Do you jump out of bed each morning with a smile on your face, excitedly anticipating the work-day ahead of you? Or do you lay there as your alarm goes off, seriously contemplating just rolling over and going back to sleep, thinking, “I hate my job, anyway. So what if I get fired?”
Hopefully, your answer is closer to the first option. But if you’re reading this, my guess is that this isn’t the case.
Hating your job is something I’m all too familiar with. Unfortunately, many people are or have been in the same situation at some point in their lives, too.
Maybe that’s exactly where you are right now.
We spend roughly a third of our lives at work. (Not to mention all the time we spend commuting, getting ready for work each day, and thinking about work.)
So when things at your job are going badly, it can feel as though your whole world is falling apart.
Your mental health and emotional well-being are a complete mess.
You are beyond stressed. Depressed. Anxious. Ready to give up.
As tempting as it is to up and quit your loathsome job, you can’t.
You have financial obligations to meet in order to get by. You need the income that a job provides in order to meet those obligations.
Although I know it feels as though you are stuck working a job you hate with no other option – YOU ARE NOT STUCK. You don’t have to waste your time, your energy, and your life being miserable.
There are other options for you when you hate your job, as well as ways to cope until you can make a career change.
What Do You Like About Your Job?
Very few people are truly passionate about their jobs. But there are probably parts of your job that you do enjoy. I mean, you did apply to work there, after all.
The best place to start is to focus on the good.
Think back to what made you interested in this job in the first place. Ask yourself what positives does your job bring you? What does a good day at work look like to you?
Maybe the only thing you can think of is that you get a paycheck. Money is important, of course, but it isn’t everything. There are other ways to make money that won’t destroy you mentally, emotionally, or physically.
Try to be specific with your answer. And think about every aspect of your work day.
- Do you have a favorite client or colleague?
- Do you love your corner office?
- Your short commute?
- Do you get along well with your manager?
- Are there great work perks or health insurance benefits?
- Is there always fresh coffee and donuts in the break room?
Don’t worry if your answer seems ridiculous or irrelevant. Find the things that you like about your job – no matter what that is.
Focusing on the good things will help you stay positive and get through each passing day (or week or month) until your situation changes.
What Do You Hate About Your Job?
On that same note, think about what it is – specifically – about your current position that you hate or dislike.
- Is it the long hours?
- Your crappy desk?
- The commute?
- Your co-workers?
- Your boss?
- The clients or customers?
- The work environment?
- The work itself?
- All of the above?
Pinpointing what it is will help you figure out if it’s something that can be changed or not.
If you have more work experience, think back to what made you quit your job(s) before this. What were your reasons for leaving? How did you decide it was time to move on?
Going forward, knowing what you both liked and disliked about your previous jobs will help you find a new job that’s a much better fit for you. And will help you steer clear of those that may be much worse and offer even less job satisfaction.
Talk With Your Manager
Even the best managers can’t help you if they don’t know something is wrong.
Going to your immediate supervisor with your concerns is usually the first step to take. Hopefully, they can address your issues and turn things around so that your job is more enjoyable for you.
They might be willing to switch your hours around. There may be opportunities for you to work from home. Or transfer to a different department or location. Maybe you can switch desks or offices. Or assign a problem client to someone else.
If your manager is the problem, find someone else to talk to. This could be someone from human resources, a union rep, or your manager’s boss. They may not be able to make any big changes to make things better for you, but they can provide guidance and advice.
You won’t know if you don’t ask.
If things at your job escalate to the point where the union, the labor board, insurance companies, or lawyers become involved, you may need to provide proof that you brought the issues to management and that you tried to make things better. So be sure to document this, just in case.
Learn Something New
Let’s face it – things change! You may have been fully qualified for your job when you were hired, but changes in management, technology, the economy, or how the company operates could mean you now hate your job because you no longer have the skill set needed to do a good job.
If this is the case, look for opportunities to grow your talents and learn new skills to help you do your best work and have a successful career. Your current employer will likely welcome the idea. They may even help you cover the costs or have free training courses and resources available for you.
You don’t necessarily have to go back to school, but if you’re considering changing careers, you may need to in order to advance your career.
Otherwise, there are plenty of ways to pursue learning on your own. Take a free course online. Watch webinars or TED Talks. Find a mentor to work with.
Try Saying “No”
Have you tried saying “no”? No to a new assignment, no to working late, no to doing this whole project that has nothing to do with why you were hired.
I know that saying no is scary and intimidating.
But what would happen if you said no?
Will your manager be supportive and hear you out? Will they force you to do it anyway? Or will they reprimand you for being insubordinate or for not being a team player?
If you are worried about being reprimanded, be conscious about how you approach the subject with your manager. Barging into their office and flat out refusing to do something probably won’t work in your favor. But setting up a meeting and coming prepared with alternate suggestions might.
I tried saying no once. At an old job of mine, my manager pulled that whole “do this whole project that has nothing to do with why you were hired” thing on me, arguing that it fell under “other duties as assigned.” Except that it actually took time away from doing my main job. Almost all of my time. When they asked me to do the project again the following year, I tried saying no. But sadly, it didn’t work. My spreadsheet detailing how I didn’t have time to do it and my main job responsibilities wasn’t enough to convince them. But it did convince me that I didn’t want to work for a manager like that anymore and that it was time to quit and find a new career.
However, others have been much more successful at saying no at work than I was, and it could work to your advantage.
Get the Emotional and Mental Health Support You Need
Being unhappy at work and in life is no way to live.
You need to take care of yourself and your well-being, which can be incredibly hard if you are struggling or failing at work. Or if you are being degraded or bullied by your boss, a coworker, or a customer.
At some point, staying at a job that negatively affects you is just not worth it.
The good news is that you don’t have to face things alone. There are supports available to you.
Lean on your partner, your friends and family.
If you have an Employment Assistance Program (EAP) or health benefits that cover counseling or therapy, take advantage of them. Especially if you are at your breaking point and need or want more professional supports.
Contact your local counseling centers. Many of them offer free services if you don’t have coverage or are on a tight budget.
There are also free mental health resources and crisis supports available online and over the phone.
If you are considering leaving your job because of bullying, harassment, or discrimination, it is possible to quit and collect unemployment benefits or worker’s compensation. This is not straightforward and varies by state/province and by the employer, so please carefully look into this before quitting. You will also have to provide proof and documentation of the problem, so be prepared to put together the steps you took to try to solve them. You may also need to provide medical records or under-go a medical assessment with a doctor or counselor.
Take a Break
Do you really hate your job, or are you just overwhelmed or dealing with burnout? Sometimes it can be tough to tell.
Maybe you just need some time to make the “life” part of your work-life balance the priority.
If it’s possible for you to do so, take time off from your stressful job to see if things are better when you come back to work.
Use those vacation days and get away from it all for a short period. If you can’t travel, stay at home and spend your waking hours relaxing or doing something else that you find fulfilling.
If things are really going badly, consider taking a leave of absence or a stress leave from work. This isn’t always possible and comes with its own set of challenges. Money being a big one (unless you have a healthy savings account or “FU Money” set aside). But if your well-being is at stake, please look into it.
Show Up and Do the Best Job You Can
I realize that this sort of contradicts my last point, but you need to show up to work every day and do the best you can. Even if you hate it.
You need to make money, which is presumably why you have a job in the first place.
But you also need to maintain a professional reputation and leave on good terms.
Potential new employers will request references, and most of the time, they want your most recent or current manager to be one of them. If you’ve been skipping work, doing a poor job, or playing on social media all day, this could be a red flag to a hiring manager that could cost you that new job offer.
Start Looking for a Better Job
Although this is the most obvious point, I purposely didn’t start with it because you should try some of these other suggestions (if you haven’t already) before quitting a job you hate.
At the very least, I hope you take the time to think about the first 2 points:
- What do you like about your job?
- What do you hate about it?
You need to know the answers to these questions before you start looking for a new job and putting yourself out there again. You want to find your “dream job” or something better that aligns with your career goals, and not end up in yet another job that you dread.
Finding a new job or new career path takes time. Sometimes a lot of time.
So yes – start your job hunt as soon as you start having more bad days than good ones. But please don’t resign without a plan. You could find yourself out of work for a long time if you don’t have another job lined up.
Update your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile, and start applying.
If you are successful with your job search and are offered a new position, you have options for your next steps. You can stay at your current job and try to make it work. Or you can hand in your resignation letter, give your two weeks’ notice and leave your job for something better that will make you happier.
Always Be Job Searching
One key piece of advice is to always be job searching, even if you are happy with your job.
You never know when something will change, either in your personal life, the economy, or within your organization. Unfortunately, companies go out of business, have to make budget cuts, or under-go restructuring, which could result in lay-offs.
Keeping an eye on the industry takes only a few minutes of your time. It’s a great way to stay up to date with what skills and qualifications employers in your field are looking for. And to make sure you’re being paid fairly.
It’s easy to feel stuck when you hate your job. And unfortunately, you may be stuck there for a while. But the good news is you don’t have to be stuck there forever.
YOUR TURN: What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? What made you hate it? How did you cope? Let us know in the comments below!
Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.