Mental emigration

In my roles as personal coach and team coach, people often tell me that they’re in a job they longer want to be in. But even though they’re not enjoying life at their workplace, they’re not doing anything to change the situation. Let’s face it, it’s hardly the ideal economic situation at the moment to change jobs, they don’t know what kind of job they do want, their terms of employment are gilt-edged chains, discouraging them from moving, etc. If you ask me, these are all just excuses for not doing anything to change the situation, and the end result is that they become even less committed to their work. Their physical bodies are making the journey to the workplace every work day, but mentally they have already emigrated. With all the consequences that you can imagine.

Impact on your team

The effects of mental emigration can be observed in three areas. First of all, in the results of the team they’re a member of. Reduced attention and motivation for the work itself leads to less involvement with daily tasks. Mistakes are made more easily, work is put off, and the quality of the work that does get done deteriorates. At the same time, more complaints are made about new developments and the workload, which impacts the motivation of direct colleagues. So what happens is that either the dissatisfaction spreads across the team, or the person complaining becomes isolated, just intensifying his or her discontent. The customers (both internal and external) and direct colleagues are the ones to suffer. This is clearly an undesirable and unacceptable state of affairs. To what degree can you identify with this situation and are you aware of the impact it is having?

Impact on your social environment

Secondly, mental emigration has an impact on the social environment. Both at home and with good friends, the dissatisfaction at the workplace becomes a constantly recurring topic of conversation. It is obvious that you’d like to do something else. In the beginning, the discontent is met with understanding and compassion. After all, we all want work that we consider to be meaningful and where we feel good about ourselves (and we want the same for others too). But when complaining about our situation ultimately transforms into a daily ritual, it becomes irritating for others. And people just will not understand why you persist in thinking that way without taking any action to change the situation. And let’s be honest here, what do people get more energy from – engaging in conversation with someone who nags and complains about his work every day, or talking with someone who is enthusiastic and who enjoys what they do? So, before you start pouring out all your dissatisfaction on other people, ask yourself what kind of relationship you want to have with your loved ones at home and with your friends.

Impact on yourself

Thirdly, the mental emigration has an impact on yourself. The discrepancy between how you feel and how you want to feel increases. You now know exactly what you don’t want any more, and why you want another job. But do you know what you do want? Most people, when they’re confronted with this question, find this a much tougher one to answer. And they start blaming themselves for not taking action. It’s as though they’re suffering more and more from the number one national disease: the ‘if-only-I-had syndrome’. And when you combine this with the reactions of people in your immediate environment not understanding your situation, stress is the result. The mental downward spiral has been initiated; the process of mental emigration is in full flow. Are you going to give into this or are you going to take action?

What’s your mindset?

I’m not going to say it’s easy to turn the situation around – to ‘simply’ choose to start adopting a new mindset and act accordingly. But what I am saying is that turning the situation around is a real possibility. And this process begins with wanting to, imagining and believing that things can be different. And based on this mindset, you can then engage in conversation with others, draw up a plan, and choose to execute this plan. And then you will need to act, persevere (because you’re sure to come up against adversity along the way, but that’s all part of the process) and celebrate the results (including those tiny steps of progress) that you achieve. And you can choose to celebrate on your own or with others, as long as you celebrate that you’re setting things in motion. Would you like to know more about these steps? Then read the article ‘The spiral of creation, the natural path from wish to reality’.


Here are a few tips to help you in your quest for a new work environment

  • Don’t start looking for a new job just yet, but look for the key features you want the new job and new environment to have. The more insights you get into these features, the better you’ll be able to work out what type of job and employer goes with them.
  • You can gain insights into these features by making a list of what you like and don’t like about your current job. Read different job advertisements and see which of the specified features appeal to you and which do not. You can also ask your family, friends, colleagues and ex-colleagues what they think of you and which features they think are important for you in a new work environment and which are not. Supplement your list with these insights: what picture is evolving, what types of functions and which work environments match this picture?
  • If you’ve done an assessment in the past and you still have access to the report, read it through again and discuss it with other people. Or take the time to do a test like Insights, MBTI, Management Drives etc., or try a few of the many free tests on internet. What have you learned about yourself? What do you need to take into account when you think about the new job and work environment?
  • Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date, and start applying for jobs. Not immediately with the employers you would really like to work for, but with companies you find interesting and that are active in the sectors that appeal to you. By doing this, you will not only start feeling good about yourself, it will also help you fine-tune your profile, your letter and your interview skills.
  • Dare to stand out above the crowd. Instead of sending off a letter in response to a job advertisement, what’s stopping you from writing an open letter? Or have you ever thought of making a short video film about yourself and submitting that instead of the standard letter? And what would happen if you dropped in to the company and tried to arrange a personal interview on the spot?
  • Let your friends, colleagues, family, etc. know that you’re looking for a new challenge. By telling them in positive terms what you’re looking for, it gives others the chance to think along with you. A ‘warm’ introduction to a new employer is far more effective than a ‘cold’ start.

What are your plans?

And finally, here’s a question for you to consider: are you going to continue in your mentally emigrated state or are you going to make a decision and start moving? No-one else can take that decision for you. And if you’ve been reading this article, and thinking: ‘it’s easy for you to say, but this won’t work for me’ then ponder on this Russian saying: ‘People who want to, see opportunities; people who don’t want to, have excuses!’

Make plans, pack your bags, and start your journey…

The Connection Quotient

This article is based on a chapter from the book The Connection Quotient. This book introduces a new workplace culture where organizations and teams can approach the personal and professional through a more transparent and inclusive style. You’ll get practical insights, proven theories, business examples, personal experiences and challenging exercises to enable an honest, courageous and humane interconnection to form while still focusing on financial outcome and result – developing these relations to improve the business networks they serve. You can order your own copy at Amazon.

The Connection Quotient

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