How To Work a Job That You Hate

Dear Terra,

I hate my job. Every Sunday night I’m filled with dread at the thought of having to face another week. If I could quit, I would, but I can’t afford to. Everyone keeps telling me to find another job, but I don’t live in a city where there are a lot of options for what I do.

I know that I’m supposed to count my blessing and just be happy that I have a job, but honestly that doesn’t change how I feel. How do I make it through this?



This is an epidemic and shame. There are too many people that feel exactly the way that you do. The most frustrating part is that we worked so tirelessly to get here. We studied hard in school plus sacrificed countless hours and our sanity, only to find ourselves feeling stuck and unhappy.

Fear not. You can survive this and, with the right work, use it as a springboard for greater success in the future.
So here are the things we must work on and a few coaching questions to help you get there:

1.  Make the current job more bearable

  • What specifically do you hate about your job?

You probably want to say “EVERYTHING,” but you and I both know that’s not true. Even in terrible situations there are usually some things that you like, some that you tolerate, some you don’t like, and others that make you miserable. Focus on the miserable ones.

  • What have you already tried to improve your experience at work?

I’m pretty sure that you’ve tried a few different tactics to no avail. Take inventory of what worked and what didn’t. Look at the list of things that you hate about your job. What else can you do to alleviate those specific items?

  • How have you contributed to your own misery?

No, you aren’t to blame for a bad manager, crazy culture, or whiny customers. However, after a few months of torture in a life-sucking career, it’s not uncommon to let frustration take us off of our game. Have you started gossiping with other unhappy co-workers? Given up on playing company politics? Started avoiding a colleague that you don’t like?

  • What expectations do you need to abandon?

It’s often said that we suffer because we get attached to how life SHOULD BE, not how it really is. What are the things that are never going to change? Are your team members more competitive than collaborative? Will your manager always forget to give you positive feedback? Will the organization keep adding new initiatives based on the flavor of the month? Are you willing to accept this as true? What can you do to better protect and care for yourself in this type of environment?

2.  Stop feeling trapped

  • Brainstorm: Looking at all of your experience (work-related and extracurricular since high school) and your skills, what other types of roles could you do?

Make the list as long as you can. Don’t get hung up on pay scale or other details, just enjoy the possibilities. You are not stuck. There are dozens of options for you to support yourself even if you can’t relocate at this moment. Some choices will be easier than others. Some will be more fulfilling. And one of them is the choice to stay where you are for the near future.

You are not a victim! There’s no power in feeling that way. You get to choose how you live.

  • When can you leave your job?

You say that you “can’t leave your job.” That’s not entirely true. You aren’t chained to your desk. What you really mean is that there are certain hurdles that need to be overcome to make it worthwhile to leave. Take some time to get very clear on the circumstances that must be met:

Do you have an employment contract? What is the penalty for breaking it?

What are your minimal household expenses? How much do you need to make to maintain your lifestyle?

Would you be willing to take a step back in your career to be less miserable?

Would you be willing to change industries? Move into an entirely different field?

Under what circumstances could you relocate?


Your Homework:

  • Get more of the good stuff

When you are facing a job that you hate, it is critically important that you find peace and happiness in the other parts of your life.

Complete the Wheel of Life exercise to see where you may need to make your life juicier.  The Wheel of Life is a pretty common tool used by coaches worldwide. The goal isn’t necessarily to have perfect scores in every area, but to get clarity on where you should place your attention.

Make a commitment to do ONE thing to improve a non-work area of your Wheel of Life.

  • Explore a few realistic career options

Remember our list of possibilities? Somewhere in there should be a few interesting nuggets. Review the most promising options and see how you can make them more realistic.

Ex. Are you currently a brand manager at the only large consumer products company in town? Could you be satisfied doing marketing for a smaller company? Marketing for a different industry? Marketing consulting? Advising companies that sell to consumer products companies? Training marketers? Working for one of your current suppliers or customers? Are there any companies where brand managers work remotely?

  • Learn the lessons that you’ve earned

This experience, while uncomfortable, has given you a wealth of knowledge about how you work best. In your journal, document your lessons so that you won’t find yourself in this situation again. To be your best:

What do you need from your manager?
What is important about the physical environment?
What types of colleagues do you enjoy working with?
What traits do you need in your company culture?
What type of work energizes you?
What tasks do you hate?

Get Working!