4 Reasons You’re Miserable at Work…and What to Do About It

Do you hate your job? Are you miserable at work? Do you get the “Sunday scaries” and dread the office on Monday? Are you wondering if it’s time to throw in the towel?

Miserable at work? Don't give up hope! Here are four reasons why your job makes you miserable and what you can do to turn it around.



Many of us are looking at our job satisfaction and wondering if we shouldn’t be getting more out of our work. We may think of moving on but feel afraid of the career and financial consequences. So we trudge in each day, accepting that we’re doomed to feel miserable at work.

If you’re unhappy at work, there are a few points to examine. Here’s why you might be so dissatisfied with your job.

Is It Me or Is it the Job?

As a coach, I often hear people complain about their job situation. Many people have told me that they’re miserable at work. But what does that really mean?

Underneath that misery could often be feelings of frustration, anger, hurt, and even boredom. It turns out we feel more satisfied when we’re challenged.

When we’re just going through the motions, trying to make it through the day, it might be time for a step back.

The first question is—does work have to be miserable? After all, it’s called work, not fun, right? Absolutely not! I’ve worked with hundreds of people who were satisfied, stimulated, and purpose-driven in their work. They had fulfilling job experiences, whether they were a CEO, an entry-level intern, or serving up coffee behind a counter.

4 Reasons Why We’re Miserable at Work

When we look at our mindset, we can often turn those feelings of being miserable at work into feelings of fulfillment, growth, and betterment. Are we getting in the way of our career satisfaction? Here are a few reasons we might feel miserable at work.

1. You’re Not Taking Personal Responsibility for Your Own Happiness

We are all responsible for our own actions. But what does personal responsibility at work mean?

Taking personal responsibility is the act of declaring: “I determine how I react to the world. I am responsible for my own self-care. I don’t expect others to take care of me, AND I take responsibility for my emotional responses.” In our work life, we could also add, “I’m personally responsible for giving work my all, every day.”

When we feel miserable at work, we should ask ourselves if we’re really pushing ourselves. Have we become stagnant in our work? Are we learning and growing with new challenges? If not, how can we take personal responsibility to ask for more challenging, engaging tasks?

When we don’t take personal responsibility, we enter a state of victimhood. We get stuck in a drama triangle, where we’re the helpless victim. We stop analyzing our situation and making choices to become more effective and happier. Instead, we are disempowered, in a hole of our own unhappiness. We’re blaming others for our problems without doing our part to improve our situation.

It turns out that people who are unhappy at work are often the same people with the least to do. Boredom is anger turned inward. When people take that attitude to work, they aren’t set up for success. They’re spinning their tires on the ice rather than moving forward and accomplishing tasks. When we face challenges and complete a task for the day, we feel accomplished and excited. These achievements lead to pride, joy, and job satisfaction.

Personal responsibility is about understanding that we each own our emotions and reactions at all times. We can make work a fun game or see it as drudgery. For example, I once hired an acquaintance and two temps to help with an envelope-stuffing project. The work was monotonous, but the acquaintance would stuff 300 envelopes at a time. When he finished his goal, he’d reward himself with a quick walk outside or a snack. Then he’d come back a get right back to work.

On the other hand, the temps viewed the task as dull and frustrating. My acquaintance ended up stuffing more envelopes than the two temps combined. He was much happier too. He didn’t complain or blame the task. Instead, he got to work and turned it into a game.

If we want more satisfaction at work, we must start to shift our perspective about what’s “fun.” How can we set a goal and work towards it? Setting a timer, creating a milestone, or seeing how efficiently we can complete a task can make the time pass quickly and leave us feeling satisfied.

2. You Have Authority Issues

When we were kids, we may have heard that we had a problem with authority. It happens to many people, me included. Like many of our childhood memories and ideas, our pushback and rebellious streak can continue to manifest in adulthood.

But just because our boss is bossy (or even a jerk—and they are out there), it doesn’t mean we need to be unhappy. We need to look at how we’re reacting and get honest with ourselves.

If we have issues with authority (if we’ve had similar feelings whenever someone else is in charge), we’ll probably react to any boss, supervisor, or manager in a volatile way. Whether that means we shut down and withdraw or resist and defend, we’re likely to face continuous conflict unless we explore our feelings.

There are two steps we can take to get a handle on our authority issues:

First Step: We can deal with our unfinished business. All of us carry unfinished business with us. These issues are often unresolved from our childhood (even if we had happy childhoods), and they can come up when we experience feelings of powerlessness or frustration.

Yes, our “jerk boss” might be overly aggressive or even a bully because he’s unhappy with himself. But we don’t have control over that. We can only control our actions and reactions. Some folks can really struggle with this area, and it’s essential to get to the root of the problem. It could stem from residual childhood issues with authority. Perhaps our boss brings up negative feelings we had about someone in our past (an older sibling, a teacher). Becoming aware of these emotions and projections helps us get on the right path to control our reactions and make confrontations constructive.

Second Step: Deal with it. It may sound harsh, but sometimes we face people who are just jerks. If we’ve done work to become conscious of our projections and emotional reaction, but our boss is still a problematic bully, then the real question is—is it worth it? Can we deal with it? Can we put aside the feelings and work with this person productively?

When we focus on effectively doing our job rather than the emotional ups and downs of the day, we might find a greater sense of empowerment and control.

We can ask about our performance and spark a conversation with our boss down the road. This presents a less-heated opportunity to confront our boss about their attitude honestly and openly.

How will the boss react? They may respond positively or negatively, but when we’ve honestly expressed our feelings in a responsible manner, we own them. Our boss may not listen, and they may not change, but these opportunities can teach us powerful lessons about our inner strength, skillset, and even how to do a better job. If the situation is genuinely unworkable, then it may be time to liberate ourselves from the job and find something that’s a better fit.

3. You Aren’t Recognizing and Honoring Emotions

Sometimes our misery at work doesn’t stem from our boss or the drudgery of the job. Sometimes we feel miserable at work because we aren’t connecting with others—customers, vendors, and coworkers. We’re letting our emotions take over without examining their origins.

Take, for example, if we feel really angry at a coworker. When we engage our emotional intelligence, we own, examine, and understand our emotions. We explore where our anger comes from, and we own our part in it. As a result, we can engage in productive, honest conflict with the other person and find a proactive way to resolve the situation. We can learn and grow from every interaction, thus nourishing our emotional and social intelligence.

Where do these emotions and projections come from? Childhood lessons and values can project onto our adult selves and influence our interactions with others. People often become their childhood selves while interacting with those who remind them of certain family members or friends. One person may stir feelings of comfort and happiness—like a favorite aunt. Another person may evoke feelings of inadequacy, like our demanding dad.

When we examine everyone we have issues with at work, we might discover some distinct familiarities with our relatives and friends from the past. Examine these issues to determine what we might be projecting onto others, whether good or bad. Recognizing our emotions can help those emotional intelligence skills grow.

4. You Don’t Have Social Intelligence Skills

Social and emotional intelligence skills help us understand people’s emotions and reactions. Social intelligence is the ability to understand what other people are feeling, then learning to influence them positively and productively.

If we want to explore our social intelligence skills, we can ask ourselves questions like:

  • Am I a contributing team member?
  • Do I ensure my colleagues are working effectively?
  • Do I support the team?
  • Am I helping everyone win by contributing?
  • Am I open and honest in communications with everyone at the company?
  • Do I try to better both my work and myself?

Some people lack social intelligence skills because they lack emotional intelligence too. They don’t understand their emotions and reactions. One leads to the other, and both skills are essential for happiness and satisfaction in work and life.

For example, if we feel like we’re on a team that drags us down, we can turn it around and ask, “What have I done to lift my team today?” That’s part of that social and emotional intelligence in practice. If we take responsibility for ourselves, even when others are not, we can be socially aware and carefully, responsibly, and clearly communicate our feelings. We can start to understand our colleagues and how they might react and then engage with them accordingly.

How to Stop Being Miserable at Work

All these reasons go hand-in-hand with why we might feel miserable at work. I’m not interested in just helping people be “happier” at work. I’m interested in helping them have a wildly successful career of fulfillment and satisfaction. Most of us won’t be happy every day with every task, but we can shift our mindset to find purpose in every task.

The 4 reasons for being miserable at work are in a very specific order for a reason. The first step is taking responsibility for ourselves. Then we must deal with our authority issues, increase our emotional awareness, and build our social and emotional intelligence.

Learning these social and emotional intelligence skills allows us to create joyous work, practice gratitude, learn and grow in an adventuresome way. We will discover more about ourselves, others, and our world every day.

To build up your career satisfaction, don’t miss the courses available at Wright Now. We have insightful resources to help you increase your satisfaction in your relationships, career, and with yourself. Don’t miss the opportunity to live a life of more!

Learn more about Wright Living’s Career & Leadership Coaching in Chicago & Career Coaching Courses in Chicago.

Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

How to Deal with
Workplace Gossip

Gossip. Collusion. Backbiting. Whatever you call it, workplace gossip can be both addictive and damaging in the workplace.


While a certain level of watercooler conversation is positive (it keeps employees connected engaged and mission-focused), negative talk, complaining and whining is unproductive, even toxic. It can cause employees to pass the buck, spin their wheels, and generally waste time. If you’re overhearing negative buzz in your office, you need to listen up and resolve it.

Addressing Constant Negativity

As a manager or CEO, you should recognize there might be a lot of truth to your employees’ discussions (even if they seem needlessly negative). Is your mission strong? Do your employees sense you’re hypocritical, being unfair or not holding true to the vision and integrity of your company? If that’s the case, you may need to take a long hard look in the mirror and consider what caused the viewpoint and what needs to happen to turn around the negativity.

If your coworkers get stuck in a “bitching” pattern where everyone tries to outdo each other with complaints, it can have a devastating effect on your morale and the morale of the entire office. Don’t engage in the drama triangle and don’t participate in the cycle. Be mission and action-focused. If it’s not worth your time and it doesn’t put you on a track towards your personal vision, then it’s time to step back.

Examine your intention. Are you engaging with sincere intent? Are you being direct and expressing your goals and your vision for the company? From the mail clerk to the CEO, everyone should work together on a shared vision for the company. Employees need to have a voice and feel engaged and important to the mission. A transformational leader really listens.

Implementing Accountability and Ownership

If you’re fully engaged and focused on the growth of your position and your company, then you should feel comfortable being direct and having clarity on how to move your company forward. Whether it’s a personal issue with your boss, or if your employee isn’t meeting the expectations of clients or living up to the company mission, you need to address issues directly with the people involved. It’s your responsibility as you take ownership, get involved and stay engaged. Don’t shy away from conflict or confrontation. You may need to handle it gracefully, calmly and clearly, but tackle it head on.

If we’re contributing to the success of the company, we need to find ways to incentivize those around us and hold our team accountable for their success and their shortfalls. When possible, money talks loudly as an incentivizer. When it’s not possible, acknowledgment, attention and accountability go just as far (and sometimes even farther). Share successes with your employees and make the company’s triumphs their wins as well.

Getting to the Root of Workplace Gossip

If your workplace has a lot of gossip, you’ll need to examine all sides of the situation. Gossip is a way to blame others for our own shortcomings. It shows a lack of ownership and a lack of intentionality. It’s an excuse for failure and a way to pass blame.

Petty gossip is usually fueled by complaints and dissatisfaction. It’s a passive-aggressive way to deal with disappointments and resentments better addressed directly. It can be a way to damage someone’s reputation in a low blow, which may or may not be true. Spreading rumors and slander reflects a lot more about the speaker than the person they’re talking about. Don’t allow yourself to engage in conversation that’s not productive and reflective of your intentionality.

To reverse the cycle of spreading negative talk and to stop the drama triangle, you need to approach the situation with clear intentions and grace. It’s not about arguing, perpetuating the misconceptions, and passing the buck. Hear out your employees and be clear about the actions leading them to success. Break out the expectations and let employees make the choice on how they envision themselves meeting those expectations. Keep your outcomes focused and clear. A transformational leader helps those around them share a vision and come together to bring about the intended outcomes.

Oftentimes, workplaces are failing because the employees are focused on what will bring them individual success or what they view as the goal of their job, which may not sync up with the vision of management or administration. Instead, sit down together and discuss ways you can harness your intentions and work towards a shared outcome. Get on the same page and be clear with job descriptions, project goals, and what success looks like for all involved.

For more ideas on dealing with difficult situations and getting more out of life, visit Wright Now and explore our selection of courses and webinars. We offer resources to help you discover more about yourself, your relationships, and your career. So start living a life of MORE today!


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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

“I Want To Be Taken More Seriously at Work!” Here’s How…

Many people out there have a hard time feeling empowered at work. Maybe you’re stuck in the past. Maybe you don’t see a bright future. Maybe you find one of your coworkers or your boss too difficult to deal with. These kinds of insecurities can manifest themselves as self-doubt, so you’ll get the idea in your head that you’re not being taken seriously at work.

The truth is, to be taken more seriously at work as an employee and a leader—you must first take yourself seriously and take your company’s goals seriously.

Here are some examples of situations where it may be easy to become small, but it’s really your time to stand tall.


How Do I Manage People When My Boss is Always Undermining Me?

The fear of stepping on management’s toes won’t impress anyone, whether they’re above you or below you. Why leave the minute details to your manager, when they should be worrying about the main focus of the project? Take charge of your people and projects with a strong grasp of the main objectives and outcomes for completion. Your job is to get your work completed on time and in line with your company’s objectives.

So challenge yourself and the people above you. Instead of playing passive-aggressive games, letting your higher-ups deal in when they want, deal yourself in first—and play the game seriously with focused intentions. Your boss will have no choice but to let you continue doing a great job managing your people.


What If I Mess Something Up at Work?

Fear of mistakes will only lead to bigger mistakes, as your “fear of fear” can freeze you and halt your progress. Ensure everyone’s roles are clear before beginning any new project or task. Do your best to initiate leadership. Utilizing your authority (partnering with authority and, in turn, empowering your own authority) will help those both above and below you understand their own place in your goal to help the company succeed.

The best executives are always looking forward. Leaders are focused on where they want things to go—they’re not wasting time dwelling on the past and what “could’ve” or “should’ve” happened. This is one of the most successful ways to succeed in your work setting: focus on the future and focus on positive outcomes for yourself, your coworkers, and for your company.


Lesson Learned: Keep Your Future and Your Company’s Future in Mind

One of the best ways to be taken seriously is to ask visionary questions and to listen carefully to those responses. Seek to align yourself with your coworkers and they will certainly take you more seriously. But first, you have to take yourself seriously. OWN the purpose and goals of whatever work you do.

Speak in the direction of the company’s desired outcomes. Tie everything you do at work into your company’s purpose and goals. Speak about where you see things going, where everyone around you fits in, and how you’re going to get there…together. Do this every day at work, through every one of your actions and words, and you’ll be taken more seriously and feel more empowered at work.

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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.