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Early this year, a Gallup poll revealed that 70 percent of workers think they currently hold their “ideal” job.

That doesn’t feel right. From the simple observation of my own community of friends, I’ve found that many are struggling to find work, some live in fear they may soon lose their jobs, and others are unhappy with the way their work lives are going. In my world, I would estimate that 50 percent are content with their jobs, and 50 percent are not.

These are not happy times in our economy, and when the economy is not happy, it is hard for individual workers to be happy. Jobs are eliminated more often, companies fail, and expansion plans are put on the back burner.

And when workers feel unappreciated, under-appreciated, or trapped in their jobs, their most common method of coping is to disengage from their work. That means the individual passion and energy are throttled, creating shock waves that affect a company’s bottom line in the form of lost productivity.

The Society for Human Resource Management recently estimated that so-called “disengaged” U.S. workers cost their companies an estimated $350 billion in lost productivity each year.

The simple solution is to change jobs. But when the unemployment rate is 12.3 percent (California’s current rate), there is not latitude to go looking for new jobs.

So workers keep their jobs, hobbling along and often making themselves depressed in the process. As their depression deepens, job performance is adversely affected.

But Bruce Katcher, a Massachusetts-based industrial/organizational psychologist, says that even if you can switch employers, you might be able to find comfort with another boss or another job within your current company.

“Ever notice how when professional athletes switch teams, they seem to get a new lease on life, and the performance often improves dramatically?” he asks. “If you feel you are not performing up to your capabilities, the problem may be your current employment situation, not you. A change of venue can have a major positive effect on performance.”

Katcher says it is often easier for workers to stay in jobs that no longer fit them than it is to find new jobs. Too often, he says, disgruntled workers don’t have clear goals. That causes paralysis and keeps them in unhappy positions. Still others need to do a simple written analysis of things they like and don’t like about their current positions.

He reasons that unless you have a clearly defined goal and know precisely what you like and don’t like about your current job, you’ll have difficulty mustering the initiative to go looking for another job.

But, he argues, this is a situation that shouldn’t be allowed to linger. The longer it does, the more harm it does to the employee and the employer.

“Life is short,” Katcher says. “There is no need for you to be unhappy in your current job. If you feel stuck, make up your mind today that you are going to change your situation.”

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