That line is the apt opening to a recent article from Kyla Scanlon in Fast Company talking about how she was feeling months after starting her first job out of college at an asset management firm.
For Kyla, and many others, there is an increasing feeling of emptiness that comes with the modern work culture. You’re expected to dedicate at least 40 hours per week to generate the maximum possible return for company ownership that will often cut jobs at the first sign of trouble to the bottom line.
And that dynamic, along with many others, is leading many to throw up their hands and simply say “work sucks”.
But is that really the case? Does work really suck or are we just going about it wrong?
In this article, I’m going to unpack why I think so many people feel like work sucks and what to do if you find yourself in that situation.
Let’s dive in.
- 1 Is It Normal to Not Like Work?
- 2 Why Does Work Suck?
- 3 What Not to Do If You Feel Like Work Sucks?
- 4 What to Do If You Feel Like Work Sucks?
- 5 Conclusion
Is It Normal to Not Like Work?
Yes, it unfortunately it is normal not to like work.
In fact, a recent survey from the career website Zippia found that 50% of workers said that they dislike their jobs.
When you step back, that’s a fairly staggering number. Normal work day hours for most people are 9:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M. Monday – Friday for eight hours per day. That means that about half of your waking hours five days per week are spent at work.
Half of people hating half of how they spend their time is a shocking and disappointing number that reflects overall disengagement within the traditional workforce.
Why Does Work Suck?
There are a variety of reasons why people report to hate working. Here are five of the top reasons that people report to hate their jobs, from the Zippia article referenced above and a CNBC article about a recent Gallup poll about the state of the workplace:
1. Unfair Pay
The top reason by a wide margin that was referenced in the Zippia article for people hating their jobs was unfair pay.
The wage gap between CEOs and employees has widened significantly over time, with CEO pay growing 1,460% since 1978 and establishing a 399:1 CEO vs. employee pay ratio.
Employees are certainly aware of the discrepancy in pay, which has led to a feeling that employees are simply working to make somebody else rich.
Another common reason for people hating their jobs is feeling overworked. Particularly with the labor shortage of the pandemic, many people feel as if they’re being asked to give more and more without the upside of additional pay.
As two working parent households are becoming increasingly common to meet the rising cost of living, being forced to work extensive hours can be a drain on time with family and in community.
3. No Advancement
It’s important for people to feel like they’re working towards something. And if you’re stuck in the same job for years, without any growth or prospects for growth, it can be training and lead to people feeling disengaged in their jobs.
4. The Work Itself
Another common reason for disliking your job is not liking the work itself.
According to Microsoft’s 2023 study of workplace productivity trends, almost 60% of people’s time is spent using office software for communication—email, mostly.
Even if you like what you’re supposed to be doing for your job, more than half of people’s time is being absorbed in creativity draining communications with peers.
And, if you’re someone who is working a job just to make ends meet, and don’t necessarily enjoy the work itself, it’s a double whammy of a lack of enjoyment in the corporate environment.
5. Your Boss
The final most common reason for disliking your job is having a bad boss.
A boss dictates a lot of your experience at work. They are a key driver of how appreciated and valued you feel at work, the type of communication you receive, the hours that you work for the company, etc.
And if you have an ineffective, or flat out toxic boss it can really make your overall at work pretty miserable.
What Not to Do If You Feel Like Work Sucks?
If you find yourself in a situation where you feel like work simply sucks, you likely want to take action on how you’re feeling.
But before talking about what you should do, I’d actually like to start talking about what you should not do, as many people take short term measures that I think can lead them down the wrong path when they’re feeling unfulfilled by their work.
So, here is my initial set of recommendations for what to not do if you feel like work sucks:
1. Quit With Nothing Else Lined Up
The first thing that I would suggest that you avoid is quitting your job with nothing else lined up.
Now, you may be in a situation where simply can’t stand your job and feel like you need to get out of there as quickly as possible. However, for most people, leaving a job without replacing the income can create immense pressure that can put you in a situation where you need to get into another job as soon as possible.
When you’re feeling the short term pressure to take another job, that can lead you to take something just because you need it, rather than because it’s right for you and your career. And if you go that route, you could find yourself stuck with another job that you hate that you want to get out of quickly.
The other thing that I’ll call out here is that it’s often easier to find another job when you already have a job. So, while it may be painful in the short term, searching when you already have a job can be beneficial in the long term.
2. Check Out of Your Job
As tempting as it may be to simply check out when you think that your job sucks, it’s important to remember that you are being paid to do a job and to be professional, even if you’re not enjoying yourself.
A reputation can follow you throughout your career and checking out of a job is a surefire way to damage a reputation.
3. Thoughtlessly Job Hob
I would also recommend avoiding jumping from job to job to job in the search for something that you’re going to enjoy.
Now, depending on your industry, it can actually be a good thing to change jobs with some regularity, as that is often the quickest and easiest way to increase your income and job title.
However, if you’re simply not enjoying your work, changing your job may not address the root cause of what’s going on. As we’ll talk about in the next section, it’s important to step back and take the time to understand yourself and what you really want. From there, you can pursue additional opportunities with thought and intentionality, rather than jumping from corporate job to corporate job when, in reality, you may just hate all forms of corporate work.
4. Accept the Status Quo
The last thing to avoid would be just accepting the status quo and sticking in a career that you don’t enjoy.
You only get one life and it’s important to do everything that you can to enjoy it and make an impact while you’re here.
So, make sure not to settle, and continue to search for work that brings you to live.
What to Do If You Feel Like Work Sucks?
Shifting from what not to do if you feel like work sucks, it’s time to dive into recommendations for what you should do.
I’ll preface this by saying that, if you can find your best fit work, then work can be a wonderful place where you are creating good in a way that brings you to life. In my opinion, work doesn’t just suck across the board. Work sucks when we do the wrong work in the wrong context and with the wrong people.
With some self understanding and intentionality, we may be able to find work that we enjoy and are proud of.
The first step to finding work that doesn’t suck is to develop some understanding of what you want and enjoy.
To me, the best way to do that is to journal. Jim Collins, the famous author of the book Good to Great, has a fantastic journaling method where, at the end of each day, he gives the day a rating and correspondingly writes about what he did that day.
After a period of time he goes back and looks at his scores and what was happening on his good days and his bad days. Over time, he’s able to see patterns on what is happening when he is enjoying himself and what’s happening when he’s not.
From there, he tries to optimize his life to the greatest possible extent to do what he likes and avoid what he doesn’t.
That place of self understanding gives him the ability to optimize his life and work with intetionality.
To that end, journaling is where I recommend that you start in this process. We have a complete article on journaling here, that also breaks down Jim Collins specific method in more detail.
2. Establish a Vision for Life
Once you have a better sense of self understanding from your journaling process, from there, I recommend taking some time to step back and establish a vision for the life that you want to build for yourself.
Again, I find writing to be a helpful way to do that, and there are prompts and exercises that can help guide you along the process of establishing a vision for life.
We have a full article on how to establish a vision for your life here.
Once you have a high level vision for the life that you want to build for yourself, you can then start thinking about tangible work paths that would fit into the overall vision of the way that you want to live your life.
I like starting with the vision for life first because I think that a common mistake that people make is picking a career and then building their lives around that. I think the way to go is to think about the life that you want to build for yourself first, and then find work that fits into what you want to do.
Anyway, a helpful tool about to brainstorm possible work paths that fit into your life is one called Ikigai. It represents the intersection of what you like, what you’re good at, what can make money, and what the world needs.
Some have criticized Ikigai as being impractical and unrealistic, but I find simply completing an Ikigai exercise is a helpful way for you to think out of the box about career possibilities for yourself.
We have a full article on Ikigai and how to work through an Ikigai exercise here.
Lastly, once you have a sense of some possible career paths from your Ikigai exercise, I recommend that you go out and experiment with different paths.
That could be things like exploring the path via a side hustle, volunteering, or doing an information interview. The big thing is just gathering as much information about the path as possible to inform if that might be a career path that you would enjoy.
We walk through a process for career experimentation in this article.
Work is a huge part of our lives. And if we’re stuck in a situation where we are just feeling like work sucks in general, it can be frustrating and demoralizing.
However, I don’t actually think that work sucks across the board. I think that it often does suck when we do work in the wrong context, with the wrong people, and for the wrong reasons.
But, with some though, experimentation, and intentionality, I do believe that it’s possible to find work that brings us to life. So, don’t accept the status quo, and go explore work paths that can fill you with life.