The routine. The pressure. The people. The lack of purpose.
For many people, working a corporate job is just about the worst thing that they could imagine doing with their life.
And for some, they may even feel like working a traditional corporate 9 to 5 is a waste of life entirely.
If you’re here reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’re miserable in corporate jobs and looking for alternatives.
To that end, we’re going to unpack why you might be so miserable in corporate jobs and offer some recommendations for what to do.
Let’s dive in.
- 1 Is It Normal to Be Miserable in Corporate Jobs?
- 2 Why People Hate Corporate Jobs
- 3 Why Is Corporate Life So Stressful
- 4 What To Do If Miserable in Corporate Jobs
- 5 CONCLUSION
Is It Normal to Be Miserable in Corporate Jobs?
Unfortunately, it is normal to be miserable in corporate jobs. In fact, some statistics show that 70% of people are unhappy in their 9 to 5 jobs.
So, if you’re finding yourself miserable in the traditional work path, know that you’re very much not alone in feeling that way.
Why People Hate Corporate Jobs
There are a variety of reasons why people hate corporate jobs.
While I didn’t find a study or something that quantifies the most common reasons, these are the most cited reasons that I personally hear from people:
1. The Lack of Freedom and Flexibility
One of the most common reasons that people hate corporate life is the lack of freedom and flexibility.
People are expected to sit at a computer for at least eight hours per day, five days per week. That’s a third of your life or, on average, 90,000+ hours over the course of your life.
It’s understandable for people to feel trapped and confined in that context.
It takes away from adventure and spontaneity and we as people often seek that.
Additionally, if you have young kids, you know how often they get sick or have school commitments that you’d like to attend. Working a corporate job leaves you stressed and overwhelmed trying to balance all of that, and often makes you feel guilty that you’re dropping the ball in one area or another.
2. The Lack of Purpose
Within the corporate world, it can sometimes feel like your job lacks purpose.
Particularly if you work for a really large company with thousands of people, you might feel like you’re a bit of a cog in a while.
Additionally, there are a variety of jobs that are administrative or customer facing these days. That means that folks aren’t tangibly making things, which can take away from the feeling of actually producing something real at work.
Lastly, there’s more awareness than ever than even companies with good missions are in it to make money. And the executives and investors get the bulk of the upside.
So, it can feel a bit meaningless to know that your work is to make some already rich folks even richer.
3. The Pressure to Deliver & Lack of Reward
Particularly if you work on the sales and marketing side of the house, there is a lot of pressure to deliver big results in the corporate world.
Also, that pressure is often not directly rewarded with anything other than getting to keep your job.
I’ve personally had experiences where I’ve delivered multiple consecutive years of strong numbers, received numerous positive performance reviews, was liked by my teammates and colleagues, and then was finally on track to get promoted well after I should have been. Prior to that promotion, was boss was fired due to internal issues and my promotion was put on hold.
To me, that was pretty demoralizing to have delivered what I was asked time and time again to have that growth stripped from under me for something that was not in my control.
4. The Impact of One Person on Your Life
A boss in the corporate world is going to have a ton of impact on your life.
You interact with them almost daily, they dictate a lot of your schedule, and control your pay adjustments, jobs status, etc.
If you have a toxic boss, it can be an absolutely miserable experience working in the corporate world for that person.
5. The Bureaucracy
Another common reason that people hate corporate jobs is the bureaucracy.
It’s the constant string of emails, meetings, approvals, etc. that get in the way of getting real work done that can just wear you down and burn you out over time.
Why Is Corporate Life So Stressful
There are a variety of reasons that corporate life is so stressful.
To me, there are a couple of them that stand out over the others: targets and environment.
First, particularly if you work in the venture backed tech world, you’re likely faced with the prospect of having to create a business that grows at extreme speed.
That comes with aggressive growth targets and intense pressure to deliver on those. If you don’t, you could lose your job. Pretty simple why that’s stressful.
The other aspect is the environment. To get things done, you have to work with other people who have their own projects and incentives that may not align with yours. That can lead to conflict and fighting over resources and alignment that makes it tough for you to achieve what are already aggressive goals to begin with.
What To Do If Miserable in Corporate Jobs
If you’re miserable in corporate jobs, then I encourage you not to settle and to go find a work situation that is going to fill you with life.
As previously mentioned, the average person spends over 90,000 hours of their life at work. That’s roughly a third of your time during the working period of your life. That is just too much time to go numb and accept an unfulfilling work life.
So, more practically, what should you do if you’re miserable in corporate jobs
I have a few high level steps for you:
SET A VISION
I believe that finding your best fit work starts with having a vision for the life that you want for yourself. Too often, particularly in America, we start by selecting our work path and then build the rest of our lives around that.
I find that to be backwards. I think it’s important to start with a high level vision that you want of your overall life, and the contribution that you want to make, and then try to find and create work that fits into that.
We have a complete article on how to define a vision for life that walks through how to do that.
Once you have a high level sense of the life that you’d like to build for yourself, it’s then time to think through some work paths outside of the corporate world that enable you to live out that vision.
One of my favorite tools for doing that is one called Ikigai, which is the Japanese concept of reason for being.
Basically, going through the Ikigai process calls for you to think through what you’re good at, what you like to do, what can make money, and what the world needs. If you can find some options for work that meet in the middle of those things, then those can represent positive potential work paths for you to explore.
Once you have some hypotheses for a few different work paths for you to explore, from there, it’s time to experiment.
Basically, you want to give yourself exposure to a variety of different work paths and contexts to see what resonates and feels good to you.
You do that by placing small bets to give yourself the necessary exposure. That could be things like starting a side hustle, doing some contract projects in your area of interest, volunteering, or doing information interviews.
The point is, you’re gathering as much information as possible, as quickly as possible, in as low a risk of way as possible, to expose you to potential paths.
We have a complete article on career experimentation to walk you through that process.
Lastly, as you’re experimenting on different possible career paths, you want to reflect on the experience and what is resonating with you.
I find writing as the best form of reflection for me personally. So I would encourage you to journal about what you’re learning and experiencing to capture your thoughts and then look back on them after you’re done with your experimentation.
Take a look at our article on journaling to give you a sense of possible ways to journal as you’re reflecting on your experience.
If you’re miserable in corporate jobs, know that you’re not alone.
But, fortunately, in today’s day and age, know that it’s not the only path for you to explore.
To that end, I encourage you to experiment in paths outside of the traditional corporate world to find contexts for your work that are going to better fit into the life that you want to build for yourself.