Why You Want to Be Unhappy at Work

You enjoy being unhappy at work – don’t balk at that statement, think about it sincerely. We all know that the only way to change our state of being, is to change something that is in our control. Unhappiness is combatted through eliminating things that make us unhappy, rebalancing our perspective, or making a drastic change.

Day in and day out, we keep showing up at our jobs being unhappy… or resentful, or downright done. But we keep doing it – in a great “Groundhog’s Day” exercise. I have often said that people want to be unhappy at work, to which I always get a defensive response. I am certain it’s true.

When I was in miserable jobs, and believe me – there were plenty of those, it took a LOT to make me change my state of mind. And if I’m honest, I simply kept changing jobs – my unhappiness and triggers of dissatisfaction followed me to the next job.

At work, we are surrounded by other unhappy people. It gives us a common bond, a similar theme to discuss. It unites us – our unhappiness, our complaints, our pain points. It doesn’t matter what our backgrounds are, what our differences are, what our output is – we can always gather around the water cooler and lament about the same miserable things.The person in Marketing is just as unhappy as the Finance team.

It’s what we have in common – unhappiness.

How many times have you been a part of a lunch conversation when someone was dissing the boss, the company, the latest product? I recall some very heated lunchtime chats… and being somewhat ambivalent about my boss, until I heard my colleagues share some recent interactions/details. It changed my opinion about her – drastically. And of course I had to add onto the conversation, she was my boss after all.

The point is, we do like having a community – even if it’s one we arbitrarily build seeped in unhappiness. It is uncomfortable to be the person at lunch who sticks up for the boss, who provides an alternative perspective, who walks away from the table.

That’s how I know you are ok with being unhappy at work.

It’s hard to change something that we are conditioned to do – be part of the team, collaborate together, share opinions and thoughts, let others sway us. In part, it helps us not only stay unhappy at work, but also keeps us attached to the very things that we think are making us unhappy.

Now What?

When reflecting on your miserable job (or boss, or company, or whatever), do you immediately think of excuses of what you can’t change the situation?

  • “I am the breadwinner. There’s no way I’ll be able to make as much money elsewhere.”
  • “It’s a tough job market, no one is hiring.”
  • “I’ve applied to positions, I’m just not getting any hits.”
  • “I’ve been here for so long, I can’t let my seniority go.”

These can be reasonable excuses (ahem, explanations), but at the core – they are what is keeping you in a perpetual state of unhappiness at work. Not judging you – in fact, I’ve stayed unhappy in a job for AGES. My excuse was that I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, so I may as well make as much money as possible while I was waiting. Even if I hated my job, my boss, and was losing respect for the company, daily.

You can only change things that you can influence. You cannot change what a jerk your boss is (oh, I have so many awesome stories about this!), you can’t change the company’s hierarchy or priorities, or how they view/treat their employees.

What you can change is:

  • Your state of mind: Make a decision that you are going to be happy at work. I talk about how to do this extensively in Stop Hating Your Job. But essentially, you need to pick a day and declare it to the world! I am NOT going to be miserable at work anymore! I won’t!
  • Change your environment: If you truly are unhappy, you have to make a change. Change won’t come to you without any work or effort (trust me, I’ve waited for years for something like this to arrive on my doorstep). Stop getting behind excuses and start making moves.
  • Eliminating the negatives: When there are everyday things that continually make you groan, figure out a way to eliminate them. Come up with a better/more efficient process; see if there is anyone else that you can hand it off to; create a reward to look forward to. I know, not perfect – but if you are really unhappy with something, start making moves.

Remember – only YOU can influence your state of mind and perspective. So change it – and stop being unhappy… you’ll still be a part of the team.