10 Ways to Cope With a Job You Hate

July 26, 2011  |  
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I’m grateful to have had some kind of steady employment since the age of sixteen, and with the job scarcity that exists in the present day of this country, people no longer have the luxury of jumping from one job to the other. For this reason, thousands of Americans are overworked, underpaid and filled with a daily anxiety of having to report to a job that they truly despise just to maintain their lifestyles. Hopefully a few small changes can make the difference between you getting your bills paid and not losing your mind. Check out a few ways to cope with a job you can’t stand.

1.  Focus on work, and forget the drama.

It can be easy to get sucked into drama with co-workers and the cutthroat mechanics of the career ladder, but all that time you spend participating in personal drama is time that you are taking away from improving your professional status. Maybe you don’t wish to own the company one day, but at the same time you wouldn’t be there if you didn’t have bills to pay. Never let other people’s problems jeopardize your finances.


2.   Don’t burn bridges.

I remember working at an ice cream shop through both high school and college which had its share of bad management and co-worker conflict. I vowed to myself that as soon as I found a better job, I would turn the thermostat up to 80, tell everyone to kiss my A$$ and walk out and leave the door open with no staff in there to serve anyone. It’s a good thing I didn’t. When I went on to create a resume I had plenty of co-workers and managers to list as references and my management experience and their kind words helped me land a better job.  As much as you want to stick it to a former boss when you land a better gig, keep in mind that you will most likely need references for the future.

3.  Give yourself at least 30 minutes to de-stress.

You’ve finally clocked out and battled through rush hour traffic and you’ve never loved the sight of your front door more. Before you start dinner and prepare for the next day, give yourself 30 minutes of de-stress time. Watch a funny sitcom, take a shower or have a glass of wine. Do anything that will give you time to release that tension and extra energy. It’s kinds of like a cool down after a workout: It allows you to transition into your normal self without drastically jolting your system. Otherwise, some undeserving family members might feel the wrath from your awful work day.

4.   Prioritize.

In addition to setting goals, it’s important to prioritize. I used to think about everything I had to do for the work week and have a bit of everything done each day.  But what’s the point of working on the proposal that’s due next week, when you have a report due tomorrow? Sometimes working on one thing at a time instead of scattering your attention in different directions allows you to focus better. Work smarter not harder.

5.   If possible, change your schedule or seek out other positions.

Before leaving completely, look into taking baby steps toward the front door. If you have problems with catty coworkers, see if it’s possible to change your schedule so that you can work with people you can at least tolerate. If you have some seniority, look into other opportunities within the company that you qualify for and that will better accommodate your lifestyle. You may be stuck at the same job, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no flexibility available.  Don’t be afraid to express your grievances, as long as you can do so professionally. Unless you work for a tyrant, the worst you’ll probably hear is, “No.”

6.  Don’t be afraid to say, “No.”

With that said, don’t be afraid to exercise your share of refusals.  It’s true that with the country’s lack of jobs, in order to keep the one you do have, it’s no longer enough to do what’s expected of you.  With companies consolidating, people are being expected more and more to go above and beyond their responsibilities.  But you’re only human, and by taking on way more than you can handle you’ll risk burning yourself out, leaving you unable to accomplish your basic duties.  It’s OKAY to take the initiative to get in some extra brownie points, but don’t bite off more chocolate than you can chew.

7.  Being polite isn’t the same thing as being friendly.

“Works well with others,” is a skill that HR departments cherish in employees, but exercising good company morale doesn’t mean you have to be BFF’s with your co-workers and in some cases it can even be harmful. If you have co-workers that happen to grow into friends then lucky you, but make sure to keep it professional while at work. On the other hand, if you can’t stand the sight of them, at least make sure to always be polite. You can’t always share your Miami vacation pics or be Facebook friends with everyone you share a shift with, but you don’t necessarily have to in order to get the job done.

8.   Re-evaluate yourself.

Are you noticing you’re having the same set of problems no matter where you clock in?  If you always find yourself dissatisfied or unhappy with your places of unemployment, you may be applying to the wrong jobs or you may have to question your work ethic. Sometimes it’s not necessarily your boss or co-workers hating on you, it might just be some good old constructive criticism.

9.   Stop working through your lunch.

Although, not all states require employers to provide their employees with lunch breaks, if you’re lucky enough to work for employer who cares that you complete your work on a full stomach, by all means, actually eat lunch during your lunch break.  You don’t have to go all “Sunday-dinner” in thirty minutes, but take the time to step away from the desk and grab some fresh air, call a friend so you can help each other keep a bit of sanity or YouTube it up with cute animals playing instruments, anything to add some much-needed relief to your day.

10.   Seek other employment.

As  I write this, I am halfway paying attention to the presidential address on our debt ceiling and it’s a bit depressing to think about the future of our economy and unemployment rates, but it’s important to hold onto the faith that you won’t be stuck in a job you hate forever. The average full-time working American will work 2080 hours a year without overtime.  If you have to spend a majority of time in a specific place, it’s understandable that you don’t want it to be somewhere you dread heading to each day.  If you have enough guts (and enough savings), try starting your own business. You may not have as much stability and will probably work just as hard if not harder, but at least it will be something you actually enjoy. Seek other employment if you’re not a natural entrepreneur, but do it on the low. Just because the economy is a wreck, doesn’t mean there aren’t some gems out there. In the meantime, make yourself a great candidate for the job you want to have. Train, take classes and participate in other professional development seminars. This too shall pass, and you want to be prepared to take advantage of better opportunities that may come your way.

Toya Sharee is a community health educator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee.


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  • cindy

    That is one of the worst feelings is to be stuck on a job that you really dislike. I have a job that I truely enjoy because I enjoy helping others. on theother hand I dislike the way the bosses talk down to the employees mainly because they can get away with it. it sadens me when coworkers are stressed and cannot leave because they need their job right now. To those of you that suffer through this remain prayful, stay strong. Try not to take you job home with you. Brush it off your shoulder like rapper JZ says. Remember, when you can, leave the job!. As far as your bosses that are cruel with you in any way. Receprosity is very real and they are not immune. take care. love cindy

  • All I can say is that we have choices…before you leave any job you should have a plan B or even if you have a job…some people like to get a job meaning exchange your precious time for a salary..most of the time you're overworked, miserable and underpaid…forget about the BS..if you're a Christian you must put it in your mind that you're wprking for Gold and not man or you'll go insane…do what you love and you'll be a happy camper…Your life should be a continuous advernture…if you're constantly stressed that leads to illnesses and it's not worth it…Yvonne

  • Tabitha

    Great advice! I will email this to myself so my next job I can go back and reread if I need too!

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  • Nic

    Thanks for this article I have been thinking about quitting for months. Today was again a day I really was going to pack my stuff and go but I recieved a better perspective when reading this article.

    I truly appreciate it.

    • Toya Sharee

      I was right in the same boat, Nic, when I worked during undergrad. Sometimes you just have to step back and try to find the positive and trust that you are paying your dues and on the path to something greater. Glad I could help.

  • Nottelling

    I recently left a job that I hated. Leadership focused only on the profit and consequently made decisions that worked people into the ground. What helped me cope (and my advice) is to focus on developing and/or maintaining positive professional relations. I supervised a great team of people who took their jobs seriously and worked very hard. I also formed relationships with other executives of like mind. We all pulled together to find solutions and sometimes just vent. We had each others' backs. Now that I gone, I rountinely send them information on job openings with my new company and via my professional network. I found my new job via my professional network, so clearly, you get back what you put out, so stay positive.

  • Mello

    Great advice!

  • Hillari

    Maintain what lifestyle? I've been working part-time since I was laid off three years ago. Part-time jobs appear to be more plentiful than full-time jobs these days. However, it is very hard to find a second part-time job to fit in around a first part-time job and personal/family obligations because the hours aren't good. I'm just hanging on by the thinnest of threads.

    • Toya Sharee

      Hi Hillari! Trust me, I feel your pain and for most of my adult life instead of working one F/T job, I've worked several part-time ones. Lately I'm finding that by doing that, in case you are ever laid off from one job, you'll always have a little something to fall back on. But be patient and I promise you will make it through! I understand it can be difficult with family obligations, but if you can try to find jobs that don't require you be in one spot all day (avoid reporting to an office or working in a retail store) you may have some flexibility with your schedule or try finding something you don't necessarily work on a regular basis (One of my part-time gigs is consulting) so that you have more control over your schedule. You may not get a humungous paycheck every two weeks, but I find that sometimes the less often you are paid, the easier it to save your money or put it towards the things you need most. As for that thin thread, I am hanging on and hustling right with you. Good luck!

  • Sandy

    I had a job that I hated with a boss whom I loathed years ago that paid very well. I focused on that fat paycheck. That is how I coped…LoL!