Talk me into loving my job!
November 26, 2022 1:39 PM   Subscribe

I’ve posted about my job numerous times. I’ve made my peace with staying in the position I’m in. There are many good, solid reasons for doing so. There are a number of reasons to like my job. But my default is to dislike my job. How do I change that?

Staying in my current job will allow me to discharge my $90K student loan debt in three years. In 7 years I will be able to retire with a small pension and retiree health insurance. I do not have a boss who looks over my shoulder. In fact, all my supervisor asks of me is that I complete my timecard correctly and turn it in on time. I schedule my time and plan my days and weeks on my own. I have the freedom to take time off when I want and need to. My work is low stress, intellectually stimulating, and uses my law degree without having to practice law – something I wanted for many years. I earn a good income and have good benefits.

My dislike of my job is childish. I know that. I just can’t seem to shake it. I still want to telework, but that ship has sailed, and I must work at the office full time. I need to give that up. I hate commuting. That is my reality now. I can ride the bus, I can carpool, I can shut-up. I don’t have any friends at work. I haven’t connected with anyone. I need to try harder.

Part of the problem may be that I practiced law for 20 years as a sole practitioner. Before that I have no work experience except for working with small non-profits or family-owned businesses. Now I work for a huge statewide organization that is one of the largest employers in my state.

I need an attitude adjustment. I’m ready to get up in the morning and be happy about going to work. That was my reality for the 20 years I practiced law. I want that again. Any ideas you might have would be appreciated!
posted by furtheryet to Work & Money (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Your dislike of your job is NOT childish. You are entitled to want to work from home. You are entitled to want to wake up happy. You don't like this job. You don't need an attitude adjustment, you need a new job.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 2:08 PM on November 26, 2022 [4 favorites]

Can you move? If you want to stick it out for 7 years or so, that seems like a reasonable amount of time to make it worthwhile.

Commuting is the number 1 dissatisfaction in a lot of studies. An unpleasant commute ruins everything, so spend all your effort on improving that in any way you can, and the rest of the satisfaction tends to follow.
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:28 PM on November 26, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I have to psych myself up to reach out to people and make new friends. Whenever I do, I am very glad I did. There are different types of friends: some I just say hello to every day; some I chat with in the lunchroom about superficial things; and some I share gossip and gripes with, but don't hang out with outside of work. Sometimes things don't click, and that's ok too.

Go forth and make some friends!
posted by dum spiro spero at 2:58 PM on November 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

You can make your commute more pleasant by having an audiobook or a podcast that you want to listen to on your commute.

Regarding friends at work: is this because you have all recently started coming in 5 days a week? I would start off small by asking people for a walk to get coffee or chatting at the lunchroom. Some people are still keeping to themselves because of the pandemic, so don't take anything personally.
posted by saturdaymornings at 3:06 PM on November 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Not to thread sit, but - re friends: I think we are all shy after being at home for so long. It is weird being around strangers. Most of the work I do is on Zoom. I don't interact with people in person during my workday, except to pass them on the way to the bathroom. But yes, the lunchroom and breaks.
posted by furtheryet at 3:30 PM on November 26, 2022

It helps a lot to like the people at your job. And remember: you don't have to make into besties! It's just having folks like "Steve, my twice-a-week breakroom friend who cheerfully complains about the tea selection with me" or "that lady from accounting whose name I don't actually know, but we end up on the elevator at the same time and have a running joke about the terrible HVAC in the building."

In that vein, can you do something to encourage a little more interaction, like bringing in a box of bagels every other Friday and leaving them in the kitchenette with a "Happy Friday from furtheryet!" note taped to the box? That sort of thing gives folks something to start chatting with you specifically about, and can help build a little sense of community, vs being an interchangeable worker bee cog in the machine.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 4:17 PM on November 26, 2022 [12 favorites]

Best answer: You realize you're describing most people's unattainable dream job, right? Does it help to reflect on that? Can you find some pleasure in remembering that you've been so lucky in life that even the thing you hate most about it - your job - is something most people would deeply envy?

I'm not saying it's childish to hate it, though. It's not. It's okay to hate whatever you hate, even if it's something that doesn't bother other people. And most people do hate commuting, though a lot of them would think it was worth it to have the kind of job you describe.

If I were in your place, I think I would find comfort in three things:
1) Feeling lucky and (to be completely honest) superior to other people for having such a great job
2) Knowing that I only had to put up with it for 7 more years. I'd put up a sign somewhere in my house, or on my computer desktop, or on the wall of my cubicle: "Only 7 more years!" And every 6 months, I'd change it: Only 6 1/2 more years!" and have a mini celebration. And I'd spend a lot of time planning what I was going to do after I retired.
3) Fully accepting and even embracing my hatred for the job, feeling sorry for myself for having to go there every day and doing what I could to compensate myself for it. I wouldn't try to convince myself to be happy about the job; I'd try to provide myself with as many other things as possible to be happy about and tell myself I deserved them. I'd spend a little more money to buy clothes for work that I really loved, or nice breakfasts or lunches or pastries to brighten my afternoon. I'd get nice but unnecessary things for my space at the office, like a big plant in a really pretty pot or a piece of actual art from a gallery. I'd have an understanding with myself that every time something especially bad happened on the commute that meant I got to take a couple of hours off in the afternoon to go to a museum or botanical garden or I got to have my favorite food for dinner. I'd make sure I used every bit of my vacation time and took really cool vacations every year.
posted by Redstart at 5:29 PM on November 26, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: don't have to love your job. You have your reasons for sticking with it. As someone who hates a lot of her job, I remind myself of the reasons why I stick with it (plus in my case, well, I can't get another one anyway). Sometimes you just can't get those good of benefits elsewhere.

I'm not sure what you hate about it except for the being forced to go in person aspect of it, though.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:43 PM on November 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Some good ideas upthread already. I wonder if you could try a little experiment?

For 2-3 weeks, keep a record of what you were doing and what your mood was like, every half hour. You're already keeping a timecard, but this is more about figuring out what aspects of your day are the most enjoyable, whether they're work tasks or water cooler moments. You could create a pretty good understanding (and maybe even a data visualization) of how the various aspects of your work life affect you, and you could tease out what you like about the things you like. Then the goal would be to experiment with ways to do more of the things you like, while still working within your constraints.

Your insights could sound like, "working with [coworker x] makes everything a bit more fun" or "I don't like doing [task] but if it's for [x customer] it's not so bad". Then you would see how much you could work with that coworker on tasks for that customer.

Bonus points if you can identify something your current workplace is uniquely able to teach you, that you are curious to learn.

This technique won't change your commute woes, but it could extend your tolerance for something you don't truly like.
posted by nadise at 5:47 PM on November 26, 2022 [4 favorites]

Others have already covered the psychological and social aspects pretty well here, so I'll just throw in a suggestion to acquire some fun office stuff, the idea being that dragging yourself in every day might feel slightly less onerous if there are nice, ideally somewhat frivolous things, awaiting you there.

What form those things might take obviously depends on what would be likely to cheer you up and what's practical for your work environment, but as a starting point:
Coffee, tea, or snacks, maybe a bit more luxurious (or junkier) than you'd typically have at home
Decorative objects or plants that make you happy to look at them
Really nice office supplies
A comfortable, attractive jacket to keep at your chair
Fun fidget toys

The goal here isn't really to transform your office into a place you magically prefer to home as much as it is to at least have something tangible and pleasant you can associate with your workplace.
posted by eponym at 6:08 PM on November 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

My story is similar. I had solo and small biz experience where I was a partner, then I signed up to a massive employer who treats me well. And some days I find myself in this mood, that I should be much more grateful, that I should accept that I signed up for something different than my past professional reality.

First I would make sure you are not simply depressed, or have undiagnosed ADHD or something that feels not directly tied to work but is existential and coincident to covid seismic change, that might not respond now to a new job, no job, or changes in this job. Hopefully this gig comes with coverage for therapy.

A parallel track could be, is there an HR or management office that does or should sponsor staff field trips, or lectures, or book club, etc? Maybe if there was a framework at work for meeting people it would be pleasant for you. Is there a new employee welcome event each month? Volunteer to help. Is there a mentor program either within the shop or tied to high school or uni? That sort of thing helps me to feel more like a part of something and it helps me to get back into the mix.

I hope you find comfort.
posted by drowsy at 6:17 PM on November 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

If your workplace is not actively toxic or cliquey (and from what you said it doesn't seem to be), you'll probably be able to get work friends in time. Is anyone there a foodie or coffee drinker? Would they be willing to grab a coffee or try out a lunch spot with you? You can find people with common interests by displaying your own interests (depending on what's allowed) - t shirt, pins, posters, knitting in the lunch room, making fancy tea or coffee.

In terms of looking forward to being in the office (or at least not hating it), is there anything around there that interests you? Like shops or a park or something that you could go to at lunchtime or after work? Do any of your friends work near your work so you could meet up with them?
posted by pianissimo at 7:49 PM on November 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Talk to yourself out loud every day about things you like and value about your job. Talk about how it aligns with your values (even if there are also ways it doesn’t); talk about how it empowers and enables a life you love and value. Etc.

Our brains have an easy time noticing and focusing on the negative; this practice creates more balance in our perceptions.
posted by spindrifter at 5:54 AM on November 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you don't find what you are doing very meaningful. To be engaged in activities that are not meaningful for the majority of one's time is really disheartening for some people (like me). How is your life outside of work? Is it meaningful, social,etc? If your work life is not meaningful, and neither is your personal life, that can lead to existential sadness or depression. Maybe it's not about the duties of the job per se, but a lack of meaning overall? It sounds like you miss having a job that is personally meaningful/interesting to you even though by certain measures your current job is "good". That wouldn't be enough to make me satisfied either, though.

To that end, it can help to build up your life outside of work. At the same time, there are only so many hours in the day and work can be tiring. Personally, I find it very difficult to be happy just "biding my time" at a meaningless (to me) job while "living my life" outside of work hours. Which is not to say others can't . However, it can really help to do things outside of work (if you have the energy). Recently i started a weekly art class,j oined a yoga studio, and have gone to more meet ups. These have helped while not solved the issues (I'm also looking for another job).
posted by bearette at 6:20 AM on November 27, 2022 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone. The answers I got were just what I was looking for. As I head into a new workweek I feel like I have some great ideas for things to do, attitude adjustments to make, and permission to just be o.k. with some of my feelings. I appreciate the time everyone put into answering my question.
posted by furtheryet at 8:33 AM on November 27, 2022

Having a good relationship with your colleagues just makes everything better. To that end, use your new time in the office as an excuse to meet new people. If your company has a physical or virtual bulletin board where people post, you can easily start a post with "Since I am in the office more often I'd like to organize people to do x" where x can be anything you are interested in (eating, coffee, playing games at lunch, etc.). If you are feeling particularly bold you could mention that you were a solo practioneer for so long and now you'd like to meet new people. I bet there will be lots of people who are curious about your previous life just on the "grass-is-greener" principle.
posted by mmascolino at 10:22 AM on November 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Can you make your commute more enjoyable? Maybe a podcast or an audio book? When I need to go into the office on the bus I just spend the whole time on my phone reading the internet, it really passes the time and the internet is great. Also, I love having a good lunch each day, using good stationery, and chatting incidentally with random people in the office. Basically can you upgrade some of the routine things about your office day, so that they're more pleasurable.
posted by plonkee at 12:56 PM on November 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

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