I Hate My Job But Can’t Quit: How to Survive a Job You Despise

Do you jump out of bed each morning with a smile on your face, excitedly anticipating the work day ahead of you? Or do you lay there as your alarm goes off, seriously contemplating just rolling over and going back to sleep, thinking, “I hate my job, anyway. So what if I get fired?”

Hopefully, your answer is closer to the first option. But if you’re reading this, my guess is that this isn’t the case.

We spend roughly a third of our lives at work. (Not to mention all the time we spend commuting, getting ready for work each day, and thinking about work.) So when things at your job are going badly, it can feel like your whole world is falling apart. Your mental health and emotional well-being are a complete mess. You are beyond stressed. Depressed. Anxious. Ready to give up.

As tempting as it is to up and quit your loathsome job, you can’t. You have financial obligations to meet to get by, and you need the income a job provides to meet those obligations.

Although I know it feels as though you are stuck working a job you hate with no other option, you are not stuck forever. You don’t have to waste your time, your energy, and your life being miserable. There are other options for you when you hate your job, as well as ways to cope until you can make a career change.

Your time, energy, and life are valuable – don’t waste another day being miserable in a job you hate. You deserve to wake up each morning excited for the day ahead, not dreading it. The power to create a happier, more fulfilling career is within your reach.

What Do You Like About Your Job?

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Let’s face it: very few people wake up every single morning feeling ecstatic about going to work. But there are probably parts of your job that you do enjoy.

You applied for this job for a reason. Think back to what made you interested in this job in the first place.

Maybe the only thing you can think of is getting a paycheck. Money is important, of course, but it isn’t everything. There are other ways to make money that won’t destroy you mentally, emotionally, or physically.

Ask yourself what positives your job brings you. What does a good day at work look like to you? Try to be specific with your answer. And think about every aspect of your work day.

  • Do you have a favorite client or colleague?
  • Do you love your corner office?
  • Your short commute?
  • Do you get along well with your manager?
  • Are there great work perks or health insurance benefits?
  • Is there always fresh coffee and donuts in the break room?

Don’t worry if your answer seems ridiculous or irrelevant. Find the things that you like about your job – no matter what that is.

Focusing on the good things will help you stay positive and get through each passing day (or week or month) until your situation changes.

What Do You Hate About Your Job?

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On that same note, think about what it is – specifically – about your current position that you hate or dislike.

  • Is it the long hours?
  • Your crappy desk?
  • The commute?
  • Your co-workers?
  • Your boss?
  • The clients or customers?
  • The work environment?
  • The work itself?
  • All of the above?

Pinpointing what it is will help you figure out if it’s something that can be changed or not.

If you have more work experience, think back to what made you quit your jobs before this. What were your reasons for leaving? How did you decide it was time to move on?

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Reflecting on what worked and what didn’t in your previous jobs can be an incredibly valuable exercise in finding a career that truly fits you. It will also help you steer clear of those that may be much worse and offer even less job satisfaction.

Talk With Your Manager

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Even the best managers can’t help you if they don’t know something is wrong. The first step is usually to go to your immediate supervisor with your concerns. Hopefully, they can address your issues and improve your job satisfaction.

They might be willing to switch your hours around. There may be opportunities for you to work from home or transfer to a different department or location. Maybe you can switch desks or offices. Or assign a problem client to someone else. You won’t know if you don’t ask.

If your manager is the problem, find someone else to talk to. This could be someone from human resources, a union rep, or your manager’s boss. They may not be able to make any big changes to make things better for you, but they can provide guidance and advice.

If things at your job escalate to the point where the union, labor board, insurance companies, or lawyers become involved, you may need to provide proof that you brought the issues to management and that you tried to make things better. So be sure to document this, just in case.

Upskill and Learn Something New

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You may have been fully qualified for your job when you were hired, but changes in management, technology, the economy, or how the company operates could mean you now hate your job because you no longer have the skill set needed to do a good job.

If this is the case, look for opportunities to grow your talents and learn new skills to help you do your best work and have a successful career. Your current employer will likely welcome the idea. They may even help you cover the costs or have free training courses and resources available for you.

It’s never been easier to access a wealth of information and expertise at your fingertips. Take a free course online on virtually any topic. Watch webinars or TED Talks. Find a mentor to work with who can offer guidance, support, and real-world experience.

You don’t necessarily have to go back to school, but if you’re considering changing careers, you may need to do so in order to advance your career.

Try Saying “No”

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Have you tried saying “no”? No to a new assignment, no to working late, no to doing this whole project that has nothing to do with why you were hired.

Saying no is scary and intimidating. But what would happen if you said no?

Will your manager be supportive and hear you out? Will they force you to do it anyway? Or will they reprimand you for being insubordinate or for not being a team player?

If you are worried about being reprimanded, be conscious about how you approach the subject with your manager. Barging into their office and flat-out refusing to do something probably won’t work in your favor. But setting up a meeting and coming prepared with alternate suggestions might be helpful.

Get the Emotional and Mental Health Support You Need

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Being unhappy at work and in life is no way to live. You need to take care of yourself and your well-being, which can be incredibly hard if you are struggling or failing at work. Or if you are being degraded or bullied by your boss, a coworker, or a customer.

At some point, staying at a job that negatively affects you is just not worth it. The good news is that you don’t have to face things alone. There are supports available to you.

Lean on your partner, your friends, and your family. If you have an Employment Assistance Program (EAP) or health benefits that cover counseling or therapy, take advantage of them, especially if you are at your breaking point and need or want more professional support.

Contact your local counseling centers. Many of them offer free services if you don’t have coverage or are on a tight budget. Free mental health resources and crisis support are also available online and over the phone.

If you are considering leaving your job because of bullying, harassment, or discrimination, it is possible to quit and collect unemployment benefits or worker’s compensation. This is not straightforward and varies by state and employer, so please carefully look into this before quitting. You will also have to provide proof and documentation of the problem, so be prepared to put together the steps you took to try to solve them. You may also need to provide medical records or undergo a medical assessment with a doctor or counselor.

Take a Break

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Do you really hate your job, or are you just overwhelmed or dealing with burnout? Sometimes, it can be tough to tell.

Maybe you just need some time to make the “life” part of your work-life balance the priority. If it’s possible, take time off from your stressful job to see if things are better when you come back to work.

Use those vacation days and get away from it all for a short period. If you can’t travel, stay home and spend your waking hours relaxing or doing something that you find fulfilling.

If things are really going badly, consider taking a leave of absence or a stress leave from work. This isn’t always possible and comes with its own set of challenges. Money is a big one (unless you have a healthy savings account or “FU Money” set aside). But if your well-being is at stake, please look into it.

Show Up and Do the Best Job You Can

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I realize this sort of contradicts my last point, but you need to show up to work every day and do the best you can. Even if you hate it.

Of course, you need to make money, but you also need to maintain a professional reputation and leave on good terms.

Potential new employers will request references, and most of the time, they want your most recent or current manager to be one of them. If you’ve been skipping work, doing a poor job, or playing on social media all day, this could be a red flag to a hiring manager that could cost you that new job offer.

Start Looking for a Better Job

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Although this is the most obvious point, I purposely didn’t start with it because you should try some of these other suggestions (if you haven’t already) before quitting a job you hate.

At the very least, I hope you take the time to think about the first two points:

  1. What do you like about your job?
  2. What do you hate about it?

You need to know the answers to these questions before you start looking for a new job and putting yourself out there again. You want to find your “dream job” or something better that aligns with your career goals and not end up in yet another job that you dread.

Finding a new job or new career path takes time. Sometimes, a lot of time.

So yes – start your job hunt as soon as you start having more bad days than good ones. But please don’t resign without a plan. You could be out of work for a long time.

Update your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile, and start applying.

If you are successful with your job search and are offered a new position, you have options for your next steps. You can stay at your current job and try to make it work. Or you can hand in your resignation letter, give your two weeks’ notice, and leave your job for something better that will make you happier.

Always Be Job Searching

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The best career tip I can give to anyone, in any situation, is that you should always be job searching—even if you are happy with your current job.

You never know when something will change, either in your personal life, the economy or within your organization. Unfortunately, companies go out of business, have to make budget cuts or undergo restructuring, which could result in layoffs.

Keeping an eye on the industry takes only a few minutes of your time. It’s a great way to stay up to date with what skills and qualifications employers in your field are looking for and make sure you’re being paid fairly.

You Are Not Stuck Forever

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Hating your job is something I’m all too familiar with. Unfortunately, many people are or have been in the same situation at some point in their lives, too. Maybe that’s exactly where you are right now.

It’s easy to feel stuck when you hate your job. And unfortunately, you may be stuck there for a while. But the good news is you don’t have to be stuck there forever. Use these tips to cope until you can find a way out, and remember that your current situation doesn’t define your future.

Use Your Paid Time Off, It’s Good For You

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Time away from your job is good for you. It benefits your career, personal life, and overall mental and physical health.

Humans are not designed to always be working. You need downtime to balance out your activity and recharge. Without time off, you become physically and emotionally drained. Your work performance declines, and so does your job satisfaction. Taking time off reduces stress and increases productivity and creativity, which can improve your chances of getting a raise or bonus. So start using your paid time off!

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