How to cope with a job you hate: ‘I lived for the weekend’

'The honeymoon period wears off and the routine settles in.'

'The honeymoon period wears off and the routine settles in.' Photo: Getty

Every day across the nation, thousands of employees walk into work loathing what they do.

The sad fact is that they are increasingly unhappy at work, with company culture and slow wage growth forcing them to look elsewhere.

2016 National Salary Survey by the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) found that a staggering four out of five Aussies are unhappy at work, with 81.9 per cent leaving their current role in search of new challenges. More than half leave due to limited career opportunities.

According to the analysis from 25,000 employees across Australia, 44.4 per cent leave because they are looking for better financial rewards. For an employer, this equates to an average of $26,410 to find a replacement.

worker hates job

Four in five workers may be unhappy in their jobs, a recent survey found. Photo: Getty

While the above issues are valid enough reasons to leave a job, have we become a nation of whingers and perhaps a change in work attitude is needed not just by employees but also by the employer?

Business analyst Margot Reid, 29, became extremely disenchanted with her job and says she did not look forward to a single working day for the four years she worked in a government department.

“I lived for 5pm and the weekend. I could not stand the office politics, time wasting and internal competitiveness.”

Ms Reid stayed in the role largely due to peer pressure and a lack of self-belief.

“I was stuck in a pattern that seemed too overwhelming to break free from, especially as changing careers requires a big drop in pay,” she said.

“There was also the issue of colleagues, family and friends judging me if I started my career over. What kept me mentally going was finding fulfilment outside of the workplace. I also liked my boss; I didn’t want to let him down.”

In her spare time, Ms Reid began a series of courses to figure out what she wanted to do.

“I studied and made a point of meeting with people in different industries — people who were creative, industrious and were above all, passionate. Finally, I’ve found a new career that I love, working in the marketing department in fashion and lifestyle.”

Founder of Wellness at Work Australia, Adele Sinclair, says she is not surprised by the AIM study.

“Unhappiness in the workforce is common. The challenge is that logically we know we should be grateful, but we are not ‘feeling the love’. A large part of this is our ability to adapt.”

What often happens in a new job is that after the honeymoon period wears off, routine settles in and some people require more stimulation than others, she said.

“We all know someone who job hops versus someone who stays in a role for 30 years. Adaption is at play, otherwise we start losing satisfaction unless we consciously cultivate it.”

Ms Sinclair offered the following tips to promote happiness at work:

  • Happiness and motivation go hand in hand. At the start of a job, there is excitement and motivation. Once the novelty wears off, look for ways to cultivate motivation by setting goals to provide a sense of purpose and reward.
  • If you are not looking to change jobs, then look at ways to acquire new skills such as undertaking some study.
  • Engage in community activity. Volunteering or building other networks helps give a sense of connection.
  • Focus on the bigger picture. Say to yourself, “I’m only here for X period”. While this may not cultivate satisfaction, what it can give is perspective that you will not be in there forever. This can help get through the daily grind.
  • Reduce stresses in other areas of your life. Cultivate healthier areas around home life, exercise, eat and sleep well. The more you’re able to reduce other stresses that you have control over; will help you to feel happier.
  • Identify your strengths. Find areas that you’re good at that provide energy and enjoyment.
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