I Hate My Job: How To Stay Positive When You Can’t Quit (Yet!)

Got the Sunday scaries every day? Here’s how to cope.

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It’s probably safe to say that most people have thought I hate my job at one point or another. Unless you’re one of those lucky few who truly loves their job, chances are pretty high you feel a sense of disappointment on Sunday night: The weekend’s ending, and you’ll be back to the daily grind as soon as you wake up on Monday morning. But as we get back into the swing of the workweek, most of us manage to have a positive outlook and generally enjoy feeling productive—or at least making some hard-earned cash on pay day.

But what if the Sunday scaries don’t go away, and you feel an impending sense of doom on your way to work every single day? You dread the thought of checking your inbox, the walls of the office seems to close in on you, and you’re counting down the hours until quitting time as soon as you step in the door. Worse than that, when you hate your job, you end up taking that frustration and hostility home with you—ruining the few free hours you have away from work.

I’ve been there—there was a time when I’d tell my work bestie, “I need to get out of this place. I hate my job,” as soon as I sat down at my desk. And like most people, I couldn’t just walk out (though I had to fight that urge daily). In most cases, quitting takes time and careful planning—and the opportunity to leave a job you hate doesn’t usually happen as quickly as you’d like. So what can you do in the meantime to make your Monday through Friday bearable when you hate your job?

If you’re intent on sticking it out at a job that makes you miserable, there are some strategies you can use to get through it. Executive coach Libby Gill, author of The Hope-Driven Leader: Harness the Power of Positivity at Work explains that it’s important to continue doing your best at work, even when you’d rather be anywhere else.

“Slacking off will only make you feel worse about your job, especially when you start to get pushback or complaints or a negative performance appraisal,” she says. “Instead, take responsibility and do something to make the situation better until you can move on.”

If you find yourself reciting a running narrative that starts with “I hate my job,” here’s what to do to stay motivated, keep your head high, and eventually move on to greener pastures.

Are you annoyed, or do you truly hate your job?

Any job can get under your skin. But there’s a difference between being annoyed by a temporary circumstance, like a missed promotion or a chronically delayed project, and being able to say “I hate my job” and really mean it.

What types of things can drive someone to want to throw in the towel at work?

“Most of the time, when someone hates their job, it’s because of the sheer volume of work and feeling like they’ll never get everything done,” says Gill. “We tend to say yes to too many things, and supervisors can also be unrealistic about what it takes to get a job done.”

Sometimes hating your job is less about the volume of assignments on your plate and more about the work itself. Finding your tasks insufferably boring or meaningless can lead to disengagement at work. In fact, a 2017 Gallup report found that “85 percent of employees are not engaged … with their jobs.”

“The biggest thing that makes people hate their jobs is when they don’t see a direct connection to their company’s value or purpose,” says Gill.

Practical issues can also cause resentment at work. Frequent battles with your supervisor, a lack of advancement opportunities, and chronic stress at the office can make your job feel intolerable.

“Assess the workplace situation and identify the root cause of what’s making you miserable so you can work toward solutions,” advises Gill.

Once you understand why you fell into the I-hate-my-job camp, you can start finding your way back out.

You are not your job.

Given how much time and energy we devote to our careers, many professionals pin their identities to their jobs—and that can make us feel like failures when our companies don’t meet our expectations. Getting some emotional distance from your work (even when you still need to be physically present) can help you feel a lot better when you hate your job.

“If you’re feeling unappreciated, you need to rediscover what’s in your personal life outside of work. It’s not realistic to find all your joy, happiness, and appreciation at work,” Gill says. “What are you doing outside of work that feeds your soul?”

Trying out a new hobby, signing up to volunteer at a worthy organization, and even reviving friendships can help you feel better when you hate your job. These experiences will energize you and remind you of all of the various ways you’re equipped to contribute to society and enjoy life.

“Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Keep up with exercise, pay attention to your relationships and your finances. It’s all common sense stuff, but people tend to neglect the basics when they hate their jobs,” says Gill.

There’s a right (and wrong) way to vent about a job you hate.

All that pent up frustration about work needs to go somewhere—like a passionate venting session with someone you’re close to. I’ll be the first to admit that when I hopped on the complain train with my work bestie, it felt like a relief to blow off some steam for a few minutes.

But in the long run, venting doesn’t do much good. Science shows that complaining actually just makes you feel worse—so try not to let it become a habit.

“It’s okay to vent sometimes, but pick your allies carefully. Vent to people outside your work, like your friends or family, if you need to complain from time to time,” says Gill.

Better yet, try to have an open, honest conversation with someone in a role that’s similar to yours.

“If you can talk freely with them, it can be helpful to see if they’ve faced similar issues and what they’ve done about it,” says Gill.

Take advantage of opportunities—even at that job you hate.

When you hate your job, you might feel like there’s no way to fix it. But it’s worth exploring solutions that could improve the situation. Maybe your workload is too much, or you no longer feel challenged—these are situations that aren’t beneficial for you or your company.

“Talk to your supervisor, human resources, or anyone who might be able to rectify the situation,” says Gill. “Of course, you don’t want to be seen as a whiner, so make the conversation count by bringing real-life examples of issues and potential solutions. Make it clear that you’re there to make the situation better.”

If that doesn’t work, strive to take advantage of fresh opportunities at the job you hate. Learning new skills, trying out a different project, and taking training programs can help you stay in engaged—and make your resume more attractive to future employers when you’re ready to move on.

“Learning something new at work can help you feel like you’re getting something back from a job you hate. It also helps you start thinking about what you might do next,” says Gill. “Even if you know you can’t leave your job for five years, don’t just sit around daydreaming. Spend a year studying, finding a mentor, and taking control of your plan.”

Working Through a Job You Hate

Most of us don’t have the luxury of jumping ship when we hate our jobs. You might just need to grin and bear it. Focusing on small things can help you work through it.

When I hated my job, I tried to make it better by treating myself to really tasty lunches at least once a week. I’d also take frequent walks, both around my spacious office and in the neighborhood—vitamin D and exercise are easy pick-me-ups. And since the office felt unbearable, leaving on time became a priority. I powered through my task list from 9 to 5, which helped the hours fly by and got me out on time.

“Never underestimate the value of friendships and having fun,” adds Gill, “even if you have to schedule them well in advance. Getting together with people you love will help put things back into perspective.”

Gill also suggested something really clever that I wish I’d tried when I hated my job: starting a “thank you” file.

“Whenever people send you an email or a letter of a job well done, put those in a folder. Once in a while, go back through those and you’ll see where you are appreciated. It feels really good,” she says.

From time to time, reread your own resume and LinkedIn profile. Reminders of all that you’ve accomplished can also help you remember that there are bigger things on the horizon.

Networking When You Hate Your Job

It’s tempting to isolate yourself from your colleagues when you hate your job. But that’s the opposite of how you should approach things, says Gill. She says networking can be a powerful tool for helping you cope during a difficult time at work.

“Find healthy relationships on the job and get to know people outside of your own team. Have lunch or coffee with somebody new once a week. People feel like that’s a lot, but it’s not if you plan ahead,” she says.

Forming those bonds may revive some of the passion you lost for work—or at least put you on a path toward leaving a job you hate.

“I suggest to people that they do something industry-wide once a month, like professional conferences or women’s networking groups, so you’re exposed outside of your organization. It adds to your ability to look around for your next job,” says Gill.

Talking with new people frequently also helps you practice a critical skill: making your elevator pitch.

“You’ll learn not to immediately say, ‘I hate my job,’ and instead talk about how you’re curious about what’s next for your career,” says Gill.

Staying professionally active will be a positive, energizing force that counterbalances a draining day job.

Planning an Exit Strategy From a Job You Hate

Maybe you’ve decided it’s time to cut your losses and break things off with the job you hate. Hopefully you have another job already lined up. But if not, start dropping not-too-subtle hints to people who can lead you to your next opportunity.

“Look around while you’re still on the job. Unless it’s contractually prohibited at your company, you’re allowed to take meetings and plant seeds. The safest way to do it is to say, ‘Hey, I’ve been working here for this number of years, and things are going well, but I’m looking for my next adventure.’ I guarantee your bosses are doing the same thing,” says Gill.

If your job search does get back to your boss, fess up to it, says Gill.

“Tell them you need to keep your options open for the future and you’ll never leave them in the lurch. Remind them that if and when you decide to leave, you won’t be doing it to try to leverage a raise or promotion from them,” she says.

Finally, when it’s time to part ways with your current company, leave with grace.

“I call it the art of the depart,” says Gill. “Give it your best effort until the day you leave. Give a reasonable amount of notice and try to hand off your projects in a seamless way.”

Whatever you do, don’t gossip about your boss or the company—you’re probably going to need them for a reference at some point in the future.

“Trashing your boss can really come back to haunt you. So rather than talking about how much you hate your job, focus on everything you’ve learned and been able to contribute in your role,” says Gill.

Resigning with dignity will help preserve your professional reputation and give you the headspace you’ll need to focus on your next move—hopefully to a job you don’t hate.

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