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On good days, you get to your office in an hour and fifteen minutes. During your commute, you listen to music, comedy podcasts, anything in an attempt to build internal resilience and protect your mental health. After a draining work day, you spend another hour and fifteen minutes getting home, feeling overwhelmed. While you sit in traffic that’s as familiar as it is dreary, it hits you: you hate your job.

You’re not alone. And while people hate their jobs for unique reasons, there are some overarching themes we’ve noticed. Looking for clarity on what’s making your job satisfaction tank? We can help.

And no, we’re not going to just wallow. Once you identify the problem, you can finally start addressing it. So here’s why you hate your job and what to do about it. Because we’re sure things can change.

Let’s jump in.

Reason 1: The culture

Company culture is a fairly nebulous concept, but we think you’ll understand why we’re starting here. See, it encompasses everything from how your boss interacts with you to hours expected of employees to turnover rate.

And this all affects your mental and physical health. Just imagine (and if you don’t have to imagine, we’ll just say we’re sorry you’re the captive of this hypothetical): you come into work the day after someone on your team was fired seemingly arbitrarily. Your boss hasn’t communicated reasons for the termination other than that your colleague “wasn’t cutting it.” It’s the third time you’ve heard this in the previous month. And because you don’t want to lose your job, you decide that you’re going to work extra hours that day to make sure you’re one of the people who “cuts it.”

It’s a spiral. A toxic work culture infects nearly every aspect of a job. Not only does it make you feel like you have reduced job security, it encourages you to engage in self-destructive work behavior that decimates your work-life balance, leading to an unsatisfying personal life in addition to your job dissatisfaction.

Maybe you stick it out because your job’s in an industry you love. Maybe you’re allowed to work on projects that are nonetheless exciting. But there’s much more to a job than your daily tasks. There are the people you work with and the situation in which you do the work.

Take AC SlametA Producer Switches to Tech to Find Time for Life: AC Slamet’s TripleTen Story for example. He was a producer for unscripted TV, and he was in an industry he thought was right for him. But the actuality of working this job was wearing him down. “A normal shoot day for producers would be 15 hours,” he said. 

In addition, because he had to be on set filming the stars’ holiday events, he had to miss celebrations with his loved ones. “You tend to miss a lot of important life things. You sometimes have to miss birthdays. You miss anniversaries. You miss people’s graduations. It’s tough.”

What to do about it

When you hate your job because of the company culture, it’s too easy to redirect the impetus for change inward. “Maybe if I just stay positive,” you tell yourself, “I can find more joy in my career.” Or “Maybe if I just work harder, I won’t feel overwhelmed later.” Or “Maybe if I meet my boss’s shifting, arbitrary expectations, I’ll get some recognition.”

These are all strands of logic that don’t do anything to address the core issue that makes you hate to go to work: the culture.

That’s what truly needs to change. So start off having a conversation with your manager. This will be difficult, so prepare specific examples of unhelpful behaviors and suggestions for change beforehand. And be sure to enter the conversation with equanimity. 

In the hypothetical we presented in the section above, this might sound like, “When people seem to be fired for no reason, this makes the rest of the team feel insecure in their jobs, which makes it difficult for us to do our work. In the future, please share the specific reasons for terminations.”

If your manager is the source of the unhealthy work environment (or unwilling or unable to do anything with your feedback), take your concerns a level higher. If that doesn’t work, reach out to HR.

Ultimately, though, if your advocacy fails to alter the culture that was making you hate your job, you might have to revert to individual action. But a quick caveat: for each individual action, ask yourself if you’re accommodating the culture or if you’re asking the culture to accommodate you.

Here’s what we mean: If you were to decide that you would always be available to put out fires caused by the lack of a quality assurance process, your decision would be accommodating the culture. In contrast, if you were to turn your work phone off during your evenings and on weekends, you wouldn’t be capitulating to the culture. You’d be establishing your mental and physical needs and sticking to them. Perhaps your self-assertion would even encourage the company to institute sensible QA policies.

Here are a few other ways you can address a less-than-stellar work culture:

  • Maintain your own integrity
    Don’t let a toxic culture alter your values
  • Engage in positive self-talk every night
    Remind yourself that you are not your job, and think of three good things you did that day
  • Take breaks
    Make sure you regularly step back from the culture and refresh yourself
  • Cultivate a support network
    Confide in coworkers and listen to their concerns
  • Practice intentional disengagement
    Be picky about the causes you take up
  • Lead by example
    Model the behaviors you’d like to see emulated throughout the organization

Reason 2: The work itself

We can also imagine the inverse of the situation above. The cultural aspects of your job might be fine, and yet, when you’re on yet another commute, you might still find yourself knowing, deep down, that you hate your job. In this situation, it might be the tasks you do day-in and day-out that are making you start to hate your career.

This source of dissatisfaction is much easier to pin down than the often ill-defined concept of “company culture.” That means you might already have a sense of what we’re talking about.

Instead of walking up to the office doors with a vague anxiety over what’s to come, you might instead pause in the parking lot because you know precisely what it is you’re dreading.

You know you’re going to have to build that spreadsheet saying the same thing it said last month and the month before that and the month before that. You know it’s not strictly vital to the company’s growth, but you have to do all the tracking and reporting nonetheless just to make sure there’s a paper trail if the company gets audited. And you’re going to have to manually enter in all the data because of reasons.

It can get worse than that: you might realize your chosen path is a fundamental mismatch for you. Such was the case for Luke SchmidtForging His Own Path to Tech: Luke Schmidt’s TripleTen Story. By all accounts, he was making the right decisions. He’d enrolled in college, and was even most of the way toward getting a degree in a field that would be lucrative after graduation: economics. And yet, something felt wrong.

He knew he had to leave college. After that, he worked a few different odd jobs, but nothing quite stuck. Then, he discovered tech when he wrote a script that got an LED light strip to start blinking.

I hadn't really experienced that before: where I had done something from a work-related standpoint and had actually been excited about the process and the completion of it. And I think it was at that point where I said, 'Okay, I'm going to give this a try. Maybe this is for me.' Luke Schmidt, TripleTen grad

What to do about it

But if you don’t discover a spark like Luke did, what should you do? If you’re trying to figure out how to not hate your job because of the nature of the work itself, we have some recommendations. 

As opposed to an unhealthy work environment, you have the benefit of at least knowing, without a doubt, the source of your dissatisfaction: the tasks. So, silver lining here — you don’t have to spend time asserting your humanity and needs. However, it might be the case that the nature of your tasks is less malleable than the company culture.

We’ll start out as we did in the previous section: talk to your manager. Express your dissatisfaction with the tasks you’re assigned and see if there’s some way you can take on a more varied set of responsibilities. It might be possible for work to shift around the team so you’re no longer the only one expected to cover the duties that you’ve started to find tedious.

And you can also ask if the company offers training opportunities. Even if it doesn’t provide upskilling in-house, you can talk to your manager and express your interest in enrolling in a course that can take your skills to a new level. While this might not immediately solve the problem of dreary tasks, you will nonetheless set yourself up for advancement that can bring you refreshing and more eclectic assignments later on.

Here are a few more ways you can breathe life into your work if it’s starting to feel stale:

  • Discover or re-engage in a hobby
    Connect effort to reward by reinvesting in activities you enjoy
  • Listen to music or podcasts
    Turn tasks that require little mental effort into opportunities to listen to what brings you joy
  • Establish and stick to time limits
    Build a schedule for yourself to keep drudgery from taking over your workday
  • Find places for personal expression
    Design your workspace to be a place you want to be and keep an eye out for every small opportunity to have a little fun
  • Reframe your perspective
    Take a moment to look for and express gratitude for the upsides of your work
  • Look to the future
    Connect the tasks you’re doing now to the place you want to be down the line

Reason 3: What you get in return

So now we get to a reason you were likely expecting as we talk about all the ways in which you can hate your job: the compensation and benefits. You might not dislike working. And the culture might be perfectly acceptable. But you might be getting paid the same salary that you were five years ago, and your bills sure haven’t stayed the same.

Your feelings of losing purchasing power are well-founded. Here’s a quick graph to show what we mean:

Starting off, we assumed you made the US median household income of $68,703 in 2019 (five years ago as of the writing of this article). Because of inflation, to have the same purchasing power today, you’d have to make $84,180. Essentially, by never getting a raise, you’re losing over $15,000 worth of purchasing power.

Okay, but maybe that stagnation is unrealistic. So, instead let’s assume that, over those past five years, you’ve been given an average three percent raise annually. What would that look like?

Even with that basic raise each year, your purchasing power would still decrease. While losing roughly $4,500 to inflation hurts less than losing over $15,000, it’s still a loss in absolute terms.

So your dissatisfaction with stagnating pay doesn’t make you mercenary or greedy; it reflects a healthy understanding of your current economic situation. If your job used to allow you to support a certain quality of life, and that’s been slowly eroded over time, you might quite rightly develop a distaste for your work.

It can extend beyond pay, too. Have you started paying more for healthcare even though it’s coming from your employer? Are the benefits just not enough? These are all perfectly legitimate reasons to find your current job objectionable.

See, even if we absorb from our culture that we should work for the passion of it, the core reality is that we exchange our labor for money and other benefits. It seems somewhat unfair that, over time, sticking to that initial agreement slowly devalues the effort you put in.

What to do about it

Just like in the last section, we’re going to try to put a positive spin on the situation. The good news here is that the issue isn’t that you don’t like work, it’s that the exchange of labor for money feels lopsided. So you can remind yourself that, even if you don’t have your dream job, the tasks you’re doing and the culture you’re in fit well enough.

But that might be small consolation. So what should you do? You might expect our first piece of advice here now: advocate for yourself. In your next conversation with your manager, bring up a raise. Here, it’s good to have done your research. Back up your request with concrete examples of what you’ve done for the company. Look up current market rates for your role. This will give your request a logical underpinning. Protip: timing matters, too. If you’ve just landed a win, it’s a great time to ask.

And keep at it — organizations might be slow to react, so be sure to politely but persistently remind your company of the request until you get a definitive answer. If you’re turned down, don’t get discouraged. Wait another six months, make sure you’ve just raked in another success, and ask for a raise again.

There are other ways of improving your work satisfaction around compensation and benefits, too:

  • Negotiate flexible hours
    If you can’t secure a raise, you might be able to have more time to yourself at your current rate
  • Improve on your skills
    Augment your know-how to climb to higher-level roles with higher-level pay
  • Discuss more robust benefits with HR
    A higher company contribution to a 401(k) or better health insurance can address underlying monetary concerns
  • Investigate other methods of compensation
    See if you can restructure your salary with variable pay schemes or stock options
  • Ask for additional PTO
    In lieu of a raise, a company might offer extra vacation time
  • See if you can modify your tasks
    A more varied or reduced workload might compensate for the stagnating salary

What to do if you hate your job: when it’s time to quit

But it’s time for us to come clean. We’ve been leaving a lot unaddressed. For example, you might be asking, “What if I can’t physically do my job anymore?” or “What did AC and Luke do — where’s the rest of their stories?” or “What if I’ve already tried all this and nothing’s worked?”

Well, while we’ve been talking about how to improve things if you want to stay at a job, it’s finally time to say it: you might need to quit.

AC left the TV industry. He’s now a data analyst for an advertising agency. Luke dropped his career in odd jobs, and he’s now a software developer at a development agency. They made the break, and they’re better off for it. For example, when Luke reflected on his future now that he’s in tech, here’s what he had to say:

I plan to continue to allow myself the freedom to do the things that I want to do, and put 100% into my job and my work. Because it's been really rewarding to me. Luke Schmidt, TripleTen grad

He found a new path that inspired him. And AC? He stopped working weekends and holidays. “It’s a breath of fresh air,” he said.

But how do you know if it’s time to follow their lead? Here are some signs:

  • Your physical or mental health has deteriorated
    Chronic stress can lead to anxiety, depression, and burnout, as well as cardiovascular disease, acne or eczema flares, and a weakened immune system. 
  • You feel contempt for company leadership
    Whether through incompetence, unethical behavior, or lacking leadership skills, leadership has lost your respect. By default, you’re now no longer on board with their decisions.
  • The work environment is irreparably toxic
    Despite your best efforts, the unhealthy company culture won’t change. Bullying, discrimination, and harassment persist.
  • Your values clash with those of the company
    Your and the company’s beliefs no longer align. For example, you might have become a vegan, making it difficult for you to continue your work at a hot dog company.
  • You have no opportunities for growth
    Your professional life has stalled, and there’s no training available or path for advancement. 

If you’re stuck in a loop of waking up, thinking “I despise my job,” and doing the same old things that make you dread each work day, what should you do?

Explore a switch

A tech bootcamp might be the thing for you if you’re interested in finding a job in tech that offers good payThe Top 18 Companies That Pay Software Engineers the Most in 2024, high-quality benefits, varied tasks, and healthy company culture. In fact, if you’re holding onto your current job simply for the paycheck, we have good news. The bootcamp is part-time, meaning you don’t have to worry about losing your income to pursue a professional pivot.

And once you gain the tech skills, you’ll benefit from career advice from experts who will help you in your job search. You’ll get guidance on how to write an effective resume, experience presenting yourself in mock interviews, and much more.

Discover if a bootcamp is right for you. Take our self-assessment quiz.

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