Hate your job but can’t quit? 4 ways to remodel your job

work, anxiety, hate your job, new career

Maybe it’s just a rough patch?

Still, the job’s a grind–it doesn’t inspire like it used to.  But most of the time we get over it and the spark comes back.

But, what if it doesn’t? What then?

What do you do if you realize this isn’t a temporary trough; you actually hate your job?

It happens all too often, the job we dreamed about becomes our worst nightmare.  Sometimes it’s because the work isn’t challenging anymore.  Serial job hoppers can attest—they start gung-ho, only to be listless and bored after two years.

Or, your co-workers are driving you crazy.  At first, you really don’t notice the gum smacker, or your cubicle mate’s annoying tapping habit. But, now it grates so badly, you dread coming in.

Others come in on Monday to find that their favorite boss is going on maternity leave to be replaced by Attila the Hun.

The list goes on. So why don’t workers just quit?

Some do.  Serial job hoppers tend to create checkered resumes that make them look flighty.  Others can’t or won’t take the risk.

If you are nearing retirement, for example, with two to five years to go, you’ll be reticent to quit, take a cut in pension and risk knocking on employer’s doors at 60-something.

Other times, it’s a lack of opportunities.  You may find that there are no decent jobs in your field and decide to stay put. New comers to Canada find themselves making ends meet doing two or three jobs. It’s about survival.

And, it’s a big leap to quit, re-tool, start a job search and take the financial losses that this implies.  So, people stay.

If you hate your job and can’t quit, there are some things you can do to make it bearable.  Amongst the two obvious choices–stay and be miserable, or quit, there is a third alternative. And, that is to change your job while you are still in it.

It means seeing options that aren’t obvious but do exist.  And, luckily you don’t need the boss’s buy-in to change some aspects of the job and yourself.

Here are four ways to re-model your job:

1.  Start with yourself.

Take a look at your attitudes.  Sometimes it’s how we think about things that get in our way.  For example, when we think we need to be rescued we can get stuck in a rut.  This means waiting for other people to fix things in our lives.  It puts us at the mercy of external factors.  A frustrated marketer saw a lot of potential in her department but was upset about how much was falling through the cracks.  Instead of bringing it to her bosses’ attention, she waited to see if anyone would notice and do something.

No one did and she hated her job.

2. Watch out for contagious negativity

It may be fun dishing dirt about the company over coffee, but a steady dose of bitterness and grumbling will bring you down.  A group of clerks at a big retailer got together, whenever they shared a shift and complained about their hours, the job, and the supervisors.  They noticed their spirits were lower after a venting session and decided to stop.

3.  Beware of stagnating

Being unable to differentiate between what we can control and what we can’t, can lead to treading water at work, which is deadly to morale.  Feeling powerless with no sense of being able to change anything is deadening.  Look around and think hard about the little things you can change. Create novelty at work where you can.  Talk to someone you don’t know, take a different route through the building, take on an unfamiliar project, or volunteer for something you’d usually never do.

4. Take action–even if it’s a tiny action.

Re-prioritize some aspects of your job. Change the order in which you do tasks, do a project with a co-worker.  Alter the times at which you do certain jobs. An engineer, who preferred to be out in the field, decided to vary her field days with report writing, which she found boring.  She alternated an interesting day in the field with a report writing day in the office.

Build in rewards for yourself.  A data entry clerk treated himself to a break and a snack when he finished a stack of boring filing or data entry jobs.

Create informal channels to get things done.  An office manager, tired of waiting for technical help, developed an informal support team in the technology department by helping IT staff get pressing payroll and benefits questions answered faster. 

So, if you are really stuck and can’t quit, re-model your job, it’ll help you hang-in-there with your sanity intact.

Dr. Jennifer Newman is a registered psychologist and director of Newman Psychological and Consulting Services Ltd., a Vancouver-based corporate training and development company.  Identifying information in cases cited has been changed to protect confidentiality.  Dr. Newman can be contacted at: info@drjennifernewman.com

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