So, you’re stuck in a job that doesn’t thrill you (or maybe even a job you hate). Almost everyone thinks, “I hate my job,” at some point. We all have those days.
When the days add up, it may be time to seek out something else. Being stuck in a job or hating your line of work can be demoralizing. It’s especially confounding if you like your coworkers or appreciate some aspects of your career but detest others.
So how do you know when to leave your job? When is it time to say goodbye? Are there ways to fix a frustrating job without leaving?
Going to work at a miserable job is drudgery. If your job no longer fills you with a sense of growth and purpose, then you probably aren’t fulfilled or happy. Similarly, if your job doesn’t offer you a challenge or stimulation, you’re probably bored and easily annoyed with your workday. When a job loses its excitement, you begin to dread going to work.
Our work can’t be the only thing that gives us a sense of purpose and fulfillment, but all of us need to find some purpose from the work we do. No matter if you’re the CEO of a corporation, if you work in a restaurant, or on a factory line, having pride in the results of your work—and knowing you’re bringing people something they need—provides a strong sense of fulfillment.
I’ve known blue-collar guys who worked on the line at GM and found immense satisfaction in that. They worked hard and took pride in the results of their work. They paid attention to the details. They viewed the job with a sense of how it was helping the greater good, and they felt like they were a part of something bigger than the task in front of them.
These same satisfied workers also didn’t rest on their laurels, sit back and say, “Well, I’m just going to build this same thing every day and go home.” Those who were the most fulfilled came in every day ready to do a better job. They were constantly trying to up their achievement and growth. You can easily apply this same mentality to any line of work.
A lot of finding our satisfaction becomes a question of mindset. We have to break out of a self-fulfilling prophecy that says, “I hate my job,” or “I’m not going to do well.” When we put those ideas out there, we’ll see them continue to prove to be true. But when we shift our mentality and start to look at how we can do the best job possible, we’ll see a shift.
When I started in counseling years ago, I helped golf pros improve their game. Golf is a very psychologically fueled game—it’s a game where you’re actually playing against yourself. Even when golfers are in these big tournaments, they’re playing to beat their own score.
Jack Nicklaus once said, “Achievement is largely the product of raising one’s level of aspiration and expectation.” This applies to both golf and your career. It’s very much a mental game.
Golf is so psychologically driven that there’s even a condition called the yips. Golfers become anxious, and then, due to holding their club and the tension in their body, they start to shake. This condition can ruin their entire career, and it’s a very real issue.
Similarly, the pros that get the hole-in-one, the course record, and even the green jacket often say afterward that they KNEW they were going to win, even before they began the game. They envisioned the entire process. They were in their groove.
If you’re in your groove at work, raising your aspirations and expectations constantly, you will be successful. At the same time, if you’ve reached the top of your career potential, succeeded as far as you can, and reached a point where you can no longer grow, it’s probably time to liberate yourself and move on to the next opportunity.
We’ve all had a great offer come along—an offer we can’t refuse. Sometimes it might be difficult, because you may really love your job now. Or maybe you don’t like your job, but you love your coworkers and the environment. What do you do?
Well, weigh the merits of the new role. Will you be doing the same thing you’re doing now, just with more pay? Rather than making it all about the money, look at the opportunity and the purpose.
I’ve talked to CEOs and presidents who reported they simply felt hollow despite their success. Why? Because they were all about the money—and not about the purpose behind their work.
So if a better offer comes along, weigh it against what you’re doing now. What need will it fulfill within you? We all have deeper needs and desires called yearnings. We might yearn for acknowledgment, achievement, or security. While a raise can provide some of these things, deep human yearnings cannot be fulfilled by money alone.
A client I worked with, Ellis, discovered that working with a sense of purpose is more powerful than money:
From early on, Ellis wanted to be well known and make a lot of money. This was his highest conscious purpose for many years. He lived in a feast-or-famine world. To make ends meet, he even once traded his house for a less expensive one. Fear and chaos dominated his life. He began living by the principles of purpose, and then his career purpose took form.
Over the years, he discovered the joy of partnering with his clients in fulfilling their dreams. His sense of purpose expanded. As money receded in importance, he made more. As fame became irrelevant, his reputation grew. He became absorbed in meeting his clients’ needs. In doing so, his own needs were met or exceeded. His famine periods receded, and life became remarkably enjoyable.
When he moved from a limited purpose of making money and becoming famous to one of servicing clients and fully helping them succeed, he discovered unanticipated excitement. This enthusiasm caused him to conceptualize and develop new products at breakneck speed. He wanted to serve as much as possible. Clarity of purpose helped him prioritize product development and keep focused on the wellbeing of his growing organization. He even split off a major portion of his business because the key executives were not in line with his higher purpose.
When you have purpose, the money will follow. Don’t be swayed by a “better offer” if it’s not a more purposeful offer.
Many of us get a chip on our shoulders at work. We start putting ourselves on the “pity potty” with what I call Stinkin’ Thinkin’. We shift the blame from our own inadequacies and under-performance to understand our own mistakes as everyone else’s fault.
As it turns out, YOU are responsible for your happiness. Not your wife. Not your husband. Not your kids. Not your employer or coworkers. YOU.
If you’re miserable in your job and you dread going in every day, you need to look at it just like you would a relationship. What got you to this point? Why did you pick a job that led you to this place of being so unfulfilled? What missteps did you take on your journey?
If your answers start with something like, “Well, it’s these coworkers of mine, you see, they’re just awful…” or, “Look, my boss is a jerk,” then you still need to step back and reassess. Why did you let it go so long? How did you fail to set up appropriate boundaries?
Now, I get it. Some bosses are jerks. Some people get off on power trips and like to torture their employees. In the business world, we still have problems with bullying, just like in elementary school.
But if a boss, manager, or coworker is truly abusive, why are you putting up with it? Most bullies, just like in the movies, back off the moment you call them out.
Level with your boss. Let them know you want to improve your performance, and you want to be successful. Ask them how you can get there before it’s too late or before things have unraveled too far. Get on the same page and have them explain their vision to you. How do they want the company to run? What does a successful department look like to them, and how can you help them get there?
If all else fails, resign but don’t leave and fall into the same trap as before. Leave and learn from the experience. What can you do differently next time to set yourself up for success?
If it’s time to leave a job and you’ve found an opportunity that presents more possibilities for your own personal growth, developing your greater purpose, and achieving more fulfillment, great!
Just don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Don’t burn the bridge you might have to cross again. Cities are like big, small towns, so if you plan to stay in the same industry or if you might run into a crossover client, leave on good terms. Don’t run around spouting off to everyone about what an egomaniac or jerk your former employer was.
Keep connections strong with coworkers, particularly those who have shared your vision and who are supportive allies. Stay in touch and build on those connections outside of the work environment.
If there’s something concrete that needs to change, share it with your boss to help ensure the role is more successful in the future for the next person who takes it on.
We’ve all had the urge to walk out of a job or a meeting in a flurry—throwing things, yelling, or just disappearing for good. Unfortunately, unlike in the movies, these actions can haunt us later.
When you leave a job, even if it’s a job you hate, do your own mental evaluation and work through your own “stuff” before carrying it to the next job. Let your employer work through the company’s baggage themselves. If the company is good, vision and mission-driven, and just a bad fit for you, they’ll move on and be fine. If the company is truly terrible, chances are they’ll fold eventually anyway.
Leaving a job—no matter how stressful or negative the work environment is—can be done on good terms and lead to better things for you and your future. Keep your goals growth-oriented and focused on the big picture. Evaluate what YOU need to do to improve your game and continue to work on bettering yourself.
If you’d like to learn more about getting ahead in your career, explore our great courses available at Wright Now. We offer an array of options to help you learn more about yourself and your world. Start growing today to move toward a life of more.
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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.