There are few things as soul-destroying as spending five days a week at a job you hate.
Five years ago, I found myself in this exact situation, being
micro-managed to the point where I wasn’t allowed to send an email
without it being signed off first and hating every moment.
My mental health deteriorated quickly.
Housemates pointed out how my personality had changed, and my then boyfriend and I started arguing more.
I lasted five months, before the director of the company asked to have a chat – which ended with me on my way home at 10am, unemployed.
My story isn’t unique; I’ve heard countless friends and former colleagues talk about how demotivated they feel, how unhappy their jobs make them, but how they can’t make themselves leave.
Like Jenny*, who spent months second-guessing her work and being put down by her boss, before finally throwing in the towel.
Or Cecilia*, who used to cry in the toilets during breaks every day because she hated everything about her job but didn’t want to quit, because the pay was good.
Or one of my current colleagues, who previously worked for a reputation management company where she ‘wasn’t allowed to eat in the office’ and was hit on by a superior.
Despite this, she stayed for a year because she was told someone else in the company had tripled her salary in five years and she hoped to do the same.
Ah yes, money.
It’s so often the reason people remain in a job they can’t stand; the reward of a hefty amount of cash in your bank account that’ll give you the freedom to do what you want in life.
Except, there you are, spending most of your time hating every day (and sometimes even yourself, for not leaving).
Fear is the other main drive for why people don’t leave a toxic work situation.
Remember that episode of Friends, where Chandler tells Rachel to quit her job in order to get ‘the fear’ – a feeling that will drive her to follow her dreams? Sure, all ended well and Rachel eventually became a bigwig in the fashion industry, but reality doesn’t offer as much comfort.
Because while most of us (who are unhappy at work) dream of announcing ‘I quit’ in a dramatic fashion before walking out the doors as the hero of the show, we’re afraid.
Afraid of what else is out there.
Afraid of ending up someplace worse.
Afraid of the shame, should we not land on our feet.
So, what can you do if you’re stuck in this vicious circle?
Firstly, know that you’re not the only one; a survey released by YouGov last month showed that 32% of over 4,000 participants were dissatisfied with their careers.
‘Fear of moving outside of our comfort zones, away from safety and security, can stop us making powerful changes in our lives,’ career coach, Helen Campbell, tells Metro.co.uk.
‘The idea of leaving a job we don’t like tends to be about moving away from what we don’t want, instead of moving towards what we would like, so the inspiration for the change is then coming from a negative mindset.
‘If you want to leave your job, try mapping out your perfect working day on paper or as a mood board.
‘What time do you start in this perfect job, and what sort of environment would you be in?
What would you wear to work, and how would you get there?
Who else would be around during your working day?
‘Then start looking at whether your current role will ever bring this to you or if it’s time to look elsewhere.’
One mistake that people make when quitting a job is leaving it for the next best offer, despite the fact, as Campbell explains, your future workplace should match your priorities.
Don’t just accept any new role because you’re unhappy in your current one – while it might bring change in the short-term, you could quickly end up where you started.
Instead, do your research and approach employers that you would like to work for, who promote a workplace that has values you believe in.
Or look into working from home and for yourself, but beware freelancing has its drawbacks too.
‘Don’t wait until you’re miserable beyond belief and reach the “enough if enough point” – take action and don’t settle for five out of ten job satisfaction,’ Michael Serwa, a life coach who has worked with high-profile people including senior team members at Google and presidential candidates, tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Do something about it, and do it now. Bite the bullet and make that dream happen.
‘Even if you lack clarity, don’t give up on the idea that there is something more rewarding out there for you.’
Inspiring speeches about capturing dreams aside, leaving a job can be scary and rightly so.
You’re uprooting a cornerstone of your life, but remember that a job is just a job – and if you’ve reached the point of hatred towards what you do and where you do it, it’s time to leave.
It might be useful to talk it through with a friend, list the pros and cons or find someone who has been in a similar situation and ask questions about how they prepared for their departure.
Because while I encourage and applaud those who simply quit without a plan, this type of exit could cause undue stress that you could potentially avoid.
Sometimes, it’s not the case that you hate your job completely – maybe it’s a new boss, a certain colleague or just a shift in responsibilities.
It’s worth exploring options within the company (if you want to stay there). Find out if they have an opening in a different department that might suit you better.
‘If you aren’t enjoying your job, I always advocate giving your current company an opportunity to change first,’ said James Taylor, managing director of recruitment consultancy, Macildowie.
‘Tell them how you are feeling, what worries you, how you feel things could improve – focusing on offering solutions rather than problems.
‘If that doesn’t work, go and find a company or boss that does want to listen to you.’
And if the reason you want out is purely because of money, you’ve got nothing to lose by asking for a pay rise before you quit.
But whatever you do, if you’re reading this and feel like crying because it resonates with you – do something.
It’s OK to not like your job, even if it’s the role you’ve dreamed of getting your entire life.
It’s OK to start over in a completely different industry (yes, even if you’ve spent a decade cultivating your skills in this particular field).
And above all, it’s OK to quit – don’t let fear rule your life.