How to Turn a Job you Hate into a Job you Love
Even people who are relatively happy at work go through periods when they hate their jobs—for days, weeks or even months at a time. Just read between the lines of the obituaries of CBS newsman Mike Wallace. As The New York Times reported, Wallace suffered a nervous breakdown when his documentary on deception by the American military about the strength of Vietnamese enemy troops prompted a $120 million libel suit against CBS filed by Gen. William C. Westmoreland, the commander of American troops in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968. Still, after the case settled in 1985, Wallace spent more than 20 more years at CBS.
Sure, you can quit when the going gets tough, but it’s hard to do that gracefully. Seattle lawyer Wendy S. Goffe wrote eloquently about the subject in, “How To Quit Your Job Without Burning Your Bridges.” Plus finding something better in today’s tight job market can be a challenge. Thinking about self-employment? That too, has its ups and downs, as Forbes senior editor Deborah L. Jacobs describes in “How To Make Money Without A Job.”
So let’s assume you decide to hang in there for awhile rather than bolting. Here are 10 things you can do to make things better.
1. Negotiate changes in your job description. Talk to your boss about altering your workload or the kind of work you currently do. Whether you’re overworked and overwhelmed, or completely unchallenged, your boss will understand that you will never be as productive as you could be unless something gives.
Just being able to have this conversation can be a great start to shaping something new. Your goal is to come up with a solution that will not only be best for you, but also work for your boss, your team, and your organization.
2. Arrange to work with different people. Even if you don’t necessarily hate your co-workers, involving different people can refresh your outlook on your work and the aspects of it that you hate. On upcoming projects, ask to be teamed with individuals you don’t usually work with or even interact with around the office.
On a more informal basis, you can ask these people to react to various ideas or include them in your brainstorming sessions. Another possibility is to find out whether your organization has retained external consultants who you could team up with on certain assignments. Mix it up to get a new take on things.
3. Seek synergy. If you already know which people you enjoy working with and work well with, find more opportunities to collaborate with them. Internally, this could mean asking permission to work on your next presentation with someone you know you have good chemistry with.
Externally, there may be individual suppliers and customers with whom you have a particularly good rapport. Nurture these relationships, strengthen these bonds, and take an active role in continuing to grow and develop them. If you’ve previously worked well with specific external consultants, consider asking for their input again.
4. Transfer to a different team or department. If there’s nothing going for you where you are, think about maneuvering a sideways shift. See if your boss is open to the idea of your transferring to a different business area. Think smartly about how you can be helpful in bringing this about, rather than sitting back and expecting to be moved somewhere new. Do some research before submitting your request and look at which areas of the organization play to your strengths or what new opportunities are on the horizon that you might want to get involved with. Seek opportunities where your input can be valued.
5. Find a confidant. Regardless of whether you stay in your current team or switch to a different one, there will be times where you’ll just want to let off steam. Although your boss is the person to talk to about a lot of issues, this is not the kind of individual we’re talking about here. An alternative confidant may be a colleague, a mentor, or a close friend in another department. Choose carefully: it should be someone you can trust and have a private conversation with in a closed space, knowing it will go no further.
6. Make the most of your free time. A lot of us find ourselves resenting the time we spend at work because of what we’re doing –or rather not doing– with our time away from the desk. Spend time off with the people you care about, make sure you get enough sleep, and build in quality time for yourself. Schedule activities that invigorate and energize you. Finding time to chill and unwind will help you enjoy both work and play more. (For other ways to strike a work/life balance in a 24/7 world, see “How To Keep Your Job Without Working Yourself To Death.”)
7. Don’t neglect diet and fitness. A poor diet leaves us feeling sluggish and irritable, exacerbating any negative feelings we may have about work. By eating well and exercising regularly, we increase our energy levels and alertness and lift our mood. You might be surprised at how much these changes can contribute to a more positive attitude about your job.
8. Reset your work clock. If you resent your job because your work schedule restricts you from doing the school run or dropping in on your elderly parents during the day, don’t feel you have to put up with it in silence. Talk to your employer about possibly shifting your hours. For example, to give yourself time to do the morning school run, you could start work a little later and finish up a little later. A growing number of organizations are amenable to flexible work schedules.
9. Adapt your surroundings. If we’re spending at least eight hours a day, five days a week staring at the same blank four walls and the same boring desk, it’s little wonder our office space can feel like a prison and our job like a life sentence. Personalize your working space with photos of friends and family, favorite ornaments or decorations or even a vase of brightly colored flowers. If your chair is uncomfortable or the wrong height, bring in a cushion or two and ask your office manager or a co-worker to demonstrate how to adjust your seat height.
10. Prune the backlog. Few things are more demoralizing at work than the inbox on your computer screen filled with unsorted and unread emails or the inbox on your desk crammed with papers you haven’t even glanced at yet. Set aside time to sort emails and hard copies into different folders so you have a clearer idea of where things stand. Also, play around with the apps on your tablet or smartphone to see which ones can help you be more organized going forward.