When you hate your work

There’s a short article trending on LinkedIn today regarding the age at which people start hating work. There’s even a hashtag trending, #HatingWork. The article is spot on and pretty much what you would expect; that at a certain age, employees experience intolerable stress from high-ranking positions or from not having met their career goals. Additionally, work/life balance with family obligations, as well as toxic work environments, are predictable factors here.

I get so frustrated when I read these articles and think about where we are today as a society. How did we get here? How do we change this?

I have no answers, as there are pros and cons in everything. Running your own business is certainly no utopia in which you can escape, although it does have some strong benefits in terms of sidestepping some of the above referenced corporate stressors. However, the potential trade offs are lack of stability, as you’re often paying yourself last, and your business is at the mercy of the economy. That said, I’ve seen some common threads over the years in terms of those who seemed to have figured it out. While I’m in no position to give any trite or heavy-handed advice, this is what I’ve seen in those who have a handle on tolerating work:

  1. SOMETIMES IT’S JUST A JOB. I know one guy who doesn’t like to talk about what he does for a living, because it’s just that, a job. He could probably get a “better” job if he wanted, with more prestige and more money, as he’s a pretty sharp guy with skills, but he doesn’t want to. His job is stable and the hours are manageable, which is a huge plus as his family is a big priority to him. Additionally, he has an active, wide circle of friends and family, as well as some cool hobbies that keep him pretty busy. It’s just a job, and he checks out at the end of the day, because he's got a whole lot else going on.
  2. SOMETIMES IT’S JUST ABOUT THE MONEY. A woman I worked with once, years ago, pretty much hated her job, though she tried to deny feeling that strongly about it. She was “just in it for the money,” as she liked to say whenever she was having a bad day, because she did make a huge salary with a great benefits package at the time. And that was just fine with her. There was an end in sight and she had other plans for a second career when she came to the end of her contract. In the meantime, the money afforded her the ability to do things that she never would have been able to do, otherwise.
  3. THE MONEY IS CRAP BUT THE JOB IS REWARDING. I know a number of people who fit into this category, and they’re some of the happiest, most interesting people to be around. They don’t make a lot, but they have interesting careers that enable them to give back to the community or make a difference in society. Whether it’s working for a non-profit or a cool small business, these folks seemed to have figured out what matters to them, and their lives are fulfilled with purpose.

I’d say the big commonality in all of these people is that they have decided what they want to let go of, because none of us can have it all. Whether it’s the money, the big title with the kick-ass office, work that you love, a happy work environment or plain old work-life balance, you’re going to have to choose what your priorities really are, and what you can live without. All of the people I referenced in this post figured out what they were willing to let go of, and they live with it. Not that I’ve gotten that far, of course, so far be it from me to give anyone any advice…

But the concept of letting go seems to be the key. What are you willing to let go of, in order to stop hating your work? What can you live without?


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