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“Help, I Hate My Job!” – Three Solutions

Stuck in a job you don’t like? You’re not alone.

When The Conference Board conducted their annual job satisfaction survey for 2009, only 45 percent of Americans said they were satisfied with their jobs — down from over 61 percent who said they were satisfied when the survey was first conducted in 1987.

And get this: 84% of employees in the U.S. plan to look for new jobs this year, according to a poll of over 1,400 employees by career-management agency Right Management.

Given that the average adult spends as much as a third of their waking life at work, being unhappy on the job is a serious “quality of life” issue. (In a 1976 book, The Quality of American Life, the authors state that 20-25% of one’s overall satisfaction with life is impacted one’s satisfaction at work.)

So, what can we do about it?

More importantly, what can YOU do about it?

You really only have three options:

  1. Quit and go do something else.
  2. Fuss, cuss and blame everyone else.
  3. Change your mind and like your work.

But I can’t quit right now…

But it is someone else’s fault…

But I don’t want to…

I know, I know I know…

But if I can talk straight with you, YOU are the only one who can turn this situation around.

That means we have to throw out option #2 right now.

Yes, your boss may be a jerk.

Yes, your co-workers may drive you crazy.

Yes, your customers may be a pain.

To a great extent, though, you can’t change them. So it’s not going to solve anything if you just blame them and curse them day after day after day. As a matter of fact, it’s a terrible way for you to live and it will make life miserable for everyone around you, too.

That leaves us with options #1 and #3.

If things are just terrible, you may need to take the plunge and get out of there.

I know — from experience — that’s a tough move, but some of the best things you’ll do in life are also some of the toughest. And by the way, if you’re really fried at work, getting out may be the best move for you and for your employer.

If you can’t quit right now, or things just aren’t bad enough that you feel that’s necessary, then we’re left with option #3… and that’s often the best option, anyway.

Here’s why:

  1. Remember when I said you’ll make everyone’s life — including your own — miserable if you just go around pouting and complaining? Yeah, this will solve that.
  2. Even if you do leave your current job — even if you were to start your own business — work, as they say, is work. None of us work in utopia… so training yourself to find the good in all things is a life skill that will serve you well for… well… life!
  3. Just because you can’t leave now doesn’t mean that leaving might not still be the best thing for you. Since you need to buy some time to prepare for your next move, though, wouldn’t it be better if you could replace your misery with joy in your remaining weeks, months or years?

Now, let’s be clear: Deciding to like your work is not a “flip the switch” easy solution. It will require some intentionality and work on your part. But that’s the key — “on your part.” This is all in your control. You can do it, if you will.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. What really motivates you? What gets you fired up? Is it helping others? Finishing tasks? Finding creative solutions to problems? Identify what you’re already doing that satisfies your motivations/purpose/passion and embrace them, and also look for missed opportunities to connect with what you really enjoy in your current work.
  2. How can you work around the “yuck” in your job? Is it certain people that get to you? Certain tasks? Certain processes? Look for ways you can compartmentalize, or take the annoyances in controlled doses. Brian Tracy calls this “eating the frog.” You know you have to do it, so just psyche yourself up for it, get it over with, and then get back to what you enjoy.
  3. Find a hobby — or maybe even a special project at work — that allows you to do even more of what you love. Sometimes we allow our work to carry too much weight in our lives — whether positive or negative — so carve out some space where you can do something purely for the joy of it. You’ll be surprised at how it energizes you.
  4. Finally, take time to be grateful for what is good about your job. There is usually more “good” in our work than what we recognize because we’ve been shining the light so brightly on what we don’t like. Your job is to re-focus the spotlight.Try this for a week: each time you want to complain (to yourself or to someone else) about something you don’t like at work, take a deep breath and remind yourself of three things you’re grateful for about your job first. Something made you take the job in the first place, right? What attracted you to it? Is it still there? You do get a paycheck, right? That’s good for something. Is there someone you’re happy to see each day at work? Do you get to make a positive difference in someone’s life? Learn to look for opportunities to be thankful before jumping on the opportunities to complain.
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