There are few things worse than feeling trapped in a job that you can’t stand.
The effects often cascade throughout your entire life.
You feel the disdain for your work while you’re home with your family. Maybe you have trouble sleeping. Or you start to dread Mondays as the end of the weekend approaches.
And the natural urge is to just want to quit as soon as possible.
To take your hand off the stove and relieve the pain.
But, prior to doing that, you’ll want to make sure you really understand why it is you feel the way you do about your job.
To properly diagnose why you feel the way you do about your just.
And from that place of truly understanding the underlying reason(s) you hate your job, you can pursue new opportunities that you’re likely to enjoy to a much greater degree.
To that end, this article is going to help you break down some of the common reasons why you may hate your job, and recommend your next steps based upon each possible reason.
The possible reasons for hating your job are largely inspired by and adapted from The Pedal Exercise in the book What Color is Your Parachute, which I would highly recommend you read if you think you may want to look for a new job.
Let’s get started.
Possible Reason #1: You Hate Your Boss
A Gallup poll of over a million employed U.S. workers concluded that the top reason people voluntarily leave their jobs is due to their immediate supervisor.
In fact, 75% of workers who left their jobs did so because of their boss.
So not liking your boss is an extremely common reason for not liking your job.
Fortunately, not liking your boss is one of the easiest problems to change when it comes to your work.
What to Do if This Applies to You
1. Ensure That You’re Not Mixing a Dislike of Your Boss, with a Dislike of Your Work Environment
Before quitting to find a better boss, the first step that I would recommend is confirming if your boss really is bad.
Now, you may be thinking “Wait, of course my boss is bad! Why do I need any more information to confirm that?!”
The reason I’m recommending to gather more info is that your boss may be completely normal for the type of work that you’re doing.
And, especially if this is one of your first jobs, you may not be able to distinguish if your boss is uniquely bad, or if what you’re experiencing is what you’re going to be dealing with from any boss in your field.
For example, maybe you don’t like your both because you feel like he or she may be putting too much pressure on you.
But if you work in sales, guess what, you’re going to experience pressure from any boss. It’s simply a field that has high accountability for putting up numbers.
And ultimately, you wouldn’t want to move to a different company, and still work in sales, only to find that your new boss behaves similarly as the one you didn’t like and you end up disliking that job for the same reasons.
So, if you’re early in your career and don’t have experience with multiple bosses to compare, I’d recommend talking to other people that work in a similar field to gather intel about their experience with their bosses to compare.
If you find from those conversations that your boss truly is difficult, then you can move onto step two here below.
2. Try and Have a Conversation with Your Boss
If you like the company that you work for, and come to find that you don’t like your boss for reasons that are unique to your boss, then it’s worth having a conversation to improve the relationship.
Yes, it may have the potential to be uncomfortable. But if you like the company and the job, and would want to stay if it wasn’t for your boss, it’s worth trying to repair a relationship with your boss.
So try out a conversation with your boss to see if you can fix what’s broken in your relationship.
If you have a weekly 1:1 meeting with your boss, I’d recommend trying it there.
The conversation could go something like this:
“Hey boss, is it ok if we chat about something that’s been on my mind?
When you [do x thing that bothers me], [the impact to myself or the business is Y].
Would it be possible for you to [change behavior in this way or can we talk about ways to approach that which would meet both of our needs?]”
Note that you’re trying to tie the conversation to specific behaviors that impact you negatively. And you’re asking for a specific change to improve your experience.
That approach comes from the book Nonviolent Communication, which is the single best book I’ve read on interpersonal communication.
3. Leave the Company
At the end of the day, if you hate your job because your hate your boss, and a conversation with him or her won’t fix it, there’s an obvious next step.
Go get another job.
The nice thing here is you can stay in the same field doing the same time of work. You’d just be changing the boss, which is the easiest variable to switch.
So all else fails, leave the company, find a new job, and you should hate your job less.
Possible Reason #2: You Hate the Work Environment
There are lots of different aspects that make up an overall work environment.
Here are a few different examples:
- Is your work remote or in-person?
- Do you have lots of people engagement or is it a lot of deep work?
- Are you working inside or outside?
- Are you working with your hands or doing mostly creative work?
- Is it a high pressure or a low pressure environment?
Those are just some examples of the types of aspects that make up a work environment.
And if you really don’t like the type of environment that you’re working in, then could be a strong reason to hate your job.
What to Do if This Applies to You
1. Journal to Ensure You Understand Why You Dislike Your Work Environment
The first thing that I would recommend you do is make sure you understand what it is you don’t like about your work environment.
From my experience, the best way to do that is to journal each day to track what you’re feeling and why.
We’ll be writing a full article soon that talks about the best ways to journal, but for now I’d recommend following the Jim Collins approach mentioned in the I Don’t Know What to Do With My Life Article.
At a high level, it goes like this:
- At the end of each day, give your day a score from -2 to +2 based upon whether it was:
- -2: Really bad
- -1: Moderately bad
- +1: Moderately good
- +2: Really good
- Write about what you did that day and why you gave it that score
From there, you can review your journals at the end of each week to track patterns on what you were doing on your good days and your bad to understand the activities and environments that you enjoy and why.
2. If There’s An Easy Change You Can Make To Your Work Environment, Request It
If you come to discover that you like most of your job, company, etc., but that there are specific aspects of your work environment that you don’t like, then I’d recommend simply requesting to change the aspect that you don’t like.
For example, if you come to realize you much prefer working remote, request that you do that.
If you want more people interaction, request that you sit in on more meetings.
Often times, there is low-hanging fruit to be changed that can dramatically increase your enjoyment of a job.
That said, here are a couple of things to think about before you make the request:
- You likely need to be performing at least adequately in your role before requesting this type of change
- You likely will only be able to change certain basic aspects of your work environment (i.e., working remote vs. in person) and unable to change more fundamental aspects of a job like working with your hands vs. mental work
3. Find a New Job in a Better Work Environment For You
If you’ve journaled to figure out the type of work environment you like the best, and there’s not a way to change it in your current role, then your best next step is to go and find a different job that offers the type of environment that you like.
Ideally, you’d be able to work in the same field, and just find a job that offers some basic changes in environment like remote work, a lower stress environment, etc.
But in some cases, you may come to realize that a desk environment or 9-5 more generally isn’t for you, and that would require a more drastic, longer-term shift in career.
Possible Reason #3: You Don’t Feel Like You’re Good At It
There are few things that damage the spirit more than feeling like you’re a failure.
Doing the same things over and over again and never feeling like you’re “getting it” can be a drain on the soul and be brutal for your self-worth.
So being in a job that you don’t feel like you’re good at could absolutely be a strong reason to hate your job.
What to Do if This Applies to You
1. Take Some Assessments to Discover Your Best and Favorite Skills
The simplest way to figure out if you’re in a job that you’re just unlikely to ever be good at is to get some data to inform if what you’re doing simply is out of line with your best skills.
There is lots to unpack about skill assessment and ways you could approach gathering this information, so we wrote a complete article here about how to discover what you’re good at here.
2. Get Additional Training
If you come to find that you’re working a job or in a field that does leverage some of your best and favorite skills, but you still feel like you’re struggling, than you may just need some more training specific to your role.
If this is the case, you can go out and find possible courses or training and request approval from your boss to take them.
Alternatively, you could ask your boss for feedback and suggestions about tangible ways to improve skills specific to your job your skills and he or she may be able to provide resources to help you do that.
3. Look for a New Job or Career That Better Uses Your Best Skills
If you come to find that your current work just is not a good fit for you, either because you don’t feel like you can be good at it, or you don’t like the skills you’re using, then you’ll need to pivot to different work.
Based upon the exercises you completed, you can then go look for jobs that better leverage the specific skills that you like and are good at.
Possible Reason #4: You Don’t Feel Any Purpose or Meaning From Your Job
Not feeling a sense of purpose or meaning from your job is a super common reason for hating your job, particularly amongst younger generations.
Ultimately, this can be a tough one to solve, but here are some things you can do if you think this may apply to you.
What to Do if This Applies to You
1. Ensure Your Work Aligns with Your Values
At the most fundamental level, you’ll want to make sure the work that you’re doing aligns with your values.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that your job itself is going to be meaningful.
But you do at least have to ensure that you’re not doing work that you don’t feel like is actively immoral or problematic.
If you want to dive deeper into discovering your values, we wrote a complete article about it here.
2. Try to Figure Out What Meaningful Work Looks Like to You
For many people, they recognize that their work doesn’t feel meaningful to them, but they don’t necessarily know what meaningful work might look like for them.
Now, finding meaningful work is a huge topic in and of itself, that is beyond the scope of this article, so we have a full article about how to find your meaningful work that you can dive into.
3. Assess If The Meaningful Work You Want to Do Can Enable the Lifestyle You Want to Live
For many of us, it can be extremely difficult to find work that feels meaningful to us, but also enables the lifestyle that we want to live.
So once you have some hypotheses for what meaningful work looks like to you, you’ll ultimately need to assess if doing that work enables the bigger picture lifestyle that you’d like to live.
Basically, you’ll want to look at if a job exists doing the type of work that you’d like to do that provides the pay and lifestyle flexibility that you ultimately want out of your life.
If that type of work does exists, you can pursue it as your job. If it doesn’t, then you’ll need to move onto the next suggestion in this category.
4. Do Meaningful Work on the Side
As I mention in the meaningful work article, it can be both difficult and risky to get much of your sense of meaning out of your job.
What you’re really shooting for is an overall sense of meaning in your life.
And your job needs to work within that context.
So if you can’t get a sense of meaning out of your job, you do need to make sure that your work enables a meaningful life.
And that could manifest itself in different ways.
It could be that your work provides you with enough time to be with your family if that’s your primary source or meaning.
Or maybe it enables you to volunteer your time to do meaningful work on the side.
Whatever that is, your job needs to work in the context of an overall meaningful life.
If it doesn’t then that’s when you need to look for a different job that does.
Possible Reason #5: You Don’t Feel Like You Get Paid Enough
The last common reason that you could hate your job is not feeling like you get paid enough.
If this applies to you, here are some things that you can do.
What to Do if This Applies to You
1. Assess If There is a Path To Getting to the Salary That You Want
For many people that don’t feel like they’re getting paid enough, it’s simply a matter of patience.
If you’re early in your career, there’s a good chance that you just need time to get receive raises, get promoted, and develop a skillset that is of such value to employers that your pay will go up.
So in this case, what you need to do is look ahead and evaluate salaries that are at higher levels than your current role to assess if you’re likely on the path to getting a salary that will enable the lifestyle that you want.
If that is possible for you, then stay the course, work hard, and you’ll likely get there.
2. If You Don’t Think You Can Get to Where You Want, Pivot
If in looking at your current salary and future prospects in your existing line of work, you simply don’t see a path to getting to the pay that you’d like, then you’ll ultimately need to pivot to new work.
It’s a tough thing to do that requires a lot of work, but ultimately your work should work to enable the larger context of the life that you want to live.
And if you need a certain level of income to live that you life, and you can’t get it in your line of work, it’s time to look for ways to increase that…most likely in another field.
If you hate your job, before taking any action the first thing that you’ll want to do is diagnose the root cause.
Like a doctor, you can’t effectively treat the issue without an effective diagnosis.
So take the time to really assess the root cause of why you may dislike your work, and then take steps to address that cause.
Best of luck to you!