Help! My job is making me miserable!

“Help! My job is making me miserable!” I’ve heard that line a few times. And I have been there too. I’ve got some good news for you. I am telling you exactly how to get out of this feeling today.

But before we dive in, we need to do a quick reality check. Is it the job or is it you? We will then look at ways to bring you to a better feeling straight away. And then we will look at what needs to be done next to get you into a job that doesn’t make you miserable.  

My job is making me miserable… or is it me?  

Sometimes it is hard to know whether the problem is the job or us. It could be that you are in the wrong role or the wrong environment for you. Sometimes we are even the wrong career!

That said, you could be down because of factors external to work but you have left it go on for so long that you no longer enjoy a job you used to love. That can be a symptom of depression and if this is the case, you might want to seek support to get you back on track.

It’s an injustice!

Be mindful of not falling into a victim mindset. This statement “my job is making me…” is a sign that you might be falling into this trap.

Do you remember Calimero? It’s an injustice! He is the archetype of the victim mindset.

I used to have a victim mindset. When I was 19, I worked in a supermarket as a cashier at the weekend. I got this job because it was convenient. I was studying Monday to Friday and working at the supermarket Saturday and Sunday.

It was convenient, and it helped me make the cash I needed to save to buy my first car and run it. But I hated it. Everyone was miserable. People were mean (with insight I was probably attracting that with my I-am-a-law-student-I-am-better-than-you-arrogant-attitude). I sucked at it too. And I hated every minute I was there.

And I was vocal about it. I would get home and complain for hours to my poor mum about it. One day she had enough of this and said: “You don’t have to work there if you hate it so much. You know you are free to resign and get another job, right?” I grumbled that I did know but it would be the same everywhere else, it was just the type of jobs and I needed something at the weekend because of uni during the week.

I think my mum’s answer was along the lines of: “then please stop complaining about it!” She had enough of my complaints and with insight I would agree with her. There was another way, I was just closed to it. But my mum had planted the seed.  

There is always another way  

The reality is that you are in charge of your life. You decide what you do and what you don’t. If something doesn’t work for you, you have the power to change it.

The story of 19 years old me continues. Later that year, I met a girl at uni who had managed to secure a work placement with a great renowned law firm in Paris for the summer.  

I don’t think I had ever been this jealous in my entire life! This girl had terrible grades and barely showed up to lectures, but her rich parents had taken her skying with rich people and she met this lawyer who gave her a work placement. She had connections and I didn’t.

And here I was, working every single day, never going on holiday, playing by the rules, and I was not being handed over any work placement. Once again I was stuck in victim mode.

How it all changed

I am not proud of it, but anger has been a powerful fuel for success in my youth. In this occasion, I was so mad at the injustice that I decided that if this girl could get a work placement, then so could I. I enterprised to write to the one hundred law firms that I could access by public transport (I didn’t have the car yet) to apply for a work placement over the summer. I did not require payment and I would do whatever work would be of service to them.

Bear in mind this was 1999 and the custom in France was to send handwritten cover letters. Yes, it took a while. But it paid off and I got a work placement with a lawyer who was not too far from me. I worked for her for free for a month, while still working at the supermarket at the weekend of course. At the end of the month, she offered me a part-time job with her, and I finally quit my cashier job I hated so much to do a job I loved and that helped me get into Montpellier Business Law School which was my dream.  

How to stop feeling miserable in your job TODAY

You don’t have to follow in the footsteps of 19 years old me and endure your job.

Even if you feel like you can’t change roles right now, there are things you can do today to make the experience of working wherever you work better.

The advice I would give to my young self is as follow.

Help! My job is making me miserable!

Change the filter

It wasn’t my job that making me miserable. I was miserable and carried my mood with me wherever I went criticizing everything and everyone. I was looking at the world through a negative filter that was tainting everything around me.  

If you are enjoying this article, you might enjoy this one too:  Working from home or living at work? How to keep the balance

The reality is that my experience at the supermarket could have been very different. I could have decided to enjoy it. But I had decided to hate it. And so I had the worst time.

Yes, there were people who worked there who were miserable. I was one of them. But there were also some lovely happy people and I choose to ignore this fact. And yes, the supervisor was on occasion mean to me. But that is because I thought I was better than her because I was going to university, and that one day I would be a lawyer. Who was the mean girl after all?!

If I had been a little friendlier, things could have been better. So, my advice now would be: put a smile on your face, push your prejudices to the side for a minute and look around. At the end of the day, your colleagues are humans. If you bring a positive energy, they will respond to it and your day will improve.   

I learned that from a dear friend I met through work about 10 years ago. She used to walk in and say extremely loudly: “Good morning everyone!”. She made us all laugh and brighten our day. Everybody loved that girl.

Look for things to enjoy

You might be in the wrong job and need a new one. And that’s ok. But while you look for that new job, are there things you can do in this one so that you could enjoy it just a tiny bit?

It is rare that we absolutely hate every single aspect of our work. Are there any task that you do enjoy? What are the little things that will improve your day? Who are the people who can brighten your day? Try to focus on these tasks and these people and notice if this makes a change to the way you feel about your job.  

Even when I was working in that supermarket job, there were little moments of respite when I had an interaction with a nice customer or when I was stacking shelves and a song I liked came on the radio.   

What you focus on grows, so focus on the positives in your job and you will start to feel better.

What changes could you make

Are they any small changes you could make in your current role that could make a difference to your day?

A few examples:  

  • If you have a commute from hell, could you request to work from home once a week?
  • Could you shift your working hours slightly so that you are able to attend that class that you always wanted to try after work or so that you commute is a little less stressful?
  • Could you spend a little more time with your happy bubbly positive colleagues who always bring you up?   

What are the small adjustments that a reasonable line manager couldn’t say no to that could make a difference to how you feel about your job?

Start brainstorming now and try something, anything. Just taking action will make you feel better as you shift from Calimero to the hero of the story.  

What can you be grateful for?

The last thing you can do to enjoy your job more is to look at why you got this job in the first place.

What is this job bringing you that you can be grateful for?

In the story from earlier, I took this job because I needed to buy a car and I needed a weekend job. If I had focused on this and been grateful for these 2 things every day before going to work, it would have slightly affected my mood and over I could have showed up with a better attitude.  

What about you? What can you be grateful for when it comes to your current job?

  • Are there certain colleagues that you like seeing?
  • Are you learning certain skills that you need for your dream job?
  • Is this job paying the bills, putting a roof over your head and feeding your kids?  

Help! My job is making me miserable! – key take-aways

  1. Check yourself: is it the job or it is you?
  2. Look again at the situation but with happy goggles on
  3. Is there anything you do enjoy in your current job?
  4. What changes could you make to be happier at work?
  5. What can you be grateful for with regard to your job?

Try these simple hacks and let me know how you get on

Have you got yourself out of a job you hated and into a job you loved before? What worked out for you? I’d love to hear your stories. Let me know in the comments.

Further resources

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor

This article is part of the series Happier At Work, which you can find here.

And remember, happiness is a choice, and you are in charge!

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