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Why Do I Hate My Job? What to Do When You Can’t Stand Work

Is the “I hate my job” mentality holding you back from the life and career of your dreams?

If you wake up in the morning dreading your job, you’re not alone.

According to a Gallup survey, as many as 85% of workers around the world report dissatisfaction on the job. That means workers who arrive to work with a spring in their step are among a distinct minority.

If you’re part of that bigger group of unhappy employees, you may be wondering if there’s a solution. Is there a better way, or are you doomed to be forever unfulfilled at work?

Unhappiness on the job may be commonplace, but that doesn’t mean it has to be your lot in life. Here’s the ultimate guide to dealing with a job you hate, including plenty of proactive solutions to help improve your situation — and how to know when it’s time to keep on keeping on.

Table of Contents

Colourful Image of Planets Ask Yourself: Why Do I Hate My Job?

With as few as 15% of people around the globe loving their jobs, it may be worth taking a minute to look at some of the reasons why so many people are saying “I hate my job” on a daily basis.

Turns out, it might not be a matter of why, but who.

“The number one reason I find that people hate their jobs is their boss! As the saying goes, ‘people don’t quit jobs, they quit their boss,’” says Cindi Cervone Carlson, Vice President of Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, an outplacement consulting, training, support and executive coaching firm. “What it really boils down to is whether or not they feel appreciated. Sure, money is great and it’s a close second to why an employee stays and why an employee goes, but feeling appreciated by their boss is the biggest factor.”

Ask Yourself: Why Do I Hate My Job?It’s a valid complaint — according to a detailed report by the O.C. Tanner Group, as many as 79% of employees who quit their jobs cite a lack of appreciation as a key reason for leaving.

According to Julia Polland, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), part of the widespread job hatred could be societal. “I think hate and dislike for our jobs have become normalized in our society,” she says. “We are no longer shocked when someone says, ‘I hate my job!’ and in fact, I think we consider that answer more acceptable than if someone tells you, ‘I love my job!’ So, this societal acceptance has no doubt lead us down the long and winding River of Apathy, which takes us straight into Hopelessville, located right next door to Depression Town and Anxiety Village.”

As Polland notes, people tend to dwell on things they don’t like — which can take attention and energy away from actually tackling the problem head-on. “Dwelling instead of doing leads us to believe we are powerless to change it,” she says. “Often even when we know we could change things we lack the energy to do so because we’re totally drained from putting up with what makes us unhappy in the first place.”

Colourful Image of Planets Notice: Is My Attitude Ruining My Performance?

It’s possible that your at-work unhappiness could be affecting your productivity, too.

“Hating your job takes up a lot of brain space,” says Carlson. “You spend half your day thinking about how you don’t want to do something or how you wish you were doing something else. Of course you’re not going to perform as well with that much brain space being taken up by negativity. When you love something you get in your flow. That’s when you’ll truly perform well.”

Nobody wants to be in a state of stagnation … so what can be done?

Colourful Image of Planets  Okay, I Hate My Job: Now What?

Now that we’ve looked at some of the most common reasons why people hate their jobs, let’s focus on what can be done about it.

Here’s where to start:

Figure Out Why You Hate Your Job

The first step to making positive change is isolating the actual problem. As Polland points out, it may not actually be the job you hate, but a particular — and potentially changeable — part about it. She even has a simple trick for getting to the heart of the matter. “Perhaps you should ask yourself, do I hate my job or simply dislike my job? Next, ask yourself, why do I hate or dislike my job? Start an inner dialogue and follow it until it yields an ‘aha!’ moment.”

Alternatively, she suggests physically writing out what you like and dislike about your job. “Having an inner dialogue is great, but writing things down is even better. Make a list of pros and cons – it sounds cheesy, but it helps organize your thoughts which can sometimes get tangled up in one another, lack detail, or take on different meanings when they are just floating around in the abyss of your mind.”

By figuring out what you dislike about your job, you may gain a lot more clarity about if it’s possible to make changes that might improve your situation.

Get In Touch With Your Emotions

If you hate your job, you might hate the spreadsheets that come along with it — but for the sake of your future happiness, try just one more. This spreadsheet concept for compartmentalizing your emotions and responsibilities comes from Polland. “Our emotions sometimes end up running the show and taking all the credit for how we react or cope with things,” she says. Here’s how to do it:

  Coping Examples
✓  “Start by making a list of all the daily responsibilities or tasks that you don’t like in one column.

✓  Then identify the emotion elicited by the task in the neighboring column.

✓  Take this exercise a step further by writing your reaction to that emotion (usually a behavior of some kind, such as avoidance).

✓  In the last column, challenge yourself to reframe your perception of the task by coming up with at least one positive outlook or silver lining.

✓  Underneath that in the same column or in a neighboring column, come up with a reasonable solution that will markedly reduce or eliminate the emotional uproar you experience every time you encounter the task.”

Not only will this help you get to the root of why you hate your job, Polland says, “but it can help you hit the reset button by reframing, which might give you just enough energy to come up with a solution to the problem.”

Get Proactive

Once you’ve gotten crystal-clear on if and why you hate your job, Carlson suggests putting on your thinking cap and getting proactive about fixing it.

“You are the CEO of your career and therefore you have to take action to make things better. More often than not, people become complacent and unhappy because they’re waiting around for someone else to ‘fix’ it,” she explains.“Ask for additional projects. Apply for a different role internally to get out from underneath a bad boss. Network with and befriend the higher-ups in your company. And if it’s money and you haven’t asked for a raise and you’re just waiting on one … then that’s your fault. You need to go ask for a raise (I’m especially speaking to the women!)”

Sure, if every proactive step you take is met with a “no,” it may be time to move on — but at least you know you tried.

Change Your Mindset

If you hate your job, its time to change your mindsetIt’s possible that changing your relationship with your job requires an internal change rather than external ones. In that case, it’s about doing some inner work, adjusting your mindset, and focusing on what fulfills you.

“Although I LOVE my job now, there was a period where I was quite unhappy. It was mostly due to the pressure I put on myself and the unmanageable workload,” Carlson shares. “I decided to start to focus on my life more than my job. I started doing things that made me happy and healthy.”

While one might think that focusing less on work would diminish productivity, Carlson found quite the opposite. She continues, “Overall I became exponentially happier, but what I wasn’t expecting was that I was more productive, efficient and successful. I actually tripled my sales the year I implemented this new strategy. My advice would be to actually focus on what makes you happy whether that’s inside your job or outside your job.”

Talk To a Mental Health Professional

Polland is a mental health professional — but that’s not the only reason she suggests seeking one out to deal with your employment woes. Frequently, she observes, it’s not your job’s fault, but rather “your job is made miserable because you are miserable.”

Is it possible you’re suffering from depression, anxiety, or some other issue?

“Even if you’re not quite sure about that possibility, therapy can help unpack the problems you’re facing at work and give you knowledge and skills to help cope with those problems and even eliminate them,” Polland says.

Colourful Image of Planets  Assess and Choose: Is It Time To Leave Your Job?

Assess and Choose whether Is It Time To Leave Your JobSometimes, saying goodbye to a job you hate really is the best solution. Here’s some advice for navigating the tricky territory of leaving your job behind:

Your Last-Ditch Effort Doesn’t Work

As Polland observes, if you’re “arriving at an impasse and haven’t been able to reframe things in a positive light or brainstorm solutions, this might be an indication it’s time to go.” But she advises that before you do, give it one last try. “Before you head for the exit, consider reaching out for advice from a trusted co-worker, HR, or even your boss for suggestions on fixing the issue. At this point what do you have to lose?”

Of course, a last-ditch effort like this should still be approached with a respectful attitude. Don’t burn bridges — remember, you still might need a reference from your current employer one day.

The Bad Outweighs the Good

When your job feels like drudgery all the time, it may be time to dust off your old resume and explore other avenues. Carlson advises, “Listen, nobody likes their job 100% of the time. But once the bad days consistently start outweighing the good days, it’s time to start doing a confidential job search.” She does add a caveat: “The only time I say that folk should stay is if they are also dealing with other huge life changes. Don’t take on too much at the same time. It can quickly become overwhelming and it won’t provide the results you’re looking for.”

Your Job is Negatively Impacting Your Life

If your job is having a negative effect on your quality of life, it may be time to pull the plug — or at least consider starting a new job search. Polland suggests asking yourself if your job has impacted your functioning both in and out of the workplace.

Start with these questions:

–   Has it impacted your relationships or social life in a negative way?
–   Am I still able to enjoy the things I used to enjoy outside of work?
–   Have I started drinking more since taking my job or doing drugs?
–   Does my job keep me up at night?

If the answer is yes, and there isn’t a solution in sight at your job, “then it’s time to start considering your next steps.” However, she cautions against just going out and recreating your ugly job atmosphere. “Don’t just start googling other jobs like the one you currently have, really ask yourself, what do I WANT to be doing? Start there and keep following that inner dialogue, explore your options and figure out how to get there in a way that doesn’t negatively impact your life by causing financial stress or putting extra responsibility on friends or family.”

Colourful Image of Planets  Don’t Be a Hater…

It’s tempting to say that nobody should ever settle for a job they hate. But in real life, it’s not always so simple. Everyone has to pay their bills!

Two colleagues working hardHowever, it is worth the time and effort to see if you can fix or remedy your situation. Making your job better could be as simple as speaking up, making some proactive moves, or even just changing your mindset.

If you’ve tried everything you can and you still dread every day on the job, it may be time to move on. The silver lining? Now you’ve got a better idea of what you want in a job and can seek out opportunities better suited to fulfill your needs.

About The Author

Jessie Oleson Moore
Jessie Oleson Moore

Jessie Oleson Moore is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer / ghostwriter and artist. As a writer, she has written extensively on finance, day trading, personal growth, and career development and has extensive experience producing in-depth, research-based articles and guides. In addition, she is an accomplished illustrator and author who has appeared on The Today Show and been featured in Publisher's Weekly. In her free time, she’s an avid traveler, Ashtanga yoga practitioner, and unicorn enthusiast.

Julia Polland
Julia Polland

Julia Polland is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and director of a non-profit program serving adolescents and their families. Julia also works as a part-time therapist for The Grounded Therapist, LLC located in Mystic, CT. Julia enjoys working with all ranges of clients, but is passionate about collaborating with parents to help them navigate the sometimes rough but rewarding terrain that is adolescence. Julia lives with her growing family in southeastern, CT.

Cindi Cervone Carlson
Cindi Cervone Carlson

Cindi Cervone Carlson is a Senior Vice President for Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. Cindi is responsible for developing, delivering, and implementing a dynamic, world-class organization dedicated to delivering outplacement consulting, training, support, and executive coaching. Cindi started her career at Challenger as a client who had lost her job. Over the past nine years, she has risen from an entry-level, part-time professional to Senior Vice President.