About half of workers in the U.S. are unhappy at work. Half!
If you’re hoping to win the lottery so you can say “sayonara” to your boss, you’re definitely not alone!
There’s a long list of reasons you might feel unsatisfied with your position:
- You’re not paid what you’re worth
- You don’t like your co-workers
- You don’t feel supported by your employer
- You don’t feel fulfilled
- You aren’t using your degree
- You don’t like your responsibilities
- You don’t have enough time for friends and family
- You’re not earning enough money to support the lifestyle you want
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the many things that could be making you unhappy at work. You have your reasons, and you know what they are.
How can you enjoy your life if you’re so unhappy with what you spend 40 hours (or more!) a week doing?
It’s not an easy fix. There are many valid reasons to stay in a job you’re unhappy with. But just because there’s not an easy fix doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do.
Let’s dive deeper into why you feel stuck and what you can do about it.
It's Not Your Imagination. You Are Unhappy at Work, And That's Real.
If you’ve ever vented to people who are happy with their jobs, chances are you’ve heard a couple of unhelpful responses, such as “I’m sure it’s not that bad” or “You should just feel grateful to have a job.”
Some people don’t understand how draining and disheartening going to a job you hate can be. These people might make you feel like you’re being dramatic or unappreciative. Your complaints might even make them chuckle.
This leads you to question if your feelings are valid. If you think about everyone who doesn’t have a job – especially right now – that’s when guilt hits.
There may be a ton of people praying to land a job like yours. Shouldn’t you just appreciate what you have and stop complaining?
Here’s the truth: you CAN be unhappy in your work and still appreciate the paycheck it’s providing. You can be in a terrific job that’s simply a lousy job for you. Even if some others have it worse off than you or would kill for your current job, that doesn’t mean you have to like your job.
Why Don't You Just Quit Your Job if You're That Unhappy?
Just quitting your job may seem like a reasonable way to go. After all, why are you allowing yourself to stay unhappy when there’s a simple solution right there in front of you?
For many people, the answer is “I can’t quit – I need the paycheck.” That’s real.
And, being unhappy in your job doesn’t mean you’re ungrateful. Your feelings are valid. You can be grateful for what you have and still want more out of life.
A specific position won’t make just anyone happy. So even if there are a ton of people who want your job, there’s nothing wrong with you if your current job doesn’t make you happy.
Deciding to quit a job when it’s your only source of income is not only scary but not necessarily a smart decision.
So quitting your job right now just might not be easy. That doesn’t mean you’re trapped.
Why You Feel Stuck in Your Miserable Job
There are so many reasons you might stay at a job you’re unhappy with.
- You can’t afford to quit
- You don’t have time to look for a new job
- You don’t think you’re qualified for a better job
- You’re scared of being bad at something new
- You’re convinced that the situation will improve
- You don’t know what you’d rather be doing
Researchers have been studying how job burnout can lead to depression and/or anxiety symptoms.
Any mental health challenges can make it even harder to take action.
Don’t put yourself down for not being able to fix all your problems overnight. Your focus should be on what you can do to improve your happiness – even if that doesn’t mean quitting today.
There are ways to get yourself out of your rut. And eventually, you’ll make your way into a much better position, job, or career.
Forming an Escape Plan
Mindset work is crucial if you feel stuck. Chances are that limiting beliefs are a major contributor to your feeling helpless.
Take some alone time to think honestly about your situation.
Write down a few details about what you’re unhappy with. Write down how you feel. Write down how you want to feel. Brainstorm how you would change your situation if anything was possible.
Doing this may help you better understand why you’re feeling unhappy and stuck. You’ll learn more about yourself.
The more you reflect and brainstorm, the more you’ll start to see ways to realistically improve your situation.
- Maybe talking to your boss about a raise will make you feel more appreciated.
- Maybe changing positions within the company will be more fulfilling.
- Maybe there’s a dream job you haven’t even considered since you became an adult.
Sometimes just having a plan helps.
You start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You see the possibilities, the chance of something better, and something specific to start working towards.
Our thoughts are powerful! If you recognize the negative stories you tell yourself – that aren’t even true – you can begin to twist those negative stories into positive ones. For example, instead of continuing to tell yourself that you’re stuck at your job, start telling yourself that you feel blessed and can easily find another.
It’s important that you realize you’re in control of more than you think you are – even when you feel stuck. Coming up with a realistic plan will help you see this.
What to Do in the Meantime
Once you’ve come up with an action plan, the time it takes you to reach that goal doesn’t matter.
For example, if you’ve decided to save six months’ worth of expenses so that you can quit your job in a year, don’t settle for being miserable for another year.
There are things you can do in the meantime that will help you while you’re working away at the job you hate.
Working towards your goal is a great distraction in itself. You know you’re on your way to a better future. You see the way out of your frustrating situation, and you know you have control over your happiness.
Updating your morning routine can help as well. Try setting aside 10 minutes to move, whether that’s exercise, stretching, walking, or even dancing to one of your favorite songs.
This is also a good time of day to practice gratitude by writing out three things you’re grateful for. Anything that gets you in a better mindset to take on your day and keep your long-term goals in mind.
Forbes gives some suggestions for what to do while you’re in a job you’re unhappy with.5 Some of which are:
- Vent to a friend or family member
- Develop skills that will help prepare you for your future position
- Have hobbies that you enjoy
Something you should remember is that you’re earning money at your current job.
Any money that’s left after you pay the bills can go towards funding whatever will prepare you for your next position. You might take a class, buy a computer program, or attend a networking event that will help you into your next job.
Not everyone has a paycheck to fund their next project. This is definitely something to be grateful for!
If you need some extra help controlling anxiety at work, remember that you can control your thoughts even in a stressful environment.
Something as simple as stepping away from your desk and taking a couple of deep breaths can help. Changing your expectations of yourself and co-workers can also make a difference.
Trying different things to figure out what helps you the most is a great start. Keep reminding yourself that you don’t have to accept your workplace anxiety. Until you can quit your job, little things can help make a difference in your mindset.
You Are Your Solution
If you change jobs and that new job turns out to be wrong for you, that’s okay. What matters is that you took action. If you find yourself in another unhappy situation, you can repeat the action you took to get there and try something else.
We all want to live a happy life. But feeling good about yourself during the journey is more important than waiting to enjoy life until you’ve reached your goal.
Life is always changing. We can’t control everything. But we can control how we react to any position we’re in.
Just start small.
And remember that you can do a lot more than you probably give yourself credit for!