You don't need to know that I hate my job.
March 3, 2021 6:04 AM   Subscribe

I have a well-paying, secure, kinda fancy job that is frankly aspirational in my country. People make admiring noises when they hear where I work, and want to know how I like it. Anticlimax (or probably not) below the fold.

I hate my job. I HATE it. I have a terrible, sexist, condescending boss (Nieshka, you do know how to google, yes?). The work environment is toxic AF and has gotten significantly worse over the last few years. I dread workday mornings. It requires me to work very very far outside my aptitude/actual skill set and thus every single day is an exhausting comedy of trying to bend my brain to parse stuff it is It makes me ill to think of progressing in this career because this feeling of inadequacy would only get worse, I think. Unfortunately, financial security and job stability are things that I cannot sneeze at, especially in a post-pandemic world.
I hate my job so much that I segued quite a bit away from my actual question into a rant. Huh. Sorry.
It so happens that even if all these things are true...there's no real point to griping at everyone. Or telling the unvarnished truth to what is just a casual question. And I am fully cognizant that it can come off somewhat tone deaf to complain about what from the outside looks like a sinecure.
What is an appropriate response when people ask me about my job? It's a question that comes up in interactions with new folks, acquaintances, relatives, even immediate family from time to time (as in how's it going etc. Thank you for asking sibling, today I wanted to set fire to everything, yesterday it was fantasizing about changing my name and running away. I'm exaggerating but not by a lot). I'm not interested in sharing the crappy specifics, but I cannot seem to work out a bland answer that still feels honest, and there's NO WAY I can make myself say I enjoy it or love it. This feels like a really small thing to be bothered by, but as I said, it comes up a lot.
So. What do I say?
Thank you for reading and your inputs.
posted by Nieshka to Work & Money (33 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
"It's not all its cracked up to be!"
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:07 AM on March 3, 2021 [11 favorites]

"Like any job, it's got its pluses and minuses!"

You don't have to tell them that whatever pluses there are (financial security, job stability) are vastly outweighed by the minuses.

For people who ask you how it's going repeatedly:

"Oh, you know, it's going!"

Say this with enough enthusiasm and people kind of laugh and move on. Then change the subject yourself.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:14 AM on March 3, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: "Oh, you know, it's a job. I'm glad to have one in these horrible times."

But I would suggest you find at least a couple of people to whom you do tell the unvarnished truth, if you haven't done so.

My job isn't glamorous or a sinecure by any means but it pays well and has the kind of title that people say "oh, how interesting!" But it SUCKS. It is a daily nightmare, so bad that I got really excited when I thought I had COVID because then at least I wouldn't fucking have to go to my fucking idiot job. And no, I don't give every last person on the street the full rundown every single time they ask, best friend and my siblings, they know the truth and they know that when they ask I'm gonna say, "trash fire."
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 6:19 AM on March 3, 2021 [21 favorites]

Look, you keep this job because you feel that it is better than your alternatives, right? You might be choosing it from a shitty set of choices, but staying in this job appears to be your best option for now (if not, move on to another option!). So that's a way you can blandly talk about your job without lying about it.

Things you can say:
"It beats starving in a ditch/moving back in with my parents/selling my body on the street!" (modify as appropriate)
"I'm luckier than a lot of people." + "but it's tough a lot of the time" OR "but sometimes it's so awful I fantasize about running away and changing my name" (modify depending on how much you want to get into it)

Also, why lie? Like, sure, be respectful to others who may be in worse situations than you, and don't say anything that's going get back to your boss and get you in trouble, and don't get all up into it with people who aren't going to understand, but if there are people in your life who will get it, just tell them that you know a lot of people see it as a dream job but you're miserable. You don't have to rehash it every time (and probably shouldn't), but you certainly don't have to pretend to be happy about it! Have you kind of bought into the idea that this job *should* make you happy?
posted by mskyle at 6:22 AM on March 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

I’d go with a shrug and a ‘same shit, different day’ or ‘oh you know just boring work stuff’ kind of answer. I mean, it might sound impressive and exciting but day to day, it’s still work.
I’ve never enjoyed working, I mean, if it was that much fun they wouldn’t have to pay you to do it.

I feel very much like you about my job, but it pays much much better than anything else I could reasonably do. I’m saving as much as I can and set myself a maximum time to stay there. In the meantime, I have enough savings that the day it gets to be too much, I can just quit and take my time to find something else. Knowing that is very, very liberating and makes me feel that it is actually my choice to work there.
posted by ElasticParrot at 6:26 AM on March 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

"I keep showing up and they keep paying me" used to be my go-to with this one, because it was true, yet recognised that it's an effort to go every day - and the main benefit $. Any further questions I would just say that it's boring to talk about things I can't change and redirect to whatever is more interesting - oh look, that cloud looks like a perfect cloud shape.
posted by london explorer girl at 6:26 AM on March 3, 2021 [10 favorites]

"It's not as glamorous or exciting as it sounds but it pays the bills."

"It's not bad but I'd rather be doing [hobby], wish I could get someone to pay me for that!"

"It's pretty challenging but eh, it's a job"

You could also talk about some aspect of your job you find interesting , even if it's only 1% of your actual work.
posted by pianissimo at 6:31 AM on March 3, 2021 [5 favorites]

What I would always do when I had a job that fit this mold that I hated was talk about other people who really like the work:

XYZ group is full of people who have been so into this area for their whole life. Very exciting to see their passion.
posted by chiefthe at 6:33 AM on March 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

I don't want to derail the excellent advice you're getting here, but if you're working in an aspirational position is there a chance that you can parlay your experience into a similar role with a different group at your current employer? (New boss) My first job out of school was not a good fit, but it was an open secret that people churned from employer A to employer B to employer C and back again, every 2 years, until they got promoted.

To piggyback on chiefthe's comment; if XYZ actually is full of people with tons of experience/passion/insight, you might follow some of them to lunch or the coffee shop or wherever and casually keep an ear out for how they got from where you are to where they are (metaphysically).
posted by adekllny at 6:42 AM on March 3, 2021

when i had this problem with my family, i finally got so fed up i told them, "it makes me really angry to talk about my job. i don't like talking about it." and that got them to quit for the most part.

for acquaintances, i just say "oh i don't like talking about work outside of work" and then show them a cat or something.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:42 AM on March 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I do have a cat and about two thousand cat photos to show, true.
Thank you so so much for all the excellent advice so far! I'd be grateful for as many ideas as possible so I could put them into regular rotation.
posted by Nieshka at 6:45 AM on March 3, 2021

"I wish I had worked there ten (five, two) years ago, when it was still a good place to work. So much has changed the only thing good about it now is the wages."
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:49 AM on March 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

If you're looking for more pat one-liners that don't invite further questioning:

"If it were easy, we'd have our cat/dog/child do it"

"Better than the alternative (implied unemployment)"

"Each day I pick stuff up and put it down"

"Another day, another dollar"

"The circus is the same but the monkeys sometimes change"

"Well, I don't work there for my health"

But also: you should totally tell people you trust that the boss is sexist and the workplace is toxic. People not talking about it is part of how jerks get away with it.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:02 AM on March 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

"Something new every day!"

"Well, it's always a challenge."

"Oh, it's hopping."

"You know, busy busy busy!"

I do recommend lying to/being evasive with people to whom you don't have close social ties, and especially people in the professional sphere. Most of the time they're only asking out of politeness anyway, and you don't want to be seen as a malcontent (even if you so, so are) or anything getting back to your bosses. Most junior BigLaw associates, a U.S. equivalent of your job, I think, lie/evade all the time from the moment the hatred starts until they're out the door.
posted by praemunire at 7:04 AM on March 3, 2021 [6 favorites]

I always say “I can’t complain”. For my current job that I actually like, that’s true. There’s nothing to complain about. But at old jobs I didn’t like, I would say it to mean “social norms compel me to not complain”.

In my first real job out of college, I was having a really shitty day once - there was an ice storm and I couldn’t get my car door to open, then I slipped on ice and hurt my back, and I was late to work and a bunch of other stuff. So when I finally got into work, I got on a phone call and someone immediately asked “how’s your day?” I replied truthfully: “pretty lousy, actually”. My manager overheard and called me into her office. She explained it to me that the people who ask questions or make small talk like that don’t actually expect an answer, so you shouldn’t give them one. Just say “fine” and move on. I never really liked that advice, but it was clear to me that I couldn’t complain; hence, “I can’t complain”.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:05 AM on March 3, 2021 [10 favorites]

"busy! always busy."

"oh you know, work is work."

"pays the bills."

[then immediate segue into "how are things with YOU?"]
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:09 AM on March 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

It pays well.
They pay on time.
It's a job.
Could be worse.

If applicable:
Short commute!
The coffee machine works well.
They have a good cafeteria.
I have a nice window in my office.
I'm learning a lot.
I've been there a while, would love a change, but it's not easy.

All with a shrug, a wan smile, a redirection.
posted by trig at 7:30 AM on March 3, 2021

"It's been a great learning experience, but I am looking to spread my wings. Have you heard of any openings recently?"
posted by haplesschild at 7:31 AM on March 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

"You know, its really the people that make or break a job, unfortunately" and then share as much truth or not as you want.
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:57 AM on March 3, 2021

Fellow job hater here, I feel the exact same as you as far as "brain not being able to parse things" and "zero desire to move up in the industry because it just sounds more and more miserable".

I straight up tell people who ask about it that it fucking sucks! It sucks and it's shitty. What else is there to say? Why pretend?

"Oooh you do X for a living, how is that?" "It sucks ass, I hate it and I hate working."
"How's working going this week?" "Going like shit, as always! Fuck work, work blows!"
"OMG why??" "What do you mean why? Work sucks, what do you think I'm one of those sick freaks who likes their job?"

Most people hate their jobs and sometimes this even turns into a nice conversation about hating work in general rather than getting into the ins and outs of pretending what aspects you like about your job, which is just as exhausting as anything else sometimes. Point is, I make clear to everyone I know - friends, families, dates, basically everyone who is not one of my coworkers - that I hate work, don't fucking talk to me about work unless you want to vent together about how shitty it is that we have to work, how if we were president we would abolish work. And what I've found happens is if they're the type of person to ask lame questions about your job to make small talk, they'll...stop doing that!
posted by windbox at 8:24 AM on March 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

"Golden handcuffs."
posted by porpoise at 10:26 AM on March 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm in quite similar circumstances. People think I work at an amazing place. I like to say: "It's been a nice place to work over the years and the pension is excellent — I can retire in 3 years if I want." Then I talk about how I want to get more into gardening.
posted by Lescha at 11:40 AM on March 3, 2021

This is a bit orthogonal, but used to just kind-of lie about what I did. I worked on a project that is really interesting and fun and fascinating from the outside, and was a toxic mess on the inside. Also, sometimes I just did. not. want. to talk about work. So I sort of...implied I did something different.

Let's say my job was tying bows onto fluffy kittens. I could say I was a kitten-bow-tyer and get a lot of gushing questions and people talking about their favorite kittens and bows, not knowing that my job was insultingly underpaid and also kittens scratch a lot and aren't very much fun when you put them on an assembly line and have to keep bows on them. Instead of saying that that was what I did, I vaguely mentioned that I was in kittens, or I worked in the bow-tying sector or (to be a vague and boring as possible), I worked in knot care. I then quickly asked them about literally anything else, to get off the topic of jobs. Truly, it worked like a charm.
posted by kalimac at 12:00 PM on March 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

“Eh, it has its ups and downs.”

Downs=the job itself
posted by sweetpotato at 1:35 PM on March 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Not sure how close you are with your family, but if you have good relationships there, I'd go with being honest there, or perhaps with close friends. I think it might be helpful and perhaps even cathartic for you to be able to share these terrible experiences with with someone you trust.

I also think it can be helpful to embrace two seemingly contradictory things: My job sucks, and I am lucky to have it. Both can be true! That's how I feel about my job sometimes.

As for new folks: I agree that it's good to find a way to be honest without details. "Actually, it's quite challenging."
posted by bluedaisy at 1:49 PM on March 3, 2021

"I'm thankful to have a job. May want to stretch my wings someday soon, though. How are you?"
posted by rw at 1:56 PM on March 3, 2021

I was you once. I was a diplomat. People hear that and it sounds fascinating. But the truth is that it was deadening and every day was a complete slog. Employer was the worst, decisions on policy and HR made no sense, and it made my wife (same job) and me wonder about the point of it all

My wife told me that I was being too negative when people asked me about my job. They hoped to hear interesting anecdotes about strange countries and international negotiations or whatever and all I could do was complain. I needed something that was true but not negative. So I settled on “I’m working on somebody really interesting files right now”. This was usually true but allowed me to avoid my gripes about everything.

Oh, I also quit and moved to a small town where we bought a very affordable house. I don’t get to call myself a diplomat anymore, but I’m immeasurably happier.
posted by fso at 2:15 PM on March 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

They call it work for a reason!
posted by Jubey at 3:31 PM on March 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

"I'm glad to have it, and it's certainly an exciting field. I'm not sure it's me, though, and I'm not sure I'd choose it again if I had my time over."
posted by some little punk in a rocket at 4:27 PM on March 3, 2021

Sometimes I wonder if I'm being paid for the work I do or for putting up with my boss, other times I don't.
posted by I paid money to offer this... insight? at 6:39 PM on March 3, 2021

They call it work because others must to pay you to do it. It is not something you would do otherwise. The scorpion stings the frog because it is his nature. The nature of work is that it sucks. Everyone already knows this, but thinks that somehow, YOUR job does not. It is good to let the secret out. Really, it is OK if you want to; and OK if you do not.
posted by woman at 10:56 PM on March 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

"There's a reason they have to pay their employees the big bucks, as I'm sure you can imagine"
posted by potrzebie at 11:44 PM on March 5, 2021

I say, "it's very BUSY."
posted by soakimbo at 10:35 PM on April 22, 2021

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