Graeme CodringtonI was recently asked to contribute to a magazine feature that focussed on helping people get the most of jobs, even when they hated doing what they did. This is a tough topic for me, as I enjoy nearly every moment of my job. I also work for myself (although the company I co-founded now has over 30 people in it). But I interact often with people who are desperate to escape. It comes with the territory when you do what we do – we show people what the future could be, and we help companies think about how to make better working environments. So, while doing some research into what others have said on the topic, I discovered some nice pearls of wisdom to add to some of what would say.

There are way too many people who are stuck in jobs they don’t like. Of course, everything in life has its downside, and every job has aspects that are unpleasant and draining. When these elements become the norm, though, and begin to characterise one’s work experience, its time for change. No-one can survive hating their job day in and day out. Even if it’s physically possible, it is emotionally, psychologically and spiritually devastating to attempt to do so for an extended period of time.
Motivation to thrive in the workplace comes from a variety of sources, different for each person. Key motivators include other people, a sense of significance and contribution, a sense of purpose and passion, congruence with one’s gifts, abilities and skills, being stretched and growing, freedom to express creativity, rewards (financial and otherwise) and a sense of empowerment and identity. When items in this list are not addressed, the job becomes draining instead of energising. No one element, however much of it is on offer, can compensate for the lack of other elements in this mix
Here then, is a collection of things you can do to get the most out of a job you’re stuck in:

  • Aim for something – it’s not good enough to simply hate where you are with no real idea of what your ideal job would be. You need to know your own abilities, skills, strengths, weaknesses, passions and personality – all these will indicate a certain type of job and industry that makes sense for you. Do research to help you understand what your “dream jobâ€? actually entails – both positive and negative.
  • Find out if all the other opportunities to work in your chosen field are as unhealthy for you as your current workplace.
  • What don’t you like? – take some time out away from your job (a long weekend or holiday is ideal), and make a list of the things you don’t like about your job. Don’t say “everythingâ€?. Sometimes when you hate something, or several things, about your job, it gets you so down that it seems as if you hate it all. But that’s not true. Don’t put people’s names on your list – rather put things that people do. Be specific. Naming the specifics might help you realise things are not as bad as they seem.
    • Take one item each week from this list, and see how you can improve it, even just slightly.
    • Focus on what you want instead of your desire to escape. When you find yourself becoming cynical or telling someone how much you hate some aspect of your job, stop in mid-sentence and start a new statement with: “What I really want to have is….â€?
    • Change the physical space of your workplace – new plants, move the desk around, open a window – small physical adjustments can make a big difference.
  • What do you like? – now, list all the things you like about your job. Again, don’t say “nothingâ€?. Sometimes all the shadows blot out the bright spots, but if you look hard enough you can find something that you like about your job. Even something small. Write these down.
    • Make “meâ€? time – do one thing each day that you like. You can select these from your list above or do something else.
    • Improve a bad relationship by building a bridge from your side. Some people are just grumpy and simply won’t like you. Instead of getting upset or thinking it’s something you did, simply ask that person each day, “Is there anything I can do for you?â€? Over time, this is very hard for them to resist.
  • Focus on developing your skills. Take every course that’s offered and focus on skills that can set you up for your own business or desired next job. Do extra reading and courses after hours, too.
  • Give satisfactory, not superior performance. You’re not planning to stay, and you’re not really interested in a promotion, so create some free time for yourself. Of course, you need to be ethical – you owe your company the minimum you need to earn your salary. But work smarter, not harder.
  • Delegate. Pass off some of the tedious work to an enthusiastic staff member who is forging a career in your company. Let them get the glory, too.
  • Actively seek feedback – Ask bosses, colleagues and subordinates, “How am I doing?â€? use the feedback to increase your performance. But most importantly, use it for self-awareness and self-development.
  • Keep your bridges intact – it really is a small world, and you never know when you’ll meet your co-workers again in the future. Maintain your contacts, build your network and keep your relationships positive.
  • Post your moans on a website like, or your own blog. You’ll feel better when you get it off your chest, and you’ll see that others have got it way worse than you – that’s always a healthy perspective.
  • Pay attention to your physical and mental health. Eat right, exercise and get enough sleep.
  • Get a life – in your spare time, treat yourself. Start a hobby, and chase an interest. Take the time to do whatever it is that you’re passionate about. No one ever said at the end of their life, “I wish I’d spent more time at the officeâ€?.
  • Just do it! If none of the above works, then just do it. Leave. Yes, there will be consequences, but this global village we live in is alive with possibility, and if you’re better than your current job allows, get out there are make something more of your life.


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