Stop Being Miserable at Work

Identify Toxic Situations and Make Changes

a young woman looking frustrated
••• Gary Houlder / Getty Images

Are you miserable at work? Do you feel awful about getting up and heading to the office every Monday? Do you feel unchallenged, unhappy, or out of control? Is your boss the worst? Do your coworkers engage in unjustifiable complaining all day long? Is no contribution ever good enough?

If you continue to wallow in these attitudes and situations, you only ensure that you will continue to hate your job -- and hating your job is a recipe for a miserable life. Why go there? You have the power to change your attitude and/or remove yourself from toxic situations.

Read on for tips on handling unpleasant situations and changing your career mood from miserable to fulfilled.

Toxic Work Situations and What You Can Do

  • Situation: Your coworkers are always finding fault with the company, management, customers, employees, and just about everything else about the job. You find yourself hanging out with these people and worse, participating in the griping. Solution: Legitimate concerns that are actually addressed aside, if you wallow in misery and listen to unhappy, difficult people, it can't help but bring you down as well. Unhappiness and criticism are contagious. Move on and stay away from these people to avoid catching the bug.
  • Situation: You stay in a job that is unchallenging, boring, and unrewarding. Day after day, year after year, you are numbing your mind and heart with work that doesn't fulfill you. Solution: Understand that you have options. See a career counselor at your local community college, technical school, or adult education program. Or, find out if your company has opportunities for growth or other positions that interest you. Seek out other job opportunities; find ways to use your current skill set differently, and take tests and talk with a mentor to identify work you might find more exciting. If you are a college grad, keep in mind that your college career services office may be able to help you, regardless of when you graduated.
  • Situation: You're not developing in your career and no one is giving you feedback. Solution: You must take responsibility for your own life and career development. You can wait forever for a non-communicative boss to give you feedback about areas to improve and your personal and professional growth. In fact, in some organizations, you can wait years for a performance appraisal or performance feedback. Why wait for someone else? No one will ever care as much about your personal and career development as you do. And no one else has as much to gain as you do from your continued growth.
  • Situation: You hate your boss; he or she is just a bad boss. But you continue to work there. Solution: Bad bosses, whether abdicators of responsibility or just plain nasty people, rarely change without some life-transforming event occurring. The event may happen, but how long are you willing to wait around complaining about how unhappy you are at work? Even with feedback, bad bosses rarely change. Cut your losses, transfer and/or move on to something better.
  • Situation: You work for a company that has business practices you don't respect. They lie to customers and make promises to employees that are never kept. Solution: Bail as quickly as you can. The culture that enables those practices is a tough one to change—if any of the leaders even want to change the culture. Since executives and company founders largely drive the culture, don't hold your breath. There are better, more ethical, companies where you can seek employment.
  • Situation: Your company is constantly in danger of going under and you live in fear about getting fired or laid off. Solution: Many good companies experience temporary woes. But a company that is constantly operating near bankruptcy can wear out your optimism and enthusiasm. This is especially true if you are not in a position to have a big impact on the company's budgeting, spending, or financial performance. It may be time to move on.
  • Situation: You are staying in a job in which you feel stuck. There are many reasons why you may feel stuck. Your company may be small, and there is nowhere for you to go. Perhaps you've been passed over for promotion because of a lack of education, experience, or mentoring opportunities. Solution: If you've sought additional responsibilities and an expanded job, but haven't had any success, or if you've talked with your boss and the problems appear to be insurmountable, it's time to go. It's OK to be ambitious and seek to expand your knowledge and career—so go do it.
  • Situation: You try to make contributions and come up with ideas to improve the work or work environment, but your ideas are never implemented. Worse, they go into a dark hole, and you never hear a response to your suggestions at all. Solution: Staying in a work environment that fails to respond to employee suggestions will eventually make you question the value of your suggestions. Any environment that promotes you questioning your value or your contribution is toxic to your self-esteem and self-confidence. Find a more supportive work environment.
  • Situation: You are tired of living paycheck to paycheck. Your current job is never going to pay you more than minimum wage and you don't want to wait years to make a decent living. Solution: Find the facts. Learn about comparable positions and what they pay. Make a decision: For how much money and how long are you willing to work? You have options. Explore a better-paying future.

You want to live your life as if the glass is half full, not half empty, so consider each of these described situations carefully. Are you settling for less than you can have or be? If so, you may want to consider other options. A happier life is worth it!