‘I Hate Working, But I Have To’ — 3 Ways to Start Liking Work Again

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k

“I hate working, but I have to.” How many times have you said this to someone else or yourself?

If you’re unhappy with your job — or your work life in general — every day can feel like a slog. So, how do you get out of the funk? Find out why work might be taking its toll on your happiness and what you can do to start enjoying it again (or for the first time).

The concept of work

Work has been around since the dawn of time, although its purpose, significance, and content varies considerably from culture to culture. 

People spend much of their lives working. In the United States, today’s employees seek more than a paycheck; they also want fulfillment and joy from their work lives. It’s not just about earning a living; it’s also about having a passion for the work they do and creating meaning in their own lives and sometimes the lives of others. 

While the standard model of work in the U.S. is the 9-5 (or longer) job, the concept and nature of work is evolving to encompass different models. The gig economy, for example, has meant that rather than relying on a single full-time job, many workers are seeking many different vehicles and holding numerous jobs simultaneously.

Why the concept of work is unappealing to some people

For many people, the idea of work itself is not as much of a problem as some aspect of it. For example, a worker might hate her current job or a particular responsibility she has. The very idea of work may not sit well with others because they have low self-esteem, believing that what they accomplish or produce has no value. Others may lack motivation or ambition because they don’t believe in the merit of the work they’re performing or worry about taking on too much responsibility. 

Common reasons why someone might hate her job

A Gallup poll found that just 30 percent of U.S. workers are “engaged” with their jobs. Job dissatisfaction can take a toll on other areas of people’s lives, including their mental health. Common reasons for hating a job include:

• Burnout

Burnout is a feeling of exhaustion and unhappiness. People who suffer from burnout generally feel unable to cope with the demands of work and life. It often results from overextending oneself and dealing with stressors in your career and life.

• Poor work-life balance

Technology presents great opportunity but also means people can never truly be “off.” With email and work itself so easily accessible at all hours the day, many workers have jobs that seem to be 24/7.

• Pay

Dissatisfaction with your salary is a huge factor in people being unhappy with their jobs. After all, it’s hard to get excited about work if you feel like you’re being compensated unfairly. 

• Lack of opportunity for advancement

When it feels like you’re stuck in a dead-end job, it can be difficult to muster enthusiasm for your work. Some companies offer few opportunities for promotions, and when you’re continuing to do the same thing every day with no apparent end in sight, you may dread going to work. 

3 steps to help you start liking work again

So, what can you do to start investing in your work and career again? Here are some ideas to help you take control of a difficult situation.

1. Identify what you like and don’t like about your job

Don’t immediately say “Nothing” and “Everything” respectively. There must be some things you like about your job, just as there are areas you wish would improve. Start by making a list of the aspects of your job you enjoy, such as your friendships with coworkers or the nice perks. Try to include at least some tasks or responsibilities on this list. Make another list with tasks you don’t like. 

Try to make small changes to your everyday responsibilities, incorporating more of the tasks you do like. Even when you have to complete projects or assignments that are annoying or stressful, remind yourself of the benefits of your job. What you take on may not be entirely up to you, but you can work toward focusing on the good rather than the bad and remind yourself that you do enjoy some aspects of your work.

2. Reframe your job.

In their study, “Crafting a Job: Revisioning Employees as Active Crafters of Their Work” (The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 26, No. 2), Amy Wrzesniewski and Jane E. Dutton found that people who like their jobs frame it differently in their minds from those who don’t. A hospital worker reminded herself that she was helping people, for example.

You can even go as far as to give yourself the label you want — at least in your head. This will encourage you to remember why you chose this line of work in the first place and strive to meet your own goals in reference to your responsibilities. Wrzesniewski and Dutton explain that the reframing doesn’t just change how you think about your job; it also leads to better engagement with it. 

3. Think of three good things that happened every day.

When you get home, reflect on your day and think of three positive things that happened. Perhaps you completed a stressful project or had a nice conversation with a coworker. Maybe you got some positive feedback from your manager. It could even be as small as getting a seat on the train.

This is a technique from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that can enable you to appreciate the positive aspects of your work and life, even when other parts feel overwhelming. 

3 alternatives to the traditional 9-5

Of course, not everyone loves the usual 9-5 desk job. But what can you do instead?

1. Freelance

There are many skills and talents that lend themselves to freelancing — writing, photography, programming, music, web development and more. If you’re tired of the 9–5 slog, consider making your freelance work a full-time job. Just keep in mind that it can be hard work and requires commitment and patience. If you’re not ready to quit your full-time job, consider taking on a side hustle to see if you like it first. This can also help you enjoy your work more since you don’t have direct your entire focus to a job you dislike.

2. Start your own business

Have that entrepreneurial spirit? Consider starting your own business. Getting your great idea off the ground takes time, energy and lots and lots of networking, but it can ultimately be rewarding and allows you to give the world a solution to a problem you’ve identified. 

3. Telecommute

If you’re looking for more flexibility and the ability to work from the comfort of your own home, see if you can telecommute rather than going into an office every day. Your employer may not allow you to do this all the time, but perhaps it could be an occasional option. This style of working is becoming increasingly common, so you may even find a job that lets you telecommute all or most of the time.

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