How to Make Your Current Job Work for You, If You Are Unhappy

Find 6 Common Reasons for Why People Are Unhappy at Work

A woman sits at work desk and wonders whether she can make her current job work - or if it's time to quit.
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Are you feeling increasingly unhappy about your job? Do you find yourself daydreaming about other things you could do with the time you spend at work? Do you dread the thought of going to work on Monday mornings? Do you spend hours every week second-guessing your decisions, assignments, and career progression?

If so, then, it may be time for you to quit your job. Or, alternatively, you can make the decision to address the issues that you dislike about your current job. Without leaving your job, you may be able to solve the problems and make your current job—work.

Take a look at these six common reasons why people often leave their job. These will help you determine whether it's time to quit your current job or take action to make your current job—work. With a little effort and exploration on your part, you can identify the changes that will re-invigorate your job and career.

Determine Why You Are Unhappy in Your Current Job

Do you dislike the work you do day-to-day on the job? Or, are there other problems that affect how you feel about your job? If you like the work and pinpoint other issues as the problem, consider what you can do to resolve these problems before you quit your job. Perhaps you can pursue a different position in the same organization if the mission is congruent with your wants, needs, and values.

Good jobs are difficult to find. You don't want to make a hasty decision or burn any bridges until you've thoughtfully considered your options. You may be able to make your job—work.

The following are six common problems that prompt people to want to quit their job. See if you can find your reasons and use the advice provided to turn your work situation around. If you make your best effort and it doesn't work, see the top ten reasons to quit your job.

You Feel Stuck in Your Current Job

Are you feeling stuck in your current position with no hope of promotion? You look around your organization and don't see any job you'd like to do next. You may want to explore different job options with your boss.

  • Talk to your boss to make sure you're right. Ask about opportunities for lateral moves and for more interesting, skill-stretching assignments. Most workplaces value initiative and people who want to continue to learn and grow. But, you have the responsibility to communicate and let them know. Few bosses can read your mind.
  • Consider swapping assignments with a coworker who feels like you do about wanting to try something new. (Ask for your manager's agreement, of course.)

You Are Feeling Unappreciated in Your Current Job

You work hard every day, but you don't feel your boss or your workplace recognize your efforts. You can't remember the last time anyone thanked you for your contributions.

  • Tell your boss you would like their input about how your work is viewed. Tell the boss you'd like to sit down with them regularly to obtain feedback, both good and bad so that you can improve. If your boss fails to take action, then schedule a feedback meeting.
  • Offer to chair an employee recognition team that can develop a process for recognizing the hard work and efforts of all your coworkers. After all, if you're feeling unappreciated, you can bet others are, too.
  • Sometimes, feeling unappreciated has to do with money. Ask your manager for a raise or ask when you can expect your compensation review. Follow up to make sure it happens.

You Feel Overworked on Your Job

You probably are overworked. Employers have cut back on hiring and are expecting employees to do more with fewer resources.

For example, at a midwestern university, a customer service counter was staffed by five people for twenty years. Currently, they have reduced staffing to one employee. Is this person overworked or was the counter overstaffed in the first place? You will never convince the employee that the answer is anything but the first—overworked.

Talk with your employer, after collecting good data and evidence, if you find that the job is indeed more work than one person can comfortably handle. Brainstorm options that include these:

  • hire a new employee,
  • assign a part-time employee or intern to work with you,
  • identify tasks you can stop doing, and
  • determine the value-added tasks and eliminate non-critical job components.

Take time to flowchart your work processes and see where you have waste in the process. Are you doing rework? How does extra time or steps make your work processes more difficult and time-consuming than they warrant?

You Dislike Your Career Field and Job

Sometimes, people discover that they have chosen the wrong career or field of work. They dislike the activities and the actual content of the job. Sometimes, the mismatch is so powerful that earlier suggested solutions such as a lateral move or transfer would keep them in their disliked field of work.

For example, you may have chosen to teach for a career. Once teaching, you discovered that you truly enjoyed your interaction with the young people but you hated the politics in the office and dealing with the teachers' union. You decide to find another job in a corporation to do training. Goodbye politics. Goodbye union.

You may experience something similar. If you fundamentally don't like the work or work environment, consider these actions.

  • Spend a year exploring your career options and needs.
  • Meet with people already working in the fields you are exploring.
  • Determine the education or credentials necessary to move on.
  • Read books by authors such as Barbara Sher and Annie Gottlieb. "Wishcraft," and other career and job search books are good choices.
  • Make a careful plan with a timeline.
  • Write a resignation letter and move on.

You Don't Like Your Employer, Coworkers or Customers

Maybe you like your work but dislike your current employer, coworkers, or customers. Explore your options to move to a different employer.

Make sure that the unhappiness isn't inside of you, however, and that it really is due to the actions of others. (Perhaps your employer is unethical in their treatment of the customer. Maybe your coworkers are all miserable and constantly complaining about their work.)

Look carefully for a pattern in your own actions. As an example, do you repeatedly start out at a new job and location but then quickly becoming disillusioned? If you identify a pattern, the unhappiness may all be internally generated. If the unhappiness is inside of you, only you can make you feel better and make your job—work.

If you're looking at new life options:

  • Start out by exploring whether you have any control over any aspect of the situation that is bothering you. If you identify areas you control, try fixing them. Perhaps sitting in the break room listening to people complain is ruining your good spirits. Stay out of there for a while to see if your outlook improves.
  • Consider transferring to a new work area or trading customers with a coworker.

You Can't Stand Your Boss

This is one of the top reasons people give for why they leave their current job or employer. When managers are nasty, abusive, and controlling, this is understandable. There are more subtle things some managers do, however, that drive staff away.

These include failing to:

  • provide direction,
  • involve people in decisions about their work,
  • appreciate staff contributions, and
  • help develop the talents and abilities of their employees.

If you find yourself in such a situation, try these actions.

  • Talk to your manager about your concerns. Many people don't realize the effect their actions create. Others just don't care.
  • If you are planning to leave anyway, you have not got a lot to lose. Talk with your manager's boss or your Human Resources department to see if they can remedy the situation.
  • Transfer to a different department. Try to remove yourself from the manager's influence.

The Bottom Line

Hopefully, these ideas give you some options about addressing your current work situation that might substitute for leaving your current job. There are, however, legitimate times and legitimate reasons for moving on. You can explore them in five more reasons to quit your job.