What to do when you feel stuck at work

We all know what it feels like to be stuck in traffic, or stuck in an airport, but what does it mean to feel stuck at work?

The reasons people feel stuck vary, and can be very personal. Yet there are common feelings and emotions attached to this experience: feeling hopeless, stressed, paralyzed, confused or disempowered. This is an experience shared by many people; if you find yourself feeling this way, you are not alone.

Feeling stuck is an experience shared by many people; if you find yourself feeling this way, you are not alone.

There are many ways you can feel stuck at work. Here are some frequent examples:

In a Professional Relationship…

Do you feel like you can’t talk to people at work about your experience—possibly because those problems are with those coworkers? This can leave you feeling like there’s nowhere to turn out of a fear of repercussions, or conflict, or losing your job. Maybe you’ve a bad boss or a coworker who seems to be keeping information from you.

In a Project or Role…

If you’ve been working on the same project for a while, you might feel like there’s no way to get out or that you might not be qualified for work on another team. You could feel pigeonholed into a particular role, but not know how to get out of it. In some instances, this could even be work that you feel is ethically questionable.

At a Company…

There are many things that can make someone feel stuck at a company—fear of searching for a new job, love a team you don’t want to leave, fear of retaliation from coworkers/company in a given field, lack of other opportunities, loss of stability (income, insurance, etc.), and more.

In a Career…

Once you dedicate years of your life to progressing in a certain profession, it might seem impossible to switch. Maybe your gut is telling you to move on, but you’re feeling paralyzed. You may need some extra support to unpack those feelings.

Here are a few tips for managing those feelings of stickiness:

Explore Your Work Values.

Take a step back, take a deep breath and think about what you know about yourself in the workplace. Do your values align with your workplace? What do you need to succeed in a work environment? Compare this to your current situation. Where are the gaps?

Imagine “Unstuck.”

Often in these situations, it feels like there’s no way of moving forward, no possibility of leaving that feeling behind. Try imagining what “unstuck” would look like—how would things have to be for you not to feel this stickiness? Sometimes visualizing your end goal can help you figure out the incremental steps to get there.

Make a Plan.

Now that you know where you are, who you are, and where you’d like to be, outline actionable steps to move forward. These could be the tiniest things like “take a deep breath every morning when you sit down at your desk” or “write down three things you’re grateful for every day,”  or major things along the lines of “enroll in a night class” or “apply to one job a week.” There’s no right or wrong plan to get you out of feeling stuck; every small step is still movement.

Seek Support.

People often feel stuck in something because it’s the only thing they know, so getting out of it may require some research. Create a list of questions that having the answers to would give you more clarity on how to move forward. Make a plan to answer them, whether that’s online research, talking to a mentor or colleague, asking around for job referrals, or talking to an Empower Work peer counselor.


If you feel stuck in a professional relationship, on a project, at a company, or in a career, you’re not alone. Text 510-674-1414 to get in touch with a trained peer counselor immediately and anonymously. Talk through the situation and explore ways forward. Support is just a text away.