Don’t forget, you’re here forever
January 2, 2023 1:57 PM   Subscribe

After a solid year of job hunting, I’ve come to the conclusion that my current job is actually the best I can do for now. I still kinda hate it and want to leave, though. How can I try to improve my attitude toward my current job to make it bearable while I figure out what’s next?

My job is extremely high-stress and high-pressure, for a cause that I once found compelling but have slowly become disillusioned and cynical about. Recently, poor resource/project management has left everyone scrambling, overworked, and cranky. (Un)fortunately, the job also pays very well, is relatively stable, and my coworkers are generally smart, decent people doing their best despite the current unfortunate situation (occasional jerks notwithstanding).

All last year I clung to the the idea of a better job situation "out there" to get me through tough times. Throughout my year-long journey, which included multiple interviews and offers, I have not been able to find something sufficiently compelling without any compromises I'm not quite ready to make yet (e.g. moving to a different area, retraining for a different field, or taking a pay cut that would be irresponsibly big for my current financial situation).

This year I'd like to see if I can make the best of what I already have instead. I'm pretty content with my life outside of work but it would be really great to not actively loathe/dread the 40-50 hours a week I need to spend making a living, too. How can I focus on the good, do my work, and live my life without the crappy parts making me miserable?
posted by btfreek to Work & Money (8 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Leave work at work; set clear boundaries so you're not checking in on work in the evenings or weekends.
Take a few mental health days during the year to just do nothing, get a massage, take a walk, read a book.
Actually use your vacation time to go somewhere nice, where you can recharge.
Find something new to learn that you're learning just for fun (not to position yourself into a new job).
Casually network.
Mentor a colleague or someone coming up the ladder.
posted by brookeb at 2:18 PM on January 2, 2023 [2 favorites]

Some things that worked for me (IT tech-head, on call nights for years, detailed very technical work, sometimes idiotic top-level management

Look forward to doing good work every day, stressful or not. There's satisfaction in doing a job well.

If your coworkers are "smart, decent people" rejoice and enjoy their company. I've had coworkers who had worked in "snake pits" full of "idiots" (quoting them) who couldn't believe how nice life was once they came to work among us, a group that had evolved over the years to virtually eliminate those kinds of problems

When you're not finding jobs compelling enough to leave, take comfort in the phrase "I already know how to live with these (jerks, issues, management screw-ups, whatever); rather than going somewhere new and having to figure all that out all over again". This was especially good for me when I was nearing retirement and saw opportunities elsewhere. I had a "sunk cost" in knowing the environment and insiders are my current job, and how to work with them. This was a consideration any time I thought about moving.
posted by TimHare at 3:02 PM on January 2, 2023 [4 favorites]

Read up on “quiet quitting” - doing just the amount you’re paid to do and having great boundaries about when you’re done for the day.

Personally I find that having amorphous tasks is stressful because I get executive dysfunction when there are too many open loops. So every month or even week, I sit down and break all my work projects into very small units of “next step” work. So like rather than “make a sales deck” as a task (overwhelming!), it would become 10 tasks like “call Jon to ask about inventory” and “email Jen to ask about sales numbers from last month” and “write a bullet point for what each slide will contain”. Each task should be 5-60 minutes long, and one single action. Once I have about 100 “next tasks” written down, I put them all on one sheet of paper and my work goal for the day is to accomplish X of them and then I call it a day with a clear conscience. Maybe the goal is 1-2 tasks per hour or 5 a day or whatever makes sense. That way I don’t have as much time wasted by being overwhelmed by huge tasks, and I have an end point in mind so I can end my workday more easily.

Finally, think about goals you have for yourself that you can shoehorn into this job to benefit you in the long term or feel like perks, and shift your job to have as many as possible. So for instance:
- If you like travel, try to get more on your slate.
- If you want to become a better public speaker, take on more presentations.
- If you want to do more writing in the future, see if you can take on projects where you do more writing now to start amassing skills / portfolio materials.
- If you want to get better at marketing, try writing some social media copy about your projects.

Be creative and find ways to get paid for basically doing personal and professional development that you’re interested in - makes work feel much more motivated when you know your work is building your portfolio for your whole career.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 4:05 PM on January 2, 2023 [4 favorites]

I accept that from 8-5 every day I'm going to hate myself, hate my life, hate my job, and wish for death to get out of it. This is the price I pay to live. I've spent a lot more years than you off and on job hunting, got very few interviews and wasn't good enough for a second interview ever, and this is truly as good as it gets for me. (Also, any job I'd have actual interest in is expendable and considered useless, so I have to stick to what I dislike because it's stable and useful.)

That's something I remind myself about during the day--especially when I look at other job listings and I hate all of them more than what I got now. I remind myself of the paycheck, the health insurance, the vacation time, the sick time, other benefits they offer that others do not, that they are still letting me work from home three days a week and so far haven't been SO short staffed recently that they're making me do the things that I really despise. Focus on what's good there. Focus on the moments where something isn't making you batshit crazy.

Beyond that: don't throw any extra into the job that you're not getting paid for, try to do things you actually like and look forward to outside of work. It really helps that I do theater and other hobbies that I actually want to do after 5 p.m.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:41 PM on January 2, 2023 [2 favorites]

tl;dr: You might just have to reset your expectations from this job.

I'm in a similar position. I love what I actually do, I enjoy the colleagues at the same level and position as me, and the hours, pay, and benefits are incredible.

Everything single other thing about my job seems engineered to be horrible. Management is either clueless, doesn't care, or is just plain ineffective. The work I review would be shocking to receive from a college freshman let alone from a professional with over a decade of experience. We can't get good candidates because funding is a joke. Plus I've got golden handcuffs on, the job I'm in doesn't exist anywhere else, and a combination of age and disability makes it unlikely that I'll ever be hired for anything outside where I work. For me, there is no "next."

I spent years in a rage until an acute rise in blood pressure forced me to my doctor. Armed with a prescription for blood pressure medication, I had a heart-to-heart with my boss about every single frustration, grievance, and petty thought I had. I got all that off my chest, and my boss was awesome in that they listened to me and let me kvetch and complain and rant until I'd gotten all the psychic poison out.

After that, I was able to reset my expectations about what I was going to get out of the job. Some things are just always going to suck, and there is no one who can *and* will deal with that. I've made it no longer my problem in my head. I do what I know I'm incredible at, I do it for a set amount of time every day, and then I go home with time to sing, and read, and work out, and plan out travel.

If you can't have it out with a supportive supervisor or coworker, I'd suggest reframing your mindset. Outside of the environment and the BS and the craziness, do you (still) like the work you actually are doing? If so, embrace it. Embrace malicious compliance. Embrace doing absolutely brilliant work at your own pace and your own terms. Embrace kicking the power-hungry and the incompetent out of your head.

Therapy, in my case cognitive behavioral therapy, helped a lot too.

Good luck, and I know sometimes it feels shitty even to complain when you have a stable good-paying job. Get rid of that thinking too. Pain is pain, and you have the right to improve your life for the better even if you're starting from objectively-pretty-good.
posted by Somnambulista at 7:05 PM on January 2, 2023 [5 favorites]

Those compromises you’re not quite ready to make - what are some small, concrete steps you could take that would bring you closer to being happy to make them in a year or two?

I am in a very similar situation right now, and for a chunk of last year I was very depressed about it. But with some support from my therapist I figured out that the issue was not just the job, it was my fatalistic feelings about the job. So I started doing a couple of things: I began taking classes that could eventually, in a couple of years, lead to a new career (and that I enjoy for their own sake), and I started dealing with some financial issues I’d been letting slide, so that I’ll be in a better financial position to take something lower-paying down the line if this new career requires it. And I am so much happier! Work hasn’t really changed much, but the problems bother me so much less and I’m able to focus on what I’m getting out of it for the time I’m here. Being able to see a path away from this job made me appreciate it more.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:52 AM on January 3, 2023 [1 favorite]

Can second somnambulista in that having it out with my boss about everything what is wrong of this job (most things) actually helped so much more than I ever thought it would. It wasn't like my boss is able to fix any of the issues, because they run so much higher than her. But just being able to drop the pretense of "such job, much fulfill, wow" and say, "this job is a bunch of talented, dedicated, awesome people doing the worst work possible with the worst tools possible and with zero support from above, AND ALSO I stay here because the money's great" made it possible for me to start getting up in the mornings again.

If that's not possible with your boss (I was shocked to find it possible with mine! I went into that meeting fully expecting to be unemployed at the end of it), maybe there is a coworker you can buddy up with for honest, but productive, venting.

Also I took a bunch of time off despite the schedule not really allowing for it. The schedule never allows for it at the holidays, and most years I slog on through with no days off, resenting my vacationing coworkers. Not this year, buddy! I took as much time off as anyone, and am back for the first day today feeling pretty calm and detached, instead of my usual simmering rage.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:49 AM on January 3, 2023 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the advice and/or commiseration. From the responses-to-favorites ratio on this question it seems like I am not alone, at least. Also
this job is a bunch of talented, dedicated, awesome people doing the worst work possible with the worst tools possible and with zero support from above
this got a genuine LOL from me. Blast Hardcheese, we must be working for the same organization!
posted by btfreek at 11:32 AM on January 4, 2023 [1 favorite]

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