“I hate my job, I hate my job, I hate my job…”
Every Monday it’s the same.
You wake up. Open your eyes. Shake off the hazy remnants of the dream you were having. You try to remember what day it is.
Your heart sinks. Your stomach drops.
Monday. Bollocks. It’s back to work…
You hate your job, and you’re fed up with your life shrinking into two desperate and far-too-short days at the weekend. If you’re honest, thinking about how much you hate work tends even to leach into those, doesn’t it?
It makes your blood boil. The office politics. The fact you give all of ZERO fucks about the work you’re doing. The frustration you feel at all the hopes and ideas you had for your career all leading up to and ending unceremoniously in this stinking turd of a job.
“I was meant for MORE than this!” you’re screaming on the inside.
But with every day that goes by with you feeling more and more stuck, more and more trapped, you’re starting to wonder if that’s true.
“What if work is supposed to be shit?” you wonder.
“What if it’s unrealistic to expect to have work that I can’t wait to do on a Monday?”
“Why can’t I just be happy? The pay’s not that bad. If I could just learn to like it a bit more, maybe it wouldn’t feel so sodding awful?”
Except, no matter how hard you try to just suck it up, it never gets any better, does it?
You’re like a frog, slowly boiling to death in water that gets incrementally hotter and hotter.
You can feel it coming. That day when the straw will finally break the camel’s back, and you’ll hysterically scrawl a resignation letter and high tail it OUTTA THERE, flippin’ the boss the bird as you go.
Except you know deep down you won’t. Because, much as you hate your job, you NEED it.
And the thought of how much you detest your role being somehow discovered, leading to you being pushed out of the door, is, ironically, even scarier than you making the jump on your own.
You must have contemplated a thousand different jobs by now. None of them inspired you, but you slung an application in whenever you could anyway. It’s a numbers game, right? Surely one of them will stick and help you escape?
You’re smart, resourceful, and you’ve actually got some pretty decent experience. But no one’s calling you for interview. Geez, you aren’t even getting replies. Your sinking confidence feeds back into the negative thought loops that keep you awake (mind buzzing, body uncomfortably tossing and turning), at night.
You know on some level that you could, theoretically quit, but that feels foolhardy, reckless, crazy. And you don’t want to let your family, or yourself down.
Besides you’ve got bills to pay, responsibilities to take care of.
It’s not like you can just swan off and spend 6 months contemplating your navel, only to end up in an equally shit job that pays even less.
So you stay put. Stuck. Trapped.
And you become a little bit smaller, a little bit less you, with every day that goes by.
I know how this goes. Because I used to hate my job too.
I can’t tell you how many evenings there were when my boyfriend (now husband) used to ask, “How’s your day been?”, and I would answer, “Arghhhh. I fucking HATE my job.”
Hours could be lost ranting about it, followed by collapsing, exhausted and tearful, in front of whatever box set would be most likely to offer me a little escapism.
I did get out eventually. Into work that I genuinely love.
But it was NOT an easy ride. I did things in a slow, and painful way. I didn’t do the things in the beginning that I know now would have made the biggest difference.
I didn’t get any help. I tried to figure it out, all on my own.
And that made everything slower and harder.
I know now that feeling so much hate at my job, was actually a major part of the problem.
So if you’re stuck in that place too, I’d like to share a few things that might just help to take some of the heat out of your job hate, so that you can create some headspace to let in something new.
Whether that means a new idea, or a new approach, new inputs, creating some white space in your diary to decompress, or something else entirely, you know that if you’re going to find a way out of your cage of a job, something is going to have to change.
Try these 4 techniques to hold your job-hate at bay, so that you can start thinking deeply and productively about how to create something that helps you feel a little more ALIVE.
1. Remember, you are not your job
Firstly, let’s state something for the record that you might really need to hear.
Despite ‘And what do you do?’ being the number one question that we ask and get asked at parties, the work that you do, during whatever hours you do it, is not the entirety of who you are.
You are a rounded human, with people who love you, interests that you care about, and goals and dreams. You have quirks and foibles that are all your own. You have preferred ways of doing things. You have a sea of memories and experiences that have NOTHING to do with your work.
Hold on to that.
In the grand scheme of your life, your work is a small part. And the work ‘you’ is just one facet of you. It’s not the source of your identity.
When you deeply hate your job, it can loom large in your life. That’s because what you focus on grows.
Let’s cut it down to size.
2. Assert boundaries and create distance
Creating a set of rules about how you allow a job you hate to be present in your life, while you’re working out an escape plan, can help to take the edge off a little, and leave you some focus free for other things.
Part of creating change here is about asserting what you will and will not accept.
Assertiveness is not aggressiveness, nor is it accepting what you don’t like. It’s about stating calmly and clearly what is and is not OK for you.
Some of these statements will be outward. Perhaps you need to let your boss know you’ll not be answering emails after a certain time in the evening. Or perhaps you’ll need to tell Jane in Marketing that if she wants you to work on that press release, you’ll need the details at least X minutes / hours / days in advance.
Some of them will be inward…
“After 6pm I choose to put work DOWN. I will allow myself 20 minutes to write down any particular frustrations that need to come out. After that, I’m choosing to dedicate my mind and my time to non-work matters ONLY.”
“At work I will find two opportunities per day that are just for ME. Whether that’s my lunchbreak, or a chat with someone at work whose company I enjoy, or even an escape to the loos for 5 minutes.”
“I will do one thing per day that’s focused on exploring who I am and finding work that genuinely lights me up.”
And if you’re finding that your work is demanding and draining your energy in a way that’s not OK, you might like to consider creating some energetic distance between you and your job.
A useful technique I tried was holding my job, mentally, at arm’s length.
I decided, literally overnight, to stop agonising over jobs that I hadn’t been able to get done because my workload was too high. This was hard, because I had always prided myself on my ability to overdeliver. But I realised that I was one person, and I could only do what I could reasonably do, so I stopped taking on the emotional load for situations that I couldn’t control.
Not my circus, not my monkeys.
My assertion went something like this: I’m deciding that good enough is good enough when it comes to my job. I choose to reserve my best energy for people and projects that GIVE me energy and for exploring and creating work that feels more like the real me.
It’s not as far as checking out. It’s certainly not dropping your performance to a level that raises eyebrows. But there’s also something really powerful about stepping in to protect yourself from work that hurts, in a way that is both reasonable for your work, and kinder to you.
3. Squeeze the juice
This technique is about shaking things up to create some freshness in your work environment, and taking advantage of the opportunities your work DOES afford you, while you’re still there.
There’s a reason that people make New Year’s resolutions at New Year’s (other than the name, smartypants).
There’s an energy in beginnings, that helps to create change.
And you can use the positive energy of newness, even when it’s not January, to make work feel better.
Think about areas of the business where you don’t currently work, and which might make a refreshing change for you to get some experience in. Could you ask to spend some time on a project there?
Could you work with some different colleagues on a task, to mix things up?
Could you rearrange your (post-lockdown) desk? Or move it to a different position so you have a different view?
Could you ask to start a project that’s always interested you, but you’ve never really pushed?
What about training opportunities? Could you take a course in social media / project management / well-being at work / something else? Have you got a CPD budget you haven’t used?
Could you fundraise at the office, for a cause that’s close to your heart?
Shake things up. START something. Milk the opportunities that ARE there, even if they don’t feel ideal. Squeeze the juice.
4. Make space for change
Once you’ve taken some steps to change SOMETHING about your work, you can start to play with the idea of creating some space for a more significant change to show up.
Imagine if you could have some dedicated, focused time to explore ideas, have conversations about roles and industries that feel truly exciting, and even run some test projects to see how these ideas FEEL?
For me, this started off with actually taking my lunch hours again. I’d always worked through my break before, gobbling down a sandwich and chugging back a cup of tea at my desk while tapping away at my keyboard.
So, reclaiming space for my career change started by actually getting out of the office at lunch time. I would walk, make phone calls, arrange conversations, or just enjoy the time and space to think, somewhere where I actually felt a bit more like me.
It felt like I was taking something back that belonged to me. I was. And there was something rebellious and powerful in it too.
Later, I decided to take things a step further. I confided in a colleague about how unhappy I was at work, and how I felt it was impacting on my general sense of well-being. He helped me plan, and came with me for a conversation with my bosses about reducing my hours.
I’d worked out my financial bottom line, and knew that I could, at least temporarily, cope with a limited drop in my earnings. So I pitched it as temporarily taking some time out for my well-being, which was entirely true. I asked to work three quarters of my normal hours, which would leave me one full day per week to do my own thing.
I decided I’d do this for three months and then review. The goal would be to find a way to replace half of the income I’d dropped. If I could do that, I’d have proven there was financial potential in the new things I was trying.
I made my case. It was accepted. (A little begrudgingly, but I didn’t care, because I was DANCING inside).
That one day per week was pure bliss.
I explored, I tested, I learnt. I spoke with people, made new and exciting connections, and gradually the steps of my shift became clear.
And it was the best gift to my mental health I could have possible given myself.
It’s not always the case that renegotiating hours means an income drop. Some workplaces may consider compressed hours. And if you do need a drop, you might find that half a day could be enough.
If that’s not possible, what time could you ringfence outside of work? A couple of hours at a weekend? Half an hour, a few evenings a week?
Carving out space to work on your change is key. Whether it’s an hour’s lunchbreak, or a more significant portion of time, claim it, as well as what it’s for.
When you hate your job, it can be hard to think about anything else.
And the thought of expending energy on another project, however exciting, can be exhausting.
But consider — wouldn’t that be worth it to feel INSPIRED again?
When you hate your job, it can feel like you’re in a world of mental pain.
AND when you start to reclaim the parts of you its draining, you can flip the conversation and USE that energy to drive forward positive change.
Discomfort PUSHES until inspiration PULLS.
And all of a sudden, you’re moving.
If you’re struggling because you hate your job, I can help you work out your next steps and start feeling better. Check out my low-cost, bitesized course on how to come up with exciting career change ideas, EVEN IF all your ideas feel like dead ends. Click here to learn more and sign up today!