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How To Cope When You Hate Your Job

Don't let yourself reach breaking point.

Do you dread going in to work in the mornings? You aren't alone: a survey done last year found that about half of Canadians are unhappy on the job.

There are many possible reasons why you might find yourself among that 50 per cent: a manager you don't jive with, a change in your duties, a stressful co-worker, a heavy workload, or a job that just doesn't seem like the right fit.

Regardless of the reasons for your job dissatisfaction, the fact remains that you must go to work in order to get paid. As many people don't have the money to quit a job without having another lined up, it means you have to find a way to get through it until things improve or a new job is found.

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Fortunately for you, we have eight tips from experts on getting through the workday when you hate your workplace and/or the job itself.

Diagnose the problem: The first step to improving your work situation is figuring out the problem. You may have a very specific complaint, like a performance review you disagree with, a problematic co-worker, or a job duty you dislike. Or you could be dealing with a less concrete problem, like a vague sense of dissatisfaction. Whatever the scenario, write down the problem as you see it; this lets you put words to it, and gives you something to refer back to as you work on a solution.


Get creative: Once you've identified the problem, you can begin to look at ways to fix — or improve — the situation. "I always recommend my clients think of problem-solving in this order: add, change, eliminate," says marriage and family therapist Shadeen Francis. Can you add something to improve the situation: more regular breaks, a better workstation set-up, a raise? What can you change? If your current plan for communicating with your manager isn't working, try something new. Or see if you can relocate to a new desk or even a different team. Finally, is there anything that can go from the office (other than you!) that would actually make things better? Like minimizing interactions with a problematic co-worker, for example.

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Commit to check-ins: Once you suspect things aren't right at work, commit to regularly checking in with yourself in a way that makes sense so you can track how the situation progresses over time. This also helps you create a record that may prove useful in the future, whether it's for your own reflection or for future meetings with management. "Commit to regularly exploring your situation with yourself so you can ensure things are not getting worse, or if they are so that you can track this," says life and career coach Jane Scudder.

Document everything: If you have concerns about your job security, or if you believe something in the workplace is against policy or even illegal, keep a record, Scudder says. "I suggest people take notes on Word documents and email these records to their personal accounts as well," she says, adding that you should do this weekly. You'll have reliable documentation if you need it later, which has been proven to have some benefits in a stressful situation.

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Talk it out: Of course, if talking to management or HR is an option, that is one you should avail yourself of. Many workplace disputes can be resolved with open communication and a plan. But if higher-ups aren't receptive, or the problem is one that cannot be fixed, or you are simply unhappy in the role, talking it out still has value. "Confiding in a trusted friend or mentor, or hiring a coach, can be one of the best decisions you can make when facing a challenging career bump," Scudder says. This can also help you devise a plan for improving your situation—or getting out of it.

Schedule breaks: If a jam-packed schedule (or micromanagement) is part of the reason behind your workplace frustrations, you may not be taking your breaks and lunches as you are entitled to do. If this is the case, or even if it's not, start scheduling regular breaks into your day. "If you haven't been regularly taking lunch or coffee breaks now it probably a good time to start," Scudder says. Leave the office during your breaks when you're able to, even if just for a walk around the block. The break will help you get through stressful days.

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Build a "screw-it fund": Sometimes referred to by a less PG-13 name, a screw-it fund is a pool of money that allows you to walk away from a bad situation with a financial cushion. If you know you have a few months of rent or mortgage payments in the bank, you feel more able to leave an untenable work situation — even if you don't have a new job waiting. This can be difficult to build up, but even focusing on saving some money for a couple of weeks between gigs, or career coaching, can help propel you forward.

Try a change of location: If working remotely is an option for your job, try to make that a part of your schedule, Scudder says. If your office is toxic, a break from the environment can help. And either way, it gives you a change of scenery and a chance to work without distractions. If working remotely isn't possible, perhaps you can switch locations in the office, or at a coffee shop in your building's lobby. And think bigger about this as well — if your workplace is good overall but the job is a bad fit, perhaps you can transfer to a different department.

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Get some exercise: Exercise has been associated with stress reduction for a variety of circumstances, and workplace stress could be included. Try working some exercise into your work day: hit the gym on your lunch break, try walking at least partway into work or home, or just take a quick walk around the block. Outside of work, try to make exercise a regular part of your routine, Scudder suggests. "Regular exercise is like water: most of us could use more of it," she says. "Particularly when you're stressed — for whatever reason — it can be the one thing that keeps you from tipping over the edge."

Set a personal ultimatum: Some situations just don't get better over time, and a bad workplace may be one of them. While there may be work you can do to improve a situation, or endure it in the meantime, Scudder recommends working out what your non-negotiables are well before you hit that point, if possible. "What will you tolerate? What will you not tolerate?," she asks. "Would something make you walk? What is that?"

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