Do I stay, or do I go? If you don’t like your job, there’re ways to make it bearable – but how do you know when it’s actually time to quit?

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It’s safe to say that we’ve all either personally hated a job or had friends and family who hated theirs.

Whether you’re underpaid, your boss is awful, or the job is just simply boring, there are plenty of reasons why you may be unhappy at work.

But just because hating your job is not an uncommon feeling, that doesn’t make it easier if you’re actually miserable.

Being unhappy at a job can take a toll on your mental health, physical health, and overall well-being.

Work takes up a significant part of our lives. The average American spends 60-70% of their days working. And on those days, over half of their time awake is spent working, too.

So, if we spend so much time at work, why is it that so many of us don’t like our jobs? There are many reasons. Some common ones include:

  • low pay or lack of benefits
  • a bad boss
  • toxic work culture
  • poor communication
  • a long or stressful commute
  • unfulfilling or boring tasks
  • bad hours
  • high demand and low recognition

Many people hate something about their job – whether they’re unsatisfied with the work or the environment. Many of us probably hear our friends, family, and even co-workers complain about their jobs nearly every day.

But it’s not just you or them.

  • In the 2020 Great Jobs Report, an estimated 40% of U.S. employees reported worsening job quality since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A 2020 job satisfaction survey found that about 44% of people were not satisfied with their jobs.
  • The CNBC and SurveyMonkey workforce survey found that 27% of people were not engaged in their jobs.
  • A 2019 Gallup survey reported that 44% of Americans say they’re in a “mediocre job,” while 16% say they’re in a “bad job.”

These surveys also reported that overall quality of life was closely related to job quality. In other words, not liking your job can affect other aspects of your life.

Hating your job can create lots of stress and worry. One Stanford study found that nearly 5-8% of all U.S. healthcare costs are associated with how companies treat their employees.

Not being satisfied with your job can take a toll on your mental and physical health. It can lead to:

If you’re unhappy at your job, consider taking steps to improve your work life, thereby lowering stress and preventing other future health problems.

Of course, if leaving your job were easy, everyone who hated their work would quit today. But there are a lot of reasons people stay at jobs longer than they probably should.

  • The money. How will you pay the bills if you quit your job? The immediate need for a paycheck keeps tons of people from leaving a job they hate.
  • Lack of other opportunities. If there’s no other job out there that seems more appealing than what you’ve got now, why leave? Plus, a shortage of jobs often means bigger and more competitive applicant pools.
  • Benefits. In the United States and other countries that tie health insurance to employment, leaving a job that provides insurance is a risky move. Staying at a job you hate is far more likely if it provides a health plan that would otherwise be unavailable or too expensive.
  • The sense of security. The fear of the unknown that naturally comes with quitting a job often prevents people from leaving unsatisfying jobs.

So, if you hate your job, your boss, your company, or just about everything about your job, what can you do? Here are some tips.

Build connections with co-workers

Making friends at work isn’t just about having others to commiserate with, although sometimes that certainly helps.

Developing genuine connections with your colleagues can make work feel more meaningful and fun.

It also gives you something to look forward to every day, even if you dread the actual work.

Ask a co-worker out to lunch one day, or bring coffee and donuts in as a way of starting personal conversations and boosting morale.

Identify the problems and make adjustments

Before making any hasty decisions, consider some helpful adjustments. If you can identify specific things that are causing you stress or unhappiness at the job, take steps to remedy them.

Having problems with a co-worker? Set up a time to meet in person – maybe with a supervisor – to talk it out.

Don’t understand what’s expected of you? Ask your boss for clarification.

Making positive changes where possible can make a world of difference in your overall happiness at work.

Give yourself time to adjust

If you just started a new job and are already unhappy, it can be tempting to just throw it all away and leave. But don’t jump the gun.

Sometimes all it takes to warm up to a job is getting your feet wet. Acclimating to a new environment, learning your responsibilities, and getting to know your coworkers could change your opinion of the job.

So before rushing out the door or branding your new job as horrible, give it a chance.

Take steps to improve your well-being outside of work

Being miserable at work may affect your personal life, but low life satisfaction can make work a lot worse than it might be otherwise, too.

Sometimes what we think is just aggravation caused by work is actually a deeper issue.

Reflect on what’s actually causing your stress, anxiety, or sadness. Talking with a friend or therapist could help you figure out how to make positive changes in and out of work.

If the problem is that work simply isn’t fulfilling you, consider looking outside your job for mental satisfaction. New friendships, a volunteer position, or just a new hobby could help fill the void left by an unsatisfying job.

Create new connections

One productive thing you can do is network. Creating connections with supervisors, co-workers, and clients could be the key to landing your next job.

A whopping 60% of all jobs are found by networking.

Start talking with people and exchanging business cards. It may take only one good connection to open up better opportunities.

Resign with class

There comes a time when leaving a job you hate is the only remaining option.

It’s likely time to leave if:

  • you wake up dreading work every single day
  • you see no future or room for growth
  • your mental and physical health are taking a hit
  • you’ve tried everything to make it better

Instead of storming into the boss’s office and yelling “I quit,” take the time to write your resignation letter giving your two weeks’ notice. Consider offering to train someone to take over your duties, and leave with no hard feelings.

Remember: You might need a referral for a new position, or the new job might want to call your old one for a reference. As the saying goes, you don’t want to “burn any bridges” on your way out the door.

You want to leave on a good note so you can start your new position with renewed energy and better perspective.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to managing a job that you hate. Each situation is unique.

It can be hard to stay positive when work is miserable, but there are steps you can take to improve your working life and overall well-being.

If you’re still unhappy and are able to explore other options, it might be time to look for another job.