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Misery loves company. Your company, perhaps? If you hate your job, there are several ways to reframe your negative thoughts before you even think about quitting. The Cut’s “Ask a Boss” columnist Alison Green has answered letters from readers confronting unhappiness at work. Her advice for six different scenarios appears below.
1. ‘How Do I Survive the Day?’
“I should love my job. But I don’t.” This reader has a hard time just getting through the day. The work culture is bad, her team is dysfunctional, and the company’s management is terrible. But she wants to make the most of it.
The most important thing to do, according to Green: “Get really, really clear-eyed about what your company is like, what its limitations are, and what you can and can’t expect from your work there. Right now, you’re judging it against what it should be.” Mentally reposition yourself.
2. ‘I’m Burnt Out!’
If your office is in understaffed-crisis-survival mode — in this woman’s case, for ten months after another employee’s abrupt departure — maybe you’re the one person who’s holding it all together. Which is … unbearably exhausting. The woman loved her job; now she wants to quit.
First, for your mental health, remember that you don’t have to put up with whatever people throw at you, Green advises. You can always leave if you want to. But before quitting, consider this: “You probably have a great deal of leverage right now, maybe more than you realize, because you’re the person who’s keeping things together,” she says. Talk to your bosses. Green has a word-for-word script.
3. ‘Am I Just … Bad at My Job?’
What’s the difference between having an impossible workload, and failing? Which one is it? You’re miserable either way. “I feel like I’m drowning,” this reader writes. It’s her first office job, but her manager says the busy season is normal — it’s just what everyone has to do. Plus, her boss is bad at communicating expectations and deadlines.
Green says that in an ideal world, you should be able to talk to your boss about feeling overwhelmed, so you two can discuss what you’re able to move off your plate — or discuss why she thinks you should be able to manage it all. Of course, it’s possible this is a boss problem — when this reader asked about it, her manager just said she had to get it all done. But you can also try to prioritize better just for a week, and see if it helps. “Spend 15 minutes at the start and end of every day planning and prioritizing your work for the week to see if that makes things more manageable,” Green advises. More here.
4. ‘I Care So Much About Work That I’m Miserable.’
This reader has cried at work and felt too angry to focus when a meeting doesn’t go as planned. When you’re too emotionally invested in your work — to the point of constantly stressing about it at your desk and to your family or friends after work — it helps to remember what you’re being paid to worry about. If something is out of your control, then it’s someone else’s job to stress about that issue at your company.
“A good test is to ask yourself: Will this matter to the company or to me personally in six months? In a year? The vast majority of the time, the answer will be no,” Green writes. “On the rare occasions that it’s not, that’s when you press the point.” Why you can worry less.
5. ‘I’m Not Qualified to Do This Job!’
After a year on in your position without feeling like you’ve progressed, is it ever okay to ask your employer for a more junior role? This reader says she’s noticed her boss is increasingly frustrated with her work, even after they’ve talked one-on-one about her mistakes.
“Before you decide anything, talk to someone who knows your work,” Green says. “Because the thing is, while it’s possible that your self-assessment is accurate and you really aren’t the right match for the role, it’s also possible that you’re far more critical of your own performance than anyone else is.” Try this reality check.
6. ‘Dealing With Customers Is Making Me Depressed!’
Customer service is a thankless job — and as one of many responsibilities for this reader, it’s stressing her out. She feels depressed and burnt out and stresses over confrontations and negative interactions with customers, long after they happen. She’s seeing a therapist but still anxious about it; her boss is sympathetic but can’t do much.
“You don’t have to stay there if you’re truly miserable!” Green says. First, try to focus on what’s great about your job: maybe it’s the pay or benefits or an easy commute, a relaxed work environment or an abundance of opportunities to grow in other areas. Even if you do decide to leave, you likely won’t find a job overnight. Green has three ideas for making your job more bearable immediately.
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