How to make the most of a job you hate

About half of Canadians are unhappy at their current job, says a report from Hays Canada.
About half of Canadians are unhappy at their current job, says a report from Hays Canada. Getty Images

Over the holiday season, people often find downtime to do some personal and professional soul searching in the hopes of starting the New Year happy and on the right foot.

One of the most common things contemplated is dissatisfaction with work. According to the Harvard Business Review, people are more likely to take action in their career following large social gatherings – like big holiday bashes, for example.

In fact, job hunting jumps 16 per cent after reunions, the publication’s data found.

What’s more, according to, two of the biggest months for job searches are January and February.

READ MORE: New Year’s resolutions for 2017 and how to keep them

But don’t be too quick to jump the gun and quit your job, says senior career coach Lee Weisser at Careers by Design.

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“Sometimes the first feeling is that you want to jump ship immediately and it’s usually not a good idea,” she says. “It’s usually a reaction made out of frustration and ultimately you want to make your decisions when you’re feeling a little more positive.”

Instead, try making the most out of your current job situation before handing out résumés (should that be your ultimate decision) because you may be missing out on a great opportunity for growth.

Why people quit

There are many reasons why people choose to quit their jobs. However, a study by recruitment firm Hays Canada found that the number one reason why Canadians leave or lose a job is due to a lack of workplace fit.

“Workplace social compatibility is no longer a nice-to-have,” Rowan O’Grady, president of Hays Canada, noted in the report. “Our workstyles have evolved and so have notions around the separation between work and the ability to have fun while doing so. Our poll responses demonstrate that it’s time for people and companies to be honest with themselves and give much more thought to the aspects of work they find most fulfilling.”

Bad worker-manager relationships are also cited as why people leave their jobs, a Gallup study found. About 50 per cent of those surveyed said they had left a past job because they didn’t get along with senior staff, Fortune reports.

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Another study by employee engagement firm TINYpulse also found several other reasons why people are more likely to want to leave a job, as reported by Forbes:

  • Employees are 28 per cent more likely to want to leave a job if they have limited freedom to make decisions about the job they’re doing;
  • Employees who feel overworked and burnt out are 31 per cent more likely to leave;
  • If the work culture isn’t positive, employees are 15 per cent more likely to switch companies;
  • Employees who feel they’re not being recognized or appreciated for their contributions are 11 per cent more likely to leave.

What to do

People often experience ups and downs in their jobs, Weisser says, so it’s important to take the time to determine if this is just a lull period (post-holidays) or if there’s something more at play.

READ MORE: How not to ruin your career, with lessons from Katherine Heigl

“The New Year is a good time to take stock of where you’re at,” says Weisser. “While it’s a good time to think about the things you hate, it’s also a good time to think about the things you’ve accomplished over the past year, your successes and the things that have given you the most personal satisfaction. Those are going to be clues to the things you might want to do more of in order to feel more fulfilled and happy at work.”

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So before handing in your resignation, Weisser suggests doing the following first:

  1. Take a step back and re-evaluate: Sometimes people have a hard time determining what makes them unhappy at work, and it may be a combination of things. Weisser suggests making a pros and cons list of what you like and dislike about your job. This will help you get a clearer picture of where you stand. But, Weisser says, don’t cop out and write down vague points; get specific. It could be something as simple as liking or disliking the neighbourhood your office is in, the cafeteria food or the people you work with.
  2. Focus on you: A person may return to work after an extended break feeling unhappy because while they were off they had the chance to experience something new (like being creative, or solving a problem). If they feel that aspect is lacking in their role at work, Weisser says, they may be able to speak to their manager about developing their skills in those specific arenas.
  3. Talk to your manager: Now that you’ve determined what’s lacking in your job, schedule a meeting with you manager. This is your time to discuss your concerns and offer solutions. If it’s the logistics of the job bogging you down – like the hours, for example – it doesn’t hurt to ask if they can be tinkered with. If it’s your role at work, ask your manager if they’d be willing to let you take on new responsibilities and incorporate your brainstorming ideas. Maybe the solution is to be transferred to another department where you feel you can utilize your hidden talents, gain new skills and be challenged.
  4. Take care of yourself outside of work: Your whole life doesn’t have to revolve around work. Take up a hobby or do something you enjoy. Eating healthy and exercising will also help you to feel better (exercise doesn’t have to be in the gym, it could be a walk after dinner) and adopt an overall positive attitude that will spill over into your work environment.
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