What Should You Do When You Hate Your Job?

Since the start of the year, it’s rained for 13 days in my town. Total rainfall is a whopping 48.4 mm which equals 1.9 inches. When it rains, it’s a big deal; not a surprise in a desert climate. Today, as I write this post, I’m enjoying the pitter-patter of the drops on my roof, happy to be inside, warm and dry. The harder I listen, the more it’s clear the sound has changed. Now, too much water is coming down for our dry ground to absorb quickly. I hear it raging off the house instead of softly tapping on the earth. Five minutes ago the rain made me smile, now I’m over it. Happened fast. When I briefly worked for a startup many years ago, my experience was remarkably like this morning’s rain. It was exciting, unexpected, and a much-needed change until I quickly hit the point of enough.

Quick! Be Honest

Okay, so, nobody is looking at you. Raise your hand if the job you once loved now feels like it’s sucking the life out of you. Next question… Raise your hand if that feeling happened within days of starting a new job. You know, the one you really wanted, interviewed for weeks, and carefully considered before making a move. It stinks. You feel powerless and quite frankly like a moron. You thought that the new job would be awesome. Maybe it was more money, a promotion, or challenging responsibilities. Whatever your reason for taking the position, it can be disconcerting when love turns to hate in a heartbeat. Hello, rain. At least when it rains, eventually it stops. What do you do when you hate your job? If you hate your job and you just started, you may feel helpless. You’re not. Also true that if you’ve been in the same role for ages and love has turned to hate, you too have options.

Hate your job? Here are your action steps and options.

Pinpoint the problem. 

Is it the gap between what you were sold during the interview process and the employee experience? Is your boss, who seemed thoughtful and patient actually a jerk? Are colleagues or culture the issue? If you can’t noodle it through on your own, you may want to work with a coach or reach out to your mentor, trusted colleague, or partner. TIP: Generally hating something isn’t a good launchpad for change. Get specific on the issues.

What would make it better?

At the startup, I had some idea of what I needed to feel better supported and enable me to be more successful. With coaching clients in a similar position, I’ll have them take a notepad and draw three long lines down the page and write the following at the top of each column: Expectations >> What made the past great >> What do I need?
  1. What did I “buy” when I said yes to the job?
  2. In my past organizations or roles, what did I love?
  3. What do I need to increase both my happiness and success?
TIP: You know what you need. You hate your job for a reason. Don’t skimp on the third column even if you think it’s more of a wishlist than a reality list. Now, look at what you wrote. Are these things possible? If so, head on to the next step. If not, skip to the listening to your inner knower step.

Speak Up.

The question was, would I be courageous enough to speak up about the open hostility and culture issues with the owners to whom I directly reported? Honestly, no. I beat around the bush more than I should have. Days in, I didn’t want to rock the boat. Big mistake. In addition, I went lite on what I needed despite doing the work to understand what would make it better. I didn’t want to be that employee. The one who demands before kicking butt. Another big mistake. TIP: Once you’re clear on what you need, you need to be brave and speak up. Nobody is going to hand you a magic wand to turn the crap into diamonds.

Give it a go.

If you’re new to your position, remember, it’s hard to love something new because you’re comparing it to the old. Think about a new pair of shoes, there’s some discomfort before you break them in. Very few new shoes feel perfect on day one, and some will give you a hell of a blister for your persistence. It doesn’t mean you should return them, you need to give them time to fit your feet. Then again, a few rub forever and should be tossed, returned, or donated. Less than five days into my new position, I took a call from a recruiter about another opportunity and began to consider it seriously. Not exactly the definition of giving it a go. TIP: It’s impossible to give things a go to the best of your ability when you already have one foot out the door.

Be professional. 

When you hate your job, it’s tempting to tell everyone and their grandmother how much you hate your job. At work, at home, over coffee, dinner, breakfast, and lunch. Never forget, you’re a professional – act like it. It won’t make things better to be a one-person complaint department. In fact, the more you complain and sling mud, the more it sticks to you. You get to control your reputation through your words and actions. TIP: It’s okay to talk to people you trust about what’s happening at work. However, the deeper you wade into the negativity, it begins to overtake your life.

Listen to your inner knower. 

This job was terrible on a lot of fronts. While some things about it seemed like they’d be ideal, they were more like the cherry on top of a rancid sundae. We parted ways. I was happier, and they probably were too. They deserved someone leading the charge who more strongly aligned with their culture, vision, and values. I was the square banging on the round hole. TIP: You don’t have to suck it up and stay. Leaving is an option. However, don’t race into your boss’ office and resign, get prepared. Start to work on your resume, reach out to your network, and begin the job search process. It’s still raining outside. Surprisingly, the runoff no longer sounds as threatening or grating. Once again, I hear the pitter-patter and am reminded that I love the rain. With your job or company, when your love turns to hate, know that doesn’t mean it applies to your work too. You can still love the work you’re called to do in this world. Whether you started your job last week, month, year or 10 years ago, pinpoint the problem, understand what you need, speak up and if leaving is the right answer for you, don’t be afraid to make the leap. You’ll land, just like my rain will eventually stop, and the sunshine will break through again. Related: 25 Ways to Get Your Mojo Back