4 signs you’re over your job & 5 things you can do about it

Over the summer, I read a book that likened a miserable job to hanging onto the edge of a cliff. I thought it was an appropriate analogy. Like most people, I've been there, and that's totally what it feels like. You know you have to let go, but letting go is scary. You could land in a better spot, or you could meet your ruin.

The author argued that sometimes letting go of that cliff is gradual, but once you do, you usually experience success. She had examples, but I imagine there are plenty of “letting go” stories that didn't turn out so well.

Still, I'm a fan of letting go of things that don't serve you well. I also understand that some don't feel this is an option — for financial reasons or otherwise. I've been thinking about this a lot lately: How do you know when you're on the edge of a cliff? What can you do about a job you hate, and how do your finances fit into the equation?

4 Signs You're Over Your Job

1. You Feel Taken Advantage of

In my experience, this is the first sign that you're mentally done with your job: you feel more than just unappreciated; you feel your boss is taking advantage of you. It's one thing to not get a pat on the back; it's another to feel you're being manipulated.

In my own experience, failing to speak up for myself has led to this situation. Some bosses viewed me as the good little worker bee who didn't give them trouble. Thus, if they had outrageous demands, I was the first person they'd go to, because I was the easiest. I've learned to slowly break myself of this meekness and set a boundary between being a pushover and being a hard worker.

A study from Florida State University backs up my experience. It found that when given an unreasonable amount or type of work, loyal, dutiful employees became jaded. When workers felt they were being taken advantage of, researchers found a 50 percent decline in “helping behavior” and a 35 percent increase in “anger at supervisors.”

2. Getting Fired Doesn't Sound Too Bad

I was once contracted on a project known throughout its company for being, frankly, a s*&t show. Workers were expected to put in 50 hours a week for no other reason than to showcase their dedication. The project was so miserable, even seemingly kind colleagues would throw each other under the bus if it meant saving themselves. My cube mate, Ron, hated the project.

Once, I went to pick something up from the printer and found Ron's resume in the lower tray. I discreetly handed it to back him. Slightly embarrassed, he laughed:

“Wow. That shows you how much I care about getting fired.”

If getting fired doesn't sound too bad, it's probably time to let go of that cliff.

(Side note: Ron did let go. Shortly after, he found his dream job and moved to Hawaii. An extreme but inspirational example.)

3. You Purposely Slack Off

That Florida State study also found that hard workers had a 25 percent decrease in productivity when they felt they were being asked to do too much.

I hate to admit it, but I've been there. In the past, I've purposely slacked off due to resentment. I was angry, frustrated and stressed out, and to protest, I passive-aggressively put in less effort. This is a really dumb thing to do, because it doesn't really get the point across. Instead of being sympathetic to your dissatisfaction, your boss is more likely to focus on the fact that you've turned into a slacker. Also, work ethic is something I mostly cultivate for myself. So submitting half-assed work is doing myself a disservice.

4. You Feel Stuck

It's a terrible feeling: the desire to move forward when your current situation is holding you back. You feel captive, and the more captive you feel, the more frustrated you get.

To me, this is the primary sign it's time to let go. I don't cope well with feeling stuck.

But letting go means different things for different people; my mom, for example, has felt stuck at a job, and her “letting go” was more of an emotional process. More on that later.

5 Things You Can Do About It

1. Find Something Better

If you feel taken advantage of, you probably feel undervalued. If you think you have a lot to offer a company, perhaps you can find something better.

However, you also have to consider what exactly would make you feel valued. For some people, that's not always money. It might mean a better position or more time off or simply more praise. Finding something better might mean earning less, in which case, you have to weigh the practical factors with the emotional ones.

Example: When I was a technical writer, I felt stuck. I knew the chance of switching careers and earning less money was high. So I asked myself some questions:

  • What's the likely difference in the amount of money I'll be earning?
  • How long am I willing to earn less before I decide to go back to a dissatisfying, but more lucrative, career?
  • What lifestyle comforts am I willing to give up?
  • How hard would it be to return to that career? How much would I earn upon reentry?
  • Is it worth the difference in salary to try doing something I love?

My answers weighed more on the side of switching, so I let go.

2. Transition

Unless your job is weighing on your health, which does happen, it might be best to gradually un-stick yourself from a sticky situation. You can definitely take the plunge, and that might work for you, too. But the other option is getting your feet wet and gradually easing into unfamiliar waters.

“Easing in” might mean finding part-time work somewhere else, until you can let go of your job completely. It might mean searching for another job in your free time.

3. Change Your Job Without Quitting

Can your feeling stuck be remedied by working from home? Would you be happier with a different schedule? If there are simple changes that could drastically improve your work life, it might be worth negotiating them with your boss before deciding to quit altogether.

There's also the option of applying for a different position. If what you hate is something specific — your boss, your work environment, a project — perhaps it's not a bad idea to simply change your position at your current organization.

Especially if you haven't been there long, staying at the same company might also be better for building your resume.

4. Communicate

There have been at least a few times in my working life where I felt overworked and underpaid only to realize this was easily fixed with a simple conversation. Asking for a raise can be awkward, but many times, you won't get one (at least not for a while) unless you ask.

Lately, I've been working on speaking up about my frustrations. I don't throw a fit, but I'm learning to make issues known in a polite and diplomatic way. A few things have helped in airing my grievances effectively:

  • Don't get personal. I make the situation the issue, not my boss or the company. If I'm not getting paid enough, for example, I'll bring up the issue of those darn budget cuts rather than blaming my supervisors or their decisions.
  • Be honest. Your boss is a human being, so he or she can probably relate to why something bothers you. It might not hurt to simply be honest about the issue, but avoid talking about how it makes you feel and instead focus on why, logically, the situation doesn't work for you: Not getting a raise affects your budget. Tackling another project keeps you from spending time with your spouse.
    I was once honest about a time issue with my boss, and he responded: “Yeah, come to think of it, don't send me anything after 6pm. My wife's been complaining that I work too much.”
  • Emphasize your work ethic. I try to remind my boss that I enjoy my job and that I'll continue to put in loads of effort. I feel like this eases any concern that I'm only interested in what I'm owed and not what I can contribute.

Of course, I understand that “talk to your boss” might not be a viable option for all of us, because some bosses are not open to hearing what you have to say.

5. Change Your Outlook

My mom has a story about the power of changing your outlook. She realizes this isn't the best option for everyone, but sometimes, it is. I asked her to guest write about it:

“I used to work in retail — a job that was supposed to be a stepping stone. But before I knew it, I was there for seven years and growing increasingly dissatisfied and ungrateful. So I asked myself, ‘Do I change my environment or my outlook?'At that moment that I realized I had over-stepped this stone! So, I chose ‘change my environment.' I went back to school to improve my chances of getting a better job. And that's how I ended up at [my current] office job.

I was excited about my new job, and I enjoyed the work. But a year later, a new supervisor and new co-workers changed the atmosphere. It got so bad, I allowed it to affect my home life, which I regret to this day. So I found myself asking the same question: ‘Do I change environment or outlook?' I felt unappreciated and ignored by the new supervisor and taken advantage of by co-workers. I chose, this time, to change my way of thinking, because I liked the work I was doing, and I had to think about providing for my young family at the time. I did my best to not allow my coworkers or environment get to me. I did my work and went home. Eventually, things got better.

Looking back, choosing to change my way of thinking not only helped me to overcome that work environment but also to grow as a person.”

My mom weighed the pros and cons of staying versus leaving and decided that staying was the best decision, financially and career-wise. At work, she shifted her focus to her family. She says it's a decision that's served her well.

Most of us have had a job that made us feel stuck. What did you choose to do about it, and how did you consider your finances when making your choice?

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MoneyAhoy
MoneyAhoy
6 years ago

This is a great list of ideas and concepts. One I’d like to add is maybe build your skillset. Maybe your current company offers tuition reimbursement? Or, maybe if you find yourself slacking off you can put your time to good use by learning a new marketable skill.

Both of these will help you when/if you decide to make the transition to a new company or job.

Alroy
Alroy
6 years ago
Reply to  MoneyAhoy

there is a reason i stumbled upon this discussion. i wished i listened to my previous manager when i applied for my current job. he said i will regret it. today i do – due to the office environment. i am here 2yrs already and hate every day i have to endure being here. still dont know what to do, but i am at least furthering my education.

Michelle at Making Sense of Cents
Michelle at Making Sense of Cents
6 years ago

I love this post! I am definitely over my day job. I plan on leaving soon and solely focusing on my freelancing.

Getting fired does sound easier and not too bad. I feel bad saying that but it is the truth.

Brian
Brian
6 years ago

Great post. It always makes the most sense to have a plan to leave a job, rather then quitting. Change is difficult, certainly if you have been at a job for many years. I have been with my current company for over 15 plus years and I have found when I look for new opportunities this is frowned upon.

J.Mill
J.Mill
6 years ago

I love what your mom wrote. I am currently in a job where I like what I do and the people, but the company is in flux and that makes everyone on-edge and makes me fear for my job nearly daily. I have to tell myself that I can search quietly for something new in my free time, but until something else happens I need to enjoy my job and give it my all. I need to work on my perspective!

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
6 years ago
Reply to  J.Mill

Having been through job ups and downs, I think “make the most of it while I’m here” is a good attitude to have. Learn everything you can, network and prove your work ethic and you’ll have a leg up hunting for a new job if the worst should happen.

When people slack off, they’re shooting themselves in the foot. They’ll leave their bosses and coworkers with a negative impression, and burning bridges is never a good thing when it comes to careers!

Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
6 years ago

Anyone who hasn’t ever been “over” a job is a very lucky person. I know I have definitely experienced situations like being taken advantage of or being affected by a toxic environment and I left. I found another job and didn’t look back.

FI Journey
FI Journey
6 years ago

Great post. I’ve experienced this feeling several times, and I have to say that the times where I had honest conversations with my boss about where things were (non-threateningly, of course) ended up working out the best. Employers like to take care of their employees, by and large, and you’re right, good communication from employees can work wonders!

Michael Rivers
Michael Rivers
6 years ago

Still asking these questions myself….

Matt @ Your Living Body
Matt @ Your Living Body
6 years ago

It’s all about being proactive – if you feel burnout coming up have all your cards in place and be on the lookout for another job before hand so you’re aware of the market and you can jump at the opportunity when it presents itself.

Also, look at a job this way: if you don’t like it, what can you be doing in the meantime to get you away from what you don’t like? Be building a business on the side? Use things like that to help motivate you to work harder on your own personal goals.

lmoot
lmoot
6 years ago

“Also, look at a job this way: if you don’t like it, what can you be doing in the meantime to get you away from what you don’t like? Be building a business on the side? Use things like that to help motivate you to work harder on your own personal goals.” GREAT point. Sometimes, just knowing something is brewing around the corner is enough to put a little bit ‘oomph!’ into your work. Because I know I am only going to be here for 1 more year and 8 months, I am taking every stone being thrown in my… Read more »

Jean
Jean
6 years ago

This is SO ME right now. I definitely feel taken advantage of, and I am REALLY slacking off. And I’ve become jaded. I don’t think I’m hanging from the cliff yet, but I’m standing at the edge. Maybe it’s time to cut the cord altogether. I work for an airline, though and haven’t paid for a ticket in 5 years – that’s something I have to decide if it’s worth staying around for. Do I change my environment or change my attitude? Thanks for the timely post!

Carla
Carla
6 years ago

I can say my SO is in that position and then some. He’s currently working a survival job since there isn’t many positions for special ed teachers, at least not in the PDX metro area. I’ve been working with him to find something else outside of the box in education but there are real limits, even with a Masters degree. Too many people, too few jobs and too many $$cuts$$ in the last few years. His current commute is about 4 hours a day so it leave little time for networking and general research. The first step is to just… Read more »

Laura
Laura
6 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Carla – for yourself, have you checked what adult ed scholarships exist that you might be eligible for? Try http://www.finaid.org/otheraid/nontraditional.phtml , http://www.fastweb.com/Scholarship-Search , and other links under an adult education scholarship search. Another option might be using MOOC’s (massive open online course) – some charge but some are free, and I think they offer certificates when you’ve completed a course – it at least shows an employer you’ve had some training, if not a degree. Look at http://www.bdpa-detroit.org/portal/index.php?Itemid=20&catid=29:education&id=57:moocs-top-10-sites-for-free-education-with-elite-universities&option=com_content&view=article for more info. For your SO, taking a different survival job closer to home sounds like a good stop-gap strategy. I googled… Read more »

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Hi Laura,

This is extremely helpful! Thank you so much for looking this up for me. We’ve done a lot of research so far but sometimes another pair of eyes is helpful.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago

The author argued that sometimes letting go of that cliff is gradual, but once you do, you usually experience success. She had examples, but I imagine there are plenty of “letting go” stories that didn’t turn out so well. Ha ha, yes– It’s not rare to go from the frying pan to the fire! “Letting go” is no guarantee of magical results. But if you have something you really want to pursue, and it’s not just a pipe dream. then letting go of the old is a prerequisite, and one has to overcome the fear. Auden said it in a… Read more »

Abi @ Debt Free in Dubai
Abi @ Debt Free in Dubai
6 years ago

This is my life currently. Some days I’m so miserable at the thought of driving in to work, I wish something would “happen” to my car so I can be out of commission for some time. Awful, I know.

I like what I do just fine but the environment is beyond toxic. If I get a new job, I will leave but in the event that doesn’t happen, the earliest I can exit without something else lined up is Feb 2014. Don’t know how I will last that long.

TJ Jackson
TJ Jackson
6 years ago

sorry to derail this comment thread, but topic

https://www.getrichslowly.org/which-online-high-yield-savings-account-is-best/comment-page-10/

has a problem – only the first 500 comments are viewable, and there are (as I write this) 1751 comments in total

Elena @ Lower Healthcare Costs
Elena @ Lower Healthcare Costs
6 years ago

I have also been there, done that. Once I felt stresses, overworked, underpaid, manipulated by my boss and being taken advantage of every day. My blood pressure was really high for almost 2 years due to stress I experienced at work. But, luckily, I had another part time job, thus some income coming in every month as well as supportive husband. So I quit cold turkey. Took a break for a few months, recharged my batteries and found a job with no stress, 50% higher pay and less hours to work. Useless to say, my blood pressure went back to… Read more »

bemoneyaware
bemoneyaware
6 years ago

Awesome article..I loved not only the way to recognise signs you’re over your job and also the solution. But when should you look for signs, after a month, year, years?
Mom’s advice is so practical: Do I change environment or outlook?

Jon @ MoneySmartGuides
Jon @ MoneySmartGuides
6 years ago

I was in a job I hated and would call off all of the time. I just didn’t care. When the economy went down the toilet in 2008, the company had 2 layoffs. I was disappointed when I wasn’t chosen.

We spend too much time at work to do something that makes us act in these ways. In the end, you have to look out for yourself and find a job that you enjoy doing. It might be scary, but after what you’ve been going through, can it really get much worse?

Tanea
Tanea
6 years ago

Great post! I’m definitely over my job. I’ve dealt with so much crap working for different companies for the last couple of years. Recently, after I heard that I might get laid off from my current job, I saw that as an opportunity to pursue my dream. Then, later, when they announced they wanted to keep my team, I was actually disappointed. I feel bad saying that, but it’s the truth. If it weren’t for the fact that I need the money to pay my bills, I would have quit already. I feel so trapped but there’s not really anything… Read more »

Ray
Ray
6 years ago

Great article. I have been slacking off a lot recently, but not actively. I just have no motivation. My organization offers no professional development, no room for promotion, and very little performance feedback. My boss is scattered-brain, rude, and a terrible leader. I feel I am not growing in any way. I’ve tried for two years now to change my outlook–definitely time for a change of environment. Financially I cannot quit cold turkey, but I’ve been applying and interviewing for new positions. It feels great to take charge of my situation!

Annalee
Annalee
4 years ago
Reply to  Ray

Do we work in the same place? Get out of my head! 🙂 I walked into a college admissions office last Friday. That is my exit strategy. Ever since, I can see the light at the end of this tunnel and nothing about the job has bothered me as much. I still hate it, still hate my boss, but I know one day I am out. It is keeping me from having my weekly break down. I will have to tighten my belt for a little bit (when I can no longer work full time due to classes) but I… Read more »

Chim Aaron
Chim Aaron
6 years ago

Change your environment or change your outlook – I like this construct. I have chosen to change my outlook by continuing to give my best in my job while working on the side gig. My mum always said you should let the side gig become so successful that it pushes you out of the day job – I agree.

WWII Kid
WWII Kid
6 years ago

I’m ready to go off the cliff.

Somebody push me.

Please.

Leslie Dean Brown
Leslie Dean Brown
6 years ago

Well after reading the post, it is very reassuring to know I am not alone. I have been ramping down my current work and working on building up an alternate career. I think it’s probably the hardest thing I have ever done.

I can certainly identify with feeling a great deal of fear & trepidation with this transition, but it makes me realise that I am pretty much over my current work.

Thank you.

Black Bart
Black Bart
5 years ago

I am in a transition phase. I have started a new job in a field I have been trying to break into for about two years and couldn’t be more ecstatic about it. My bosses are great, my co-workers are nice and helpful, my day-to-day routine is actually fun and engaging and I feel like I am adding to something bigger than myself on the 2 projects I have been assigned already. The work week flies by and I look forward to my drive in the morning – which is only 10 minutes long because my new office is pretty… Read more »

ANN
ANN
5 years ago

IM SO READY TO GET OUT – MANIPULATED, OVERWORKED, TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF, ALWAYS HANDED EXCUSES WHEN ASKING FOR A RAISE, OVERWORKED, OH YA, SAID THAT ALREADY – WORKED LIKE A DOG DAILY – SO TIRED OF IT – AGGRESSIVELY SEARCHING AND WAITING FOR ANOTHER JOB – I JUST WANT OUT YESTERDAY!

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