How to… take back control when your dream job turns into a nightmare

“Are you a self-starter who loves working in a dynamic, team oriented and flexible environment? Are you looking for a unique opportunity to develop your skills and be actively involved in determining our future direction? If so, we have the perfect job for you!”


You applied because it sounded like your dream job and, in the beginning, it is. It ticks all your boxes: independence, personal development, flexibility, a sense of ownership.

So why now are you so frustrated, confused and disillusioned? You’ve got so much to do, but you’re not even sure if it’s your job to be doing it. But if not you, then who?

It’s likely you’re experiencing the common workplace stressors of role ambiguity and role conflict. These stressors are particularly common in micro and small businesses where individuals are required to adopt multiple roles and share responsibilities.

‘Role ambiguity’ is when you lack clarity in the objectives, accountabilities and boundaries of your role and the roles of others.

‘Role conflict’ is when a clash occurs between what is expected of you and what you are capable of and/or what you’re comfortable with (eg. opposing priorities, clashing deadlines or incongruent values and ethics.)


So what can you do to ease the pressures you’re facing and take back control of your dream job?


If you have a position description, use this as a starting point and compile the following lists:

  1. What I thought I’d be doing
  2. What I’m actually doing
  3. What are the differences or gaps?


Use the following grid as an example to create your own with the names and/or roles of your team in the top row and the differences/gaps you identified down the left. Populate each cell with an R, A, C or I that represent the following:

  • R – Responsible for doing
  • A – Accountable it’s done
  • C – Consultation needed
  • I – To be Informed (but no action or input needed)


Managing Director (Walter)
Business Development
Product Development
Contract Negotiations
Sales & Marketing Activities
Social Media Management
Product Design
Financial Admin

This matrix will not only clarify your perception of what you should or shouldn’t be doing, but it also provides valuable working insights into:

  • Duplication of effort (too many R’s)
  • Communication requirements (C’s and I’s)
  • Lack of resources (no R’s) and
  • Who is ultimately responsible for any given task (there should only ever be one A per line)



At this point, you should be clear on the areas that are causing you ambiguity and conflict.

How you share this information and who you share it with is going to be dependent on the size, structure and culture of your workplace.

However you decide to communicate, the outcomes you need are:

  • The creation or updating of your position description. It should clearly define what you are RESPONSIBLE and ACCOUNTABLE for
  • A shared understanding throughout the team of who does what and
  • An action list with timelines to address outstanding items that can’t immediately be resolved (eg. an official handover of duties, additional hiring of staff etc.)

It’s important you understand that you’re not alone with this issue nor the feelings of being overwhelmed or stressed. In fact, 32 per cent of the 7,500 Australians each year who suffer a workplace mental health condition identify ‘work pressure’ as one of the main contributing factors (Safe Work Australia.)

Francesca M. Healy (1)

You’re dream job doesn’t have to develop into this level of nightmare and if it has, you can still take back control. Use the steps above to clarify and communicate the boundaries and expectations of your role. Your workplace then has a responsibility to work collaboratively with you to address the stressors you’ve identified.

Written by Sarah McKiernan 

You can find Sarah McKiernan from The Work-Life Balance over on her Website, Facebook or Instagram.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: