I’ve talked with people both recently and in the past, ongoing conversations over decades, in which they voice that they love their career, but that they really dislike their job. It might be the location, or the size of the workforce within that location, or the policy and management (or lack thereof), or the gossip or lack of privacy, or seemingly inept supervisor or boss…some aspect is keeping them from really finding pleasure in getting up, getting ready and entering the door of their workplace. Most often it turns out to be a combination of aspects, but the simple and clear point is that they would rather be anywhere but there, doing the job that they were hired to do.
The people I refer to here are competent, intelligent, qualified, rational. Some have a passion, a feeling that their career choice was a calling or meant to be. Others perhaps take time to come upon their path, but have grown to see that it was the correct road for them. Yet they go to an office, or job site three or four or five days per week, and they hate it. Many literally say they hate it.
I think we can all guess at some of the reasons why they keep showing up. Money and finances are most likely the biggest reason. Perhaps the investment and education behind the career drives them to appear each day at a job they dislike. Perhaps a desire for a specific lifestyle. Perhaps insecurity or worry about all the what-if’s keep them returning day after day.
I spent years going back and forth between two careers. I felt a passion for both, initially. I liked performing my jobs. Of course, like any job some days were better than others. One job I left by choice and have regretted and missed horribly ever since. It was never a burden to participate in that job. The other, over time, became too physically demanding and in that way I felt forced to leave. That job though, I have never missed. I spent way too much time trying to invest myself and my energy into attempts at change, at attempts to rectify systemic failures, at putting up with individual differences that would never come close to tolerable common ground rather that be moralistic or idealistic. I knew long before I left that job that I was done. The system in place was flawed and that I didn’t fit anymore, nor even want to attempt to carve out an identity to fit what was being pushed. Even knowing that I would be better, happier, and value myself more if I left – I stayed on. It took me years of personal compromise before one day, simply having experienced enough, I moved on – not back to a career I loved, but just to another location and another job within the same flawed system. In time I knew that I had made a mistake. All the inner voices that had been screaming at me for years were quickly mounting another onslaught and poised to needle my brain non-stop with the big question – “Why, why did you do this again?”
I knew enough about this job to realize that just about anywhere I could go, I would eventually encounter all the issues that made me dislike the job in the first place so many years ago. The work was wonderful, the physical hands-on doing was a job I loved, but the BS and game playing and mismanagement pushed all my dislike buttons and all those things came with the territory.
Of course, we don’t necessarily have the luxury to simply stop working because we dislike aspects of a job. So many people feel stuck or trapped (I did) within a job. So many people have no choice, but in this case, I suppose I am speaking to those who do have some choice, some control.
For those of us who have been, or who now fall into that dreading going to our jobs category I think we all have our own individual line that separates the ‘I’ll try to stick it out for a while’ from the ‘I refuse to tolerate this for another minute’ moment. We also have a lot of gray days, those not so bad days when thinking about family, or the weekend, or vacation in 2 months can curb some of the dislike and annoyance and frustration. We don’t let ourselves acknowledge that temporary fixes aren’t going to make the job better. They are only going to prolong the agony, and increase the frustration. We can’t seem to allow ourselves to take back control of our lives and our happiness.
Is there uncertainty, fear, even panic that comes with the thought of moving on. You betcha there is, but if everyday is filled with displeasure, anger, unhappiness, even physical and/or emotional pain, because of the job we force ourselves to go to, how can it be worth spending even one more day there?
Everyone always asks, “But what if it’s worse, that next place that I end up?” It might be, because really, until you’re there and in the mix, you have no real idea. But, what if it isn’t worse? What if it’s better, even just a little bit? What if you can go there, do your job and enjoy three of the five days you’re there…what if you can actually look forward to opening the door at 8 AM and feeling like you will probably like the day ahead…what if your family won’t have to hear all your complaints…what if you could just have time to stop asking what if, or if only, or I should…what if you make the decision to try?
I’d love to hear some opinions on this, no matter which side you fall on. Have you been/are you in this situation? Have you come across your own personal line and triumphed…or failed? What would you tell someone who is unsure, who is fearful or worried, or can’t bring themselves to take the step? Why do we feel it’s okay to devalue our own self-worth and happiness for a job that we dislike?