling like you are letting YOURSELF down by slacking at work, but there's nothing to do, and I don't see how you are letting yourself down by applying to jobs.  Stay away from automatic thoughts, especially guilt, it'll lead to a tough life.

2 - Don't judge jobs based on their job description.  Most jobs actually do want their employees working.  It might be boring work, but that's also just kind of par for the course for the beginning part of your career.  Apply to all jobs that interest you, and judge them in the interview.  It's good practice anyway. 

I would really like to start a consulting business. I just got in contact today with the mentor I had in graduate school to get more ideas about how to start. My degree is a master's degree in public health, specifically community health promotion. I don't have a lot of skills around this yet so I'd like to try to find some consulting work that I can do for low-cost or free to build a portfolio. Then, ideally, I could consult on developing, implementing, and evaluation health promotion and wellness programs. Anyone have any advice on this front?


I'm in public health as well.   It's unlikely that anyone will hire you as an independent consultant before you have some on the ground experience, but definitely still see what your mentor has to say.  I think your best bet is to get involved in the non-profit community in your city -- in my (troubled) city, these worlds are run by ambitious thirtysomethings who mostly all know each other.  There's lots of small projects run jointly by the nonprofits, the local universities and city health planners.  Volunteering with these kind of organizations will greatly help you develop your skills and start networking to get you another job. This is one way in which your job is a blessing, because the lack of work will leave you with energy to get involved in this type of work, compared to a job where you are overworked, stressed, and exhausted all the time.

Lastly:  people have mentioned coursera.  Johns Hopkins has a great data scientists course on there.  It's ~9 classes and is relevant to your career.  You could probably even get your supervisor's blessing to do it at work, given that they know you don't have enough to do.  I assume you need biostatistics to evaluate community health programs, and I can speak from experience, if you don't use what you learned in school you start to lose it.  Plus, this teaches you how to use R, which is free, which would be a boon to you if you ever do independent consulting.

NewStachian

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 218
  • Age: 36
  • Location: DC
    • VarsityFinances
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #27 on: June 27, 2014, 01:39:13 PM »
If you have outside Internet access and a reasonably private workspace, learn, learn, learn!

If you're fulfilling your requirements for the job I don't see any reason why you shouldn't take advantage of developing other skills for yourself. There's a ton of stuff you can easily learn with internet access. I'm a programmer and while I generally stay pretty busy, I will take some time for myself to go learn a new programming language even though it might not completely apply to my job right now.

Fishingmn

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 334
  • Location: Twin Cities
  • You never have to recover from a good start
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #28 on: June 27, 2014, 02:11:32 PM »
Maybe you should get a dog to make your life more meaningful when you are away from work?

windawake

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 435
  • Age: 31
  • Location: Minneapolis, MN
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #29 on: June 27, 2014, 02:19:56 PM »
Maybe you should get a dog to make your life more meaningful when you are away from work?

Hi Dad. Did you forget about your grandpuppy?

Fishingmn

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 334
  • Location: Twin Cities
  • You never have to recover from a good start
Re: Totally stuck at work
« Reply #30 on: June 27, 2014, 02:48:06 PM »
Maybe you should get a dog to make your life more meaningful when you are away from work?

Hi Dad. Did you forget about your grandpuppy?

Hi - just trying to make inside joke that confuses everyone else :)