Whether you’re hanging in there for the great salary, a company car and gym membership you’re not quite ready to give up, or you’re playing it safe while you figure out your next move, staying in a job you hate without turning into a complaining, moody slacker can feel impossible. But it’s vital if you don’t want to negate all the good work you did before your apathy set in, ruin your reputation as a diligent hard-worker, jeopardise getting a good reference when you do leave and/or, worse yet, get fired before you’re ready to leave (bye bye company car!). So how can you stay motivated at work when you hate your job? Here are the five best strategies to adopt.

Get clear about what the problem is

At the heart of every sucky job is a root problem. Whether it’s a lack of daily challenges, misalignment with the company’s culture, a tyrannical boss, bitchy colleagues, a fundamental dislike of the work you do each day or a desire to do other work, you can only begin to improve your situation once you know what exactly is making you hate your job so much.

So, grab a piece of paper and without thinking too much, answer the following questions:

  1. What is it about my job that’s making me unhappy? Why?
  2. If I could change one thing about my current work situation, what would it be? Why?

Be sure to answer the ‘why’ that follows each question as that will reveal the true cause of your upset and help you to start tackling the problem.

Get clear about what you want

It’s often easier to describe what you don’t want than what you do want. But you can’t take action if you don’t have a goal, and you can’t create a goal based on what you don’t want – you need to clearly define what you do want.

We’re biased, but completing our Career Clarity Guide is a great way of figuring out what you want to do with your life – whether that’s changing companies, changing jobs, changing careers, taking time out or starting a business. It’s amazing how much more tolerable a miserable situation becomes once you realise it’s temporary, and that’s exactly what will happen once you have defined what you want to do.

The next step? Putting together an action plan for moving away from your current job and towards your dream goal.

how to stay motivated in a job you hate
Formulating an escape plan and getting to work on it can spark a new sense of motivation when you’re stuck in a job you hate

Make an escape plan

Now you know what you want, it’s time to start turning that dream into a reality. Don’t worry about working out every single step you need to take to get from where you are to where you want to be – that level of planning is likely to feel overwhelming, which in turn, will most likely paralyse you from taking any action. Instead, focus on the key thing that’s keeping you from making the change today.

Is it a lack of money? Then start calculating how much money you need to quit your current job and take a look at this article to work out how to save enough money to quit your job in six months. If a lack of skills is your big obstacle, start researching courses, training programmes and work experience opportunities you can do while in your job. Is a fear of failure, lack of confidence or low self-belief your stumbling block? Then it’s time to add some coaching, motivational podcasts and self-improvement books to your weekly routine.

Don’t get dragged into group moans on a regular basis

When work sucks, finding a colleague or three that feel your pain can be immensely useful. Not only will they make you feel like you’re definitely not the problem (great for your sanity), they’ll also give you an opportunity to offload everything that has been building up within you for weeks or months. This will undoubtedly give you a sense of relief, which can make work feel a little more bearable, but avoid falling into the trap of participating in group bitching sessions on a daily or even weekly basis. The reason for this is simple. These initially cathartic sessions will end up feeding the negativity you’re feeling, causing it to grow.

Regular group moaning sessions also give rise to inaction as they legitimise feelings of being a victim. And playing the victim is one of the commonest reason for staying stuck in a situation you hate because as long as you’re a victim, everything is someone else’s fault and this absolves you of the responsibility you need to accept to take action.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ever complain. Just minimise it. Have a trusted friend, partner or family member you can offload to when it all gets a bit much, but set a limited time for that complaining and make it a habit to offer a solution/positive action step after every rant you have.

Find a couple of things you really love about your job and focus on those

Ever heard the saying, ‘Where your attention goes, the energy flows’? That’s the basis of our final tip for staying motivated when you hate your job. If you focus on everything you hate at work, that’s all you’ll continue to see. Why not try a different approach? Pick two or three things you really enjoy about your working day and focus on these. For example, you may hate dealing with demanding and rude clients, but you quite enjoy being left to come up with creative concepts. Rather than dwelling on the rude clients, you could focus your energies on pitching a new creative approach for an upcoming campaign and researching what your company’s competitors are doing with their creative content.

Try setting yourself a personal goal of outdoing yourself on the next creative task and make it a competition you have with yourself. You could even volunteer to get involved in an upcoming creative project that you would normally not participate in or ask your boss if you can go on a creative training course. The approach you take doesn’t matter, all that matters is that you start to create enjoyable reasons for going to work each morning. Having just one thing to look forward to each working day can transform your frame of mind.

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