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When You Can’t Quit Your Horrible Job, Do These 5 Things

Short of living with someone you can't stand – sorry, parents of surly teenagers and people with weird Craigslist roommates – there's nothing that will make you unhappier than hating your job. That's partly because most of us spend the bulk of our waking hours at work, and partly because work provides us with a sense of identity. What's the first question you ask someone at a party? Often, it's: "What do you do?"

Short of living with someone you can’t stand – sorry, parents of surly teenagers and people with weird Craigslist roommates – there’s nothing that will make you unhappier than hating your job. That’s partly because most of us spend the bulk of our waking hours at work, and partly because work provides us with a sense of identity. What’s the first question you ask someone at a party? Often, it’s: “What do you do?”

quit this egg

(Photo Credit: dskley/Flickr)

It’s easy to see how being stuck at a job you hate can make you feel like you hate your whole life. Obviously, in a perfect world, you’d leave that job as soon as possible, but while you’re surreptitiously interviewing and otherwise making plans to jump ship, you’ll need to be able to make the best of a bad situation.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

When you can’t leave right away, here’s what to do:

1. Learn from it.

Before you roll your eyes, bear with me: you can learn something from even the worst job, if you’re willing to do a fairly ruthless self-assessment. Figuring out exactly what is making you unhappy in your current job is a great way to give yourself a better chance of being happier in your next one.

“We all have the tendency to get so wrapped up in how miserable we are, that we neglect to determine what exactly is causing that unhappiness,” writes Kat Boogaard at The Muse. “So, it’s time to ask yourself some hard questions about your current situation. Is it your position that you hate, or is it your employer? Is there one key piece of your position that puts a sour taste in your mouth? Have you always disliked your job?”

When you’re done with your self-examination, you’ll have insight into what makes you happy at work. Maybe you prefer to work on a smaller team, or for a larger company. Maybe you need new challenges, or hate public speaking and would be happier in a role that requires less of it. Maybe it’s time for a whole new career, or maybe a new boss would suffice. And, yes, maybe the problem is you, but even that realization isn’t as bad as it sounds – if you discover that you don’t like taking orders, for example, you can start working toward being the boss. Your attitude might improve once you have some direction.

2. Look for small changes that make a big difference.

Sometimes, a little change is all you need.

For example, is your commute bringing you down? Then you’ll appreciate this dek from a Slate article on commuting: “Long commutes cause obesity, neck pain, loneliness, divorce, stress, and insomnia.” There’s some science to back up those claims. If your commute is killing you, at least metaphorically, it might make sense to ask about a flexible schedule that allows you to work at home occasionally, or commute at off hours when other people are still in bed or already at their desks.

If, on the other hand, in your self-assessment you discover that you like your company and your career, but not your day-to-day duties or your manager, switching to another team might be a way of changing almost everything about your job, without going to the trouble of starting over at a new organization. Internal job postings might be your way out.

3. Have something to look forward to.

When you hate your job, it can consume your whole life – if you let it.

To keep your spirits up while you figure out how to better your situation, it’s essential to have things to look forward to. It’s hard to think about new things when you’re exhausted and demoralized, but finally starting that book club or joining the gym might be exactly what you need.

If you hate work, and your whole life is about work, you’re going to be unhappy with more than your career.

4. Make mental space.

Yes, sorry, this is the section where I tell you to meditate. Meditation improves attention and productivity, and might even help you enjoy your job more, but beyond that, it gives you a break from your worries and stresses. Couldn’t you use a little mental room right about now?

If you’ve never had much luck developing the meditation habit, don’t despair. You can incorporate mindfulness practices into your routine fairly easily. Just making time to sit and breathe can do wonders. (And failing that, there is, as they say, an app for that.)

5. Gain skills.

Adding some tools to your kit might make a difference in how you feel today, while preparing you for a better job tomorrow. Once you’ve done some hard thinking about where you want to go next, look at the skills you’ll need to get there. By bridging your own personal skills gap, you’ll be taking practical steps to change your life and career for better.

Tell Us What You Think

What would you add to this list? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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Satisfied

As an avid hiker, what I would add to this conversation is that you have to travel light–especially if you are trapped in a job that you hate and there is nothing out there. What I mean is get rid of the excess expenses in your life and a clearer escape path will present itself. I was trapped in a horrible middle managment job for three years and finally hit the wall once the toxicity reached a critical overload. Over the course of a month, I put together a spreadsheet of my finances, identified areas to cut and determined minimum… Read more »

Rick
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Rick

pay compensation / knowledge…..I find myself knowing more and working harder than my associates. The company I work for is a monster who has lost its way and they do not understand that putting in extra effort should be rewarded rather than ignored, my situation is complicated because as the economy strengthens there are more choices for people and they are now hiring less qualified people to do the work and paying them as much as I make after being with the company for four years. the pay structure recently changed BUT I was squeezed by something called COMPRESSION the… Read more »

Eileen
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Eileen

Oh man! I echo Patricks statements, with the addition of my current situation which is a cancerous, fear based environment. There isn’t a whole lot available in my neck of the woods in my field so I also add the joy (*cough*) of a 1-hour commute. The rate of pay is really the only good thing about it. I’m so fed up with this place that I am currently looking for work in alternate fields at greatly reduced pay just to get some joy back in my life. In the meanwhile – I refusing to fall into line with my… Read more »

Alan
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Alan

Short and sweet: get out of a job that’s making one miserable by looking vigorously for another one. The longer one stays, the environment becomes more hostile and people can smell ‘blood in the water’/…’on the wall’.

Shreem
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Shreem

I think either you know me and my mental state right now or this is the story of every employee who is facing such issues. I tried almost all the solutions but everytime I found either bad manager or company but this time i am the most lucky one, I got the both.

Ben
Guest
Ben

Don’t let yourself be a slave on some corporate plantation. Realize you can quit that job because that is all it is – a job. There are needs to consider but no large company actually cares about you getting ahead. It is all about THEM. I work for a fortune 200 company that has just patted itself on the back for going 14 straight quarters with double digit growth and around 20 straight years of record profits. I on the other hand have gone 33 quarters with no pay raise. Actually 15 quarters with no raise, a pay cut of… Read more »

Sven
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Sven

Nice advises. I’ve need it. Guess why. I have a horrible and very underpay job, but I can’t quit, now. I must play safe because I have mortgage on my house. If I quit, I’ll lose my house. I have no savings, nor way to find better job in this moment. Advice No.5 is my favorite, now.

Ajarn
Guest
Ajarn

Rick, get yer sorry butt out of Walmart and get a professional job say, selling insurance over the phones. Look up the big ones. I can’t mention where I work, but we are hiring and I’ve seen people like you rise to the top quickly in less than a year. It all depends on your attitude. Unfortunately I learned that lesson a little too late. Walmart is not a place you can grow. It is meant to be a temporary solution for new grads — just like McDonalds and the lot. You need to fly the coop now. Come in… Read more »

Rick
Guest
Rick

pay compensation / knowledge…..I find myself knowing more and working harder than my associates. The company I work for is a monster who has lost its way and they do not understand that putting in extra effort should be rewarded rather than ignored, my situation is complicated because as the economy strengthens there are more choices for people and they are now hiring less qualified people to do the work and paying them as much as I make after being with the company for four years. the pay structure recently changed BUT I was squeezed by something called COMPRESSION the… Read more »

Mike
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Mike

This article is apt for me.. At present am pursuing a training to enhance my skillset. Now I feel that I am on the right track.. Good one!!!

Deborah
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Deborah

Through my own hardships I have re tapped into my own intuitive, artistic, creative part of my single life that is assisting with bringing memories back to light that were forgotten. These memories are now stories to be shared, loved upon, cried upon. This is a wonderful way of releasing positive energy. Just for example I lost both parents in four years and a very dear male friend whom I had previously lived common-law. I had a prompting to go see him in which I did, to forgive each other that day only to have him deceased two weeks later.… Read more »

Nick
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Nick

Looking at the positives, releasing the negatives and make the best out of the situation.

Angela
Guest
Angela

This is a great article. I often share these articles with co-workers keep up the good work.
Thanks!

Yanikee
Guest
Yanikee

Really good read,

Will definitely be taking tips from it.

Milly
Guest
Milly

If your employer has any training available, take what you can. Learning a new skill can improve your outlook.

Jares
Guest
Jares

Makes perfect sense.

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

Good advice. Well, I’m certainly not perfect…but my passion has been to be productive, innovative, and an uplifting employee wherever I’ve served. Ultimately, a company “is what it is” despite what it propagates to everyone else. I’ve worked for sweatshops. I’ve worked for businesses with “theme park” facades propped up with nothing behind it. I’ve worked for very profitable companies who cheat employees of their wages and lie about it. I’ve served dysfunctional companies whose leaders fought like children. I’ve worked for corporate politicians who master in “sleight of hand” and career sabotage. I’ve endured tyrants, mind-less methodology, and over-measured… Read more »

Mahendra
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Mahendra

Simply Superb..

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