What if you hate what you’re good at?

“Why don’t I love my job?” I’d ask myself in a moment of lucidity. I was beginning to think I hate what I’m good at. It certainly makes getting up to go to work every day a challenge. Frequently getting angry for no good reason led to more questions than answers and I needed to figure it out.

Excellence means Contentment, Right?

On the face of it, one would be right to believe that it’s more frustrating to be bad at something than to be good at it. Working at a job you just don’t get, and struggle with is not great for one’s mental health for the long term. Especially when it seems they’re just putting up with you.

We hear all the time that if you do something you love, you’ll be able to do it forever in happiness. That is not always the case. In fact, if you ask around with “Why do you hate what you’re good at”, you’ll start to get some interesting information.

Types of Discontentment

I have spent some time researching this and found a few consistent types of situations to explain this. People often struggle in these moments of frustration. In these times we’re not very clear-headed and the obvious cause might not be true. Of course, there are many other reasons as well, but these are good starting points for a bit of introspection.

Lack of Gratitude

The first places I notice this are in customer service and many team environments. Where an employee is a key member delivering a product or service to others. I experienced this myself as an IT support agent at a large company help desk. My fellow employees that I served and considered “customers” were oftentimes very ungrateful and demanding. The kudos for a job well done only came from my team when they weren’t licking their wounds from the same situations.

In direct customer service in retail or food service, the products are a commodity. Service is just what the customer must engage with to get what they want. Some customers view the relationship with that much coldness, and the attitude comes along with it. Petty complaints, unreasonable demands, and unrealistic expectations can make any day challenging at best.

Unfulfilling Mission

Doing a great job, but for all the wrong reasons, sums this up pretty well. Definitely a case to hate what you’re good at. Another example from my tech support career was a co-worker who was providing first level support. He was incredibly adept with programming and writing automation routines. Often times he’d spend time creating powerful tools to help out with many tasks. However, his role was in just IT support. That meant unjamming copiers, rebooting a customers’ computer, or showing them how to open a program. When there was a chance to write a routine, he found his joy, but that was not often enough.

Sales is another common instance where we see someone perform amazingly well but could be very dissatisfied. It is all in the product. Perhaps you could sell an air conditioner to an Alaskan native, but there is no joy in that. What about selling them a new heat pump or some solar panels which could benefit them for years to come?

Compelled into Competence

I found this one to be fascinating. In a few cases people find themselves where they are told they have natural ability, come across a task that just had to be done. After training or practice they become quite good at it, but the choice to begin was not theirs.

The student who just took a class for extra credit turns out to be something everyone loved to see them do. This student perhaps did not want to let anyone down so competed or just got better at it. In time they find they’ve achieved several goals, but they never meant to do any of it. Now they just keep doing it because that is what people want but it is not what they love. You could really hate what you’re good at in this case.

Take another case where a new employee fills in at a task that needed to get done. Simple task, but hard to really excel in. The new person digs in, wants to make a good impression, and believes that it might lead to promotion. They do the job and do it great. Of course, they are hoping to move on, but management wouldn’t dream of it!

You Have to Change Something

There might be one or more of these factors involved in any situation.

Try doing the job somewhere else. Many times, where discontentment is high, co-workers and customers don’t treat people well. You might have a job where people are paid poorly and become bitter. A boss might have a boss over them that is abusive and a constant source of frustration for them as well. Being the professional that you are, you might seek to elevate your game with a more prestigious company or organization. One that customers value and employees are well rewarded.  

Delegate the parts that you do not enjoy. This can be a compelling discussion in an employee review. Demonstrating competence in the position is valuable to the business. They do need you. If that is true and they are willing to help you be happy, which keeps you around, they’ll listen. Try a discussion around taking a piece or two of the job away or have it reduced so you can do what you enjoy.

Maybe it is you. We must recognize that we might not be addressing the situation from our best frame of mind. Spending time really thinking objectively about how you feel and why can be time well spent. If you believe the problem is more external, consider that those might have their own challenges as well. Look at them in a more compassionate light. It might also be time to take a few days off to do a retreat to spend the quality time with yourself.

Take the good parts to a new job or career. First you must find out what the good parts are. This is a position you may have been in for years. Just switching to something similar might not be the best move to bring you the joy and satisfaction you are looking for. This is where a Personal Retreat can really help you. Through the process I help you identify the enjoyable parts of what you do today, the hopes you had in the past, and the best path forward.

I hope you enjoyed this exploration of the question “What if you hate what you’re good at.” It is a nuanced question and there may well be things I did not cover. If you are willing to share your thoughts with me, I would be happy to make updates to this and of course make sure you get mentioned! Thank you!

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