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Few people have the luxury of following their heart’s calling right out of school. Sometimes, sticking out a job you absolutely hate is a necessary step toward getting where you’d like to end up, career-wise. Other times, you just need to make rent.
Whatever the reason you’ve found yourself stuck in a gig that’s sucking your soul out, here are nine ways to keep it from making you miserable.
1. Consider suffering as a rite of passage. “Many older workers reflect on boring tasks that they hated during the earlier years of their career and realize these tasks enabled them to get to where they are today,” Jennifer J. Deal, PhD, author of What Millennials Want From Work, tells Cosmopolitan.com. “In retrospect, it’s quite clear. But in the immediate moment, it seems horrible.”
Deal herself was glued to a screenduring her post-doc at the beginning of her career, managingdatabases day in and day out. She thought it was tedious work and didn’t enjoyit at all, but without that experience, she says she’d be less adeptat her current position, senior research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership.
2. Stay engaged. Just biding time until you can go home is bound to increase your on-the-job misery – not to mention your boredom, says Chip Espinoza, PhD, author of [email protected] It deprives you of a sense of belonging to your workspace and blocks your awareness of how many things at the office you can actually learn from, participate in, change, and enjoy.
If you’re simply not challenged enough by your position, he says, consider asking a manager whether there’s a special project you can take on. If you hate what you do or feel like you’re stuck in the wrong field, approach your daily frustrations as chances to practice the patience any successful career will require.
All gigs, even dream jobs, Espinoza says, involve downtime, sadness, and even failure. If you’re going to hack it anywhere, you’ll need to build up your resilience. Choosing not to ruminate over how awful your work situation is a prime place to start.
3. Learn something. Whether you sign up for an employee skills training course, refine the high art of “managing up,” or mine the more trying moments of your work days for insights into which interpersonal skills you may need to spruce up, embracing a job’s downsides as learning experiences can nix their power to make you miserable.
“It’s easier to stick out a post you don’t feel is perfect when you figure out which aspects of it you can take into your own hands,” Espinoza says.
Figuring out how to tackle work-related problems can also reduce the sense of helplessness you take home with you every day.
4. Get clear(er) on what’s expected of you. So you think your boss is too demanding, or maybe you’ve got no clue about what work tasks to prioritize – set up a meeting with a higher-up to get clear. “The boss presumably needs the work done,” says Deal. “The question is when do they need it and what level of quality are they expecting?”
A good conversation opener? “I want to make sure I’m getting you everything you need in a timely fashion. Can you tell me what you’d like done first? Or how you’d prefer the rest of these tasks ordered?”
If deadlines are truly too stringent for you to bang out work at a quality level, Deal says it’s OK to alert your boss that what you submit on may not be as stellar as it would were you granted more leeway. Just reassure them that you’ll still do your best. Or ask if you can delegate or delay other work obligations or sit out on a meeting so as to more swiftly meet your workplace’s demands. (The goal, she says, is to “convey that you’re being strategic and optimizing everyone’s use of time rather than coming off as lazy.”)
5. Give a difficult boss the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes a boss will be more inclined to interfere or micromanage when they’ve received poor work from a previous employee, or when they’re under a lot of pressure from their own boss, Deal says. Other times, they just haven’t effectively communicated why they want something in a particular way. If that’s the case, ask for clarification. Otherwise, do your best to not take their management style too personally.
Their rationale might not be something you like or agree with,” says Deal. “But part of being an effective team member and employee is accepting that you don’t always get to do precisely what you want to do.”
6. Make friends. Research shows that the more positive relationships employees have with each other, the more motivated and jazzed they are about their jobs. Reach out and be kind to the people you share an office with and your weekdays might seem a lot more enjoyable.
7. Find ways to feel like you’re actually doing something. Whether it’s troubleshooting how to kindly avoid an overly chatty coworker, practicing your communication skills during a meeting, or prioritizing the demand from your higher-ups you can actually get done before EOD, feeling like you’ve accomplished something can make even the most menial lobs feel more rewarding, says Deal.
8. Become an insider. Every workplace has their own unspoken rules, Deal says. Shorten your learning curve by asking a coworker who’s been there a bit longer how you can best adapt to a particular office culture. (i.e., How many after-work emails are you really expected to reply to? Is it frowned upon or totally cool to occasionally work from home? Is lunch something people actually leave for or do most desk-bound employees scarf down a sandwich over their keyboards?)
9. Be professional. Rumor-spreading, whining, griping, or venting to your boss and coworkers about how horrendous this gig is will not do you any favors at all, says Deal. Sure, it may be tempting. (Especially if an officemate shares your POV about a particular coworker or manager.) But studies show venting makes us feel far worse than we would if stress managed in a more mindful way. Spewing our woes onto others also makes them feel worse too. Also? It reflects pretty badly on your professionalism.
Find a friend to talk to about your troubles outside of normal business hours – or, if they’re really bad, a support group or therapist. Keeping your negativity out of the office can also help make it seem like a friendlier place, as you don’t reinforce the perception (through voicing your distaste in response to it) that it’s the third circle of hell.
Plus, Deal points out, you never know who’s going to tip off your next employer that you might not be the nicest person to work with after all…
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