Hate Your Job? Here’s How You Got There

Last year, only 32 percent of U.S. workers were engaged in their jobs, according to Gallup. A little over 50 percent were “not engaged”; 17 percent were “actively disengaged.” That’s an awful lot of people who aren’t crazy about their jobs – or at least, not crazy enough about them to concentrate on their work. If you’re one of them, and generally consider yourself a hardworking person and a dedicated employee, you might be wondering how this happened to you.

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(Photo Credit: Scott Meis Photography/Flickr)

It’s not necessarily your fault.

“Smart and capable people get stuck in lousy jobs every day,” writes Liz Ryan at Forbes. “Sometimes they make a deal with the devil because they feel they have no choice. Sometimes a reasonable job degrades while you’re in the job and you may not notice the earth sliding under your feet — at least not at first.”

There are lots of reasons why you might wind up in a job you hate. For example:

1. Something changed.

Maybe your role evolved into something you don’t enjoy, or your company fell on tough times, or you got a new boss and the rapport just isn’t there. Whatever the reason, something is different now than it was before and you’re no longer happy.

The fact is that no one stays at the same job for their entire career. Hang around in the same position for more than a few years, and you’re likely to be the last man (or woman) standing. All new people equals all new job.

2. The boss stinks (or at least, isn’t a good fit for you).

Bad managers are one of the top reasons why people quit their jobs, and no wonder: it’s hard to think of a single factor that affects your day-to-day work life or long-term trajectory at a company more than the person who signs your annual review.

Your boss doesn’t even have to be a bad person or a bad manager to make your work life a living hell. If the two of you can’t communicate, for whatever reason, or have different goals and working styles and can’t reconcile your methods, you’re not going to get along, and you’ll be miserable.

3. You’re not getting paid enough.

Here’s a good reason to negotiate salary before you start a new job: it’s hard to feel good about coming to work every day when you’re underpaid. Of course, it’s a good idea to make sure you actually are underpaid before you sink into an abyss of resentment: PayScale’s Salary Survey generates a free report that gives you a salary range for your job title, experience, education, and location, among other factors.

4. You’ve outgrown the role.

Sometimes, the problem isn’t too much change, but too little. To be happy at work and in your career over time, you need to keep learning and growing. If you’re not able to do that in your current position, you won’t stay satisfied for long.

5. You have no autonomy.

“One meta-analysis involving over 400,000 people in 63 countries found that autonomy and control over one’s life matters more to happiness than money,” writes Laura Vanderkam at Fortune. “In a work context, this requires a sense of control over your work, but — just as important — over your time too. Flexibility is key, and employees with flexible work schedules report better well-being than those with less control over time and place.”

If you work for a micromanager, or aren’t allowed any control over your work and your schedule, you’re not going to love your job. If that’s your situation, the best advice is to start looking for a new position ASAP – and when you do, keep in mind what you’ve learned about what makes you happy at work.

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