#work-life balance

What if I hate my job?

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Two talented development professionals from different backgrounds, simplifying complicated questions.

 (Erika) I once had three clients who, independently and in the same month, came to me and announced they were unhappy with their jobs and they wanted to be real estate agents.  After a little questioning, I determined that none of them knew or cared much about real estate. They simply weren’t feeling purpose in their current positions and felt that drastic changes needed to be made.  We soon discovered together that the problems they were facing would, for all of them, have remained or been made worse by changing careers. So, what if you hate your job?

 (Laila) A couple of years ago, I found myself in a situation where I hated my job – I mean absolutely hated my job.  I found everything annoyed me, I was grumpy often, I complained constantly to anyone who would listen, and I was done. I was convinced that I was in the wrong profession, that while I became an HR person by accident it was time to purposefully get out of it and into a new profession. It would be another 18 months or so before I seriously did the work to determine what my next move would be. I came home one day, and my kid said to me “you’re just not happy anymore” and it was the kick I needed to examine the situation.  Through some work and hard self-examination, I was able to determine that it wasn’t so much the job it was me. I was not cut out for the culture I was working in, and it was even harder to admit that I had become toxic. I am someone who is resilient and who does well in crisis situations but in that moment, the crisis was me and somehow, I had turned change something I often embraced to become something I feared. I decided to take my own advice – every day is a choice, it’s my choice to show up each day and give it my all, or it’s my choice to stop. Once I took my advice it was easy to make the choice to stop. I left my job and 6 months later I’m reminded daily how much I love the work that I do.

 It's Your Job

 (Erika) It might be the job.  Plenty of my clients feel like they’re not in the right job.  The Peter Principle, that workers are promoted to their level of incompetence, applies to a lot of people in this situation.  When you’re promoted (or demoted) to a position that is inappropriate for you, it’s frustrating. Your skills may be ill matched for the position, it may not meet your practical or psychological needs, or it may lead down a path that you don’t want to be on.  If you hate your job, it might be the job.

 (Laila)  “I hate my job” I hear this a lot. Maybe it’s the job and maybe it’s not. So I challenge you to think about what is it about the job you hate? If you don’t know the answer to this, I really encourage you to take some time to think about it before you jump ship and accept a similar job at a different company.  Maybe the job is not what you expected it to be when you were hired on, maybe the promotion was not what you thought it would be or maybe you didn’t feel like you could turn it down. Maybe you’re at a crossroads in your life where you are ready to admit to yourself that you’ve been doing the same job for years because it’s all you’ve ever known and while scared you’re ready to do something knew.. or maybe it’s something else.

It’s Your workplace

(Erika) It might be the workplace.  Many people, myself included, love their jobs but have hated the company they worked for.  Company culture can play a huge role in the engagement of its workers. The company culture may be toxic, encouraging unproductive or unethical behaviors that aren’t in line with your values. Without being exactly toxic, the systems within an organization may be ineffective, causing lost productivity, miscommunication, and frustration. Or the overall mission of the organization just doesn’t match your personal purpose.  You might not hate the work you’re doing, but you can dread going into the office.

(Laila)  “I love the people/my job but I hate the company” – as an HR person, I can’t tell you how I often I’ve heard this from employee’s or in an exit interview.  Look, I get it. But let me throw a challenge at you. The company it’s not a thing, it’s an inanimate object so let’s dig deeper. What do you hate about the company? Maybe it’s the culture, maybe it’s your co-workers, the commute, the benefits, etc..  Real talk, no company is perfect, but if you can put a name to that you hate, it can be really empowering in that you can now examine what to do about it, but again, if you do decide to jump ship and search for a new job, what you want to avoid doing is ending up in the same work environment that you will end up hating really quickly.  

It's You

(Erika) It’s not the job, because you like what you do. And it’s not the company, because they meet all of your wants and needs.  Despite this, you’re still dissatisfied. It might be you. Remember my future real estate agents? At least one of them figured out that she wasn’t unhappy BECAUSE of work.  She was unhappy AT work. The problem had nothing to do with her job or her company, but everything to do with her attitude. You can love your job and still feel hate.

(Laila) So, I did this work myself, and when I found myself down a path that made me uncomfortable I avoided doing the work. But the reality was it was me. I hated the job, that to be honest there was nothing wrong with.  I hated everything about the workplace, that by no means was not perfect, but was a fine workplace, I got a promotion, the title and the raise, and I was so unhappy I was miserable to be around and work with, I was toxic and the hard reality was that it was me.  The job was no longer right for me and I was no longer the right person for the job in my humble opinion, and the reality is no change, promotion, demotion, increase, whatever was going to change the fact that it was me.

Change the job

(Erika) If it’s the job you hate, you have to tell someone.  Find your boss, your mentor, or your in-house coach and let them know you’re not in the right place.  Ask for new opportunities to expand your role. Or seek out new areas in the company that you could transition toward.  Companies are terrible mind readers, but they hired you to exploit your skills. If you’ve got talent that they’re not using, chances are they’ll want it.

(Laila) So you’ve done the work, and it’s the job. You like the place you work and you know you want to be there but you still hate your job. Well it’s time to talk to someone. Your boss, HR person, coach, etc.. it’s time to explore what changes can be made.  

Change the Company

(Erika) So the corporate culture isn’t a good fit.  Time to dust off that resume and get networking. Yes, job hunting can be tough.  The good news is that you’re in a position to be patient. And working in a culture that you hate gives you a better idea of what you really want.  Expand your search to companies that are tertiary (three steps away) to the one you’re in now and look at where they are in their company life-cycle. You might feel more engaged by the excitement of a start-up.  There might be a company in crisis that needs your leadership and expertise. Or perhaps a larger, mature company offers more flexibility and less pressure. Figure out what you want and look for a company that offers it.      

(Laila) You realize that it’s the workplace is at the root of your problems and it’s time to find a new place to work.  It’s important to put some definition behind what it is you dislike about your company, so you can avoid these same things at another company. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with an employee to uncover that the problem was their commute. The commute was so long that it interfered with their personal life. Often these people would end up quitting their job and take another one with an equally long commute. Without addressing the problem, the cycle continues.

Change your career

(Erika) You’re using all your skills, and you have plenty of experience, but you have a boat load of interests that you want to incorporate into your work. It might be time to find a new adventure.  Start thinking about how you can use your skills to support your interests. Designers can use their strategic gifts by moving to in-house marketing operations. Sales directors can become trainers. Twenty years of experience in any field can make you a very persuasive consultant. Maybe even consider starting your own business. Passions for art, philanthropy, teaching, or history can lead you to a plethora of new career options. Don't be scared of an uncertain future that leads to something great.

 (Laila) Maybe it’s time to explore something new.  I’m a big believer that we have the rest of our lives to figure out what we want to do when we grow up, and that we don’t have to have all the answers today. I don’t believe that once we are set in one profession that we have to stay in that role for life. It’s ok to want something new.  It’s ok to want a new career. It’s never too late to change your profession. I want to encourage you to explore your skills and talents and find what that new career is. It can be hard to figure out on your own, so you might want to reach out to someone who can help you filter your fear so you can see your options clearly.

 Changing Yourself

 (Erika) Changing yourself is a bigger topic than we can reasonably address here.  We'll do another blog on that later.

 (Laila) I concur.

Laila Kahkeshani has 15 years of human resource, talent, and organizational development experience and a masters degree in education and human development, with a concentration in Organizational Leadership and Learning. She owns Irenic. Her goal is to simplify the way organizations approach human capital.

 Erika Weed is a doctoral candidate in human and organizational learning with a focus on leadership, and 10 years of coaching, talent development, and organizational systems experience.  She owns Ascendry. Her goal is to amplify individual expertise