How do you survive a job you hate?

Out of Office by Everjean

Being stuck in a job you hate is draining – mentally, physically and emotionally.

You’re unmotivated, unproductive and unhappy. 

How do you get through it?  Here are three tips that have helped me in the past.

And as I wrote this, I started thinking about the flipside of the question:  How do we as managers make sure our employees aren’t stuck in jobs they hate?  Interestingly, the same advice applies in both cases.

Fight negative self-talk

There’s a voice inside your head that narrates as you go about your day, and sometimes it says the same negative thing so often that you don’t even realize it has become your mantra:

“Ugh, I hate this place.”      “I’m trapped.”      “This sucks.”

This inner curmudgeon is hard to ignore and only serves to make you feel even worse about your situation.  But if you can become conscious of your own self-talk, you can stop the voice before it starts.  When you hear your inner dialogue start to take a downward turn, pull up some positive phrases to counteract the negative voice.

“I feel good today.”       “I can do this.”

It won’t change the realities of your job but it will help you feel better as you do it.

The flipside…

As a manager, you obviously can’t change an employee’s inner voice.  But you can insure that your workplace culture doesn’t promote complaining and negative cross-talk.  Keep lines of communication open between you and your staff by creating a space for genuine feedback in your team meetings and one-one discussions.  Encourage your staff to bring their negative opinions into the open so you can actually deal with the underlying issues.  And don’t forget to make sure you’re curbing your own inner critic as well.

Focus on growth

It’s tempting to check out of a job you hate… zoning, surfing the web, napping in your car.  While it seems like focusing on anything other than your job will cheer you up, the reality is that we need to be challenged to be happy.  Simply “doing your time” will make the days even longer and yourself even more unhappy.  So use the time you’re stuck in a bad job to grow your professional skills.  Take on a new project, rework a process or try a new technique.  Challenge yourself to learn something new every day.  The days will go faster and you’ll be beefing up those weak points in your resume to boot.

The flipside…

As a manager, this one is pretty straight forward.  Make sure your team has challenging work and the opportunity to try new tasks.  Cross-training is a great way to keep your employees learning new things while also making your team stronger.  It’s important to encourage your staff to explore projects that are of personal interest as well.  Tune in to your team’s individual career goals and focus on helping them grow.

Tackle big projects in small doses

As much as you hate your current job, you probably need to find a new one before you can move on.  Even if jobs are plentiful and you’re a hiring manager’s dream, job hunting sucks.  When you’re drained and demoralized from 8 hours on the job, the last thing you want to do is spend your free time writing cover letters.  But if you want to find a better job, you’ve got to tackle the process.  If this seems daunting, work in small doses.  Commit to working on the job hunt for 15 minutes every night.  It won’t seem so overwhelming and you’ll be able to get a surprisingly large amount accomplished in a week.

The flipside…

As a manager, make sure you’re paying attention to your team’s workload and let them know they can come to you when they’re feeling overwhelmed.  Coach them on how to approach large tasks and help them find smaller side projects that they enjoy.  This will give them something to focus on when they’re feeling burnt out on their main project.


How about you?  How have you gotten through a job you didn’t like?


(Photo by Everjean via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)



1 thought on “How do you survive a job you hate?

  1. Pingback: Pretending you love your job |

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