If you really can’t stand your job, you’ve probably fantasised about quitting a million times. Maybe you’ve outgrown your gig or you’ve been assigned far more work than one person can reasonably handle. But there’s nothing worse than being stuck in a job that you know is a dead end. It’s especially tough when due to finances or other constraints, you definitely can’t quit. Of course looking for a new job is always a great option, but in today’s market, job searching can take longer than you’d ideally want. That’s why we tapped professional career coach Lisa Lewis to get her creative strategies for how to deal when you can’t stand your job but need to stay.
Try to fix what’s bugging you.
You may think you’ve already done everything possible to improve your workplace situation, but according to Lewis, there are some less obvious but tried-and-true methods you can use to attempt to make things more bearable. “Try making requests that will give you flexibility or new options that could make you happier,” she says. Lewis suggests requesting work from home days (or half days), asking for another employee’s help with a too-huge-to-handle-alone project, expensing dinner when you stay late at the office, and using comp days in the future to make up for long hours worked now.
“If the situation is toxic because of your boss,” says Lewis, “pursue options around getting a new supervisor, work on new projects with different team members, or take your full lunch break and get offsite with a friendly colleague.” The most important thing is to make sure you aren’t suffering silently, as long as you’re smart when confiding in other coworkers or superiors. “If you’re miserable but people don’t know how bad your situation is, they won’t have the chance to help.”
Change things up.
Lewis recommends watching Shaun Achor’s “The Happy Secret to Better Work” TED Talk for some great tips for managing your internal experience of a terrible job. If you don’t have time to watch it, here are a few of her other suggestions: send gratitude emails to yourself every morning, take quick breaks at the office to meditate, and perform random acts of kindness for your coworkers. “Getting out of your own head and shifting your focus externally can be the best antidote to make the exact same job feel different,” she says.
Fine tune your self-care routine.
Taking positive actions for yourself is a surefire way to remove some of the focus from what’s happening at work. “While your career is a significant part of your identity,” Lewis reminds us, “it is never your full identity, so tap back into the things you love like having dinner with friends, reading a book, going for a hike, or catching a movie.” Think about ways you can prioritize and sustain yourself outside of work, and don’t spend more time than necessary at the office. If your work is done, there’s no reason to come in early or stay late at the expense of your well-being.
[Related: Top 25 Companies for Work-Life Balance]
Create an escape plan.
If you’re not confident that your dream job is on the horizon and you know you can’t stay where you are, it’s important to figure out how you can get out of your current situation responsibly. “Identify exactly how much money you would need to feel comfortable putting in your notice without another job lined up, both in an emergency situation (where moving in with family or friends might be an option if you had to pull the plug right now), and in a homeostasis model, where you continue on with mostly a similar lifestyle living off savings in between jobs.” It’s okay if you don’t have all that money right now, but Lewis suggests working towards establishing a safety net as quickly and you reasonably can. “Even if you only find $10 a week to squirrel away right now, that money gives you choices, options, and freedom later.”
[Related: Why Do People Quit Their Dream Job?]
The silver lining of all of this? At the end of the day, it might seem like you have to keep working no matter what, but Lewis argues that you most likely have more power than you think. “In 99% of situations, you do have the ability to quit, even if it would be a very uncomfortable situation. Identifying ways you have a choice can help you take control over improving your circumstances or extricating yourself.” Ultimately, you’re in control of your own happiness, so if you can’t reframe your thinking about your job through tools like self-care and personal development, know that there are actions you can take to make quitting possible, even when you think there’s nothing you can do.