Pointless tasks, a culture that doesn’t fit you, office politics – toxic colleagues or bullying bosses… They all affect our lives way beyond the workplace, and can erode our confidence, happiness and health over time.
Clearly, I’d encourage anyone in this situation to start looking at ways to escape – and as soon as possible, if it’s significantly impacting on your quality of life.
But realistically, sometimes it can take time to make a move. While you’re waiting, there are always things you can do to keep your sanity intact…
Here, 5 tips to help you ride out a bad job ’til you’re able to jump ship.
1. Find a higher purpose
We all need meaning in our work – a reason to keep going, an end goal or higher purpose to fulfil. Whatever you do, it almost certainly creates some good – somewhere, for someone – so look for the impact you have, that means something to you.
Does your presence buoy your colleagues? Does it feed and support your family? Maybe it’s helping you save for the studies that will re-launch you? It doesn’t matter what your purpose is – so long as it matters to you.
When you’re having the day from hell, focus on your goals and why you’re doing this. Use it to keep you going, one day at a time.
(And when you seek out new work, make sure it ticks the boxes that this role doesn’t!)
2. Speak up
Often we assume that nothing in our job description can be changed – without ever actually checking. Don’t give away your voice and what power you do have, by making assumptions.
If there are bits of your job – tasks, duties or roles – that you find excruciating, check in. What have you actually done to change the status quo? What approaches have you tried? Have you spoken to anyone, with a view to changing it? Have you discussed it with your team or your manager? With HR?
Review the work, consider your team, and think strategically. Just because you don’t like something, doesn’t mean others won’t – what bores you can challenge someone else, and what taxes you may play to another’s strengths. Look for win-win swaps, be positive and present your boss with solutions. What do you have to lose?
3. Craft your job
If you’ve tried #2, and it’s a no-go, look again – just smaller. It’s a rare situation where we genuinely have no control over how we do our work; most of the time, we can tweak what we do, here and there, to make it that little bit better for us. Look at your work creatively; what can you change that would make things better for you?
Small changes add up. No-one else may even notice, but together, they can give you back some sense of control… and that makes a huge difference.
Do whatever you can, to make your days more bearable.
4. Dig an escape tunnel
So you’re stuck here for now? Have a strategy – and use the time to plan your escape, lining things up for the day you can spring. Need a financial cushion? Get advice and start saving whatever you can. Need to up-skill? Ask for training in your workplace, volunteer for projects that will extend your skills, sign up for classes outside of work.
Identify what you need to do, and start taking small steps in that direction.
When you’re unhappy, it’s easy to get passive. Instead, give yourself something to look forward to – we all need a goal to focus on – and take control wherever you can.
5. Balance your week
When you’re unhappy at work, it drains your batteries and leaves you flat – so chances are, by the time you get home, all you want to do is switch off and slump on the sofa. If that sounds familiar, beware; doing nothing fun or rewarding at work – followed by nothing fun or rewarding at home – will wear you down very quickly.
We all need to recharge somehow – if it’s not through work, then make sure you use your free time to pick yourself up. Think of things you love doing – anything that gives you energy, makes you smile and feel alive – and do it. Walk, run, dance, paint, cook, whatever. You need to keep engaged and active, or you’ll end up going under.
Work might be a downer – but your life doesn’t have to be.