How do you stay positive in a job you hate?

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“Help I’m stuck inside this cubicle” poster from Etsy seller TheWallaroo
I’m working in an office job that no longer interests me. While my resume is updated and I’m actively searching for a new position, these things can take a while. Meanwhile, in my current position, I’m grumpy and irritated most of the time, and it’s difficult for me to focus on my work.

I’m looking for ways to change my perspective for the remainder of the time that I’m in this job, because feeling bitter 40 hours a week doesn’t help anyone.

How do you stay positive in a job that you no longer enjoy? -Ursikai

Comments on How do you stay positive in a job you hate?

  1. My suggestion would to think of it as everyday is one step closer to the last day you’ll ever be there. Instead of “Crap, it’s only Tuesday.” think to yourself “One more day down til I’m out.”
    Start mentally saying goodbye to people it tasks in which you hate. Yay I’ll never have to copy so-n-so’s reports anymore or clean up after Them here soon.
    You’re getting out yay! Just bid your time and leave with a good last impression.

  2. Ugh, I feel you. Having a job that you dread going to every day is horrible for everyone, but bravo for planning a change! I think just remembering that the change IS coming is important. Maybe hang a little note with wings drawn on it so you can start picturing your exit outta there, and whenever you look at it you can smile to yourself knowing what it means.

    I don’t have a whole lot of advice, but I commiserate. I was in that position before quitting and going back to school many years ago, and it sucks. I literally dreaded going to work daily and it was terrible.

  3. Oh, I feel ya! I had a job I HATED, where I wasn’t valued or respected, for about three years. Those were three tough years.

    Things I did wrong:
    –Formed alliances with coworkers who also hated their jobs and did nothing but complain. This did not help anyone feel any better.
    –Used junk food for my pick-me-ups.
    –Started taking antidepressants and relied on those *alone* to make me feel better.

    When I finally woke up and realized that those things weren’t working, I did a few things RIGHT:

    –Focused on what my job enabled me to do. Because I had a little extra money, I could give to nonprofits I loved. Because my job ended at 5:00 and I didn’t have to take work home, my weekends were entirely my own.
    –Volunteered. A shift at the emergency winter homeless shelter always made me feel grateful for what I had.
    –Cultivated a love of cooking and started bringing healthier homemade goodies to work.
    –Stopped drinking soda, because it made me feel like crap. When my body felt better, so did my mind.
    –Sought out a therapist to help me figure out exactly why my job was making me so miserable.

    • On a similar note of helping your body and mind feel better, I’ve found that exercising every day right when I get home from work (sometimes running, sometimes yoga, find what works well for you) helps me to clear my head and end my day on a positive note. It also gives a definitive end to the work day, so there is no mulling over whatever so-and-so said long into the evening. You have your processing time, your body feels better, and your mind feels more at ease.

      • Really agree with this one! I am in a job that I hate too. Alongside focussing on the positive aspects of my job (saving money), and whilst planning my exit, I now go to the gym every day on the way home from work. It definitely helps me let go of the days frustrations, and by the time I get home I am in a good mood.

    • I really love your attitude! It is a rare and wonderful thing to give back. Thank you for sharing and I hope your new job is treating you well. 🙂

    • Yes! You know what else helps? I’ve been going through the same thing.

      Meditation. When you feel a little like you’re going to snap at someone, close your eyes for a second and imagine a beach or a pretty tree. Listen to soothing music if you can. Go for a walk, jog in place for a minute at your desk.

      At the end of the day, every day, think of one good thing that happened and write it down. Fold up the piece of paper and stick it in a jar. If you start feeling grumpy, grab a few pieces of paper from the jar and reread them. It helps too!

  4. This was totally me at one point. I learned to focus on the parts that I enjoyed (my transition is still in transit):

    – 1 of my bosses is super awesome
    – Coworkers I’ll miss
    – The one part of my job I enjoy and keeping it as a reward
    – Taking care of the part I’m least looking forward to/want to do first thing in the morning (keeps it from hanging over your head the rest of the day making it worse)
    – My office is in a great restaurant area, so twice a week I pick a new place and go out, fully enjoying the neighborhood and the time away and the food
    – Reading my Kindle on lunch to pull me away and into a different world
    – Knowing the end is coming
    – Trying to do my ‘last acts’ while ‘in office’. I broke out of the mold knowing something knew is just around the bend and was able to set up some pretty neat things as well as leave a good legacy

    I hope this helps. Being bitter is really bad for you. You are actively working on improving it (seriously network – like events, conventions, user groups, etc.). You will succeed. Let go of the hate for the job gave you the experience you have to move on.

    Hope you feel better soon!

  5. Do you have any co-workers you really like, or some particularly fun customers/clients? Your job itself is probably boring you to tears by now, but if you can focus some of enjoying the people you are with. It really depends on the job, but when I hate my actual job I try and focus on the relationships/customer service. Some of the customers who would come in to my restaurant job were elderly folk who seemed a bit lonely, so I started spending more time and energy visiting with them and making their day better, and it made me feel better and more rewarded. And depending on your work environment there might be more room for socializing, silliness, and joking around. Are there any additional responsibilities you might be able to take on to make your job interesting and change things up a bit? You could also try focusing on small details you enjoy – make really good tea or coffee, drink it out of a cute mug, put flowers on your desk, eat delicious healthy food. Take a couple days off if possible to spoil yourself and forget about work for at least a 3 day weekend.

    • I have two coworkers I really like and get along with well. Trouble is, part of the reason we click is that all three of us are unhappy and trying to move on as soon as possible. Ha–probably doesn’t help the mood! I’m going to take your advice about a little pot of flowers, though. That’s a lovely idea.

  6. This is going to sound weird, but hear me out: fake it.

    Seriously, you know that you hate where you are, and you’re doing what you can to get out, but there are a couple of reasons why it’s a good idea that you don’t broadcast this sentiment (and trust me, you’re broadcasting much more than you realize). Your coworkers spend 8 hours each day with you, and they can tell when something is wrong. So, here are my reasons:

    First, working with a miserable person is a miserable experience, and you’ll make their lives harder just by being there. It’s (probably) not their fault, and it’s not fair to take it out on them.

    Second, a bad attitude can really hurt professional relationships that it’s ALWAYS a good idea to preserve. What if your next job explodes and you need a reference from the previous employer? You’ll want to make sure it’s a good one.

    Third, actively hating what you do will make your work product and work ethic suffer. Producing sub-par work is a bad habit to develop, and doesn’t magically disappear when you land the dream job.

    Good luck with the job search!

    • Such a good point. I try not to let my frustration show through, but I know it does, more often than I’d like it to.

    • The only problem I have with faking it is that I start to become that person who enjoys that job, and then I hate myself instead of the job. I agree that you can fake being happy, and that will help you be happy, but faking loving your job, at least if you’re also trying to fake to yourself, could land you in depression. I agree, though, that you shouldn’t be broadcasting your unhappiness!

    • That is such a good point about developing the bad habit of poor work ethic. I used to be an incredibly hard worker, always punctually responding to emails and providing the highest quality work before deadlines. But I then I had a job where I wasn’t challenged, there was no clear path to something more interesting, and I could get by putting in 50% effort and no one noticed (or at least no one said anything…). So I started slacking a bit, and while I still always met all my deadlines, I was no longer stellar, because the job didn’t require or appreciate someone stellar. And I told myself that as soon as I got a better job, I’d go back to being the old me. The problem is, it just isn’t that easy. Even after I found much more gratifying work that really wanted me to rise to the occasion, I had a hard time getting my sharpness back. It’s now years (like, 7 years) later, and I still sometimes struggle with the bad habits, even though I have an incredibly challenging job where I’m highly appreciated and always challenged to be better…so, yeah. Steer clear of the bad habits, no matter how easy they are to slip into at the time!

    • Nobody likes to work with the person who says hateful things about the job their in. It’s awkward for the people around you, and it’s too easy for your boss to catch wind of the conversations. Either situation can lead to trouble in your career or life generally. While this sounds a bit harsh, if you hate your job, keep your mouth shut about it.
      This goes, too, with when you’ve moved on to your next job. Keep your mouth shut about how much you hated your last job when talking to new coworkers. They will feel like you’re saying the same horrible things behind their backs, too.

  7. This is so heartening to see. I’m in a similar situation but have to stick my job out because it’s the only thing funding my MA so although I’ve got an end point, it’s quite a way in the future. My personal little motivator at work is changing my password to something that’s cheering/motivational. Last month it was “you-can-do-it”, and I’ve had “it’s worth it” before too. Having to type that in a couple of times a day helps remind me why I’m doing all of this. And I totally agree with the comments before about valuing the time you’re not at work/having free weekends/making the most of your lunch break etc.

  8. The big thing for me is focusing on what in my life is going well and why a job I hate is necessary to keep the good things going well.

    Also, I try to focus on the part I like about my job. I hate my boss, but I love the freedom that I have because he is so terrible at managing the office. I hate approving/disapproving expenses but I love analyzing the information from them. I hate sending out postmail but I love sending out email surveys.

    In short, focus on why you need your job and what aspects (no matter how few of them there are) of your job are enjoyable.

    • Good point about remembering WHY the job is necessary. It’s keeping me in grad school and will allow me to start paying off my loans when I graduate. That’s a big deal.

  9. Definitely feeling this. My best tips are to also start with your health, like others have said: eat right, get plenty of sleep (seriously, make a bedtime and stick to it), and make time to at least walk. Honor your breaks and leave the building if you can. Even if you go out to your car and listen to loud music or run down the street for a cup of coffee – treat your breaks like they’re your sacred time and as though you’re getting away with murder while you’re doing it.

    Find someone positive in your office and make time to have lunch with them once in awhile. Find out what makes them tick, what’s going on in their life, and maybe how you two can collaborate to make a project awesome. Listen to what your coworkers have to say about projects about things that you can actually do something about. Then, compete with yourself to make that happen. Although you will always have to look for your supervisor for direction, try to think of your projects like it’s up for an award and you want to make it awesome. By producing a product you can be proud of, you are not only rewarding yourself but others will respond kindly to you.

  10. If you find you’re getting wound up and bitter try to de-prioritize those things in your emotional ranking. Once I was promoted into a newly created position. While for the most part it worked out I was at odds with a colleague. Long story short, I couldn’t do my job because he doesn’t want to release any control and was fairly condescending. It became apparent that unless he let me work as a team member I wouldn’t have any reason to continue working with the company. Sending out the occasional email in his name isn’t enough, ya know? Even my supervisors couldn’t adjust things beyond a two-month reprieve. So I decided to let go and repeat the mantra, “Zero fucks given.” I didn’t drop my responsibilities, but I scaled back my ambition. That might not always be the best professional decision, but I knew I had to leave before I was let go. Letting go prevented my bad attitude from sabotaging myself further.

    I shined where I could, soaked up the good feels (and saved any email praising me for when I needed a boost), and moved on as quickly as I could.

  11. Good for you for actively looking! I usually only look when my job is sucking way harder than normal. There are a lot of reasons to dislike a job, and I found not all of mine were related to the work or the workplace, so I’m kind of glad I’ve stuck it out. I also reflected on all my previous positions (mainly while updating my resume in different formats for different positions) and realized that all companies/organizations have some sort of issue, and the next job might not be better, or might have a different set of problems. It’s been a growth experience.

    I found that I was uncomfortable being challenged in certain ways. That my “problem with authority” from my youth translated poorly to the work environment when it was coupled with the desire to want to appear amiable. That I was afraid to ask for help because I thought people would think less of me, thus making my own life harder and getting me into shitty situations where my boss was forced to help me out of. I pitted my boss as a bad guy who always came down on me. I now realize I set up some of my own shit, and I’m not perfect, but I’m working on it. I see my boss as a person and not some Disney villain, so it’s a lot easier to a) see the passive aggression and micromanagement as her own fears and anxieties manifesting and b) ask for help/communicate issues before they get “too big.”

    There’s lots of things I don’t like about the job, the work, and the organization still, but at least while I’m here I’m working on sorting out my own workplace issues and figuring out how to deal with issues that are likely in EVERY workplace in some form or another.

  12. How delightful to open Offbeat Home this morning and find my question, with so many helpful and encouraging comments already! Thank you. So nice to know I’m not alone!

  13. Maybe try to liven up your cubicle? I have a few pictures and items on my desk that bring back happy memories. Also, get up and take short walks during the day. And leave the building for lunch if you are able. Your entire day doesn’t need to be alllll work.

  14. I turned in my resignation early this week. It took me a year and a half of making the best of a bad situation before I felt comfortable leaving.

    Main tip: As much as you can, avoid gossip and negative talk with co-workers who may feel the same way you do. It’s a hard thing to avoid, when all you want is someone to understand, but have those conversations outside of work. You will bury yourself in negativity if you seek it out at work.

    Tip No. 2: If you can afford it, see a professional career counselor. Even just one session. It’s helpful to speak objectively about your career path with someone who’s not a friend (“of COURSE you need to leave that job!”) nor in your co.’s HR (“well, it is what it is”).

  15. This can definitely be a tough spot, even if you know you will be moving on. I actually just started a new job (I luckily didn’t hate my old one, but I was just ready to move on), so I know how you feel.

    I developed the motto “choose you” for myself. I looked at tasks I was doing in my current position that I would somehow be able to take forward with me (I.e. a skill I wanted to enhance or a project that I could somehow take with me to the job I wanted) and really focused on those. This made my coworkers happy because I was doing something really well, and it made me happy because it helped me to stay positive and productive.

    • I totally second evaluating skills that your current job is giving you. Spend some time evaluating what you do at your current job and consider the skills you have from doing those tasks. Also, keep in mind things like conflict. I have been asked a lot of questions at interviews about how I deal with X and sometimes my answers come from the two jobs I have disliked. How did I handle a particularly stressful situation? How did I handle conflict?

      Also, consider skills you have that you wish were being utilized. Think about whether you can contribute those to your current job. If not, what could you do to work on those and highlight them?

      I’ve been there. I spent a year and a half applying for jobs once. I definitely found that I needed to find ways to relieve stress and be happy when I left work. I tried to go to the gym to burn off stress although I was not great about a routine there. I also tried to work on hobbies, do fun things, spend time with friends. I find it’s easier to handle one stressful thing if you can have the rest of your life feel good. So make sure your home environment is nice. Pretty up your house or apartment, work at your relationships to keep them good (because stress can easily make messes of that).

      And apply for everything. I got to work at my dream job for 8 months because I applied for something I would never have expected to get (because a friend told me to). I got the job. Perfect timing because I was told the day of the interview that my then current job was being phased out!

      • Your last point is something I SO needed to hear. For every job I apply for, there are several others that sound great for me but I think, “oh, I’m not quite qualified enough.” Just because I don’t have the exact number of years in the field they request, or haven’t used a particular program they use, I’ll take myself out of the running. But hey, no harm in applying, just in case.

  16. I think having a plan to get out definitely helps. My husband has been stuck in a job he hates for quite some time now. Over our time at this current location, we’ve come up with a few ways to get by.

    1. Actively counting down. This works best when you have a set date, but even before that we just counted down to the month. We threw a party when we hit 100 nights left and it was glorious.

    2. Have something to look forward to doing. The times that went by the smoothest and happiest were the times we had something else on our calendar. An extra day off, a trip somewhere, a holiday. Anything to change up the routine.

    3. Take some time off. One of the best things he did last year was take a few days off just to be at home and not have to work. Those days helped give him the energy to go back and face it again.

    It’s not been perfect; but, it has helped us get through. We’re now under two weeks left and the relief that we both feel is palpable. Best of luck!

    • Something to look forward to — YES!
      Literally the smallest things pick me up: buying a good sandwich for lunch, seeing my friend this weekend, getting a haircut in two weeks.
      I suppose this depends on why you hate your job, but in my case, it’s very boring, and I haven’t made work friends. So instead of pretending to be interested, I just check out mentally (I don’t care about the Jones account, but at least tonight is wine&pizza night).
      Related, I always read my kindle during lunch, that gives me something to think about too, especially if the book is suspenseful.
      Lastly, never stop looking for a new job. This one’s hard, because job hunting is draining, but I try to apply a few hours a week. It’s heartening to see jobs/companies that I would like.
      Edited to add: taking days off, too! Knowing that I can take a day off whenever I feel like makes me feel a little bit better that even if I hate it, I’m there because I chose to be (for the paycheck)

  17. Ugh I have been there before – it is a terrible feeling. In my case I realized I was giving in to the depression of being there and carrying it home with me so that all aspects of my life were revolving around the unhappiness of being in my job. What really helped was being very intentional about keeping my life outside of work filled with meaningful activities. Dinner with friends, meditation, volunteering, going to the movies, journal writing, cooking, weekend get aways all helped overshadow the 8 hours in the office.

    Good luck1

  18. Write your letter of resignation.
    Print it out and hide it in your desk. No date, no signature. But then you have it and you know it. You have an exit coming up.
    And everytime you get frustrated or want to roll your eyes, instead think of it. Smiling more at work and generally being less obviously miserable is somehow easier with that little secret paper ready to go.
    This cemented the reality that I was NOT stuck there. I really was leaving as soon as I could.

  19. Try to think of it in terms of what having the job allows you to do. Keep a roof over your head, eat, and whatever your hobbies are. Write down the things your job affords you the opportunity to do and look at it when you’re particularly frustrated.

  20. This is such a tough situation! A few things that helped me were:

    1) Being ultra professional and not indulging in office gossip/moaning – although you do need to be able to vent to a good friend/partner/family member afterwards sometimes!
    2) Making an extra effort to get into the office on-time or early and being careful to leave on-time. If you hate your job and you are late in the mornings, then you need to work late to catch up, it can be even more soul destroying.
    3) Use your holiday strategically – in one job I had I would occasionally book a day off knowing that it would enable me to avoid a particularly awful colleague.
    4) Volunteer for anything which allows you to get out of the office! Especially meetings or training courses which take place out of the building or in another space. Anything like this helps to break up the week!

    Good luck!

  21. I think everyone has experienced this! One of the main ways you realize that you are ready for a new opportunity is that the old job starts to be a real pain.

    This job has become a “taxi job.” It’s going to continue to pay your bills while it takes you from where you are now to where you are going next. Everyone has great suggestions for you. I think you could also think about conferences and certifications. Use your current job to leverage your networking. See what they will pay for and get as much as you can out of it. Look around and see if there’s anyone at work who can look critically at your resume for you and give you advice about moving on.

  22. This is less positive thinking and more making negative thining into Super Secret Funtime!!!

    Make yourself Office-Misery-Bingo! If you have a friend at work to play with you, that would be awesome! Otherwise, maybe you can build a rewards system with your partner or a friend…
    Make a bingo card (or a few different ones) where each square contains one thing that happens that drives you TOTALLY NUTS about your job. e.g. Your boss’s catchphrase, Incoming calls getting dropped by the system, waiting on hold… whatever. Ever time that thing happens, you mark the card (you could probably do this on your phone, or abbreviate so that you don’t get caught.) Depending on what your workplace is like) you could actually say Bingo! aloud (Follow this with an innocent face and say “O, wat, me? I just had a great realization about the Jones account…” *shifty eyes* *Secret giggle*
    Maybe after X number of wins, you reward yourself with a treat, like a new nail polish or a fancy pen, or you bargain with your partner or friend to provide a reward. (Got a friend(s) with a hated job? Encourage them to play, too!

    You could probably also play an even simpler version. Just write all those irritating things as a list, and have two cups or bowls on your desk. Fill one with counters or pennies or M&M’s. Whenever you get a point, move a counter into the empty bowl. At the end of the day, eat the M&M’s or put the pennies into your “treat yourself” jar. If you’re bargaining with a partner, have a set number of points that warrant a reward. (100 points in a week= backrub times!) If you’re playing with friends, meet up every week or two and whoever has the most “points” gets a boost. Maybe you can all pool your funds and buy (or help buy) dinner for that person…

    • Oh, and if it starts getting really, really, really bad, consider setting yourself changeable “points” goals for when you can’t take it any more.” If I get to 1000 points in two weeks, I’m done.” Or, for the positive thinking version, “I have handled these first 1000 points like a BOSS. I know I can hang in here for another 2000.”

      • I love this idea! In a past job two of my colleagues and I were good friends and all looking to move on from jobs we weren’t really happy in. We managed a database of clients and one of my colleagues set up a fake entry in the database which included haiku poems about some of the less pleasant features of his job! It made us smile to know it was hidden in the company’s database! It’s probably still there…

    • Another thought, if you want to focus on the positivity, is to make a BINGO card for the good things about your job. Even if they’re small things — one square could be every time someone smiles at you. One square could be every time you get an inside joke. Another could be when you get done with a task even faster than you thought you would. That way, you’re spending the time and energy focusing on the good things, which can make your day go a little faster! 🙂

  23. I think the key is to focus on the parts of the job that you like and also that the result of the job is the paycheck. I’m assuming that you probably enjoy the paycheck part well enough. 😉

    Also, removing your own personal feelings from the job, think about it this way: When they hired you, they hired you to perform specific tasks and if your attitude is interfering with your ability to perform those tasks up to the standard the company needs them performed, then you aren’t living up to your end of the bargain anymore. It helps to make things feel less personal and more “business”-minded.

    Also also, if you haven’t, start reading the Ask A Manager blog. Alison over there is super insightful and has really helped me view working and management in a completely different light. (www.askamanager.org)

  24. Best advice I ever got on a job I wasn’t loving:

    Focus on what skills you want to use at your next, hopefully better job. Find ways to start using those skills at your current, hated job NOW. Not only does this help you frame your current shitty work in a more positive light, but it’ll also makes you look proactive and go-gettum-y to your current manager. It also can be helpful in visualizing what you want to be different about your next job.

  25. Remember that you are more than your job. when you’re not at work, avoid thinking or talking about work. Take that time and make it your own. This situation is hard but you’re not alone. I think almost all of us deal with this scenario at some point.

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