How To Find Happiness In A Job You Hate

You have a soul-sucking boss, awful co-workers, and a desk with no privacy. But you can still be happy! Here’s how.

Here’s a depressing statistic: A September 2013 report from research leader Gallup found that 70% of people are unengaged from or actually hate their jobs. What’s even more depressing is that career coach Jessica Simko is surprised the number isn’t higher. Founder of Cincinnati, Ohio’s Conscious Career Intelligence, she speaks to people every day who hate their jobs. But finding that elusive "dream job" often lies in changing their own beliefs, she says.

Simko’s "you’re responsible for your own happiness" tone is unconventional, but also empowering. In her forthcoming book, Why Can’t I Be Me? Understanding and Rising Above the Fake It ‘Til You Make It Work Culture advises people to drop the "fake it ‘til you make it" mentality and get real about what’s making them unhappy. She says you can find happiness, even in a job you hate, here's how:

Get to the bottom of the problem.

How you react to people and situations is within your control, Simko says. You have to figure out why you get so upset about your boss asking you to stay late or your snippy co-worker’s tone of voice. After all, you could just put in the extra hour or ignore her rudeness. Is there something deeper that these annoyances convey to you?

That’s the stuff that’s usually at the heart of being unhappy, Simko says. She acknowledges that, in some cases, people can be abusive and company cultures can be poisonous. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that you choose how much they affect you. Until you change your perceptions and reactions to your circumstances, you’re going to find the same issues no matter where you go, she adds.

"Once it’s not personal to you everything changes. That’s where you have to get in your mind so that way you're above all the games," she says.

Find things to be happy about.

Spend more time and energy focusing on the high points in your day and less on the drama and troublesome co-workers. If there truly aren’t aspects of your job that make you happy, create them, Simko says. Weave in some of your own interests or create something to look forward to, such as starting a series of brown bag lunch meetings for your co-workers with speakers who interest you or a company-wide charitable effort that leaves you feeling good about yourself. If that’s not your thing, ask your boss if you can be part of that exciting new company project. Or simply grab coffee with a co-worker whose company you enjoy. Find a daily highlight, she says.

Learn effective communication and confrontation skills.

Sometimes, people make us angry or do things that aren’t fair. That’s when the ability to discuss issues calmly and rationally can be invaluable, Simko says. Often the people around you might not even realize that they’ve done something to upset you. Being able to calmly express yourself can make you feel better and can help co-workers understand you. Simko says, for many people, that kind of direct communication is hard, especially when it runs the risk of making others angry. But, the more you practice speaking your mind, it’s possible to get comfortable with it over time and be able to speak your mind more freely.

Take back control.

Simko says people often hate their jobs because they feel stuck. The key to getting "unstuck" is to feel like you have a choice, she says. The minute you say to yourself, ‘I can’t’ in response to a situation that makes you unhappy, you need to begin questioning whether it’s really true. Sure, you need a paycheck and health insurance. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stay in this job forever. You may choose to take a night course to train for the job you really want or begin updating your resume. What is it that is making you feel stuck? Find the answer and begin taking action to restore your choices, she says.

[Image: Flickr user Bruce Fingerhood]

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  • Paul Cottager

    People that hate their jobs do so because their career has become their life. It is all they think about while they are at home or off for the day. It is all they talk about because they have nothing else going on. Do something you love every day and do nothing but that. It may take a week or it may take three years, eventually you will hate it. If you are one of these people and your biggest stress in life is worrying about getting lay'd off do yourself and everyone around you a favor, find a hobby that you love outside of work to relieve that stress and think "hey if I get laid off I have enough saved to allow me to do this every day for three months while I look for a new job" or end it. You are probably the guy or girl that people cause people to sigh with relief when you take a sick day. You are a disease, as you make yourself and everyone around you sick every day you show your face.

  • Ken Negri

    The greatest of all the tragic shit - Almost all people settle on whatever comes their way just to make a buck and maintain their sense of security. So what is to analyze..? Happiness at work.. You are not what you do between 9-5 unless you deem it so. After 5 is where the "you" is. The looking within, listening for the call to adventure and steppin to your beat, tearing that little security blanky off and following a calling, is just too much for many. Life is over quickly-slay it. While you’re here, do awesome shit. Maybe it’s helping people, climbing mountains, surfing, starting a business or just writing. Doesnt matter. Whatever it is, make a decision to find your passion: whether a career, hobby or random stuff in awesomeness, spend as much time as possible doing the shit you love.

  • Great topic. I think many people have been in this situation one time or another. I would add the classic "Fake it until you make it". If you constantly tell yourself you hate a job then it will become an even bigger problem. Do not share your negativity with your coworkers and peers. It will turn a bad situation into an even more toxic environment. Give yourself a time period to accept where you are and be thankful for it. If you have given it all of your heart and positive energy starting working on an exit strategy.

  • I would add "get a life outside of work", make a contribution in your community, and learn detachment skills. Inspiring leaders to inspire others

  • Jen Singer

    I have to respectfully disagree with Rob Pawlikowski. You can't switch off your right brain with logic. There's a part of you that feels stuck and hates your job, so acknowledge that part of you, even if you don't think it's acting rationally. If you quash your feelings, they'll only rise up to bite you in the butt later. Feelings and logic can work together to get you unstuck, but you have to take the first step: Acknowledging.

  • I suggest changing the statement "Once it's not personal to you..." Of course it's personal to me - my job is part of my identity. I would instead say, "Once you change the approach from emotional to rational, you have a chance to fix the unrewarding processes.

  • Rob, what if you lose your job in a layoff? It happens all the time. Consider the possibility that your job should not be a part of your identity. Otherwise, you are allowing other people to take part of your identity away from you at their whim. It's about learning to think different.