Dealing with a Job You Hate


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? 


10 Comments on “Dealing with a Job You Hate”

  1. ashdyogi says:

    Im glad Im not the only one.! Thanks for posting this.

  2. Kathryn says:

    That was absolutely awesome! You have no idea how badly I needed to read that. Thank you! I live in a cube and I am CONVINCED there is some creative-sucking, mind-numbing agent they pump into the office. I feel like a drone most days and my only saving grace is walking outside for my 2 breaks. I appreciate the tips. Namaste’

    • Hah! I’m pretty sure they DO pump mind-numbing agents into offices! I have read that flourescent lighting (over time) is a depressant. Good for you going for a walk to break up the day. I’ll try to keep up on posts like this.

  3. Matt says:

    If you have your own office (or even your own cubicle), I find that it’s emotionally helpful to keep small things in there that you can look at or touch, to momentarily snap you out of workworkworkwork mode and get you in touch with your personal life you love.

    For instance I have photos of family/friends/pets etc. as well as a couple of other strange things such as a hockey stick and a pillow with a moose on it in my office. Strange, I know but it reminds me there are other things I have in my life (hockey, sleeping on pillows) aside from work.

    I also did something that some might find silly but your readers might enjoy. I filled a small bowl with water and put it on top of a bookcase. I refill it every Monday morning and believe that all the negative karma and energy flows right over my head into the bowl of water and dissipates there.

    • The bowl of water is a lovely idea, and one my yogi readers will probably be receptive to. I go in the opposite direction regarding personal affects. I keep zero personal items in my office because I want to feel like I can just stand up, walk out, and there’ll be no evidence I was ever there. If I bring stuff in, then I’m “here”. Maybe I should reconsider. (thanks and love)

  4. Amanda says:

    Love, love, LOVE this post – well put. I’m in the “don’t be a hero” phase and, while I ought to quit tomorrow, am attempting to be wise and view my job as something that provides the funds for what I like to do – yoga, writing, cooking, etc. It’s easier, too, since my husband’s career is shifting in the next 3-6 months and that shift may include facilitating my working from home on yoga and writing. So for the time being, I reassure myself that nothing is forever and plan oodles of time to get in my practice. I also take scheduled tea (and healthy snack) breaks – that way there’s something to look forward to every two hours or so. And I read your blog! 🙂
    Much love, much yoga

    • Such kindness – thank you. The healthy snack breaks are critical. It also gives me an excuse to cram more fruit into my daily diet. If I see an apple or banana on my desk, it’s definitely something to look forward to. Still, I hope your hubby’s work situation allows you to pursue the things that truly make you happy. As you say, much yoga!

  5. Yep – I definitely used to be a work hero. I have found a nice balance by finding a job where I work virtually from home. I make my own hours, don’t have to commute to work and I can do it all in my PJ’s if I want. During the day I can take a break and run an errand or put something in the oven for dinner. It is also really easy to take yoga or meditation breaks throughout the day. I highly recommend it!

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