what to do when you hate your job

At some point in your career, you’re highly likely to run into a difficult boss, toxic co-workers, or an unpleasant work culture.

Whatever the problem, the ultimate solution is generally the same: Step back, remove your emotions from the equation, and try to figure out what you can and can’t change. Decide what you’re willing to live with, and where your bottom line falls.

Easier said than done, right? So let’s break this down:

1. Step back and remove your emotions from the equation.
It’s difficult to make good decisions for yourself when you’re angry or frustrated or feeling slighted. Those are mindsets that lead to decisions that are more about “I’ll show them” than about the outcome that will be best for you. The more you can step back from the situation and look at it objectively, as opposed to letting your emotions drive you, the more likely your decision will be one that you won’t regret later on.

2. Figure out what you can and can’t change. 
Frequently when people are unhappy with some aspect of their job, they suffer silently rather than speaking up. Not every problem is surmountable, of course, but quite a few are, and even if you’re convinced it’s not worth raising, you might be surprised if you give it a shot.

For instance, if the problem is that your manager micromanages you, consider talking to him or her. Be calm and professional, explain what you’re noticing, and suggest solutions. At a minimum, this will give you useful information about where your manager is coming from. For example, you might hear that your boss isn’t open to a different style at all, or that you’re being micromanaged because your work isn’t what it should be, or that your manager will be more hands-off if you provide more frequent updates. Drop your defenses and be open to hearing his or her response, even if you ultimately decide you disagree.

Sometimes things can change once they’re brought to the surface. Other times they won’t. But once you’ve tried, you can make better decisions for yourself with more complete information.

3. Determine your bottom line.
If talking about the problem doesn’t solve it, and all signs point to a low probability of anything changing, your next step is to decide whether you can find ways to live with the situation and still be reasonably happy. If you can’t, you’re probably better off accepting that so that you can start looking for ways to move on. But often, if you accept a workplace difficulty as part of the package, you can find ways to live with it more comfortably.

A useful step in doing this is to get really clear on what your bottom line is: what things matter most to you, what trade-offs you are and aren’t willing to make, and what you value most. For instance, maybe you can’t stand your manager but you love having a short commute and you’d rather keep that commute, even if your manager is part of the deal. Or maybe you’ll decide that you’re willing to triple your commute if it means getting a new boss. There are no right answers here–it’s just about getting really clear in your own mind about what matters most to you.

No matter what you decide though, the key is to survey the situation calmly and rationally and make decisions based on how things truly are rather than how you wish they were. That’s a lot more satisfying than a constant struggle.

I originally published this article at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 11 comments… read them below }

  1. [name redacted for safety]

    I’ve been dealing with a very insecure and hostile boss for a number of years now, and I have tried every trick in the book. I like my job, but I can’t do it as well as I’d like because of the push-back from my boss. I’ve gone to HR, employee counseling, development sessions, and come to the conclusion that if your boss is actually terrible and has been that way for more than a decade, nothing will change. The organization has resigned itself to losing good, new employees. And in this economy, the only thing you can do is remind yourself you’re employed. I feel a little better in my job now that I know no one will do anything to intercede on my behalf. At first I thought there would be a remedy, but now I’ve lost the will to fight. Maybe that’s what they’re going for in the first place?

    1. Anonymous

      im going throught the same thing…its a struggle everyday to get up every morning to go to this horrid place..

  2. Anonymous

    “Doing what you love means dealing with things you don’t. If there was nothing to overcome, it might not be that .” Quote from a patient on House

    So glad I don’t hate my job

  3. [name redacted for safety]

    “Hating your job” and having a boss who has bad work habits is a different thing. I love what I do, but other elements make it hard to do my job well (and for me to be treated like a human being).

  4. Anonymous

    I’m exactly in this situation — I started a new job a some months ago and realized after a few weeks that I was in a toxic workplace with a severely dysfunctional office culture that wasn’t bound to change anytime soon. Much of the dysfunction starts with management.

    I’ve weighed the positives of this job as well as the negatives and am trying to determine my personal bottom line and deciding what aspects of this dysfunctional situation I can live with and accept and what will be deal-breakers which will motivate me to search for a new job. I must admit that when things get pretty bad, I constantly find myself scanning the job ads.

    My main problem when I start interviewing for a new job will be answering the question: why am I looking for a new job so soon after just landing this one? How to avoid bad mouthing my current employer and being less than candid about my real reasons for leaving.

    I’ve read Ask a Manager’s ebook and she advises not to be completely candid about toxic work cultures and problems with dysfunctional management on interviews because being honest in this case might reflect badly on me at the interview stage. So I have to find some other way to answer the “why am I looking for a new job” question.

  5. Ane

    To Anon…. answering why you are looking for another job so soon? Leave it off your resume if yuo have only been there for 2 months or so (esp if you were unemployed before)

  6. Anonymous

    I am suffering with the same horrible boss. The problem is, the culture is as bad as the boss. And, everything is one-sided. The worst part is, she dictates everything and she is also the boss of HR. To whom do you complain then? Well, what is our resignation/fire turnover? Imagine a once a month lay off because you go against her. There are no decision makings. She is the only decision maker, whether right or wrong. The CEO doesn’t even listen to his staffs, he only listen to this boss of ours, who he said is the only person who trusts in the office. Dysfunctional management, toxic culture, difficult boss, one man band (knows-it-all boss). The worst part is no vendors want to do business with us because of this. My boss wants to win everything. She does not believe in a win-win business. She pretends to know everything that even the simplest shipment terms is unknown to her. How can I escape from here when I am in dire need of the money (salary) I am receiving?

  7. Anonymous

    I can certainly relate to “hating” the boss and for the people who do not understand let me help you. It’s a big difference between hating your boss verses hating your job. I’ve been in my career for 18 yrs and I absolutely love it beyond a shadow of doubt. However, the small company I’m employed by just hired someone under the age of 30 to be GM and he is an obnoxious, rude little idiot. Age is just a number but in this case his age shows just how immature he is for the position. Wanted to clarify, just because someone hates the boss doesn’t mean they hate the job, totally two separate things! The ultimate question is, will the horrible boss make the person hate going to work because they will have no choice but to endure the idiot boss

  8. Reality Check

    First off. I’d like to say the job and its requirements are great. However this new manager that has no idea what she’s doing is off the chart. She starts rumors and is the #1 instigator of everything. You can say one thing, by the end of the day, your words will have been in a blender. She’s caught hiding and listening in on conversations. She refuses to look you in the eye and she’s somehow managed to run off or running off good people who’s been there for ages. This manager is horrible and openly jokes about firing people. As if … There are times where I sit and stare at this person and think to myself … AM I THE ONLY ONE SEEING THIS SHIT? LOL One second she’s all for you and behind you 100% then next she pulls a Jekyll and Hyde trip. Upper management has no idea. They think shes fabulous because she supposedly saves them money. Which I highly doubt. But, whatever. During lunch, she sits with all these young girls and try to fit in on their conversations. But little does she know, moment she walks off everybody looks at her like shes the most retarded person on the block and talk about her behind her back. I’m not sure if she ever HAD popularity issues but shes totally fullfilling them at this job. The people higher up can’t see the forest for the trees and its sad to see an empire that one man built, crumble because of immaturity sitting in a management position. Once my year is up, I’m out like magician. Now you see me, Now you don’t.

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