Dealing with a Job You HatePosted: February 8, 2011
So you hate your job? Get in line. Recent studies show only 45% of Americans are satisfied with their jobs, a record low. The most popular areas of discontent settle around three areas: 1) the job isn’t interesting, 2) salaries haven’t kept up with inflation, and 3) the deduction of health care costs is too high. You’re in good company, but so what? You’re still, as Matt Groening called it, living in hell.
Ever since I started working, I pretty much hated it. When I was a kid I took on mother’s helper and babysitting jobs, which prepared me for a future of being a petty slave to a superior. As a teenager, I worked at a CVS for ‘escape money’, but dealing with the public was equally hilarious and horrifying. In college, I started to get more interesting jobs in art galleries and nonprofit organizations, in which I eventually built my career. After college I’d tried working at a for-profit company, a commercial real estate developer. Even though that’s where the big money was, it was overwhelmingly shallow (and sexist) drudgery which served a singular purpose: lining the pockets of an already-rich asshole. It was the highest salary I was ever offered. I lasted about two months.
I learned my lesson and have spent the rest of my professional career working for nonprofit organizations. The drama level is at Red Alert all the time, and the burnout rate is through the roof, but at least I can lull myself into believing that I’m helping people who need it.
Of course, I dream of a less stressful, more satisfying job. I’d like to be appreciated and respected. I’d like what the Human Resources Department comically calls a “work – life balance”. I’d like to avoid every 8:30pm meeting I’m asked to attend. None of that’s gonna happen and I know it. Over the years, I’ve dealt with these jobs in various ways. Some of them are listed below for your benefit.
Weigh your options. If you’re crying in your office or being a jerk at home, it’s time to quit. I know, in this economy that’s blasphemy. You won’t get unemployment benefits, and you’ll have to start from scratch at a new job, presuming you can even find a new job. You might want to stay where you are and tough it out a few more months before you snap.
If you are staying put for a while longer, do just enough to get by. You’re protecting your sanity here, so don’t be a hero. Bosses take liberties with their employees all the time – you just have to make sure to take advantage of your own little liberties. For example, if no one is looking and no work is pending, I take off a little early. If you get an hour’s lunch, damnit, take your full hour. Get the hell out of that stuffy cubicle and get some air. Do NOT get there early, work through your lunch, and stay late. Give up the ghost of trying to impress your boss with “face time.”
Most importantly (and this is the only thing getting me through), you must work hard for balance. Because you hate your job so much, you need to add in stuff you like to balance your life out. Forget about your job for a minute. What’s going on in your life? Are you just dragging yourself home, eating whatever’s easiest, and conking out in front of the television? Even though that can feel comforting at the time, it’s only compounding your depression because your life is now revolving entirely around a job you hate. For me, I add in things that calm me and make me happy. During work, I try to do a set a pushups for each hour seated at my desk. After work I practice yoga, or work out my frustrations on a rowing machine. Or I throw on my sneakers and run around my neighborhood. Every night, I make sure to prepare a healthy and delicious dinner, and I make enough to take for lunch so I’m not stuck eating fast-food junk. It’s not always easy, but I do it to stay sane. I’ve also learned that treating myself is most worthwhile when I spend on experiences rather than material goods. I go to the opera, to a silent retreat in Maine, and on annual European vacations. I don’t work for nothing.
In life, we spend more time at work with strangers, than at home with our family and friends. The only thing you have in common with these people is that you were randomly thrown together and are forced to surmount challenges by working as a team. Socially, it’s an unrealistic expectation. Professionally, it’s futile. Emotionally, it’s stressful and ultimately depressing. But you CAN take steps to protect your family life, your mental health and your sense of self. Deal with your job, complain away, but don’t let it beat you.
How do you get through your day at a job you hate? What do you “add in” to create a real work-life balance?