Ok, so work is miserable, you hate every single moment of it, Mondays fill you with dread and 5pm on Friday is the highlight of your week. If the words “I hate my job” roll through your mind on a daily basis, it’s clear that something needs to change.. and fast. While handing in your resignation and pursuing an exciting new career probably sounds tempting, doing so may not be the best move. Why? Because you can only fix your work misery after you know exactly what the problem is. Read on to discover the five reasons why you’re unhappy at work and what you can do to fix things.
The company is a bad fit for you
Being in a company that has a mode of operation that jars with your own values and how you like to work can be miserable, even if your job itself is a great fit for you. Remember that you spend the majority of your waking hours at work, so it’s crucial that you feel well aligned and comfortable at work.
Not sure if your company’s culture is the reason you hate your job?
Think about the company you work at for a minute:
- Do you understand what it does and why it matters?
- Does its mission matter to you and reflect the things you think are important in life?
- Do you feel like you’re on the same wavelength as your colleagues?
- Can you call any of them friends?
- Do you understand what your colleagues actually do?
- Are you happy with the way your company conducts itself, both internally and externally (employee rules and general operation)?
If you’ve answered ‘no’ to two or more of these questions, your company’s culture may be the cause of your misery.
Solution: You’ll probably be significantly happier doing your current job for a different company. It’s time to start a job search, but this time, don’t accept a new job offer without doing your research into the company. Check out reviews on Glassdoor – one bad review can be overlooked, but multiple negative reviews that flag up the same problems over and over again should be considered a red flag, especially if those problems are similar to the ones you’re finding upsetting at your current company.
Also look at past employees’ LinkedIn profiles. How long do most seem to stay with the company? A high staff turnover with employees leaving roles after a few months suggests something is seriously amiss.
Your boss is a nightmare
Just as an ill-fitting company culture can wear you down and make a great job feel miserable, so can a nightmare boss. That’s why it’s commonly said that people don’t leave jobs or companies, they leave bosses. Nightmare managers come in all shapes and sizes, and they do a variety of things that can make you feel unappreciated, disrespected and/or unfairly treated – from being rude, controlling and micromanaging, to having double-standards or unrealistic expectations (not to mention the really serious cases in which a boss may be sexist, ageist, racist or predatory). Regardless of the specific thing a bad boss does to aggravate his or her staff, working for one can be akin to psychological torture because their control over your paycheck gives them power over you.
Unlike other reasons for hating your job, most victims of a bad boss know the cause of their misery, but just to be sure, consider the following questions:
- Does your boss have unreasonable expectations, such as asking you to work outside of work hours, complete tasks in a ridiculously short amount of time or pit you against your colleagues?
- Do you feel fearful, sick and/or anxious when your boss is in the office and fine when he or she is out for the day?
- Has your boss launched an unfair attack on you, blaming you for an innocent mistake or something that wasn’t your fault?
- Have others in your office complained about experiencing the same bad behaviour from your boss?
- Does your boss make unprofessional comments about things like your appearance, abilities, love life etc.?
- Does your boss lose his or her temper, yell at staff or make disparaging remarks about you or your colleagues?
If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to two or more of these questions, your boss may be the cause of your work misery.
Solution: This depends on the set-up of the company.
If the nightmare boss is the top dog at a large organisation and you don’t report directly to him or her, minimise face-to-face time with your boss. Instead, communicate only by email or with someone you trust in the room. Document everything.
If it’s your line manager and you’re in a large organisation, explore your company’s procedure for changing line managers or moving teams.
If you’re in a small company and therefore can’t transfer teams or change line managers, it’s time to find a new job. In an ideal world, we’d recommend that you communicate with your boss, explain how you feel and try to reach a resolution, but the reality is that if you’re dealing with a boss who is a bully or master manipulator, shining a light on their behaviour is more likely to antagonise them and encourage them to make your life even more miserable. Make a swift exit, but be sure to carefully vet future bosses (just as advised above for vetting companies) to minimise the risk of ending up in the same situation one year down the line.
You’re not being challenged
Maybe you took a backward step when you took up your current role or perhaps you’ve been doing the same job for years. Regardless of the reason, being bored at work can quickly lead to feelings of restlessness and a yearning for fulfilment elsewhere. This doesn’t mean you’re in the wrong career, it simply means it may be time to expand your role, take on new responsibilities and step out of your comfort zone.
Not sure if boredom and not being challenged is why work sucks at the moment? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Could you do your job with one eye closed while standing on your head?
- Do you know exactly what you’ll be doing every single day you go to work?
- Are you always completely on top of your workload?
- Do you rarely make mistakes and experience unexpected challenges at work?
- Do you feel completely at home at work – you know how everything and everyone works?
If you answered ‘yes’ to two or more of these questions, you need to shake up your job to start feeling happy at work again.
Solution: First things first, you need to work out what you want to do. What are you not doing in your current role that you’d love to try out? Maybe there are some tasks that are currently entrusted to someone else you’d like to learn how to do, or someone is leaving the company and part of their role is of interest to you?
Once you’ve decided what you want, ask yourself, ‘Do I have the skills to do this?’. If the answer is ‘no’, look into your company’s policy for additional training. Will they pay for you to take a course and get trained?
If you do have the skills to take on the additional tasks, speak to your boss and explain that you feel you have the capacity to do more and would love a challenge. Be smart though! If you’re going to take on extra work, always discuss a salary increase to match the change in your daily responsibilities.
If there’s no scope for you to take on additional responsibilities in your current job, it may be time to start looking for a new role elsewhere. Be sure to apply for a more senior position to avoid quickly getting bored in your new job.
You’re in the wrong job or career
Whether you’ve been in your job for years or you’re fairly new to the field, it’s common to one day realise that your heart and interests lie elsewhere – work has become something you do for money and there’s little satisfaction from a job well done. If you’re someone who’s driven by doing meaningful work and you want to spend your life in a role that makes you feel happy and fulfilled, the longer you stay in a job that’s a bad fit for you, the greater the feelings of unhappiness, resentment and misery will grow.
If you suspect the real problem with your job is the work you do every day, answer the following questions to make sure:
- Do you feel like you’ll go insane if you have to spend the rest of your life doing your current job?
- Is your current job completely mismatched with your lifestyle, personality and/or values?
- Do you have life aspirations and goals you’re desperate to achieve but can’t do so while in your current career?
- Do you feel like the work you do doesn’t really matter?
- Are happiest working on a hobby or side project that has nothing to do with your current job?
- Are you envious of people who say they love their job?
If you answered ‘yes’ to two or more of these questions, a career change sounds like something that could inject some much-needed happiness back into your work life.
Solution: Take a look at some of our resources to help you get clear on your next move.
Start with the new job versus new career cheat sheet. It will help you figure out if you need a whole new career or just to change the job you do within the same field.
Then take a look at our career clarity guide. This is ideal if you know your current career is not right for you, but you have no idea what you want to do instead. It will help you work out your passion and the best path for you in five short steps.
You’re struggling to keep up with your workload
As failure is generally portrayed as a terrible thing in society, it can be hard to hold up your hands and admit ‘I can’t do my job’. You may have blagged your way through the application process while fully aware that you were a little inexperienced for the role, you may have done a similar role in a smaller company and underestimated what doing the job for a larger company would be like, or perhaps you had no idea what the role involved and now realise it’s much more than you bargained for and you’re in way over your head. Regardless of the reason, the end result is the same – you’re drowning in a workload you can’t keep up with and if you’re not careful you could burn out.
Do the following questions resonate with you:
- Is your to-do list out of control? You never seem able to get to the end of it?
- Do you often skip lunch or eat at your desk because you don’t have the time to break from your work for 30 minutes
- Do you have to come in early or stay late at work to get through your tasks?
- Do you often feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, regularly have to ask your colleagues to explain tasks or Google a lot of the things you’re asked to do?
- Are you taking work home and working into the evening or weekends just to stay on top of your workload?
- Do you feel stressed, overwhelmed and incompetent on a daily basis?
If you answered ‘yes’ to two or more of these questions, your work misery may well be because you’ve taken on a role that’s beyond your capabilities.
Solution: Don’t quit. This is one of those moments in life that can bring great growth IF you persevere and ask for help.
Start by breaking down your role to determine the real cause of your struggle. Yes, you’re in over your head, but why?
Workload struggles tend to fall into three categories:
- Things you can’t do because you lack the skills needed to do them
- Things you can’t do properly because they take up too much of your time
- Things you can’t do because you don’t have the support needed to do them (support in terms of people and equipment)
Once you’ve identified the cause of your struggles, it’s time to think of solutions. For example, if you don’t know how to use a particular piece of computer software that you need to use daily, spending a couple of days on a training course could transform your productivity. Or if you have 20 tasks on your to-do list, assess which are non-negotiable and which can be delegated (and who you can realistically delegate them to).
Once you have potential solutions at hand, it’s time to speak with your manager. A tactic that often works is opening the conversation by asking them for honest feedback on your performance so far. Don’t forget that we all tend to catastrophise situations, so even if it is true that you’re a little over your head in your role, it’s very likely that you believe it’s much worse than it really is.
Once you’ve gotten your feedback, admit to your manager that you’re experiencing some challenges, but have a few ideas about how to improve the situation. If you’re dealing with a reasonable manager, you’ll be surprised to find how supportive they will be, especially as you’ve taken a proactive move by identifying your limitations and coming to them with solutions.
Don’t forget that they hired you because they thought you were up to the task. Most bosses want to see employees succeed (especially because re-advertising and rehiring is an expensive process most want to avoid).
Do you feel stuck in a job you hate? Let us know what you need to remedy the situation.
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