By Craig Booker
December 19, 2023

What to do when you hate your job

Explore how to navigate the challenges of a job you hate with practical steps and insights on improving the situation without quitting.

You wake up one day and find yourself in a place you never thought you would be. At least, that is what I thought as I sat in front of my office, waiting for 7:53 a.m. to arrive. You see, 7:53 was the optimum time to leave my car and walk up the steps to the office. This was enough time where I did not have to hurry, but not too much time where I would be at my desk more than a few minutes before 8. 

For me, this journey began long before I was hired. I had been through a long and painful job search before receiving the job offer. One dead-end job after another created the perfect storm. I desperately needed a job that would provide stability and satisfaction.

During the interview process, my deep desire for a stable, satisfying job led me to overlook any possible red flags. Could I have anticipated what I would face? Possibly, but sometimes, there are things about a position that we only see once the newness wears off. 

Maybe you are like I was. You find yourself in a job that doesn’t work for you. No matter how hard you try to make it work, you dread even the thought of going to work the next day. Maybe your job responsibilities do not align with the job description. It could be that the job you thought you would love turns out to be a bad fit.

Whatever the reason, you find yourself in a role detrimental to your brain health. If you are like I was, you might think that you can make it work. And maybe you can, but proceed cautiously as you try to make the best of your situation. Listen to your body and, more importantly, what your brain might tell you.

If you still find yourself struggling with your role, there are three assumptions I made that you should avoid making about your situation. The first is the idea that you are doomed. The second is that things are set in stone. The last and most impactful one is the idea that you must quit. 

Assumptions to avoid:

  1. I am doomed.
  2. Things are set in stone.
  3. You have to quit/leave the company

I am doomed.

The first assumption is that I am doomed! It is dangerous, and perhaps the one people gravitate towards most often. While this can come in many shapes and sizes, it is commonly called catastrophizing. Psychology Today says, “Catastrophizing is a cognitive distortion that prompts people to jump to the worst possible conclusion, usually with very limited information or objective reason to despair.” Call it what you may, this is one we all tend to make.

Things are set in stone.

Any time you sense a role might not be a good fit, it can make relationships and daily interactions awkward. Things are a bit uncomfortable one minute, and the next thing you know, dread sets in. When you arrive at work in the morning, you devise routines to make going in a little more bearable. The further down this path you travel, the more agitated and unsettled you become.

When this started, you reasoned that things would improve if you gave it more time. The more time you allow, the clearer it becomes that you cannot stay in this role. Instead of meeting with your boss, you make more negative assumptions. The longer these assumptions have time to fester, the more you become convinced that it is only a matter of time before you are let go.

I have to quit!

By this point, there is a good chance you believe your life is over, and you are so unsettled with the situation that you aren’t sleeping well. You can barely tolerate even the fun parts of your day without them being spoiled by the thought of work. Your productivity at work has been slipping, and you sense disappointment in your bosses’ eyes. Feeling like an utter failure, your last assumption is that you must leave the company.

Looking back on my situation, there are lessons I have learned that I hope others can benefit from. If you find yourself hating your job but cannot quit, there are things you can do to improve the situation. In the moment, it is often difficult to see anything from another perspective. When you head down this path, often, all you want to do is get out.

Before we get too far into these lessons, I encourage you to take care of yourself. If you are in a job that is unsafe for your physical, mental, or emotional safety, please get to a safe place.

Lessons to remember

  1. Text a friend – You are NOT doomed-you need the help of a friend.
  2. Talk, ask questions, and negotiate – Things are RARELY set in stone.
  3. Often times, additional opportunities may be available at the same company.

Text a friend – bring others into your situation

Often, it may feel like your situation is hopeless because it is hard to remain open-minded to other opportunities when you loathe your current role. Talk to a trusted friend when you suspect your job is not a good fit. Let them know what you are experiencing. They can help provide an unbiased perspective that could make all the difference.

When you desperately need the job you are in, it can be a challenge to think clearly. Many times, I find that fear clouds my judgment. If you have experienced trauma surrounding work, your trauma may make this process even more daunting. If you are in this situation, call or text a friend.

Talk, ask questions, and negotiate

It is imperative to understand that job situations are typically flexible. More options are usually available regardless of what you do or where you work. If you like your current department, having a conversation with your leader might help negotiate changes to your current role. Be prepared with a list of suggestions to improve your position.

If your team is trying to fill other roles that interest you, this could be the perfect opportunity to explore those with them. Many companies will post open roles positions internally on their intranet site. Be proactive by looking to see what is available that piques your interest. You do not have to fix your situation in one meeting or conversation. Remember, this is a time of exploration.

Look for opportunities 

Spend time talking to people in and outside your department. Be sure to ask questions. Casual relationships at work can not only help you cope with a job you hate, but they can also open up doors. Invest time in getting to know others. You never know where your next opportunity might come from. 

Asking for help

If you find yourself in a bad place because you made the same assumptions, there is no need to be ashamed. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and bring someone you trust into the conversation. Allow them to bring a fresh perspective and a sense of accountability to your situation. If you need help with your plan, ask for help.

If you still need more resources, find a counselor, pastor, or life coach to work through the situation. Ask for help setting some goals and holding yourself accountable. Whatever options you choose, do not try to power through on your own. Recognize your situation, get the resources you need, and bravely move forward together.

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About Craig Booker

Craig Booker is the founder of Overflow, a community for anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges. He is a freelance writer and mental health advocate. Craig is an Edmond native with a bachelor's degree in Business Management from the University of Central Oklahoma. He is passionate about creating a safe space where people can be authentic, knowing they will find love, acceptance, and encouragement. Craig hosts a weekly podcast called, The Overflow Podcast," where he talks about mental health and personal growth. In each episode, Craig shares practical ways to positively impact mental health.