Work is the central feature in many of our adult lives; we spend upwards of 40 hours a week trying to be productive in the company of others. Couple that with a culture that privileges—and often requires—overwork, and you’re looking at a workweek that’s closer to 60 hours. Now, imagine if all those hours are spent in an environment where you’re less than happy. Or, worse, you’re spending your days in a place where you hate your job.so.so.very.much.
It’s terrifying, isn’t it? Unfortunately, many of us have had a job that we’ve slogged through while counting down the minutes until we could escape. It’s emotionally draining. It’s mentally exhausting. And it’s a career sinkhole. If you hate your job, chances are you’re not putting in your best and you’re unable to focus on advancing your career. Quitting a job is always on the table, but before you do so it’s worth debating the pros and cons (we’ve put together a handy checklist here).
If you need to tough it out, here are a few tricks to help you get by when you hate your job. You’ll make it through to the other side, promise!
Issue #1: Time trails slowly during the day
Strategy: Set a fun activity for after work
You know how you get excited when you have a vacation coming up? It’s kind of like that. Make it a point to have something exciting to do at the end of the workday. It doesn’t have to be big, either. Consider a yoga class or a dinner date and pencil it in on your calendar. Having that little something to look forward to will not only help motivate you to finish your work sooner, it’ll give you the perfect excuse for why you need to leave the office ASAP.
Issue #2: You’re feeling lonely or isolated
Strategy: Find a “work wife” or a friend online
Maybe you’ve just started a new job or you’ve been promoted to a new department. Congrats! Unfortunately, these situations can quickly become very isolating and when you’re all alone for hours on end, it’s very easy to slip into a negative state of mind. We’re social creatures by nature! Make it a point to find at least one coworker who you enjoy speaking with and make it a point to check in for a little chit-chat. Suggest grabbing coffee or having lunch together. If you’re working remotely, join an online community of other professionals with whom you can chat with throughout the day.
Issue #3: Motivation is at an all-time low
Strategy: Focus on one teeny, tiny goal a day
When you really hate your job, it can become excruciating to stay motivated during the day-to-day. It’s in these moments when it’s easy to think you don’t care about the company’s mission or your role there. But this is also the time when it’s worthwhile to jot down some personal goals for yourself. They don’t have to relate to the company’s bottom line (though it won’t hurt if they do). They just have to be small enough that you can achieve them in a short period of time. Being able to check those off will help you pick up the pace and make the days seem less like a time-suck.
Issue #4: The office space and layout make you cringe
Strategy: Put up images of things that make you smile
Maybe you’re missing the days when you sat closer to the natural sunlight that peeks through the office windows. Or maybe you’re finding that the grey colors of your cubicle are putting you in a foggy state of mind. This, my dear friend, is when it’s time for you to personalize your desk and workspace area to include objects and mementos that make you smile. Think: photos of your friends and loved ones. Maybe it’s a picture of Wonder Woman because she reminds you that you’re a badass Or perhaps it’s a photo of your favorite contestant from Drag Race. Bonus points if it makes you laugh.
Issue #5: Your coworkers are dull/nosy/[fill-in-the-blank]
Strategy: Find the good in their quirks
Take a page out of Jim and Pam’s strategy book in The Office and find a way to have fun with your coworkers. Consider it a mental game that will challenge you to find the very best in everyone you see. You don’t have to suddenly become BFFs with Angela, but surely you can find a way to chit chat over lunch with Phyllis!
Issue #6: Working alongside your boss/coworker gives you anxiety
Strategy: Take a break and change your location
Sounds simple enough, but it works. It’s hard to function if you’re hit with a feeling of overwhelming dread anytime you see your coworkers or boss approach your desk. If that’s the case, switch things up and see if you can work from a different location in the office. Take an extended lunch break and print some documents to take with you so that you can catch some fresh air while you work. And, whatever you do, always take a lunch break. As in: leave the office to eat, walk, or just rest. You’ll feel recharged when you return.
Issue #7: Your boss is micro-managing you
Strategy: Find out why and communicate the positives of different work styles
Admittedly, this is never a conversation anyone wants to have, and it can be difficult to execute. First things first, though, ask yourself why you think your boss is trying to micro-manage you. Is this a recent phenomenon? Are they particularly stressed out about a project and want to make sure it all works out okay? See what you can do to communicate how you can help and reassure them you’re doing your best. If your boss is someone who micro-manages you all the time, set some time during your one-on-one meeting to talk about work styles and how you think you can function best and contribute the most. It’s okay to acknowledge that there are different work styles that ultimately achieve the same great results.
Issue #8: Email and work doesn’t stop at 6
Strategy: Set boundaries with work tools and notifications
Unless you’re living off the grid, it’s easy to assume that you have a phone and there’s a way to communicate with you almost instantaneously. That is, if you so choose to answer that little notification that pops up on your phone or computer. If you know you’re leaving work for an event or just don’t want to be bothered, go ahead and set an email notification that lets people know you might take some time to respond to their queries. Announce that you’ll be unavailable for a period of time if you’re taking off for vacation. If you really want to disconnect from work, turn off your notifications on your phone for everything but the most urgent calls.
Issue #9: You’re way past the burnout stage
Strategy: Find something to do that’s meditative but productive
Maybe you’ve already hit the burnout stage. If that’s the case, and your vacation date is nowhere in sight, see if you can do something that’s repetitive and doesn’t require too much mental energy. Perhaps you can volunteer to arrange items in the stockroom while listening to your favorite playlist or podcast. Or consider tidying up your desk area. Clearing a space of clutter allows you to reclaim it as your own and helps you feel accomplished in one small way.
Issue #10: There’s a lot of pent-up rage inside you
Strategy: Release and let it go
Sometimes we’re not sad or unmotivated at work—we’re just upset. That’s okay, too. But resist the urge to vent and keep venting to your loved ones. (And, whatever you do, never vent to your coworkers or boss!). While it’s good to find a way to release your energy and frustration, it’s easy to lose yourself in a cycle of negativity that leaves you feeling worse. If you’re truly feeling frustrated at work, find a a time outside of the office where you can scream your heart out or where you can cry it out to a trusted companion. Whatever you choose to do, once you’ve done it, make a promise to yourself to let that energy go.
And, whether you ultimately decide to stay with or quit your job, it’s always worthwhile to practice some self-care and self-love around the clock. We’ve outlined some starting points here.