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 hubby had to deal with this, his best advice is music. If you are allowed to wear headphones and listen while working make yourself a playlist that makes you feel good. My hubby’s was called “Just to be Happy” and avoided any angsty or similarly charged music so it would help improve his mood. I think that coupled with the other great advice here can go a long way on helping out.

  2. As tempting as it may be, don’t burn your bridges. Get as much out of the job as you can, and keep a positive professional image. You never know when you may need to network with these people again, and it’s important to leave a good impression with them. On top of that, it’s always nice to be liked by people. So focus on good work relationships.

  3. Some fab advice so far!

    I find it helps my mood to have regular tea breaks with a fun colleague. Partly because I Need The Tea I Must Have All The Tea, but it’s also nice to just get away from our desks, have a quick chat while the kettle boils. She’s always up to something interesting and it’s good to think about non-worky stuff. If you don’t get on with your colleagues, could you arrange to ring a friend for a brief call?

    I second all the people who say avoid negative chat- I used to work in a job I hated and a friend there used to email me throughout the day to vent and point out it was only 5 hours till we could leave… Now only 4 hours… Days have never passed so slowly! Argh!

    I also find having some happy photos saved in a folder on my desktop are a good quick pick me up when I’m getting blue. I just flick through a couple of pics of my dog pulling funny faces or geeky nonsense like Chewie hugging Han and I can’t help but grin stupidly to myself. (Though it does help that my job involves a lot of image work so it’s not weird for there to be photos open on my screen!)

  4. I love the constructive advice, but have something a little more goofy. Pretend like you’re in a game! That email you’re sending? It’s written in code to your spy handler because you are secretly tailing one of your evil robot co-workers. See if you can hold your breath through sending that whole fax. Stupid little stuff that makes the day less about the drudgery and more about “getting to the next level”.

  5. It’s important to me to find something REWARDING about the job, not necessarily something enjoyable. Something you can be proud of learning, or accomplishing, or doing better than someone else in that job would do.

    It can be so easy to sabotage yourself in a terrible job. To do things that make you feel better in the short run, like eating junk food or complaining to coworkers, that really genuinely make it worse if you do it longer than a week. Don’t complain to coworkers. Seriously. Just don’t. Absolutely nothing good will come of it.

    Finding ways to really relax in your off time is important too. I find it easy to get caught up in thinking at work on my time off, but if you can fully enjoy your non-work time it’ll be much, much easier to get through the work day.

  6. If you are definitely quitting, you are free to speak your mind, as long as you are still professional about it. It’s quite liberating. When I was quitting my job, I had to give 2 months notice (!!), so I took that time to give all the feedback I hadn’t said previously due to office politics. My boss was pretty surprised about a lot of what I had to say. I heard that he acted on it after I was gone, and he commented to my co-worker that he hadn’t realized how much I was keeping everything afloat. Also because of my feedback about the stress I was under, my position was split, and I was replaced by 2 full-time positions and one part-time position! I wish I had gotten the benefit of some of those changes, but at least the programs and people I left behind got some improvements. So whatever is making you miserable, professionally give that feedback and propose change. Best case scenario, things aren’t so miserable AND you got to speak your mind. Worst case scenario, they disagree–who cares, you’re leaving anyway.

  7. currently in this situation. the things that have helped me most (so long, excuse me):

    going on walks during work breaks. unless it is both cold and rainy, this *always* makes me feel better, even if i think it’s too hot or too cold or crummy outside. (plus, i work near a train track, so sometimes i can watch trains on my walk!)

    decorating. it sounded silly to me, but really having *my own stuff* on my desk/wall helps a lot. mostly just ’cause there are things that make me smile when i look at them, but it also helps to have a photo of my family to prod the “why i’m doing this shit” button (so maybe for other folks that’s a reminder of paying off your debt, or that thing you want to buy/have bought with the money you’re making, etc.)

    weekend! this is super silly, but my spouse has personified the weekend for me, and it’s helped immensely. this usually goes: i get off work on friday grumpy and burnt out, and they say “hey! guess who’s here?!” (sometimes i join in the joke, and sometimes i forget the joke and get grumpier because *dammit i just want to relax, what do you mean we’ve got company*, and then it’s twice as funny) “weekend! weekend is here!”
    it makes me laugh and remember not to bring work stress home, and it has especially helped with that thing where you’re already dreading monday when you get home on friday, so i’ve really started enjoying my weekends again. it could easily be something else, but i think having a way to ring in the weekend and separate it from work completely is really important.

    permission to give less fucks. this is not permission to do bad work (that actually just makes me feel even shittier about work), but i’ve given myself mental permission to value my personal life/time over work. no guilt about skipping meetings/events that are suggested but not required. no working late just because things will get done sooner. things can get done tomorrow.

    going in early. i am not a morning person, but getting up an hour earlier has been worth it, because then i get to go home an hour earlier! same amount of work, but it feels like a reward *every day* (and it’s not ever dark when i leave work, which i always found depressing in the winter).

  8. I have been there, quite a bit. I found outside of work hobbies or professional development to be helpful. Honestly, I ended up making a big career shift by applying to graduate school, doing a master’s program full-time, and now I’m in the post-MA starting to gain work experience in a new field by working part-time at a job I mostly-like and also taking on an unpaid internship. I would probably not recommend this route. I *would* recommend finding a hobby for outside of work time, and if you can, working towards some long-term career goals. Where do you really want to be in 10 or 15 years? Owning a home, or working in a high position in industry-X? Then do some research on what steps you’ll need to get that big long-term goal, i.e. how much experience do you need in that industry/lower level positions to get there? What can you do now to make yourself a better candidate for that position–do you need to know any specific software? Programming skills? Need to be published? Need a portfolio? Whatever other things you’ll need from where you are right now, you can probably begin learning something that will be useful to the job you want on your own. Also, if there are any ways to network with people in your field, that can be helpful with feeling not-alone in wanting to advance, or maybe in learning of new job-hunting sources, such as mailing lists or professional organizations.

  9. Whenever I have a tough day at work, I just remind myself, “It’s someone’s job to clean the bathrooms at Taco Bell.” This has the double effect of making me feel better about the tasks I’m required to do and of making me laugh! I’m currently unemployed (well, except for a part-time job), so I feel your pain about applying constantly and feeling like you’re going NOWHERE. But remember, no matter how crappy, a job in these difficult times is a blessing and will bring you forward SOMEHOW. Whether it’s a paycheck that enables you to save money for a move to a better city, job skills that you will be able to use elsewhere, or even just a line on a resume that prevents you from having a gap, it will bring you forward in your life’s journey.

  10. One of the best things you can do is take care of yourself (physically, mentally, socially, spiritually, etc.) during the non-work hours of your life. I had a job I loathed that ended up being such an emotionally unhealthy situation that I eventually sought professional help (therapy).

    The other thing I would suggest is to have a timeline and plan for exiting. I kept thinking “If I just changed xxx, maybe things will get better” but each day I would come home more aggravated than the day before. I realized that finding the right job is a lot like dating: sometimes it’s just not a good match, and hopefully you can part ways on good terms and maybe have learned something along the way.

    Best of luck! I empathize with you, and anyone else who has to go through the horrors of an awful job.

    • Yeah, I had a situation that ended up giving me an anxiety disorder and I had to quit. I tried reporting it to HR and got nothing solved. I look back and there’s not really much I could have done differently aside from not reporting the problem.

      Before I reported it I thought if I did X things would improve, but nothing worked. I left my job on good terms with a few of my coworker, burned bridges with ones that weren’t worth having in my life, and moved on.

      Anyway, after picking up odd jobs here and there I have been much happier than I was working there. I may not make as much money as I used to, but me and my husband agreed that the money wasn’t worth the amount of stress.

  11. Yeah, I had a work environment so toxic I had to end up quitting. I was being bullied by two coworkers (like severely, they were stalking me online and doing everything they could to try and screw me over), and couple that with the fact my boss was allowing them and others to gossip about me in his meetings. I tried reporting it to HR and said boss informed the entire office of it and teamed up with the two bullies to get out of trouble. In the end no one would believe me, and half the office thought I was playing games, the other half thought I was lying and they all made a point to talk about it in the open office in front of everyone. When I tried talking to a couple coworkers they refused to tell me what was going on or clear the air with me. In the end I had to decide to do what was best for my own health and well being and quit.

    You can try talking to HR about what’s going on and they can help, but sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is remove yourself from the situation.

  12. I’m gonna get a bit philosophical on you here. I completely sympathize with your situation, and trying to stay positive can be really challenging. But think of it this way: you choose your thoughts. Every single one of them. And you don’t get today back, not ever. If you choose to spend it agonizing about how miserable you are, just be okay with that choice. It’s an adrenaline high and it’s addictive, but being positive can be a far better ‘high’. Our brains are actually wired to make the awful things stand out, and to make the delightful things hard to remember. That’s because we really are primitive in some ways – it’s about avoiding danger, and if something feels bad, our brains want to remind us over and over again how bad it is, so we will stay away. Long story short, it takes more work to see the good, but it is worth it to avoid fixating on the bad.

    Now for the fable…thanks to some Native Americans.

    One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
    He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.
    “One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
    “The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
    The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
    The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

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