The Workologist: When Small Steps Can Change Your Life


Send your workplace conundrums to, including your name and contact information (even if you want it withheld). The Workologist is a guy with well-intentioned opinions, not a professional career adviser. Letters may be edited.

Recently you advised a reader who has eight years to go until retirement and is trying to decide whether to stick with an unhappy job or look for something new. (“Is a Late-Career Change Worth It?,” March 3, 2018.)

I wish you had offered the thought that first this person should petition for less travel (since travel seemed to be the main source of dissatisfaction). I find many teams are willing to work around an individual collaborator’s inability to travel a lot. This could encourage the worker to consider options within the current company, which might prove beneficial.


Your reader who is eight years from retirement and hates her job might do well to look into what is often called “job crafting.” Perhaps there is some way to remake the job or remake how the person thinks about his job, and end up feeling more fulfilled.

Even if that doesn’t work, the person might still use some of those approaches to craft the next job, to make it as fulfilling as possible. A positive psychology career coach (I am one) can help with this.


That column inspired quite a few responses. And I think the idea expressed in these two replies — to make this less of a binary stay-or-go decision, and instead try to reshape the job at hand — deserves further exploration. In fact, I was curious enough about Gayle Scroggs’s positive-psychology take on job crafting that I gave her a call, and then explored academic research on the subject.

But before I get to that, it’s worth briefly sharing some of the other feedback I received. The column argued for thinking hard about exploring new options with an open mind, suggesting that one would most likely regret giving in to the idea that there’s no choice but to ride out those unhappy years until retirement.

And indeed a number of readers offered their own anecdotes of late-career-change success stories. One quit Wall Street for a public sector job in Rhode Island, and called the move “very rewarding.” Another described two years working (and networking) her way toward escaping a “toxic boss” and unhappy work culture.

“At 59, I switched jobs last year and have never been happier,” she wrote. “Make a plan, set yourself a deadline, and do the work.”


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