Mindless Work Killing Your Soul? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I hate my job. I am just bored to tears. When I completed graduate school, I was recruited into what I thought was the perfect job for me—the job description was exactly what I was looking for. A year later, I am doing a ton of mindless administrative work and almost none of what was in the original job description.

I have tried to speak to my boss about this, but she says I need to pay my dues and that she will consider me for the next project that would suit my skills. In the meantime, my peers keep dumping their admin work on me.

I dread going to work. I have stopped going to the gym and I fear I am sliding into full-on depression, which I have a history with. It scares me. I would quit, but of course I have crushing student debt now. What do you think?

Bored to Tears, Maybe to Death

Dear Bored to Tears, Maybe to Death,

This is a terrible situation and I am so sorry. It must be really demoralizing to spend the money and make the big effort to complete an advanced educational program and then find yourself in a job that is killing your soul.

It sounds as if you are in a very bad way. Depression is no joke. I highly recommend that you find a therapist right now, I mean right this minute, to talk to and get some perspective. Given the details you provided, I suspect your company has an Employee Assistance Program and that you can probably get six sessions with a therapist. It will be totally private and will get you back on an even keel, back in the gym, and able to think straight. Exercise has been proven to be an excellent hedge against anxiety and depression, so get moving.

Once you have stopped the downward spiral, you will need to start an upward spiral. I hate to say it, but this probably involves looking for a new job. You may be able to make a go of it where you are now, but you would need to set a whole lot of boundaries and train everyone around you to see you in a new way.

Unfortunately, your boss and your peers have been getting away with treating you unfairly. I really don’t want to be mean, but people will continue unacceptable behavior as long as you allow it—and you have allowed it. Unless there was an upfront disclosure about having to pay dues with tasks that were not in your original job description, you seem to be the victim of some kind of bait-and-switch situation.

You didn’t say anything about salary, but I suspect they are underpaying you as well. And they will keep doing it as long as you put up with it. You may choose to have the hard conversation with your boss about how she needs to either upgrade all of your work assignments—now—or risk losing you. That conversation will go a whole lot better if you feel safe to leave, meaning you have another option.

The good news is that you have a graduate degree and a year’s worth of work experience under your belt. I think it is worth the push to brush up your resume and try hard to start over with a new organization and a new boss—who won’t take advantage of you because you won’t let them.

Get into action. In this order:

  1. Get immediate help. Talk to a therapist, talk to friends, go to the gym.
  2. Once stable, start applying for other jobs.
  3. Use the new job possibility as leverage to fix your current situation; or simply walk away from people who do not have your back and go toward people who do.

It is really hard to stand up for yourself, Bored TTMTD, so you are going to need a lot of support. You are going to want to nurture your inner warrior. You might consider looking at Amy Cuddy’s work—her book is Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. The validity of some of her research has been challenged, but that does not diminish the power of her experience and work helping people who feel powerless to rise to a difficult occasion.

I am glad you wrote. I am sorry you are in such a rough spot. Get help. Now.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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