I hate my job and I can't leave. How do I cope?
February 5, 2013 10:42 PM   Subscribe

I am currently working long hours in a job that in a number of ways is driving me absolutely insane. I can't easily leave until mid year. How do I not go mad?

Specific things that I am having trouble coping with:
*The work entails long hours - about 60 per week, over 6 days. I don't have a lot of non-work headspace time.
*The work is for the most part non-challenging and often menial. I was formerly a manager with a demanding job and I am very, very, VERY bored. This is leading to me not feeling very useful and my self esteem is not enjoying this experience.
*Despite being bored I often have a lot of demanding, time sensitive requests to fulfill, I alternate between next to nothing to do to way too much to do.
*I have little say in how I fulfill my job.
*I am frequently caught in between people with conflicting demands. There is a high level of angst and very little laughter.
*The work is not overly social and I could really do with working with people. I'm lonely as all hell.
*This job is a dead-end and accepting it a complete miscalculation on my part. The nature of the job is not something management has any interest in addressing. They know I don't fit the position.
*Leaving the job means leaving this town, which means living apart from my partner.

Leaving at mid year will be a vaguely graceful exit in terms of what I move on to next, time apart from my partner and money in the bank. I'm not sure I'm going to get there however.

Help? I could really do with some coping strategies.
posted by deadwax to Work & Money (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Leaving the job means leaving this town,

Can you elaborate on this? This seems like a weak link in the chain of logic here, at a first read. There are always other jobs.
posted by empath at 11:13 PM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Considering you're working 10 hour days I would imagine your best bet is to probably find small ways to make your job more enjoyable. Can you listen to music while you work? Especially if it's menial, music could make a big difference. Download Spotify or something and explore. Or maybe listen to audio books or something mentally stimulating.

Aside from that, I'd make sure you have something really nice to look forward to at the end of a work day and especially at the end of a work week. Looking forward to something is an enjoyable feeling and I know it gets me through the crappy parts of a day. This depends on your interests of course, but I'm imaging some kind of engaging hobby project or fun goal (I will watch all of the great Western movies ever made) would be best considering they're long term.
posted by Defenestrator at 11:17 PM on February 5, 2013

Response by poster: empath: There is little other employment in town, particularly as my partner and I are definitely here temporarily (her job finishes up at the end of the year). I have looked at other employment here, there really is very little. I'm working on literally the biggest project in town.
posted by deadwax at 11:23 PM on February 5, 2013

Self-care, perhaps. Try to add rituals to your life to help you unwind when you can. Hot baths, meditation, evening walks. Maybe consider seeing a therapist, to help design coping strategies that work for you?
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:18 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is it sufficiently menial to listen to audiobooks? They get me through some lonely drudge work.
posted by Erasmouse at 1:50 AM on February 6, 2013

Response by poster: Music kind of works but audio books or anything with a narrative is out, I have to use the phone quite a lot.
posted by deadwax at 1:55 AM on February 6, 2013

Mid year is really not very far away, so stick it out. You have long gaps of doing nothing?

1) Use that time to add new music to playlists (the kind of music you can listen to while working - but always be looking for new bands/artists so it's always fresh).
2) Bring positivity into the workplace, instead of taking negativity away (easier said than done, but say that phrase to yourself in the morning on your way there).
3) Try to be jokey/smiley more often with more people at work. If you find just one person who appreciates your humor in any kind of way, or can smile back, or (god-willing) discuss tv/movies/music/books on even the most trivial level, it will be such a huge relief.
4) Whenever you have a bored-and-doing-nothing moment, leave the building to get a coffee or take a walk or whatever. Combat the monotony of your visual environment.

Good luck! Stick it out! Remember, 5 months is really not such a long time. You'll survive.
posted by molecicco at 2:26 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you have a lot of down time, try signing up for coursera/edx classes. I do them at work when I'm not busy.
posted by empath at 3:05 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

*I am frequently caught in between people with conflicting demands. There is a high level of angst and very little laughter.

Don't care so much. Unless it's actually life and death, in which case caring a bit is probably a good thing, but if you're just working with a bunch of screaming princesses, really, do you care? Tune out the drama as much as possible.

Is it possible to get your hours cut? Could they get a part-time person in to cover either some hours, or one day? Or are your employers SO miserable that any suggestion along these lines would lead to them saying 'No, we will get someone who is a capable of doing All The Work, Hah!' Or is it one of those on-call sort of jobs, where you have a particular skill that would be needed in an emergency/non-routine situation, and the boring/menial bits of the job description are to fill in all the time that skill is not needed?

If the nothing-to-do bits of your job have a computer, there must be SOMETHING better than solitaire that you can do. If the computer has internet access that you are allowed to use for non-work stuff, so much the better. I know two people who've written novels at their day jobs, although that much writing is pretty much my idea of a nightmare, so YMMV. I'd probably go back to proofreading for PGDP.
posted by Lebannen at 3:31 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you considered some sort of crafting activity, like knitting, that you can set down during the time sensitive requests and then pickup when you have nothing to do?
posted by gryftir at 3:39 AM on February 6, 2013

I recommend the "one day at a time" approach. Try not to think about a big block of time looming in front of you. Also, if there isn't much laughter, add it yourself. You may be surprised at the reaction. I don't mean crack jokes. Smile! De-stress your body language. My boss has one of those Staples buttons that says "That was easy!"

Lastly, breathe, use what time you have to take care of yourself. Can you afford to hire anybody to help with housecleaning?

Good luck!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:23 AM on February 6, 2013

use the mantra "important to whom?" in your head when the busier times come in.

Stop caring so much.

Talk to the little voice in your head that sees your self-worth so totally wrapped up in your daily activity, because right now the daily activity you are calling "work" is more akin to a prison sentence you just have to get through.
So focus on the non-work element of your life, even when you are at your place of employment.

Make a game of securing time for this element so your not getting into difficulty.

Particularly dream of ways to make your partner's life better, more interesting, don't let a day pass without looking something up for him/her, writing him/her something amazing, planning a weekend day that will knock their socks off. Surprises etc.,

your mental energy should be focussed on what makes you happy and at the moment the job is just a thing that needs to be managed so it doesn't get in the way of that.

If your partner is overwhelmed, maybe develop a completely new interest. And then learn everything you can about it.
posted by Wilder at 5:15 AM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

There's a survival training technique that teaches that should find yourself in an awful situation – no water, eating ants, sick and waiting for rescue – you need to figure out a way to make tiny steps to improve your situation to avoid slipping into a helpless state of surrender. In the survival scenario, that might mean fashioning yourself a slightly better lean-to. In your situation, that might mean discovering a new shortcut in Excel that saves you 20 seconds. Or finding a slightly more efficient route to the bathroom. The idea being that if your situation is terrible enough, you're not going to make much headway trying to come up with a holistic solution. If you break up your big problem into ten thousand micro-problems, you can suddenly see a path to success. You need to escape learned helplessness by finding some way of reminding yourself that you are, in fact, master of your fate, that this is a temporary shit job.

Are you in a "sick system"? It's tempting to blame yourself when you fail to meet some work objective, but keep in mind you are not an island at work. Someone is supposed to be managing your workflow. If they're not, you will probably have to do it for them, which means saying "no" to a lot of these demands. If "no" is not an acceptable answer at your office, then you have your answer – you are in a sick system. Don't put the whole burden on yourself, just try to cope with it, and get out as soon as you can.

As far as your relationship, if you are truly miserable, and there are really no alternatives for you in this town, you should discuss this openly and honestly with your partner. Any partner worth sticking with would not insist that you stay in a town where your only employment option is harming your career and your work-life balance.

Don't feel bad about leaving a job you feel is a bad fit. If you are not a good fit for it, the people who interviewed you deserve at least a portion of the blame.
posted by deathpanels at 6:14 AM on February 6, 2013 [9 favorites]

Can you bring a pet to work? Or get one of those exercise chair/desk setups? That might make it more interesting and/or productive-feeling for you.
posted by Dansaman at 8:18 AM on February 6, 2013

I feel for you. I was in a soul-sucking isolating job for a year and it just about drove me crazy. Here's some of what I did to get through one day at a time:
- I had no internet access, so I brought my smartphone and charger and I spent a lot of time on Metafilter on my phone.
- New flavors of coffee creamer or hot chocolate every week. Something to look forward to and to make it different.
- Gamify something in your environment, and make a contest out of the statistics. Unfortunately for me, I was keeping track of how many seconds the old guy in the next cubicle spent between clearing his throat (max = 20 seconds!! OMG go to a doctor). You could keep track of your busy vs downtime ratio, or the number of people who walk past you each hour, or how fast you can finish your busy work, or whatever, hopefully something fun.
- I joined Toastmasters so that I knew that at least one hour per week I could interact with real live people for an hour. Our club met at lunchtime on company premises. Maybe there is a weight loss club or a Culture Committee or something you could join.
- On the phone, you could try out different accents. Bonus points to make them subtle enough that nobody comments on it. If you are talking to one-off customers (rather than repeats who know you), then go for it and do really thick ones. Keep track of which ones work best (part of gamifying).
- re: finding a slightly more efficient route to the bathroom. I made it a point to use a different bathroom (and breakroom) in the building every time. Different floors, different paths, etc. Just something to break up the monotony. You could track times or count steps for each route. Or see how many of X you see hanging on cubicle walls if you use this path through the maze instead of that path.
- I found a lot of e-books (not audio, but printed) to read. I converted the text to a Word doc and formatted it to a tall narrow column and I put it on my screen right next to my Outlook Calendar layout, so if anyone walked by they couldn't tell right away that I was reading a book.

Good luck. Keep your eye on the end and you can make it through.
posted by CathyG at 8:20 AM on February 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

I have looked at other employment here, there really is very little. I'm working on literally the biggest project in town.

Have you considered looking for telecommute work? Even if there's nothing else to be found in the town you live in, doesn't mean you can't work for a company in NYC, Chicago, or Los Angeles from the comfort of your home in this small town.
posted by Vorteks at 8:34 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm nthing Vorteks. Telecommuting jobs, or jobs where you travel within the territory might be up your alley.

Contract work especially. It may pay more and it might be more fun. Learn new skills, see new people!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:19 AM on February 6, 2013

deadwax: "I could really do with some coping strategies."

I think most people cope with crappy jobs by slacking off (surfing the net) and doing half-assed work.
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:46 AM on February 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

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