“I hate my job!”
5 Things You Can Do When You Hate Your Job
“I hate my job. I hate my job. I HATE MY JOB.”
A few years ago, some dude named Daniel Kochanski was working as a professional stenographer, assigned to transcribe what was said during courtroom proceedings in New York City.
But poor Danny disliked his job so much that instead of writing down what the judges and lawyers and such folk were saying, he instead tapped the same four words into his typewriter repeatedly:
“I hate my job. I HATE MY JOB. I hate my job.”
Most people aren’t like Danny, in that they probably won’t mess up dozens of high-profile criminal cases because they hate their job so much.
But most people are like Danny in that they are unhappy at work.
This is a long, comprehensive article. If you don’t have time to read it all now, click here to enter your email and I’ll send a link to your inbox so you can finish it later.
A 2016 study by the Conference Board, a New York-based nonprofit research group, found that 50.4% of Americans – more than half! – are not satisfied with their jobs. 1
So hey, if you’re reading this because you hate your job, know that you’re not alone. Every second person collecting a paycheck feels your pain.
Maybe even more than every second person…
Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called everybody, and they meet at the bar.
What you will learn in this article:
- The 5 options available to you if you hate your job (and which is right for you)
- How to quit your job without destroying your life
- How to quickly and effectively find a new and better job (or change to a more fulfilling career)
- What alternative work options are available to you
- How you can make money without a job
5 Things You Can Do If You Hate Your Job
- Do nothing and continue to hate your job
- Lie to yourself and pretend everything is peachy
- Figure out why you hate your job
- Take action to make the job more enjoyable
Do Nothing And Continue To Hate Your Job
Lie To YourselfAnd Pretend Everything Is Peachy
Figure Out WHY You Hate Your Job
“Do I hate my job, or my career?”
- What is important to you and what do you want from your new career?
- Are you happy to start at the bottom and work your way back up?
- Are your expectations realistic?
- Boss / Manager
- Colleagues / Coworkers
- Pay / Rewards / Benefits
- Variety / Opportunities To Grow
- Emotional Environment / Company Culture
- Rules / Structure
- The Work Itself
“Is this the reason I hate my job?”
Sidenote: Maybe You’re The Problem
Fact is, when you say “I hate my job” more is said about you than is about the employer.
If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole. 3
Instead of wondering where your next vacation is, maybe you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.
Take ActionTo Make Your Job More Enjoyable
“What would have to change for me to enjoy this job?”
I Hate My Job Because Of…
My Boss / Manager
- First and foremost, take Diane Gottsman’s advice and avoid complaining:
Refrain from gossip and badmouthing your boss to others at work or in your professional circles. Nothing good comes from being labeled as a negative employee.
- Identify what kind of boss you’re dealing with. Marie McIntyre describes five types of difficult boss – Micromanager, Procrastinator, Idiot, Dictator, Abuser – and provides strategies for dealing with each one.
- Take careful note of how you butt heads or become frustrated with your boss. Is it always the same thing that causes friction? If so, is there something you can change there?
- If you find communicating with your boss difficult and frustrating, read Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg and apply what you learn.
- If communication doesn’t help, Jennifer Winter at The Muse recommends biting your tongue and letting off steam:
I would let an ex-Marine scream orders at me while I punched and kicked the daylights out of inanimate objects. Not only did I get in fantastic shape, but every encounter with my boss became progressively less frustrating.
- “Speak to colleagues who do get on with the boss. What is it they do that you don’t? Do they have any tips for you?” 4
- As per TD Jakes:
If your company has a union, you might want to use them as a resource on how to deal with conflict management. If your rights have been violated, you can also contact the National Labor Relations Board for information on how to protect yourself.
I Hate My Job Because Of…
My Colleagues / Coworkers
- First, take a step back and think about why you hate a specific coworker. As Karlyn Borysenko writes:
I’m sure you didn’t walk in on day one, just hate the look of the person, and it was all downhill from there. Really work to get some clarity on why there’s not a better working relationship between the two of you. What did they say to you? What did they do? When was it? What context was it in?
- Hey, maybe it’s not them; maybe it’s you. Seriously, you might be the problem here. Are you pulling your weight at work? Are you preventing your colleagues from getting their work done? Might you have really bad BO? Pull aside your friendliest coworker and ask them if you’re doing something wrong. 6
- Amy Gallo shares advice from Daniel Goleman (he of Emotional Intelligence fame): 7
He suggests that if there is someone who is annoying or abrasive, don’t think about how the person acts, think about how you react. It’s far more productive to focus on your own behavior because you can control it. 8
- “Accept that you don’t have to like everyone.” 9 You’re there to do a job, not to share intimate stories and braid each other’s hair. Not everyone at work needs to be your BFF.
- If you’re dealing with an exceedingly dumb coworker, Adam Dachis recommends you take a deep breath when they mess something up for the 29th time, then string words like these together:
“I’ve shown you how to do this a few times now and you seem to be struggling with it. Is there a better way I could explain it? Am I not giving you enough detail?”
- Liane Davey Ph.D. suggests asking yourself WHY five times to get at the root of the problem: 10
When you think “She makes me want to strangle her!” Why? “Because I hate when she is always trying to sound so smart!” Why? “Because I think she’s pulling the wool over the boss’ eyes?” Why does that bother you? “Because she gets all the attention!” Why is that a problem? “Because I want some attention too!” Why? “Because I need to feel like I’m valued by my boss!” Aha!
- Lastly, consider having a word with your boss if bad blood is lingering between you and a colleague. As per Nonviolent Communication, focus on sharing observations (as opposed to evaluations) and expressing your own feelings and needs rather than focusing on the “faults” of your colleague.
I Hate My Job Because Of Insufficient…
Pay / Rewards / Benefits
- First find out if you are actually underpaid or undercompensated and by how much. Use these three websites to find out: PayScale.com, Salary.com, Glassdoor.com
- Before trying to negotiate for better compensation, make sure you deserve it. As per the video, average performers can expect to be underpaid, as they are a commodity and easily replaceable. Become a top performer however, and you are in a much better position to negotiate.
- Follow these three steps to ask for a raise (explained in more detail in the video):
- Make your boss aware
- Marshall defenses
- End on a positive note
- A salary increase
- Bigger bonuses
- More time off
- Better benefits
- More training
I Hate My Job Because It Lacks…
Variety / Opportunities To Grow
- As per Sarah Winfrey at Wise Bread, first make sure you’re not slacking at work. If you are, you’re unlikely to be assigned bigger and better projects.
- Instead of slacking, “be proactive about your role. Don’t wait for management to assign you additional responsibilities. Instead, look around for areas in the organization that need improvement and create solutions.” 12
- An excellent example of this comes from Andrea Ring:
My first assignment was a data entry job. Bleh. No fun, not something I wanted to do. But I did it, and immediately I started to see possibilities. My editing skills were needed for their reports. They didn’t have a Style Guide, despite having over 100 employees. I knew I could do more. So I did. I wrote a style guide, made report templates, and they hired me. It turned into such a lucrative job that my husband ended up quitting and staying home with the kids. 13
- If you’re flat out and don’t feel you have any time to devote to development opportunities, consider these words from the Harvard Business Review:
We all managed to make time for our executive MBAs, while still doing our day jobs. When the program ends, don’t let the day job reabsorb the learning time. Keep the time to evolve your work.
- Go to your boss/manager and voice your concerns. They may simply not realize that you’re willing and able to take on more responsibility, or that you want to shift gears and try something different. If they seem hesitant to make a change, suggest doing a trial run for a week or two.
- As per the following video (tip #5), don’t be indispensable. If you are, your boss/manager will want you to keep doing what you’re doing. You should make your current job easy to pass along to someone else so you can be free to tackle bigger and better projects.
I Hate My Job Because Of…
The Emotional Environment / Company Culture
- Resist the pressure to conform to the company culture. You don’t have to be cruel/lazy/uncooperative just because everyone around you is. Keep your integrity, perform at your best, and hope it will rub off on others.
- You can “emotionally de-invest” and just do the minimum required of you to keep collecting your paycheck. This is obviously not ideal, but if money is what matters most to you right now then it may be your best option. 14
- “Find the humor” and “appreciate the absurdity of the situation you’re in.”
- Make up for your sucky work environment by surrounding yourself with awesome, inspiring, and positive people and organizations outside of work.
Getting a raise is the fastest and easiest way to make more money.
I Hate My Job Because Of…
The Rules / Structure
“The secret of breaking rules in a way that works is understanding what the rules are in the first place.” – Rick Wakeman
- You’ll discover that the rule makes sense.
- Or you’ll discover that it doesn’t. 15
I Hate My Job Because Of…
The Work Itself
What is it about the work that you don’t like?
- The work is boring
- The work is stressful
“The work is boring”
- Can you challenge yourself somehow, perhaps to get more done in less time?
- Can you take on some additional responsibilities?
- Can you talk to your boss and ask for his/her help to make the job more interesting?
- Can you do something else while at work? For example, if you’re a security guard sitting around all day, can you read books or listen to podcasts during your shift?
“The work is stressful”
- Push back a tight deadline you have coming up.
- Hire additional help to ease the pressure.
- Increase the budget for the project you’re working on.
- Reassign you to a more suitable project.
- Send you for more training so your skills better match the demands of the job.
I Hate My Job Because Of…
My Negative Attitude
- Use The Five Minute Journal. This will help you focus on the positive and cultivate gratitude. You can use the official app, the official notebook, or just write out the questions and your answers on a piece of paper or on your computer every day (you can see the questions here).
- Whenever you feel the temptation to talk about someone behind their back, use Socrates’s Triple Filter Test, as explained in this video:
- Frode Heimen lists twelve things you can do to stay positive at work. My favorites:
- Serve coffee to fellow co-workers
- Write a post-it note to someone and thank them for anything positive they have done
- Make sure to find a positive view on every topic discussed
- Try using some of these 100 positive affirmations by Farnoosh Brock.
- Whenever you get stuck on a negative thought, run through Byron Katie’s four questions:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react when you think that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
- Stop comparing yourself to others! As per Zen Habits:
try to be aware of when you start comparing yourself to others … once you’ve developed this awareness, try this trick: stop yourself. Tell yourself, “Stop that!” And then start thinking about all the things you DO have, the things you love, the people you have, the blessings that life has given you. Make this a regular practice, and you’ll start to be happier with your life.
- A great tip from Henrik Edberg’s Positivity Blog is to surround yourself with more positive people. Your environment affects you greatly, so try to spend less time with negative people, and more time with positive folk.
- Whenever a problem arises, resist the urge to dwell on it. Instead, focus your energy on trying to find a solution. A great book that will help you stay solution-focused is The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday.
If the rules are such that you can't make progress, then you have to fight the rules.
How To Quit Your Job (The Smart Way)
- Fear of what parents, friends, colleagues and society will say
- Myth of safety of working for a corporation
- Mother of all uncertainty – fear of self-employment
- Fear of losing benefits (health, dental, insurance, etc.)
- Fear of not having enough money
- Decide what’s next
- Get your finances in order
- Set a deadline
- Work hard
Decide What’s Next
- Do you want to change jobs but stay in your current career?
- Change careers?
- Go back to study?
- Start your own business?
- Take a few months off to “find yourself”? 16
- Something else entirely?
Get Your Finances In Order
“Do I have enough money to make this transition without stressing myself out big-time?”
- If you expect to have no income for a while after quitting your job, try save up enough money to cover at least three months of expenses. More is better, but aim for three months minimum.
- That goes hand in hand with slashing your expenses. You can live on very little money once you know your priorities. And your main priority should be to not spend 2000 hours a year working a job you hate.
- One great way to get a handle on your finances is to start tracking everything you earn and spend. I’ve been doing that meticulously since 2011, and publishing monthly finance reports online. (Subscribe here and you can browse all my finance reports.)
- If you have any debt whatsoever, you need to be extra careful. If it’s relatively small debt like a few thousand dollars on a credit card, get that paid off before quitting your job. If it’s something larger like a mortgage or a student loan, take the advice of Man Vs. Debt and call your creditors. They may be able to offer you different payment options or a hardship plan.
- I took inventory of everything I owned and began selling off everything I no longer had use for. By the time I was finished I was able to fit all my possessions into carry-on luggage. 17
- I moved out of my $800/month one-bedroom apartment and started house-sitting instead. This allowed me to live rent-free for a few months and save thousands of dollars.
- I cancelled all subscriptions I no longer had use for.
Set Yourself A Deadline For Calling It Quits
- If you’re nervous, remember that this happens all the time.
- Lead the conversation and be ready for your boss’s questions. He or she will likely want to know why you’re leaving, when you’re leaving, what you’re planning to do next, and how they’ll replace you.
- Keep in mind why you’re leaving, so you don’t change your mind or get talked out of it at the last minute.
- Even if you hate your boss, resist the urge to burn bridges. Be polite and courteous when telling them you quit. Keeping them as an ally could prove useful in future.
- Check out this list of things I did during the home stretch of my last job to prepare for self-employment.
- Start building your skills and experience outside of work, so you can hit the ground running at whatever comes next.
- Ask yourself: what can I do at my current job that will ensure they’ll really miss me when I leave?
There are only seven days in a week, and someday isn’t one of them.
Follow Your Passion?
“Don’t even worry about the money side of things,” they’ll say. “That will all take care of itself.”
- If you mess up doing a job you hate, no big deal. You don’t give much of a crap anyways and you’d probably be relieved if they fired you. But mess up doing a job you love? That’ll really stab at your sense of pride, accomplishment, and self-worth.
- Most people hate their jobs not because they’re difficult, but because they’re boring. A job you love is usually the opposite. You’ll constantly be challenged and pushed to excel.
- It’s not like finding work you’re passionate about is easy in the first place. Most people don’t even know what their passion is. It can take a while to figure it out. What are you supposed to do in the meantime?
- Even if you are lucky enough to find work you love, there’s no guarantee anyone’s going to pay you good money to do it. What if you’re passionate about carving matchsticks or playing World Of Warcraft? If there’s a way to make a living pursuing those kinds of passions, you can bet it’s not easy.
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow
The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.
Cal Newport, So Good They Can’t Ignore You
…the happiest, most passionate employees are not those who followed their passion into a position, but instead those who have been around long enough to become good at what they do […] these breakthroughs require that you first get to the cutting edge, and this is hard— the type of hardness that most of us try to avoid in our working lives.
How To Find A New Job
When looking for new jobs, most people focus on whether or not they have task experience. But don’t underestimate the value of your knowledge about the organization itself. Someone who is intimately familiar with the company, its culture, its goals and its products has an instant perspective that a new hire with lots of task experience can’t provide. If management already knows you’re a reliable and hard worker, it might be easier than you think to convince them to let you do something new.
“Can I hunt for a new job openly, or do I need to keep it hush-hush?”
“What must be different at my new job for me to be happy?”
- Online job sites like Monster and CraigsList
- Newspaper classifieds
- Magazines and trade journals related to your industry
- Websites of companies you’d like to work for
- Note: The connection doesn’t need to be anything special. Research has shown that “weak ties” are a very common way to find a job. 20
Think quality, not quantity. Send applications out to fewer companies with openings that are more suited to your skills. Write to that specific role. Your application will be much stronger than the generic cover letter and resume you send out to hundreds of companies.
- How To Build The Ultimate Professional Resume
- The 4 Sentence Cover Letter That Gets You the Job Interview
- How to Get Your Resume Noticed in 5 Seconds Guaranteed
- 8 Great Tips to Prove Your Value on Your Resume
- 3 unexpected tips to prepare for any interview
- 3 tips to dominate your job interview and give the perfect answers
- Classy Career Girl: 10 Best Books Every Job Seeker Should Read
There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don't like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn't that a little like saving up sex for your old age?
How To Change Careers
“Are you happy to start at the bottom and work your way back up?”
“I’m always stunned when people expect major life or career change to happen overnight – or within a few weeks or months. They’re so eager (or desperate) to leave behind what’s made them miserable, that they simply don’t have the perseverance to tough it out over the long haul to get to their desired destination.” – Kathy Caprino 21
- What kind of work or skills have you been praised for in the past, or have you taken the most pride in? Could any of those form the basis of a new career?
- Take an online quiz from The Princeton Review or 365tests to figure out what career is best for your personality type.
- Is there a particular place you’d like to live? Assuming you’d prefer not to work remotely, answering this question can go a long way to narrowing down which careers are available to you.
- What kind of lifestyle would you like to have? For example, if you’d like easy access to the great outdoors, switching to a corporate job in some smoggy metropolis ain’t gonna float your boat.
- How much money do you want to make? As you well know, different careers reap different financial rewards. Would you be happy with a teacher’s salary, or do you want to do something that will earn you the big bucks?
- If possible, test out some careers you’re interested in by doing part-time work in those industries. For example, if you’re interested in a law career, can you get a job as an intern or assistant at a law office to see what it’s really like?
- People who will always have your back
- People who are killing it in your field of interest
- People who have made similar transitions before you
- Jennifer Gresham left a successful career in the military just four years shy of retirement and now runs a highly successful coaching business.
- Leanne Regalla went from corporate America to owning a bakery to teaching music.
- Alex Robinson went from managing music acts to a lead position at an environmental charity.
- Peter Swanson went from working at an SEO firm to becoming a successful freelance writer.
If you made a mistake and bought a pair of shoes that really hurt your feet, gave you blisters and such, you’d take them off at the first opportunity and buy a new pair. Why don’t we do the same thing with our careers?
Alternative Work Options
- Working a job you hate, while being heavily in debt and seriously out of shape.
- Seasonal work
- Work abroad
- Work for room and board
- Build up passive income
- Claim unemployment benefits
- Work for yourself
- Ski resorts
- Amusement or water parks
- Oil rigs
- Cruise ships
- Holiday resorts
- Tour guide
- Teacher or tutor
- Construction work
- Farm jobs
Work For Room And Board
- WWOOF = World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms
Over our two-month stay, we spent zero on food and accommodation in a region of Italy where it otherwise costs backpackers at least 18 euros a night for a hostel and 15 euros a day for food. Over our two-month stay, that meant a total savings of at least two thousand euros.
Build Up Passive Income
- Rental income from owning and renting property 24
- Profit or dividends earned from investments 25
- Royalties earned from book sales
- Profit earned from an automated or outsourced businessSubletting a spare room or apartment via Airbnb 26
Claim Unemployment Benefits
Work For Yourself
- Uber driver
- Dog walker
- Owner of an international corporation
- Party clown
- Assassin for hire
I travel slow, seek offbeat and local experiences, stay in a place for a few weeks or as long as it inspires me, and move on. I’ve hitch-hiked along Romania’s northern countryside, lived with a Mayan community in Guatemala, journeyed along Canada’s great wilderness by train and swum with black tip sharks on Malaysia’s east coast.
If you’re not happy, a good salary isn’t progress, it’s financial prison. Life is meant to be lived, not sold to the highest bidder.
Before You Go
- Decide what action (or actions) you are going to take as a result of reading this article. If you don’t make a plan, nothing in your life will change, so please commit to doing at least one thing that will move you forward.
- Jump down to the comments and share your action item(s). Putting it in writing will make it more real and sharing it publicly gives you some accountability.
- If you found this article helpful, please take a moment to share it with a friend or on social media. That would mean a lot to me. You’ll see some handy buttons on the left side of the page to make sharing easier.
Cool Internet Dog
This article was first published on May 30, 2017.
- The Conference Board: Job Satisfaction: 2016 Edition
- Note that I’ve made some slight modifications to Marc’s original list.
- Apparently that quote comes from the book/TV series Justified.
- The Telegraph: How to work for a boss you really don’t like
- HR News: 1 in 3 Brits claim ‘I hate my colleagues’
- Related article from The Huffington Post: 11 Reasons Your Co-Workers Hate You
- Harvard Business Review: How To Work With Someone You Hate
- Related to this, see my article on How To Deal With Insults
- GoThinkBig: What To Do If You Dislike Your Colleague
- Psychology Today: What Do I Do When I Hate My Colleague?
- Gallup: Millennials Want Jobs to Be Development Opportunities
- The Muse: Nowhere To Go: Advancing Your Career at a Small Company
- Quora: How do I take a job opportunity, if there’s no room to grow?
- One thing: if you do go this route, you no longer get to complain about hating your job. You’ve made a conscious choice. Grin and bear it.
- Perhaps it did make sense at one time, and that’s worth acknowledging, but if you believe the rule has become nonsensical then it fits into this category.
- Some will scoff at this option but it’s fine to go this route so long as it’s a conscious decision. Sometimes you need time and space to really figure out what you want to do.
- I know, that’s pretty extreme. But I was all the happier and richer for it. Even if you love your big-screen TV, consider selling it to raise some extra cash and free up more time.
- I even got a little cheeky and changed my voicemail message to tell people that I no longer answered the phone and they should email me instead. Amazing how few people bothered me after that :-P
- Okay, so that’s not entirely true. Usually there’s one or two people there – the feckers – who do keep a hand up. But I think you get my point.
- Ref: Weak Ties Theory
- Kathy Caprino: Desperate For a Different Career? Change It, But Avoid These Top 5 Blunders
- Note that you may need a qualification or special training for some of these jobs.
- Ref: Wikipedia
- Related: Career Change I Love!: From average to wealthy and retired. My journey to financial freedom.
- Related: The 4% Rule: The Easy Answer to “How Much Do I Need for Retirement?”
- Related: The AirBnb Experiment: How Much Did I Make?