Take This Job and...Never Mind

How to Resolve Problems at Work Instead of Quitting

Man with head in his hands
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When Jim graduated from college, he began his first job within days. The employer recruited him before graduation. Just after he received his first paycheck, Jim moved out of his parent's house into an apartment of his own. A couple of months later he bought a new car. All was going well...until it wasn't.

About six months into his job, his employer merged with another company. Jim's boss, who was also his mentor, got transferred. Jim had a new boss who paid little attention to what Jim was doing except when he criticized him. Jim's job was still a dream—a bad one!

He was stuck in a job he hated. He knew his lack of experience and abbreviated tenure with his employer would plague his job search. He also didn't think he would get a good reference.

Jim's situation isn't all that unusual. In fact, you may find that it hits very close to home. Do you want to quit your job, but can't due to extenuating circumstances. You may have a job you don't like (or even hate), but know you won't be able to find another one due to lack of experience. Or you may have a mortgage to pay or a family to help support and can't risk losing the income. Whatever your reason for staying at a job you dislike, there are ways to make the best of this less than ideal situation.

Figure Out What You Don't Like and What You Do

The first thing you need to do is sit down and make a list of the things you don't like about your job. Now come on, don't say "everything." Sometimes when you hate something, or several things, about your job, it makes you so miserable it seems as if you hate it all. Try to find specific problems.

Pick a time to think about it when there is a little distance between you and work. Doing this will allow you to see things more clearly. Vacation time is ideal, but a weekend will do. Be specific. If you say you don't get along with your boss, list the things about him or her that bother you.

Now, list the things you like about your job. Again, don't say "nothing." Sometimes all the bad stuff overshadows the good, but if you look hard enough, you can find something you like about your job. Maybe it's your boss, or your coworkers, or some of your duties.

Then look at the list of things you dislike. Can you easily resolve any of these issues? Most situations are not as hopeless as they seem. For example, if you're having problems with your boss, can you sit down and discuss them with him or her? Before you do, try to look at the issue objectively. There are two sides to every story. Make an effort to see your boss's side. Maybe you can make some changes that will improve the relationship.

Are you unhappy with the work itself? Sometimes a job evolves so that what you were hired to do isn't at all what you are doing. If you are only doing work in which you're not interested, you need to do something about it. Don't let your employer define your career path for you. You must be proactive about your career or you will just be dragged along. Unless you get experience in your field, you won't be able to build your resume. Of course, this isn't what you want to tell your boss, but you should speak up.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do? Having many responsibilities isn't necessarily a bad thing. Your boss may have given them to you because he or she felt you could handle it. If you are indeed drowning in work and can't complete it within a reasonable amount of time, you must talk to your boss.

Next, consider the list of things you like about your job. Are there specific things you enjoy doing. Try to take on more of those responsibilities. Most likely, if you enjoy what you're doing, you will do it well, and this could lead to your boss noticing your performance.

Do you get along with your boss but hate the work you're doing? A smart boss will be hesitant to give up an employee with whom he or she has a good relationship and will probably be willing to accommodate him or her. Let your boss know that you would like to do more of the work you enjoy but are willing to pick up the slack when he or she needs you to.

Are You Looking For More?

People sometimes complain they are bored with their jobs. They feel they can handle greater responsibility than their boss has given them. Express an interest in projects you know you can handle. If you get turned down, don't worry. Prove yourself instead. Find volunteer opportunities where you can hone your skills. Call your boss's attention to what you are accomplishing outside of work. If he or she doesn't acknowledge your new experience, take comfort in the fact that it will look great on your resume when you embark on a job search.

Go back to school on your employer's dime, if possible. Find out what educational benefits your company offers. Many larger organizations provide tuition assistance or reimbursement for their employees. It is sometimes required that you stay at the company for a specified period of time after completing your education. With the cost of tuition as high as it is, making this commitment might be worth it.

Following the suggestions in this article can help you get the most out of a less than perfect situation. If you have no choice but to stay with your current employer, you have nothing to lose anyway. You may even gain something—new skills or additional education, for example. You may find that not only can you tolerate your job, but you may also even begin to enjoy it.