What to do when you feel stuck in your job: Microsoft HR Chief

  • It is not always advisable to quit your job, even during the Great Resignation.
  • Microsoft human resources manager Kathleen Hogan knows that not all employees feel fulfilled at work.
  • Hogan recommends thinking about the company’s mission and having an honest discussion with your boss.

Quitting an unsatisfying job isn’t always an option, even if the “big quit” is still in full swing. Nearly 4.4 million workers left their jobs in February this year, just missing the record of 4.5 million set in November 2021.

Not all workers want to take the financial risk of giving up a stable source of income, not knowing when they might find another job.

So it’s helpful to have tools to tweak your current role so that it’s (even slightly) more palatable.

Step 1: Think about how you contribute to the company’s mission

As Microsoft’s director of human resources, Kathleen Hogan hopes to give purpose to the more than 100,000 employees. Think of purpose as a feeling that you’re helping fulfill the company’s mission, or a compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning.

But Hogan knows all too well that not all employees feel this way all the time.

For those in this situation, Hogan told Business Insider she recommends “zooming out” to make sure you have the “bigger picture.”

Hogan said people often get “stuck” focusing on the tedious meeting they’re in right now. (It happens to him too, she says.)

But “when you zoom out and look at this incredible opportunity we have [at Microsoft] and the people you work with and the impact you really have,” she added, you might instead feel grateful and invigorated.

Hogan’s advice applies beyond Microsoft to most companies in all industries. It can be helpful to simply remember why you were brought to join your organization in the first place.

In fact, when you review your commitment to this mission, you may find that the source of your disengagement is something more easily addressable.

That’s what happened to Shannon Sullivan, senior vice president of talent and organization at


. Sullivan previously told Business Insider that she got frustrated in her role because she was engrossed in a bunch of tedious administrative processes — not because she didn’t like the hard work. Once she fixed them, Sullivan said, she began to feel more empowered.

Step 2: Have an honest conversation with your boss about your disengagement

You may take a step back and still feel uninspired. In that case, Hogan said, it might be time to have a chat with your manager, while you “do your own soul-searching about what really gives you joy, what gives you purpose.”

As daunting as it may be to initiate this discussion, your boss may be able to help you make a change, even if it just moves you to another role or team. Internal mobility (letting employees try out different positions within the organization) is a growing trend, especially at tech companies, largely because it helps retain top talent who might otherwise find a job in a other business.

Internal mobility is, ideally, a win-win. If you’re in a position that brings you joy and purpose, Hogan said, you’ll perform at your best, which, in turn, benefits the entire organization.

Consider that you might need a different type of manager

Some of the best employers, including


and LinkedIn, say they encourage employees to speak candidly with their managers when interviewing elsewhere.

Hogan said an employee’s ability to have that conversation is highly dependent on their relationship with their manager. Still, she says, if you think you can’t have a productive conversation with your manager about your level of engagement, you might want to seek out a manager who would be open to those honest discussions.

“I’m no cavalier” and advises people who are struggling at work to jump ship immediately, Hogan added.

But her own experience in people management taught her that managers play a key role in an employee’s work experience. A survey released earlier this year found that 82% of workers in the United States said they could potentially quit their job because of a bad manager. The survey also showed that most workers don’t think their managers are open and honest about promotions and salaries, which impacts their career advancement.

Hogan said it’s worth thinking about how you could change your job to be more satisfying. She said, “Life is too short to have a job that doesn’t give you purpose, meaning, and joy.”

This article was originally published in September 2019.

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