The right job is so important to our quality life. In fact, the average person spends 90,000 hours, or 1/3rd of their life, at work. And with that investment of time and energy into something, it’s absolutely critical to find work that we enjoy.
So, if you find yourself in a situation where your job is making you miserable, it’s a brutal feeling that cascades into other areas of your life.
To that end, this article is going to offer some recommendations for what to if you find yourself in a situation where you think “my job is making me miserable.”
What To Do When My Job Is Making Me Miserable
Try to Understand Why
The first step to treating a problem is a correct diagnosis. So, before doing anything, it’s key to attempt to understand why a job is making you miserable.
To do that, I find that a helpful tool is assessing your job is looking at it through the lens of the flower exercise, which originated from the book What Color Is Your Parachute.
Basically, the book argues that there are seven different aspects to a job, which make up the “anatomy of a job” and all of them impact the likelihood that you would enjoy your work.
My recommendation is to assess your job through each of the different pedals and craft an honest assessment of where your work isn’t compatible with what you want.
The 7 Pedals of the Flower
Here is a quick run down of the seven pedals in the exercise and how to assess each of those against your current job:
- Pedal #1: Compatibility With People
In general, who are the people that you like to work with? Do you find that your colleagues and your boss are consistent with people that you like to spend time with? Or do you find you have an absolutely toxic boss?
- Pedal #2: Workplace Conditions
If you could create your ideal working environment, what would it be? Would you prefer to work inside or outside? Remote or in-person? Is the traditional 8 hour day too much for you and you want more flexibility?
- Pedal #3: Skills
What are your top 10 favorite skills? Do you find that you get to use them in your job? If you’re not using your best and favorite skills, is that causing you to struggle at work and feel like you suck at your job?
- Pedal #4: Purpose
Do you wake up in the morning feeling like you have a purpose and that you’re fulfilling that purpose through your work? Is your work meaningful to you?
- Pedal #5: Knowledges
What are you interested in and knowledgeable about? Is your work aligned with that?
- Pedal #6: Money
Are you making enough money to live the type of life that you want for yourself? Or are you finding that you’re struggling to make ends meet and can’t do the things that you’d like to do in life?
- Pedal #7: Location
Are you living in a place that you want to live? Do you have an abnormally long commute that you’d like to cut down?
Look at your current work situation across each of those seven pedals and make an honest assessment of how well it aligns with what you would ideally like in each of those areas.
That will help you to understand how well your current work situation matches with what you would ideally want.
If you find that your current job is significantly out of line with what you want in an area that’s important to you, that will tell you what you need to change in your current job situation.
Lastly, if you’re struggling to know which of those pedals is the most important to you and carries the most weight, you can use this prioritizing grid to help you assess which of those areas impacts your enjoyment of your job the most.
Try to Negotiate a Better Situation
Once you have completed the pedal exercise and have a sense of why your job is making you miserable, the next step is to assess if you’re able to improve the situation at your current job. What I mean by that is, can you negotiate a way to get improve the area of the job that is making you miserable?
As an example, let’s say that the workplace conditions pedal is the reason that your job is making you miserable. Maybe you work a job that requires rigid hours that are particularly long at certain times of the year. If you’re a good employee that the company wants to retain, you may be able to negotiate a better situation for yourself that will make you happier at your job.
A quick story about someone I know that did this effectively. The person I know is a CPA that works on tax. The nature of that industry involves very long hours, including weekend work, during tax season (mid January – mid April). She likes her job and she likes the company, but she has a young daughter and wasn’t willing to work those hours.
Rather than quitting and going to a different company or industry, she went to her employer to explain the situation and communicate that she didn’t want to work more than normal work day hours, including during tax season. She’s good at her job and the company likes her and wanted to retain her so they worked out a solution where she never needed to work more than 40 hours per week. Accordingly, they adjusted the bonus portion of her compensation down a little bit to account for the lower hours she was working than the rest of the team but that was a tradeoff that was worthwhile to her to bring her job more into alignment with her ideal lifestyle.
I share that story to show that if you’re a good employee, and there’s something that you don’t like about your current work arrangement, it is possible to negotiate changes to your work setup to make it better align with your priorities.
Look for Another Job
If you feel like you have a good understanding of the reason that your job is making you miserable, and the root cause is something that you can’t change or negotiate, then it is time for you to go look for another job.
At the end of the day, your work is such a significant portion of your life and life is simply too short to be miserable at your job.
Should I Quit My Job If It Makes Me Miserable
In general, yes, I believe that you should quit your job if it makes you miserable. Your work represents about 1/3rd of your overall life and being miserable for something that takes up that much time simply isn’t worth it in my view.
However, I believe that if you’re going to quit your job, you need to do it responsibly. Here are a recommendations for how to quit your job responsibly:
- Get another job before your leave your current job
In general, it’s almost always easier to find another job when you already have a job. It also is less stressful financially and enables you to be more picky about finding the right fit.
- If you can’t get another job before quitting your current job, make sure that you have six months of expenses saved up
In my experience, and based upon third-party data that I’ve found, you should generally plan on at least two months or eight weeks of time to find a new position. Often times, that takes even longer. To ensure that you have enough money for you and your family, I’d recommend at least six months work of expenses in the bank before you quit
- Provide sufficient notice to your current employer and resign professionally
What To Do When You Hate Your Job But Can’t Afford to Quit
If you hate your job, but can’t afford to quit, you’re in a tough spot. Ultimately, you can still leave your job, but it’s just going to take more patience and planning.
Your options basically come down to this:
- Don’t leave your current job until you find a new job
- Save up enough money so you can pay your bills while you look for another job
While it certainly may be frustrating to feel stuck in a job that you hate, it’s important to be responsible and take care of yourself and your family before leaving your job.
And, as people, we can put up with more than we expect. You can use tools like meditation, journaling, and other methods to try and emotionally distance yourself from the challenges of your current position until you find a new role.
If you find yourself frequently thinking “my job is making me miserable,” it makes sense to want to get out of that situation as quickly as possible.
However, before making any rash moves, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve appropriately diagnosed why you hate your current position and work to negotiate a better set up if you can. If that doesn’t work, then you’ll need to leave your current position. Just make sure that you do it responsibly and that you’re taking care of yourself and your family in the process.