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How to deal with a job that you can't stand

If you wake up every morning groaning at the thought of having to get out of bed and go to work, you’re not alone.

We’ve all had those jobs that we hate, and we’ve all had to figure out how to make the best of a bad situation when we’re really not in the mood.

But what happens if work really sucks but you can’t leave it?

Get to the Root of the Problem

First things first, figure out why you hate your job. Maybe you don’t get paid enough. Maybe you feel like you’ve been taken advantage of. Maybe your boss is a bully or your manager is mean. Maybe you feel like you’re stuck in a dead-end job that’s going nowhere and taking you with it.

Caroline Sandford is a career specialist who helps people find their dream jobs.

“Not liking your job but not being able to leave it is a very hard situation to be in,” she says. “If you’re stuck there, it’s really important that you do all you can to improve the situation - because you spend more time at work than you anywhere else.”

“The reason you’re unhappy could be anything from personality clashes to a miscommunication that hasn’t been resolved to not being paid enough. Communication is key. Speak with your manager about your issues and do what you can to improve them between the two of you. If your manager is the problem, talk to your HR manager.”

Sort It Out

Once you know what’s making you unhappy, do what you can to turn that frown upside down. If you’ve been on the same wages for seven years, it might be time to ask your manager for a pay rise. If you don’t get on with your manager or boss, it might be time to book a chat with your HR manager.

Whether you like it or not, most of these solutions revolve around talking to someone in charge. If you’re serious about improving the situation, it’s time to suck it up and book a meeting with your manager. If you don’t want to do that, or you’re scared, you’ll just have to keep dealing with it the way you currently are (or aren’t). It’s as simple as that.

Caroline encourages employees to be creative with possible solutions.

“Try to identify what things would make you happier in your role,” she says. “For example, organising the staff Christmas party or crafting activities into your daily working life might give you more satisfaction, even if they’re not actually your job.”

Figure Out Your Communication Style

Melissa Grainger is a communication coach who helps teams figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are so they work better together.

“Everyone communicates differently,” she says. “Because of this, conflict in any team will always be inevitable. That’s why it’s important to understand how you communicate with people, and how the people you communicate with communicate.

“Someone might come across really passive-aggressive which makes you get your back up when that might just be how they deal with people. They might not respond well to your communication style either, because everyone’s different.

“Taking emotion out of how we deal with people we work with and looking at everything like we’re just doing a job – which we are – could improve relationships and overall happiness in your job right across the board.”

Make the Rest of Your Life Awesome

Work is not life; it’s only part of life. If your job sucks and you don’t have any option but to stay, take a look at the rest of your life and see what you can change to make after-hours more awesome.

You could join a social indoor netball or touch rugby team. You could start volunteering at a worthy organisation in your community. You could start a weekly games night with your mates. Whatever you do outside of work is totally up to you, no one else, so take control and make a change where you can.

Ask for Reinforcement

If you’re seriously being taken advantage of in your job, it could be a job for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's (MBIE's) Labour Inspectorate.

Perhaps you’re being paid less than minimum wage or being expected to work 15-hour days with no overtime. None of that is legal. If your boss is managing their business corruptively and you’re bearing the brunt, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau is a great place to start.

If the company you work for doesn’t have a dedicated HR department, they might have an external provider. Many industries are also supported by industry unions.

Ask Yourself, “Why Can’t I Leave?”

Lots of people think they’re too far down the hierarchy to make a difference to their job or workplace, so they stick at a job they hate for years and years. Except, why did they stay? Did they have to?

Quitting a job and starting again is scary - and it’s not for everyone. There are definitely times when you simply have to deal with your job and accept that this is just a season of your life. For example, if you’re a building or mechanic apprentice, you might just have to deal with your boss who you don’t like just so you can get your qualifications. If you’re a first-time teacher, you might just have to deal with rude and unruly kids until you can get your registration.

There are plenty of other reasons why someone might not leave a job they hate. They might not have transport to work anywhere else, or they might have to pick up their kids from school every day. They might work in a family business where it would just be too awkward to leave.

Remember though, you are the master of your own destiny. If you could actually leave but you can’t be bothered or are too scared, maybe you need to toughen up a bit. Going back to school to learn something new or getting a job where you have to take an extra bus every morning might not be the end of the world.

Check Yo’self

Sometimes dealing with a job you don’t like comes down to your attitude. Without sounding like your mum, it might not be the job that’s the problem; it might be you.

A sure-fire way to sort your attitude out is to remember who’s in charge of it.

“You are in control of your own destiny,” says Caroline. “If you choose to stay in that environment, you’re choosing that they are certain things you’re going to have to accept.”

Melissa agrees.

“So many people change or leave jobs because they don’t like the people they work with, expecting that a new job or new company will be better,” she says. “It doesn’t matter where you go or who you work for, nothing and nobody is going to be perfect. The ‘perfect job’ comes down to what you’re willing to tolerate, what you’re happy to compromise on, and what you need to fight for.”

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