Workplace Rights

Weekly (9/4/13)

Topic of the Week  Avoiding Feeling Trapped At Work

  • Challenge your comfort zone.
  • Ask "What if..." Questions.
  • Network.
  • Pursue a new skill. 

Escape: Avoiding Feeling Trapped at Work

Ever complain about your job? Odds are within seconds someone will remind you that you should be happy to be employed at all. However, a recent Right Management study still found lots of dissatisfaction. When asked, "Do you feel trapped at work? Have you ever wanted to find a new position? 63% of workers agreed. Another 21% said they somewhat agreed. Even a graduate of the New Jersey public education system can calculate that's 84% of workers. Which reminds me of an article that I saw in the San Francisco Chronicle about young professionals who chose to live in RV's or their cars instead of apartments.

Living in your vehicle sounds like a choice for someone who is unemployed, not working for a high-flying start up. But at least you won't feel trapped. Heck, you can just start it up and move on. But for all of those readers who still dwell in a house or apartment, I've got four strategies for those who feel trapped.

Challenge your comfort zone. Sure there are people who like the rush of visiting war zones, play poker professionally or juggling chainsaws, but most of us crave safety. Yes, sometimes that feeling of being trapped at work comes directly from the person you see in the mirror each morning. Learn how to leave your comfort zone and you may find that you can feel less trapped each day without even changing jobs.

Ask "What if..." Questions. I once read about a guy who said he had 19 years of experience. Someone asked, "Was it 19 years of experience, or one year 19 times?" Asking "What if..." questions is the best way to keep your mind engaged and active at work. Sure they'll be frustration, dead ends and bruises. But it could also lead to a great idea.

Network. Okay, networking is hallowed turf to me. Or as someone once said, "Know-how is important. Know-why is even better. But best of all is Know-who." Networking is the best way to explore all of life's possibilities. Because the people who owe you are often full of amazing possibilities.

Pursue a new skill. I've known a lot of people who reinvent themselves on the company's dime. You know those training classes that most people avoid like the plague? Or the tuition credits that most people treat like a virus? I'm constantly on the lookout for new ways to add to my skill set, and so should you. Who knows, the same company that makes you feel trapped could offer you all the training that you need to allow you to escape it's clutches. How cool is that?

Some people go even beyond the RV, take Todd Iceton. He worked for a start-up and lived in his car for two years. He's now in an apartment because, "After two years even something strange becomes old." Even the best job gets old too, that's why the best way to avoid feeling trapped is to start by looking in the mirror.


Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

Thought of the Week

"Worry compounds the futility of being trapped on a dead-end street. Thinking opens new avenues."

–Cullen Hightower

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Weekly Comic by Jerry King

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