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Small business

'Help! I hate my job'

October 19, 2012
Job satisfaction drops among employees who don't detach from their work upon leaving the office.

Job satisfaction drops among employees who don't detach from their work upon leaving the office. Photo: Nic Walker

Granted, it’s a First World problem, but there are few things in life as all-consuming as a job you hate. Not just a job you dislike – but a job you actively detest, one in which every second feels like an hour; a job that tortures your mind even when you’re not at work. That kind of job.

Business owners aren’t immune. It’s even more tragic when they’re the victims of job enragement because many have given up a comfortable corporate gig to spend money on a new venture. They do it in the romanticised pursuit of self-employment, only to be heartbroken when they realise the dream doesn’t always match the reality.

So what do you do? The easy solution is to quit, but for some it’s just not an option. A big mortgage, lack of skills, and a competitive jobs market prevent people from resigning without having another job lined up. Here are six suggestions on how to make it tolerable, or at least a little less agonising.

Utilise your talents: In his bestselling book, Go Put Your Strengths to Work, Marcus Buckingham writes that the key to job satisfaction is for people to identify their strengths and incorporate those into their work. And as for weaknesses – the tasks you don’t like and aren’t good at – he recommends stopping those activities and seeing if anyone notices. It’s a risky move only for the brave … and desperate.

Build relationships: A decade ago, Gallup, a consulting organisation, examined the degree to which employees could say “I have a best friend at work”. They discovered that if people responded to that statement in the affirmative, they were five times more likely to have high rates of engagement. This means that, sometimes, the tasks employees do are of lesser importance than the colleagues with whom those tasks are completed.

Switch off: A longitudinal study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in 2010 concluded that job satisfaction drops among employees who don’t detach from their work upon leaving the office. If you’re a workaholic (which is what you are if you take work home and reply to emails while lying in bed), this applies to you. You’re not giving yourself a mental break, and that contributes to feelings of resentment you might have towards your job.

Plants and sunshine: When American researchers assessed the job satisfaction of 450 office workers, they found that those who worked in close proximity to indoor plants, or who sat next to a window, reported “significantly” better perceptions of their life, work, colleagues and supervisors. The analysis, conducted at Texas State University, demonstrated that surrounding yourself with flowers or greenery could lift your mood.

Plan a holiday: A study of 1530 people published two years ago in Applied Research in Quality of Life, revealed that employees planning a holiday are much happier than their colleagues. However, this feeling lasts only until the trip is over before happiness is once again on par with non-vacationers. So it’s wise, if you're lucky enough, to start planning the next holiday as soon as the last one ends.

Get some perspective: This is the school of thought that suggests you should stop whining and just be grateful you’re employed - or that your job isn’t as bad as others out there. And since you are, most probably, more fortunate in comparison, you should simply focus on being brilliant at it:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Easier said than done, Martin Luther King Jr. Easier said than done. 

Do you hate your job? If so, how do you handle it? Leave a comment.

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Poll: How do you feel about your job?

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Love it, can't wait to get there in the morning

5%

It's alright most of the time

26%

Mild apathy

22%

Strong dislike

18%

Would rather bang head against a brick wall

29%

Total votes: 3504.

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33 comments

  • Some interesting points are raised. I for one, was relocated some 15 months ago & I am now facing a blank wall, having previously sat in close proximity to a window with a view. For my fellow co-worker, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. For me, it was ‘whatever’. I don’t sit at the desk all the time. I do get up, have a chat/laugh, talk to people in other departments, work at other bench tops, etc. It’s all in the head.

    For me, work enjoyment is about being allowed some autonomy (i.e. you’re in control of your own domain & you don’t have someone constantly on your back) & any work-related problems or issues are discussed openly & friendly (as any team should) & not through hostility & finger pointing (both giving & receiving).

    Also, it pays to not be massively in debt as it enforces a slave-to-the-system type thinking… always a downer. So next time you want to purchase a new car or house, think about the consequences to your own state of mind. When a human feels free, he is happier.

    Commenter
    Christos
    Location
    Date and time
    October 19, 2012, 1:01PM
  • Every person should have one horrible job when they are a teen/student. If you are a shy computer geek (like me), have a job that puts you on your feet all day talking to people. If you hate computers, get a data entry job...
    Then, when you are at your 'dream job' but find you hate it... well... at least I'm not washing dishes and waiting tables anymore!

    Commenter
    Pi
    Location
    Date and time
    October 19, 2012, 1:02PM
    • Yeah I know what you mean, The job I used to have I hated with a vengeance. Corporate salary, all the perks you could ask for, but I always had the sense that there was something better for me. So I did what I had to do and I now get to meet lots of new people and am enjoying the great outdoors. I just need to recall those times to feel infinitely happier now that I'm on the up selling copies of The Big Issue.

      Commenter
      Malik the magic sheep
      Location
      Date and time
      October 19, 2012, 3:21PM
  • Then leave. They probably hate you just as much as you hate the job because you can bet that you are not doing it that well if you hate it.

    Commenter
    Jollyjumbuck
    Location
    Date and time
    October 19, 2012, 1:14PM
    • I love those kinds of comments; "if you don't like it, just leave". As the article says....it's not just a matter of being able to leave because of skill sets, financial commitments etc. etc.

      Commenter
      B*nker
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      October 19, 2012, 1:22PM
    • Yes, you really do need to take a step back from the extremely... and I mean EXTREMELY narrow window you are peering through. So many factors are involved with regard to why people work where, whether they hate it or love it. Oh if life was only as easy as you seem to portray it to be. You really need to be much more sensitive to socieconomically disadvantaged populations. Not everyone has things handed to them on a gold plated platter. Life is hard for most.

      Commenter
      Social issues
      Location
      Date and time
      October 19, 2012, 1:59PM
    • it is only fear that stops us changing. Seriously... fear is the single greatest inhibitor to experiencing genuine freedom, and also the single easiest way to control the masses hands down. And if people don't have enough to be fearful of simply ratchet up the pressure and have them somehow think that their current house/suburb/way of life is not good enough, so that they go in and get a $1M+ plus mortgage (sometimes just to keep up with the jones's), then they must maintain their level of income or maybe even feel pressure to spin that hamster wheel a bit faster and get a promotion! Then if you are lucky you have paid of your monstrous mortgage by 60 (put the kids through a grossly expensive school for what?) and get to live on the pension because the government has been forced to requisition all super funds to keep the global ponzi scheme going!
      Summary being the only fear that I wish on anyone is the natural fear that you have as you step out of the plane for your first parachute jump, or the first time you step off the cliff for your first hang gliding session. All other fear is negative. Don't do it to yourself.

      Commenter
      eyeswideopen
      Location
      earth
      Date and time
      October 19, 2012, 2:24PM
    • You make some good points @eyeswideopen.

      Commenter
      Christos
      Location
      Date and time
      October 19, 2012, 4:03PM
  • It's not usually the job that one hates - it's certain colleagues. When bullying from management is involved, and no HR to help as they all resigned, the affected employee has no hope of getting another job, because there is no hope of getting one good reference, much less two. What does an employee do in that situation? It's all very well to say 'get a reference from someone else' - it doesn't work that way. Agencies want references from direct supervisors, not someone else.

    Commenter
    Ariel
    Location
    Date and time
    October 19, 2012, 1:25PM
    • rarely do you have to give a reference at your current position, its usually the job before that a future employer or recruitment agent will talk to.

      Commenter
      Purple-ish
      Location
      Date and time
      October 19, 2012, 1:56PM

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