what to do if you hate your job

I wrote this for LinkedIn’s Weekend Essay this weekend.

If you’re miserable at work, you’re not alone. Having written Ask a Manager for more than a decade now, I’ve answered questions from literally thousands of people who hate their jobs. Whether it’s due to a difficult boss, unpleasant colleagues, mind-numbing work, or a toxic culture, there are a lot of people toiling away at jobs they’d rather not be in.

The unsettling reality is that even if you do everything right in screening your jobs, you can still end up in a work situation that makes you unhappy. The great boss who you were so excited to work with could move on a few months after you start, and her replacement could end up being a disaster. Your office could have budget cuts that leave you with an unmanageable workload. You could be assigned a new client who turns your dream job into a nightmare. Or, if you’re like a lot of people, you might just end up in a job that sounded amazing in the interview but fell drastically short of your expectations once you started.

If you find yourself in this situation, step one is to get really clear about exactly what the problem is. Is your boss a hovering micromanager who doesn’t give you any autonomy, despite your years of experience? Or maybe the problem is your coworkers – is your work life lonely because you haven’t been able to form any rapport with your colleagues? Maybe it’s the work itself; you might have signed up expecting to do X but ended up doing Y, or the workload might be way too high or so low that you’re bored for hours every week. Or maybe it’s your company culture since not every culture will be a fit for every person. Maybe your office is slow-moving and resistant to change, while you’re more entrepreneurial and need a culture that values that, or maybe it rewards people who spend their off-hours golfing with the company bigwigs and you’re not up for that. Or maybe upon reflection you’ll realize that the problem isn’t this particular job, but rather the idea of having to work in general that’s making you miserable.

Once you’ve zeroed in on what the problem is, the next step is to figure out if it’s worth trying to fix it. If you have fundamental issues with your company’s culture, that’s not likely something you’ll be able to change. But if the issue is, say, that your workload is too high and you’re in danger of burning out, you might actually be able to get relief by talking with your boss. Not always – but if your boss is reasonable and has a track record of taking people’s concerns seriously, it’s worth raising the issue and seeing if anything changes. And if nothing does, at least then you’ll know for sure; you’ll have raised the issue, learned the problem isn’t going to go away, and then can make decisions for yourself from a place of greater information.

Of course, sometimes it can be hard to know if something is fixable. In the past, I’ve pulled complaints out of people who weren’t speaking up on their own because they were certain that the thing they disliked couldn’t be fixed, and yet once I knew about it, I was able to resolve the problem relatively quickly. So even an issue seems insurmountable to you, it might still be worth raising – because your manager has a different vantage point and might be more able to address the problem than you realized. Not always, of course, but if you’re unhappy enough that you’re likely to leave over whatever’s bothering you, it might be worth a conversation.

That said, if your manager isn’t open to feedback, tends to punish people for rocking the boat, or just isn’t particularly reasonable, you might rightly conclude that there’s not much to be gained by going that route. And other times, even if your manager would be receptive, you might realize that there are so many problems contributing to your unhappiness that fixing a few of them won’t be enough.

Once you have a more solid idea of whether your problems with your job can be resolved or not, you can move on to figuring out what to do next. Even if the problems can’t or won’t be fixed, that doesn’t automatically mean that you should leave. At this stage in your thinking, you should step back and take stock of your situation, being as brutally honest with yourself as you can. Things to think about: What are you getting out of the situation if you stay (for example, pay, benefits, a flexible schedule, a great commute, interesting work, professional opportunities, and so forth)? How likely are you to find those things somewhere else? Do the advantages of staying outweigh the negatives? What are the negatives of leaving (such as missed opportunities or having multiple short-term stays on your resume), and how do you weigh those in this calculation?

In other words, this decision should rarely be as simple as “I hate my job so I should leave.” Sure, sometimes that might be the answer. But other times you might realize that if you can get through two years of this job, you can parlay it into something much better … or sometimes it might be as simple as deciding that while yes, you don’t like the work, you love your salary and your 10-minute commute and you can reframe your thinking so that you’re less unhappy day-to-day. Getting really clear in your head that you’re choosing to stay because you’ve calculated that the trade-offs are worth it to you can sometimes make the situation much more bearable – probably because it reinforces that you do have choices and some control. Yes, my boss is a jerk, you can think, but I’m choosing to stick it out for now because I’m paid well and I love my commute. I can always change my mind later, but for now this makes sense for me.

Or, you might come out of this calculation with a really clear sense that you do indeed need to move on. You might decide that the things that bother you are serious problems, aren’t going to change, and aren’t worth the pay and other benefits you’re getting by staying. That’s a good outcome too. The idea is just to be really clear-eyed about what you are and aren’t willing to accept, how you weigh all the different factors in the situation, and which matter most to you.

If you go through this mental exercise and still aren’t sure if you should stay or go, one middle-ground option is to try launching a casual job search. Look around at what job postings are out there, put out some feelers to people in your network, talk to some recruiters. You’ll probably start getting some useful data about the market that will push you in one direction or the other. You might find, for example, that the market is booming for people with your skills and that it’ll be relatively easy to find a new position without the problems at your current job. Or who knows, after seeing what else is out there, you might see your current job in a new, more positive light. But either way, you’ll get more data, which will help you make better decisions.

And of course, if you do decide to leave, it’s crucial not to be in such a rush to get out of your current job that you skimp on doing your due diligence about the new one. When you’re miserable at work, it’s very easy to grasp at the first life raft that comes along – but leaping too hastily can mean you end up somewhere else where you’re unhappy too. Taking time to be really thoughtful and deliberative about where you end up next, even if it slows down your departure a bit, will pay off in your next position.

{ 115 comments… read them below }

  1. I'll say it*

    “And of course, if you do decide to leave, it’s crucial not to be in such a rush to get out of your current job that you skimp on doing your due diligence about the new one.”

    And that’s how I started my death spiral with bad job after bad job. And why I now work for myself.

    1. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      Exactly. One does not want to “Out of the frying pan and into the fire!”

  2. Kelly AF*

    I used a similar reframing device when I was in a bad living situation. I recognized that I was choosing to stay in it because it was the best of bad options, which really encouraged me to feel less helpless.

  3. Lawyer Anon*

    Anyone have advice for when you don’t like your job but cannot leave? I have a three year commitment at my position – I am currently in year 2. I keep feeling discouraged because I’m not the greatest at what I do. I want to work hard to be more successful, but I keep finding myself become prone to distractions and taking too long to accomplish a task, which messes up my time management. How can I motivate myself more?

    1. ArchivesGremlin*

      I don’t have any advice but know you’re not alone. I’m very diss-satisfied with my job (but don’t necessarily have commitments, just very competitive field) and I’m in the same boat.

      1. Candace*

        If it’s archives, I can sympathize. Library director here. And the more you move up, the smaller the field gets.

    2. Rex*

      Start working on your next step now? Depending on your industry it might be too soon to job hunt, but you can definitely start thinking about what you want next, start networking, polish up your skills, etc. Once you start doing that it might motivate you to rock at this job to make it easier to get that next one.

      1. Lawyer Anon*

        It’s a good idea – I can’t help but feel anxious that my poor performance will impact my next position and if I solve problems now I’ll be better down the road even if I do something different. But of course easier said than done. D:

      2. myswtghst*

        This is more or less what I’d suggest. Look for things you can do now, in whatever spare time you have, to improve your skills and resources so you’re ready when the time comes to make your next move. For me, that meant setting goals for myself that included taking some online classes (both of the free Coursera kind, and of the certification-related-to-my-field kind) and reading books related to my industry each month.

        It also had the side effect of making me feel more motivated, so I was a tad more productive at work, and gave me something at least tangentially related to my work if I did need a distraction.

    3. Beth*

      First–is this, like, a signed-contract-legally-obligated commitment? Or a ‘they said they wanted someone who would stay at least three years when I interviewed and I went along with it to get the job’ commitment? The latter isn’t actually binding; they certainly won’t hesitate to cut you loose if they want, so you should feel free to leave when you’re ready.

      If it is binding (or if the benefits of staying are good enough that you don’t want to leave), then you can work on finding ways to manage your time better. In my experience, frequent distraction is often less an issue of motivation per se, and more about finding a way to juggle tasks and manage time that actually clicks for you. Time management is a really common struggle, especially in jobs where you’re mostly left to your own devices schedule-wise; if you look for advice for that, I bet you’ll find some new things to try!

      1. Lawyer Anon*

        Thank you! It’s not a legal commitment per se, like they won’t sue me or anything, but it’s a signed agreement and it looks bad if you leave early because you have all sorts of cases that you would be dumping on your coworkers.

        Thank you!

    4. Cordoba*

      You have the advantage of being in a secure position that can also be a handy lab for figuring out what you want to do next and how to do it.

      I recommend trying to mentally re-frame the rest of your commitment period as something you just have to finish to move on to the next thing, not necessarily something you have to be the greatest at or find meaning in. It’s no different than the classes in college that you didn’t click with but had to do in order to get the degree. Sometimes the best options is to do the work to get the box checked and then move on.

      Your remaining last year is a perfect timeline to figure out what next thing you will like while you punch the clock at your current job and get paid. It’s a good thing to be able to job search while still drawing a paycheck and only putting in an honest fair effort at the office without worrying about being a super star.

      You can also use the current job as a way to sort out what appeals to you. For example:
      -Look around at the people you work with and think whose job you would want and how you can make that happen. If they’re cool, maybe you could get coffee with that person and ask them for some tips?
      -Is there any part of your current job that you do like? Can you spend the next year laying the groundwork for your next job to include more of this likable part?
      -What don’t you like about your current job, and what things have you encountered that will be hard “No’s” if they’re part of a future opportunity?

      1. Lawyer Anon*

        Those are all really good pointers, thank you. It’s a little different in that it’s law so people are just doing the same thing as I am but in cases that are way more advanced. So I’m trying to parse what exactly I don’t like about my current job, or if it’s really about managing my own behavior that’s going to follow me in every job.

    5. MissDissplaced*

      I think in that situation do what you can to make it bearable, and seek some fulfillment outside of work.
      Begin planning your exit! Improve skills, gather your documentation, update your resume. Begin browsing the job boards to get an idea of your next step, and keep or reconnect with your network. You’ll feel better for having taken some positive (even if baby) steps and you’ll be ready when the time comes next year.

    6. Where's the Le-Toose?*

      Is this your first job out of law school? If so, the feeling that you’re not the greatest at what you do is probably because you don’t have enough experience to be great at what you do. I’ve been practicing law for 23 years and it takes time to become really good at whatever area of law you’re practicing in. Also, if you’re taking too long on tasks, the panic to get everything done by the deadline is probably impacting the way you feel about your job and you may enjoy it more if you didn’t have to rush at the end.

      Poor time management is a huge concern for any lawyer. It doesn’t matter what area of law you practice in, all lawyers need to be top notch when it comes to time management. If you’re in litigation, you have court imposed and statutory deadlines. If you’re a transactional attorney, that contract the company signed may only allow for the contract to be rescinded in 10 days, or maybe the company policy is that certain drafting has to be done before the end of the fiscal year. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the public sector or the private sector, all lawyers need to be really good at time management (unless you’re one of those litigators they hire just to do the trial and the firm does everything else).

      If you’re not motivated to be a lawyer anymore, that’s a different discussion. But if you want to stay in law, the motivation to work on time management is that it will cost you future employment opportunities if you do nothing to address it. I’m a managing attorney for a public agency and if I called an employer for a reference and was told that the prospective employee was generally good but had poor time management skills, I wouldn’t make you an offer.

      There are a lot of great time management classes out there, and most of them are just a one-day program, usually letting out around 3:30 pm. And they are relatively cheap too. If you don’t want to ask for that kind of training from your employer, take a day off and go take the class.

    7. Safetykats*

      I think that Alison is right when she says it’s hugely important to figure out exactly what you don’t like about your job, and work to change it if you can – or at least to reframe your attitude. If you don’t like your job only because you’re not terribly good at it and you feel stuck, what are you expecting to be different about the next job? Because the one thing that surely won’t be any different is you. If you have poor time management skills or are easily distracted and have trouble committing to a task, that’s not magically going to change at a different employer. Neither is your skill set, or the way your skill set compares to those of your coworkers. Every job you ever have is going to have some degree of boring grunt work, and there’s likely to be more of that when you’re new or inexperienced. Not many people are senior enough to simply refuse to do work that doesn’t appeal to them. And, as I have asked more than one junior level staffer, if you can’t show me that you can dig in and apply yourself to a lower level task and be successful, why would I take the risk of assigning you something really important? In general, the best assignments go to those who have proved themselves by succeeding on lower level things – they are rewards for consistently good performance, not incentives to raise performance for people who are on the edge.

      The good news is, it sounds like you have a relatively secure position from which to work on making yourself better. If you work with people who are better than you, try to learn from them. If you have mostly low-level tasks that don’t excite you, try to work on getting through them as efficiently as possible, and figuring out what you can learn from each task. If you end up having spare time (as a result of becoming more efficient) look for opportunities to help out on more interesting tasks, or maybe to do some extra reading or online coursework that enhances your skill set. All these things will make you better at your current job, and better at any future job. And being better at your current job will actually make you feel more satisfied there, which you may find is enough.

  4. LiptonTeaForMe*

    Do the answers change at all when you are 60 and only a handful of years away from retirement?

    1. NW Mossy*

      Of course, because your priorities are probably very different and you’ve also got more career experiences that help you get a better read on whether or not certain trade-offs are worth it. For example, advancement potential is likely not as much of a draw as it was a few decades ago, but access to health insurance has become much more important. Both matter, but their relative weighting changes.

    2. London Calling*

      I’m nearly 64, looking to move from a situation that looked good and has turned out to be less than ideal, and you bet they do. I’m not looking for career advancement – I like what I do and I’d rather eat my own eyelids than move into management – but I want a shorter commute and better work life balance. I’m not ready to wind down yet.

    3. TardyTardis*

      Yes, because getting a job/keeping a job *with benefits* is much more important. I’m paying my insurance on the private market with a pre-existing condition and you really, really don’t want to do that (only downside of early retirement as far as I can see). Seeing the end of the tunnel from where you are can often make a situation much more endurable than if you envisioned it going on for the next 20 years.

  5. HS Teacher*

    I thought I hated my job. However, I’d hated every job I’d had for over a decade. It took me forever to realize I didn’t hate my job; I hated my industry. Leaving the corporate world for teaching wasn’t the best thing for my wallet, but it was the best thing for my mental health. I’m happier at work now than I’ve ever been, and I can’t put a price tag on that.

    1. Lawyer Anon*

      So happy for you! Most of my teachers were former lawyers/other professions and they were the absolute best.

    2. LiptonTeaForMe*

      That is exactly my issue, I like helping others and I do a lot of that in my job. But, management has made it into such a rocky road that I can no longer sustain the “high” from helping others.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I always said that I wanted a job where I got to help people and make a difference. But I recently realized that people don’t want to help themselves and that frustrates me to no end and made me seriously dislike my last couple of positions.

        The job I just started is completely different and while it’s not directly helping people, it’s something that needs to be done that ultimately benefits others.

        1. LiptonTeaForMe*

          I totally agree with you on that one Detective Amy Santiago, but you learn very quickly who wants help and who thinks they have all the answers. I have a friend who was dealing with an abusive spouse both physically and emotionally, the emotional part was literally eating her alive. After the third time of listening to the same old same old, I let it go. Sometimes people cannot get out of their own way before they make changes and literally have to experience the absolute bottom before they can move forward. The key as the helper is to learn to help with what is presented not with what you want to help with. It is like with kids, they all have to make their own mistakes.

    3. T3k*

      Same. I figured out my last year of college I didn’t want to bother with the industry I was studying for, but felt it was too late to turn back so I graduated. I went from bored to sad to downright resentful throughout the internships and various jobs I had in the field until I realized I needed to change industries for my own sanity. Took 5 years out of college before I found where I was happiest (plus, the pay being a livable wage also helped). It may end up being a lot of short term jobs and moving around (typical of this industry) but I love it a lot more than what I studied in college.

    4. Lurking Tom*

      Same for me! I recently left a 20+ year career in programming/IT/technical management to start my own food business. On the face of it, the whole idea seems colossally stupid, but it has been nothing but great for my mental & physical health and general outlook on life. The 24/7 nature of the tech world took a huge toll on me to the degree that even if I fail at being an entrepreneur, I’m convinced I will be better off than if I had continued with my career path.

    5. Jadelyn*

      Making the switch from for-profit to non-profit environments was the same thing for me – sure, the nonprofit world can be weird in unique ways sometimes, but it makes all the difference for me to be able to go to work knowing that regardless of what I’m actually spending my day on, it’s helping an organization to be able to do good in the world rather than helping rich people make more money.

    6. Gard*

      So happy for you, that’s the choice I know I should make but too scared to at the moment, not at least until I sell my flat and get a house…

  6. Bookworm*

    I’ve left, sometimes without having something else. Unfortunately I can only bear so much and I’ve been very lucky (living with parents, enough funds to manage for awhile, etc.). Sometimes it was worth it not to have income for a little while than continue being miserable. Certainly not everyone can do it (I don’t have dependents, for example) but in the end I couldn’t. I was just too miserable.

    Good luck to anyone who can’t leave for whatever reason.

    1. Edina Monsoon*

      I think this is the best advice I never got!
      I took a job when I was early 20s, just out of college and very naive. It was immediately obvious that I was totally the wrong fit in a small company and the job wasn’t as described in the interview. I wanted to quit straight away and find something more suitable but my family kept telling me I had to wait it out for 2 years or I’d look like a job hopper, and I couldn’t leave without another job lined up.
      Well I waited it out as long as I could, I spent my lunch breaks crying in the bathroom, until 11 months in I was fired for not being a good fit, except the boss was a nasty piece of work and refused to give me a reference even to say I’d worked there, which prevented me getting a job in the industry I wanted to work in (finance) and effectively ruined my career, I would have been so much better off taking a short term loss by quitting straight away.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Oh man, I worked years ago for a company with an actual policy of not even confirming whether or not people had worked there and I’d never run across someone in a similar boat.

        IANAL, but I wonder if such a policy could be construed as defamation (falsely implying that someone is lying on their resume about working there).

      2. TardyTardis*

        Did you keep any of your pay stubs? You should have kept some of the W-2s for your taxes, and if you still had your tax packages when you quit, you could prove that you’d worked there. This advice may be too late for you, but for someone else in your situation, a W-2 is pretty good proof you worked somewhere.

  7. Burt's Knees*

    I typically get hired for jobs that last anywhere between five weeks to 10 months, and then move on. And it’s got some real cons, like the never ending quest to line up your next gig, but always having an end date to a miserable job and being able to say no to bosses I’ve worked with before and didn’t have a good experience has saved my sanity more than once.

  8. ALPA*

    What if, after weighing the advantages and negatives of leaving, you decide it’s best to stay – but your boss is already aware of your complaints, unhappiness, etc.?

    1. AnitaJ*

      Oh, this is a really good question! Personally, I would have a frank conversation with my boss, being honest about my frustrations and proposing solutions to the issues. “Truthfully, I’ve been frustrated with [X Y Z] recently, and have been thinking a lot about how I can make some positive changes. I’ve come up with a few ideas and would love to work with you to improve processes.” Or something that’s much more eloquent. As a manager, I’ve always appreciated honesty and someone who comes to the table with ideas on how to fix things instead of just gripes. Good luck to you.

    2. SoCalHR*

      A boss that knows you’re unhappy with things but sees you maintaining your work ethic/patience/good attitude is going to respect you for that. If you decide its best to stay but have a negative attitude, that could end with your boss making the decision for you.

      And I agree with AnitaJ that there may be some elements you or your boss can fix which would reduce your complaints some, even if they don’t eliminate all of the issues.

      1. Anon4This*

        My “shitty attitude” is a running joke with me and my boss. I still produce higher quality (and more) work than pretty much anyone else at my level, and I know she’s trying to make my life better (and has shown up with the raises and bonuses and roped in people to help, when it’s possible, so I do feel appreciated). I also keep my raging negativity to myself, except when she lets me vent. Or cry. Or curse like a sailor.

        But I am golden hand-cuffed in. My partner does not make enough to support our family alone, and the job opportunities at the level are few, far between, an offer a crappier quality of life than I have now.


        1. TardyTardis*

          At some point, though, even a crappier quality of life at home is going to start looking good. I hear you, though, because I sucked it up for the benefits with a sick husband.

  9. Was I ready for a career leap?*

    I can’t second enough the immense wisdom of learning that most parts of being a worker bee are about trade-offs in what you value in employment, and treating the question as an ongoing evaluation. Like presumably nearly everyone else, I’ve gone through periods where I questioned my job, whether due to unreasonable from-the-top expectations and the perception of job insecurity that came with that, or low pay (in one field), or long hours (in another), or unpleasant clients, etc.

    But as a career changer married to a partner working in a third field and trying to break into a fourth, the biggest lesson I’ve taken from all of that is that different things work at different times as your professional and personal goals change. A close second–having been exposed to those various types of work–is that people often do not understand the intricacies of industries they aren’t directly connected with, and the pros and cons of radically different career choices can be very tough to assess in advance without the benefit of trial and error.

    All of which is to say, it can be tough when you feel professionally stuck in a series of Hobson’s choices because of sunk costs (student debt, years spent gaining seniority) or obligations (mortgages, family needs) that can’t be removed from the calculation over whether to pursue a next job — but recognizing that all of it is still about choosing between options to find the best fit possible is a liberating realization. Not saying I’ve magically gotten it right myself either, but just saying I’ve always appreciated this line of advice from AAM, as I think it’s a really helpful way to frame what can otherwise sometimes be a paralyzingly complicated, near-existentialist abstract thought process when considered too broadly (e.g. “What job will make me happy?).

  10. Pudgy Patty*

    “Or maybe upon reflection you’ll realize that the problem isn’t this particular job, but rather the idea of having to work in general that’s making you miserable.”

    So… this is what it is for me. I have never been neutral at a job, let alone happy, because I have constant anxiety about the concept of working in general. It doesn’t help that we live in a work-obsessed culture, and so I’m at odds with literally everybody in my social circle.

    But it doesn’t seem there’s any actual way to fix this. Because for me, my dislike of work in general conflicts with my very real need to eat and have a roof over my head. And the fact that I need to eat and have a roof over my head in one of the most expensive markets in the country. I HAVE to put up with so much that goes against my personality because I need to be paid enough to live here.

    I don’t know how to fix this problem. I’ve tried therapy, drugs, looking for other jobs, exercise – literally ANYTHING people advise to fix one’s mental state, and I still live in constant fear and anxiety. I think what scares me is that I’m in for another 30+ years of this.

    I doubt there are many people out there like me on this particular site, but if you’re there, do you have any advice? Because I see decades of unhappiness ahead of me, and I just wonder what’s even the point of all this.

    1. feminazgul*

      I wish I had advice, but I wanted to comment and say that I’m right there with you. I’m deeply socialist and truly, genuinely believe that our work-obsessed capitalistic culture is just designed to keep us busy and unhappy to feed the machine that feeds those at the top more than it actually needs our labor – which is truly fucking infuriating. Past UBI, past a Jobs Guarantee, I genuinely believe that a good 50% of the workforce could eventually be phased out/automated with no real loss of social cohesion. From the many, many, many, MANY people I’ve talked to that genuinely knew how useless their jobs are, I’m confident in that figure.

      I’ve worked since I was 19 and despite earning a degree and gaining new skills, the thought of job changing or starting something new fills me with despair instead of excitement. And that’s because, deep down, I just don’t want to have to work. Which isn’t the same as being “lazy” or “unproductive” (though, shockingly enough, I think people should be allowed to do that if they so choose). What I want is to not HAVE to work to survive. I want to engage in things I find interesting and contribute to society and make the world and life better for everyone else, but I want to do it on my own time, in my own way, that respects my mental, psychological and physical needs, instead of sacrificing everything of my person on the Altar of Work Nobility.

      The structure of Work in America is so frustratingly, endlessly heartbreaking, stressful and awful that the thought of having to work for another 30 years (and let’s be real, I’m 31, it’s more like 40+) before MAYBE being able to retire and to hopefully be able to take care of myself…well, it’s not a happy thought. Not one that inspires joy and hope and looking forward to the future. Particularly in light of the massive, terrifying push to dismantle what little labor rights we still have.

      I do truly wish I had some advice. I’ve done all of the things you mentioned and while things like therapy, exercise, getting a cat and medical marijuana certainly help me cope, it’s a balm on a soul wound that feels like it can never be healed. One thing that helps some is getting involved politically with leftist/socialist/union folks to keep fighting for better working conditions, but it’s a small help since the odds we’re facing are so overwhelming.

      Good vibes and solidarity, friend. I wish it was better. I’ve given serious thought to learning another language and immigrating to a European socialist country, but that feels so dramatic and I don’t want to leave everyone I know here.

      1. Jady*

        As someone who works in one branch of the automation industry, 50% is probably a low-ball number.

        The main unknown factor is how the law adjusts and handles all of the advancement over time. Driverless cars are the biggest example, drones another one (airspace is very controlled) – the law has to adapt, regulations have to be set in place, etc. These things can take a lot of time, or even be blocked completely.

        And the other thing people often miss is the domino affect. When driverless cars become the standard, everyone thinks about the taxi drivers and long-haul truck drivers. They often forget about things like the car insurance companies, the DMV employees, how it could affect things like gas stations and package delivery and all the different groups involved in dealing with wrecks – as some examples.

        The core question is “when”, not “if”.

    2. Hope*

      I bet there are more of us than you’d expect. I would happily never work another day of my life if I didn’t have to for food/housing/etc. My best approach has been to find ways to get fulfillment in places outside of work. I have a lot of hobbies. I do a lot of reading.

      Also, I made sure I have a job that I can leave at work, that I don’t have to think about when I’m not at work. That’s been the biggest savior of my sanity. I don’t know that there’s much more of a solution to it in our society, unfortunately, short of escaping into the wilderness and living off the land (which also isn’t really feasible for most of us anyway).

      1. PhyllisB*

        That’s so funny that you say that, “I would happily never work another day in my life.” When I was in my thirties and forties I felt the same way; but now that I’m retirement age (67) I feel anxious about the idea of NOT working. I’ve worked and earned my own money for so many years, I can’t imagine not doing that anymore. Also, I worry that I will waste too much time doing things like reading (this blog is addictive!!) or things that are totally non-productive. For now I have cut down to working three days a week and that helps a lot.

    3. Turquoisecow*

      I feel you. I feel like I am in a personal quandary. I find my job causes me so much anxiety with regard to interpersonal interactions. Conversations with strangers give me anxiety, and twice as much anxiety if there’s any kind of conflict. As I’ve gotten more comfortable with what I do, some of that decreases, but some of it doesn’t, and there are days I would leave work and want to hide under the blankets and never see another human again, especially not one who wants me to explain why the TPS report looks different this week. I don’t know, man, I just run it!!

      At the same time, though, the occasions where I’ve not had to work (short term disability after surgery, unemployment after my company went out of business), I was also miserable because I felt I wasn’t contributing to the world, and the limited interactions I was having with others were not keeping me sane at all. I fell into a depressive state then also. There was no happy medium.

      I recently started working part time, mostly from home, and I feel like this arrangement works for me so far. I don’t have to physically be with my coworkers, but I’m still getting some personal interactions. I only have to go into the office once a week or so, so I don’t have to deal with a long commute. I have flexible hours, so if I want to take a break and come back to it later, that’s ok. Of course, it’s part time, so it doesn’t pay a lot, and if my husband wasn’t making decent money this wouldn’t work out at all for me, but if you can find some kind of work from home arrangement, maybe that would help the social anxiety?

      1. Anxious Cat*

        I suffer from social anxiety and feel completely drained by work. It’s my dream to be able to work part time and from home, but as a single person who needs health insurance benefits and relies solely on my own income, I don’t see that as ever happening (unless I find someone to marry me haha!).

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Look for a job that is all ‘behind the scenes’ data processing. Only two weeks in and I already have so much more energy in the evenings because I don’t spend all of my mental energy on interacting with people during the work day.

    4. Cassie*

      Is it that you dislike working or that you have anxiety about it? What is the anxiety about, if that’s something you can point to?

      One slightly out there suggestion is to look into the whole early retirement movement. This works a lot better for white men in high paying careers than for everyone else, but taking a look at the numbers could help you figure out if you can at least cut off a few years of working at the end. If you really hate working, maybe it is worth it to do drastic things to reduce your spending.

      1. Cassie*

        And it is social anxiety, I would urge you to keep looking for therapists! Try different types. CBT, talk therapy, art therapy, anything. It can be hard to find a good therapist, but it can really help if you can afford it. Even just with coping mechanisms to get through it. Try medication, too. Your happiness is important enough to make sure you really have tried everything.

      2. Cassie*

        One more thought: are you miserable at work or all the time?

        But if you really feel like you have exhausted all options and you really would be happy if you didn’t have to work, you might consider what you would trade for the ability to not work. Maybe you move to an area with low cost of living. Maybe you live with lots of roommates. Maybe you live sort of bare bones with a part time job or, the flip side, find a job you can do that pays a lot of money (if work already makes you miserable, you might as well try to find a profitable misery) and save as much money as you can do you wont have to work for as many years.

        It can only be helpful, though, to identify what specifically about it makes you miserable. If it is dealing with people, maybe you could research ways to make money without interacting with people.

    5. GG Two shoes*

      Can you move? Honestly, sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery. A short ancedote:

      One of my friends was basically chronically depressed. He went school, got a degree and then worked minimum wage jobs for years with no end in sight. He had a great social life and hobbies but it wasn’t enough. He spoke often with people he met online. He saved up for a year to move from Iowa to California to live with those folks he met online. He worked part time and went back to school for massage therapy. He’s SO happy now. He’s a different person. I’m beyond proud of him for taking the initiative to move and make a big change., even though I hardly see him anymore.

      Maybe you need something big like this to happen.

    6. Treecat*

      I feel this. I don’t hate my industry, but I would so much rather spend my time doing the things that I feel are important than going into an office everyday and doing… whatever. And I’ve also definitely had really shocked reactions from friends when I’ve pointed out that literally the only reason I work is because I have to in order to keep a roof over my head. I do not, and have never, derived personal meaning or purpose from work, and I deeply resent its necessity.

      I don’t have any great suggestions for you, honestly, other than reassurance that you’re not alone.

    7. Torrance*

      This isn’t good advice but I’ve learned to pick my battles. Sometimes I’ll skip meals for a few days in order to stretch out groceries so that I can spend money on other things– I’ve been poorer and hungrier in the past and I’ve learned that feeding my soul is more important than feeding my belly.

      And, as someone who also sees those decades in front of her, I’ve found it helpful to identify the line in the sand. I know what I’m willing to put up with to live this life and I also know what I’m not. I put up with a lot because I still find joy in the things the money helps me acquire. When the money and the joy eventually runs out, well. *shrugs*

    8. MrsMurphy*

      Dito what the others suggested. What do you do outside of work? Maybe it‘d be possible to work part time and increase your time for other projects you deem more worthwhile?

      Life shouldn‘t be about work (unless you want it to be), so finding out what DOES make you happy is so important. For me, I took the conpromise of keeping my day job, but committing to two things: Helping out at the local shelter, because animal welfare is something I value very much, and writing, because I know that‘s what I was born to do. And it made me feel a lot better to know that I contribute to the world in any small way I can right now.

      Good luck to you!

    9. Jane?*

      Is there a division of the Democratic Socialists of America near you? I have several friends who are members, and it seems like their pro-worker, anti-capitalism culture is cathartic for some people. I guess it helps to feel that they’re working toward a culture shift. I mean, you probably have to continue working at the moment to continue getting money to live, but that could potentially be a fulfilling outlet for your frustrations, and there are probably other like-minded people there.

    10. Silicon Valley Girl*

      I’ve been working for 20+ years in Corporate America & I can’t stand it. It’s soul-crushing at worst, mind-numbing at best. And yet, I too, need to eat & have a roof over my head (& support a family that needs to eat & have a roof over their head) in THE most expensive market in the country. So I slave away as a little cog in the high-tech machine, hating every minute of it.

      On the rare weekend I have enough energy & time left, I try to pursue the arts that make me truly come alive & that would never earn enough to keep me (& family) fed & housed here or anywhere else. Maybe if I can ever afford to retire I’ll get to enjoy what I do during the weekday hours. Or they’ll just find me dead at my desk one day, killed by capitalism & nihilism. That’s about all I’ve got to look forward to.

    11. Nacho*

      You pretty much have 3 options: Win the lotto/kill your rich grandparents and inheret their fortune/etc…, marry somebody who’s willing to support you while you act as a stay at home partner, or accept that work will never make you happy, and find a hobby outside of work that makes up for it.

      Options one and two are, in my opinion, not very realistic.

    12. Trilliongrams*

      Oh, god, are you me? I’m so sorry, and I have no advice because I find myself struggling with this exact thing. I make good money doing work I (generally) love…. but I just HATE it. I sit in the car in the parking lot every morning dreading the work day. I have to bargain with myself to actually get out of the car to go into the building.

      It’s been this way through my entire professional career, and I’ve just decided this is how it has to be. If I want to make money and take care of myself and loved ones, there’s going to be those 10+ hours a day where I wish every second that I was somewhere else.

      Best of luck to you :(

      1. Anonanon*

        This is me too. I have a great job, make good money, great boss and coworkers, and it’s even work I find important. But I spend all day at work wishing I were somewhere else, doing something else. Having hobbies I enjoy doesn’t really help, because then I just spend all day wishing I were doing those hobbies instead.

        I’ve been this way for my entire career as well (about ten years now). I also understand that I need a job, and this isn’t really going to change. I just wish I could enjoy my days a little more. This is my only life and I hate that I spend at least forty hours a week wishing it away.

    13. FD*

      You say you live in a very high COL area. Do you need to? Is moving to a cheaper area an option? If you’re not picky, there are a lot of places, particularly more rural ones, where rent and food are cheap. (You sometimes end up paying more for vehicle costs because you drive more but even so.)

      What do you dislike about work, exactly? Is it that you feel like it takes time that you could be using to spend on things that matter more? Is that it feels like you have to be someone you’re not?

      Realistically, every way of living is going to have pros and cons. But it can be helpful to figure out what your ‘must haves’ and ‘live withouts’ are, and trying to figure out if there’s a way to structure your life around those.

    14. Jady*

      In the same boat. It’s not driven by anxiety though. For me, it’s driven by frustration, depression, anger and exhaustion.

      Having to work means I spend about a third of my time asleep, a third of my time not-happy, and a third of my time recovering to prepare for the next day. I don’t have the energy to do anything else. Thank goodness I don’t have children, I have no idea how I would manage.

      My jobs have all be fine. The work I do is fine. But the simple fact is we are all just pawns being used by other people to make those people richer. I don’t want to be the pawn, but I also don’t want to be the one using other people to make myself richer either – for a list of reasons, biggest being it seems completely immoral. Anything else I can do wouldn’t earn a reasonable living.

      I’m on medication for the depression, and it helps, but it’s just a symptom of the problem. I believe strongly that one of the core reason for my depression is the work requirement.

      The mere idea of work is absurd to me. Let’s spend 40 hours a week, 45-52 weeks a year, for 40-50 years or more doing one specific job, taking orders, counting sick days and limited vacation days, tolerating an endless number of issues and situations, many of which are mostly out of their control, and letting ThePowersThatBe pocket all the profit? I’d send them to the loony bin.

      The only saving grace I have is that my husband and I are doing very well financially, and we’re trying to retire early. That means I’ll hopefully have a good 10 years of real freedom before old age starts to interfere (knock on wood).

      So yay, in 20-40 years I can start living my life. Hopefully. The American dream.

    15. Hateful Worker*

      Look up early retirement and Mr. Money Mustache and various other sites/blogs/subreddits.

      The only thing that keeps me sane in my job (I hate work too) is that I save more than half of my income and plan to retire early. If you can manage to save 50% of your salary you can retire in 17 years. It’s a tall order, but if you can bump it up to 2/3 of your salary saved you can call it quits in a mere decade. Since you’re miserable at work getting a second job isn’t going to cut the mustard for saving money but there are other options. What about roommates? What about moving to a lower cost of living area? There are other choices too like driving a super old car or biking or walking to work if the latter two are feasible.

  11. aes_sidhe*

    I’m currently in this boat. I was so close to quitting just before lunch and walking out, but I managed to control myself. I can specifically point to what I hate about my job: micromanagement, misogyny, my boss is truly the laziest human being God ever rammed a guy in, and constantly being blamed for things I have zero control over (like the post office losing mail or the Secretary of State not taking paper forms any longer.)

    I’m actively looking and can’t get out of here fast enough. One coworker (litigation paralegal) quit 6 weeks ago and the associate attorney quit two weeks ago. When I was being fussed at just before lunch, they asked me what they could do to make it easier. I said hire someone already, and I basically got “yeah, that’s not happening soon.”

    I’m just having a hard time staying sane while waiting for another job to come through.

  12. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    So very timely for me. Today was one of those where I sat down. Opened my email and thought, “Oh, man. I cannot do this anymore.” And fantasized about just walking out.

    I’m usually pretty good about reframing it but today is just one of those where I can’t.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I think it’s harder to do it when you come close to getting out and don’t. I went through that back in January when I had 3 interviews and was a finalist for a position that I ultimately didn’t get.

      BUT, the position I did end up getting is a much better fit for me than that one was, so don’t give up hope <3

  13. MangoTango*

    What about subtle racism? My new job itself isn’t terrible, but I noticed my coworkers frequently question my competency despite me having more work experience than them. I brought this up to the top (it’s a small org), and he pointed out that my discomfort probably comes from being the only minority on staff. He also assumed, I don’t like “all the blonde women” walking around, and assured me I wasn’t a token….but that I did help his org appear more diverse to an important client. This was all unprovoked, I must add – I never initiated a conversation about my race.

    There’s no one else I can talk to here about his comments. Think I should just cut and run?

    1. Junior Dev*

      Ugh, I’m sorry you have to deal with this.

      I’m a white woman in a very male dominated industry and I went through a series of awful, horrible, boys club type jobs before realizing my next workplace needed to have more women if I was going to even stay employed, let alone be happy. I’d start looking casually, and put a lot of effort I to working places that are 1) more diverse 2) have a real HR department.

      1. AeroEngineer*

        Yes. I am in one of those clubs now (only female engineer I think in the whole company). Casually searching now, but getting more and more serious as the weeks go on. Glad to hear that there can be a light at the end of the tunnel!

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Umm… excuse me? You “help his org appear more diverse”? Your boss sucks and you are indeed a token. I would definitely cut and run. Ugh, I’m sorry.

    3. Annie Moose*

      Gross. That sounds so uncomfortable, and it sounds like he has no intention of addressing your actual concerns, regardless of their cause. Hope you can find something better!!

    4. Turquoisecow*

      How new is the job? New enough that it makes sense for coworkers to question your abilities, or long enough that you’ve proven yourself and they should know better?

      Not entirely the same, but I’ve had bosses who, despite having worked with me a while, felt the need to explain every little thing to me in detail. It was frustrating, and I’m very glad to have moved on. I chalk that up to more of his own insecurity than any sexism though.

      In your case, since it’s multiple people doing it, it seems less personal and more institutional. If it’s been enough time that they should know better, then yeah. It’s ingrained racism, and the fact that he felt the need to justify himself without you bringing it up makes it seem all the more likely that it is what he says it’s not. :(

      1. MangoTango*

        Right, I do think it’s an institutional habit. But I’m being approached as if I’m an intern, by colleagues in their early twenties when I’m in my early thirties. In fact, the job I originally applied for was just given to a much younger coworker, despite them telling me I didn’t have enough experience for the role. The level of resentment I have right now is off the charts.

        Anyway, thank you all for the extra validation. It’s easy to second-guess your perceptions in these situations.

        1. smoke tree*

          Yeah, unfortunately it does sound like the boss’s racism has infected the company culture as a whole. I can’t see anything changing if it comes from the top. You’ll probably keep getting held back as long as you stay there, sadly (not to mention that it must feel pretty crappy to work there).

    5. Jadelyn*

      …tbh I’m not even sure I’d call that “subtle” racism. He basically told you to shut up and be a good token minority when you pointed out that your coworkers are not treating you the way they do other colleagues at your level, that’s not subtle.

      How new is the job? Would getting out hurt your career or are you pretty well set with mostly longer stays on your resume?

      1. Thursday Next*

        Came here to say this, about it not being so subtle.

        If looking elsewhere is s current option, I’d go for it, if I were you.

      2. FD*


        You’re in an org where a non-insignificant number of people don’t value your input and/or think you were hired for your race more than your qualifications. It’s going to be a really uphill battle to get anywhere (in terms of raise, promotions, general respect). Unless this job is really, really appealing–e.g. enough of a stepping stone that just being there for a period will give you big advantages in your next step–cut your losses.

  14. John Ames Boughton*

    Don’t wait too long before trying to make a change though, or you might end up like me – six years in at a job that makes you sad and gives you nothing, but with no real experience or gained skills that you could use to find a job somewhere else that you actually would like, because you’ve been sitting here not doing anything for six years.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      I hear you. I was at my last job probably 3 years too long. Now that I’m looking, I’ve found the market for my type of work has changed and I would need to get a few entirely new skills to do jobs that don’t even sound interesting to me. Basically, the field shifted and I’m not interested in where it’s going. I’m still grappling with the idea of making a career change because I love what I used to do, it just isn’t available around here anymore.

        1. Beer Thirty*

          I’m in a similar situation. I don’t even know what type of job I’d look for if I had to start looking for a new job today. All I know is that I would not be interested in a job like the one I have now ;).

        2. Figuring it out slowly*

          What helped me figure it out is by paying attention to my work day and making a running list of things that I liked doing and felt good when doing it and things I absolutely hated about my work. It took me about a good half a year to really drill down about what aspects of my job I enjoyed and what I didn’t in terms of skill-set. I just kept a running list on my phone (so it was an ongoing process). Now I’m trying to transition to another career/industry that I think will allow me to do more of what I like (or a better fit for my skillset on things I want to do more of). It will most likely result in a pay cut and a lot of other comfort things in my current job but thinking about being in my current career path for another 30+ years is NOT what I want to do and I still have some luxury to experiment (savings, no one dependent on me financially, etc…).

        3. Tangerina Warbleworth*

          Look, I know this sounds Pollyanna, but what about a career counselor? If you’re like me, then you hate doing the stupid tests, but sometimes it can get you thinking laterally enough that maybe you can get to somewhere else. Even if it isn’t perfect, but at least different.

  15. Cordoba*

    I’ve found that there are some practical steps that help me with situations like this. Partially because they actually make the situation better, but I think even moreso because they help to get my sense of control back and reinforce that I’m not just a passive observer.

    Some examples:
    -Get that resume looking really good, and prep at least two different ones. The first one for a lateral move in case you just can’t take it anymore where you are and need to eject, and another tailored for whatever you want your next job to be. The process of sorting through and explaining all your very best and most impressive accomplishments is a good reminder that *you’re* good and it’s the job that sucks.
    -Get in touch with the people who you will want to use as references. You don’t need to mention them being a reference; just get caught up, confirm that you have their contact info correct, and that they’ll actually respond to you. Yes, when you ask them for a reference a few months later they’ll know this is probably why you got back in touch. No, this is not a problem – this is how it works.
    -Get your interview clothes figured out, meaning find what makes you feel good, look good, and projects the appearance that is appropriate for your industry/level/region. If you have to buy new ones may as well do it now when you can shop around and find deals; this will be less expensive that doing it on short notice when an opportunity comes up. Wear them out and about once in a while so you can get used to them, find out what bits might not be comfortable in an all-day interview, and (why not) enjoy looking extra-sharp out in public just because.
    -Save money. If things go wrong and they fire me (or I get fed up and quit) whatever happens after that will sure go better if I have some extra cash on hand. The more money you control the more options you have and the less you are beholden to any given employer. When sitting through a crappy meeting with an unlikable boss, just knowing that “I could quit right now and be financially fine for X months” gives a wonderful feeling of security and power.
    -Set aside a vacation day or two and mentally label it “Interview day”.

    Stuff like this helps me to focus on the presumably brighter future, as well as increasing the chances that this brighter future will actually come about.

    All of this also helps you to get ready for an opportunity that comes up on short notice. When I was recruited for my current job we went from first contact to on-site interview in less than 2 weeks. Because I had done all this stuff already it was not hard to take time off, pay for a flight, and be there looking good and feeling confident in my resume and references. I was really glad I didn’t have to do all of it in a hurry after I found out about the position.

    1. rldk*

      This is a great idea – fight the learned helplessness/inertia of a bad job and actively prepare to get the new better one. I love it!

    2. Christmas Carol*

      How many times have I said this before, if regularly wear interview type clothes to work on random days, you don’t look nearly as suspicious when you do need do dress for an interview.

  16. MrsMurphy*

    Something about voicing criticism…

    I found myself in a job I hated. My coworker (and office co-habitant) was horrible – lazy, lying, hated me basically. And nothing was done. At all. I went through the process described here (though not as structured) and came to the conclusion that a) staying without significant changes was not an option and b) to my incredible relief after crunching the numbers the husband and I found we could get by without my salary, at least for a while.

    Before I quit, though, I exhausted all available channels within the company. The important thing is – in my opinion – to not show the whole quagmire of sadness and bitterness and FEELINGS, because they don‘t change anything. I calmly explained my issues and what would need to change to make me stay. Nothing was done, and I resigned. But I could hold my head high and feel okay with myself because I tried! I gave my manager and all the others ample opportunity to work on things.

    The absolute confirmation of this approach came some months later: My leaving – and my stated reasons for leaving – had finally prompted those exact changes in the department, and the company reached out to me to ask me to return. Apparently the integrity I displayed made an impression.

    (So far it‘s awesome, and productive, and everything I could‘ve hoped for.)

    1. MissDissplaced*

      Oh boy do I know about the quagmire of misery. I really let mysef wallow in it too long at ExJob and I got pretty darn unbearable. In my defense though there was a lot of things in flux. When they settled, it became easier to move on and leave.

  17. epi*

    This is all great advice. I did a lot of it a few years ago when an unexpected change made a job I used to love unbearable. A few other things helped me:

    I got really clear with myself, not about the problem, but what I wanted in an ideal job. Maybe this was specific to being really early in my career, but I needed to figure out what were the bones of a great job, to me, that would render everything else just details.

    I tried to take some ownership of my professional identity. I loved my industry and what my role was supposed to be, but hated my job and only getting to work on topics set by people I didn’t respect. So I started a blog where I just wrote and developed my thoughts about topics in my field that were interesting to *me*. I didn’t promote or develop the blog, though I got a couple of great writing samples out of it that got me my next job. For me it was about feeling that I was a real health researcher with my own agenda and my own mind, even if people weren’t treating me that way at the moment. For others it could mean training, networking, mentoring someone.

    I took care of myself and looked for other sources of happiness and self-worth that had nothing to do with work. I exercised, I wrote, I drew, I made more of an effort to keep in touch with friends. I realized I couldn’t have all my well-being tied up in an area that some jerk could just wreck for no reason.

    1. Cordoba*

      I really like this idea of a separate blog or equivalent to work with concepts and think through how things should be done without the constraints of bosses and budgets and such. Sort of an intellectual playground.

      Not only would it be a good place to vent and add some structure to your ideas, it seems like it would also be a great way to remind yourself about the parts of the field that you really enjoy and can move towards in the future.

  18. Jane?*

    My situation is that I enjoy my work, am the top person in my dept, but my work environment is extremely dysfunctional. My office is a tiny nonprofit. I work directly with clients and find it fulfilling. I’ve also had some opportunities to do public speaking about the need to change public policy to better serve these clients. (Which is really what I want to do, but will likely have to get a graduate degree to pursue that.)

    The environment, though, is so terrible. ED is being low-key investigated for mismanagement of grant funds (I found out because I was contacted) but somehow the board loves her? ED makes everyone uncomfortable by pushing us to comply with mismanaging the funds. Middle-manager 1 is not that bad mostly, but takes everything very personally and makes a lot of inappropriate comments about weight, race, etc. Middle-manager 2 is chronically absent, doesn’t produce any deliverables, has chased off two subordinates with her bad attitude, and on and on. I would think MM2 had dirt on ED to pull this crap and not get fired, but MM2 has been here for 5 years before ED came on, and has a long history of getting away with murder unscathed (she embezzled! and is still here!).

    The rest of us are just trying to make the best of it while trying to get out, but it’s hard in this area to find a job that would pay the same (which is still vastly underpaid) and would have comparable benefits.

    Personally, the way ED treats people/me has driven me into deep depression. I’ve had to join an intensive program these last few months to keep myself this side of the edge. The program has been good for me, and with my top notch insurance plan, the whole thing has only cost me $25 for the initial consultation, with the rest covered 100%, and my medication costs have been reasonable. On one hand, my workplace has driven me to this extreme to need this program. On the other hand, when I leave this job, I won’t ever find this level of insurance again. (I’ve thought very hard about quitting and getting on Medicaid Expansion in my state, but due to how my state handles mental health in Medicaid, I wouldn’t be able to see my current doctors and my options would be very limited.)

    I’ve been reading AAM obsessively on my breaks for the last several months, and it’s really helped me to identify just HOW dysfunctional this work environment is – which is nice, to have some independent validation! It has also helped me to have some good scripts on hand when wacko stuff happens – like my boss, MM1, screaming at me for something that happened four months ago. While she screamed and accused me of trying to harm the company (by expecting the company to pay my reimbursements at the pre-agreed rate), I just kept repeating, “We already handled this. That is what we had agreed on.” and trying to have a facial expression to show how bizarre and unreasonable she was being. Then she finally left and I cried a lot and couldn’t work for two hours because of a panic attack.

    But anyway, on my way to hopefully getting better employment someday, AAM has been great and I have especially benefited from thinking of things as “reasonable v. unreasonable.” (Things here are most often wildly unreasonable.)

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      I wonder if the ED and the embezzling middle manager who didn’t get fired (!) are in on some sort of grifting scheme together.

    2. WellRed*

      Well, this feels a little… chicken meet egg. Yes you might not get the same level of benefits, but if you get out, eventually you won’t need the same level of benefits. Because the job created the problem in the first place. (I do realize its not an instant fix).

      1. Jane?*

        The job didn’t create my depression, it just exacerbated it this point. I have a chronic physical health condition, too, and it’s a huge relief to have such an excellent health plan. And I only pay $80/mo for it. I’m about $6k underpaid as it is for my position. When I leave, even if I get that $6k, it will ALL go to paying for health insurance premiums and deductible. Most employers I know of around here make you pay huge prices for halfway decent coverage.

        (It’s still not ok for the workplace to be like this, even with great health insurance.)

    3. PookieLou*

      I don’t really have advice, but I want you to know I really appreciate your comment. I see so much of my own story in your experiences, like your AAM obsession, how it gave you perspective on your awful job, and living with a chronic illness and depression. I hope you can find a better job that will give you a good rate on insurance.

  19. Ruth (UK)*

    I started with the casual job search option. I didn’t hate my last job but I was quite sick of it. It was a call centre style set up I’d been in for over 3 years (which feels a long time to me in my 20s though I know it’s not in the scheme of things) with absolutely no options for further training or advancement. The main pro was that I didn’t have any difficulty getting the leave I wanted/needed and I do a lot of hobby stuff. Cons were the boring and repetitive nature of the job, no possibility for advancement and my boss was micromanagey and not quite a full on jerk but tending that way sometimes.

    I casual job searched for several months but then I realised I was more than casually bored at my job. I was quite sick of it. Small things started to really irritate me like that Bob always left a coffee stain ring from his mug or Jane never collected her printing. These things would not normally bother (or even be hugely noticed by) me but they started to really bug me and I eventually worked out it was because I was unhappy and frustrated in general.

    So I launched into a much more serious and focused job search. In my case, it worked out very well. Not everything about my new job is a pro compared to my old one (for example I have to work occasional weekends now which I never had to do at my last job, though the one before that was retail so whatever) but overall the pros far outweigh the cons in my case. I’ve been at my ‘new’ job for 6 months now so I’d say it’s been long enough that I’m not just still in the ‘woo new job!’ phase of it.

  20. MissDissplaced*

    I went through this same process. I didn’t hate my job though. In fact, I loved my job, but the company moved to the city which would have been a horrible commute and cost (i.e. salary deduction) to the tune of $5k a year.
    Work at home options were also removed. So, I left, though I didn’t really want to.

  21. Nacho*

    I used to hate my job, and seriously started looking for a new one. Then I was promoted to a much better position and stopped. And now they’re adding responsibilities from my old one to my new one, so it might be time to start looking again.

  22. Trilliongrams*

    I just left a job making good money doing work I love, but the boss was a jerk, the company was dysfunctional, the coworkers were petty. So I got this new job, making slightly more money, still doing the work I love… but the boss is toothless, the coworkers are cliquey, the company is a mess. I wanted to quit on the second day.

    I’ve come to realize that the problem is me. These jobs I’m hating aren’t horrible by any means. I just need to better learn how to let some things roll off my back and how to manage my time and stress better. I’ve set up an appointment with a therapist to start working through the problems and to start managing my life-long mental illnesses.

    Sometimes you need to step back and take a broader look at your life. Do you hate your job, or do you hate your whole life (and if it’s the latter, is your job causing you to hate life or is your life causing you to hate your job?) I’m very aware that an awful job in a dysfunctional or abusive environment can really bring your whole life down. But don’t forget to take stock of your mental health to see if that may be contributing towards your feelings about your job.

  23. FD*

    I would also add to this, be cautious if you find yourself hating every job over time. That can be a red flag that something bigger picture may be wrong, whether that’s that you need to re-calibrate your expectations, that you’re in the wrong field, or that you may be better suited for a different type of employment (e.g. freelance vs. employment).

  24. 653-CXK*

    Ever since I started reading AAM, I’ve found this as a valuable resource. This article fits perfectly with my current situation.

    I was let go from a job I had for the past 15 years (and I had been at the company for 21) for performance issues (quality based). I never had any other disciplinary problems (coming in late, taking too long of a lunch. running out with a bunch of pencils with a maniacal laugh) but it was the petty mistakes that sunk me.

    Looking back, I can say that the job I was let go from was the most monotonous, boring, and rigidly perfectionist I’ve ever had. Micromanagement was the rule, and if you weren’t pulling your weight, you were called on the carpet for it. You couldn’t be even considered for a promotion unless you did perfect work, and that included if you wanted to move elsewhere in the company that had nothing to do with it.

    Ever since last year, I wanted to move on. I tried applying for other jobs within the company, but it introduced another wrinkle – I knew a lot and wasn’t easily replaceable. Management didn’t like its subject matter expert looking to escape and thrive elsewhere, so they retaliated so they could get me to quit. A PIP and three write ups later, I was handed my final check and vacation time and I was gone.

    Looking back, there’s a lot of “I should haves” and “I regret I didn’t do things” but those things are secondary when they crack the whip for more perfectionist work. Now, I don’t have to endure the constant passive-aggressive emails, the “I have to praise people because my boss is here” attitude, the pettiness and favoritism of ExJob.

    My biggest word of advice to those of you stuck in a crappy job – even though your boss/job sucks and it’s not going to change (the famous AAM maxim), don’t hesitate to speak up and be heard. If your upper echelons won’t listen or try to tamp you down, then they’re not looking out for you (and it’s a sign that you’ve violently shaken their Just The Way We Like It scheme) and you MUST find a way to leave – don’t give them the cudgels to smack you with. Once you get a new job where you’re valued and praised, it’s a sign that it’s a much better fit for you.

  25. LittleLove*

    We were close enough to retirement and have lived frugally all our lives (house and car both paid off) that when the toxic boss was killing us, we quit. Best thing we ever did. Our health improved dramatically. It’s not an option if you’re young but even though we planned to work until at least 65, if not 70, that boss made the decision for us. Oh, and if you are young, get that IRA. You WILL be glad for it some day.

    1. PookieLou*

      I did something similar despite being in my 20s, leaving a toxic job (although I’m still in the workforce). I don’t regret it for one minute.

  26. PookieLou*

    The past 3 years of my life have been one long learning experience about hating jobs. Here’s a summary of my life as a jobhopper penguin:

    1) Dream-come-true job in my desired industry, where my “useless” college major is actually advantageous. First “big girl” office job with salary and benefits. Inexperience/loving the work itself explains me taking so long to realize the company was TOXIC. Conditions never stopped deteriorating. Employee dissatisfaction was almost palpable. One day my coworker boyfriend said that my overall countenance between leaving work and getting home 10 minutes later was night/day. Knew I had to give notice after that. No regrets leaving, even without another offer lined up.

    2) Jumped into a new job at a trendy startup. Figured it would suit 20-something millennial me. Also needed money for my wedding with (former)coworker boyfriend-turned-fiance. Great company, great coworkers, good pay, but somehow still a horrible fit. Getting engaged should mean the end of bad dates. Work felt like going out with that perfect-on-paper, nothing-wrong-with-him guy who you nevertheless look forward to never seeing again. 40 hours of bad date vibes/week drove me insane. Broke up with that job after 3 weeks. Felt pretty embarrassed about that one. Pass their billboards every time I take the freeway.

    3) Took two months to find another job. Luckily, I’m good at saving. (Also luckily, unemployment meant enough time for record-speed wedding planning.) Unfortunately, I ignored some red flags in my desperation. RF1: No chemistry with my interviewer/future boss. RF2: Accepting an offer at a software company with no interest whatsoever in software development, and very little tech savvy. Thought I’d be okay constantly collaborating with dev teams if I wasn’t a programmer. RF3: I learn that BossMan’s philophy on hiring is that no prior experience=no bad habits=easy to mold to his liking. The problem is, people get college degrees specifically for this kind of work (grad school if they want advancement). Chemistry with BossMan never materialized. Acted dismissive toward me when I told him a different department would suit me better. My own team forgot my name for months. One guy said he’d never heard of me before and asked who I was. After 8 months. I never made friends, never felt at home (unlike at jobs 1&2). Got married, nobody said a word. Turns out, Husband’s income/insurance plan are enough for us to get by on. Left that job after 9 miserable months.

    So in 3 years that’s:
    Loved the job/horrible company
    Good company/Good coworkers/inexplicably hate it anyway
    Hate the job/crappy boss/hate the company

    I went from being blinded by inexperience, to jumping into the wrong job, to ignoring red flags all around me. I’ve learned that just because professionalism means accepting that not everything is ideal, that doesn’t mean I have to just accept unreasonably crappy work conditions. I learned that being young doesn’t automatically translate to enjoying the trendy startup life. I learned why it’s important to gauge chemistry and get a feel for company culture during interviews, and to not make up forced reasons why I might like a job that’s clearly outside my skills and interests.

    I’m not proud of my job hopping ways (not to mention the tax nightmare of 5 jobs between Husband/myself last year.) And I know that being young isn’t a get-out-of-consequences-free card. But this whole mess has actually proven immensely valuable. I got hands-on experience in my preferred field, made use of my “useless” degree (validation!!!), bought a good car that should last me at least a decade, and even met the love of my life. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that freelance work is actually in high demand for my skill set (more validation!!!), so I can still have a career doing the work I loved at job#1 (which also provided me with a bunch of contacts). I figured out how write my resume in a way that downplays my migrant past. Starting over on my own terms is hard. It’s stressful, discouraging, and takes my patience to its limits, but I am still infinitely happier than I was at any of those jobs I hated. Best of all, there are ZERO bad date vibes.

  27. Living The Dream*

    I manage a small team of folks working in three different cities and I’m in a fourth. One of employees is very unhappy and has been for a long term (since before I was his manager).

    When I saw this article, my first thought was “Byron should read this.” How bad would be it to send it to him with a note saying “I know you’re not happy and thought you might find this helpful.”?

  28. TardyTardis*

    I stayed in high workload ExJob for several reasons: the benefits were wonderful, and my husband has/had cancer, and I wanted to stay till at least he was able to get on Medicare. I was able to work 9-6 instead of 7:30-4:30 because one of my supervisors also stayed late and needed someone who could post vouchers who wasn’t her (Sarbanes-Oxley issue). I also had four weeks in my PTO bank, and the office had a flexible attitude when I had to shout, Husband emergency! Be back as soon as I can!’. But taking early retirement was really the way to go for me, and I’m glad I was able to do it.

  29. Amanda*

    My therapist said to me, “Imagine writing an accurate job description of what you do every day. Dealing with the bad hardware, old software, disagreeable coworkers, all the things that make it hard to do what your job was supposed to be. Imagine that this job is exactly what you were hired to do, with your current salary and benefits. Now, is it worth it?”

    And yeah, it was. Still is. Not forever and I’m taking night classes for my next job. But reframing the situation in this way has been immeasurably helpful. Now when I’m dealing with bullshit that detracts from what I thought I was hired to do, I just remind myself that they know what this job entails and they’re paying me to do it.

    Meanwhile my coworkers are so wrapped up emotionally in the quotidian dysfunction. I sympathize but secretly don’t care about this job after 5pm. It really, really helps.

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