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Surviving Your Awfully Awful Job

Hey, if you hate your job so much, why don’t you do something about it?

It’s a good question. Too bad, for most people, there’s no good answer.

Enter Alina Tugend. Tugend, a writer for The New York Times, recently published a column titled “Survival Skills For a Job You Detest.” As she explains right at the jump, “It’s about what to do if you’re in a job you dislike — or maybe actively hate — but can’t move on.”


One of Tugend’s strategies for coping comes from career planning expert, Dawn Rosenberg McKay, who suggests that instead of making yourself sick, you make yourself a list. This is a two-part strategy where you start by writing down the things you dislike about your job. You need to be specific, so have plenty of paper at hand. Try to do it when you have a little distance, such as during a vacation, McKay suggests. “Don’t cheat and write, ‘everything.’ It may feel that way, but that’s not helpful.”

If you believe that thinking about what you don’t like about your job when you’re not at your job is waste of precious time off, rest assured that it won’t take you long to complete part two of this survival tactic. After you’ve filled a few reams of paper with everything you hate about your job, make another list of everything you like about your job. This is a list that you can write on the back of a postage stamp, if you write big.

What you should do with your lists is not really explained, but I suppose you’re supposed to burn them while listening to Black Sabbath and fashioning a voodoo doll of your manager. You certainly will not want to read your lists over to remind yourself how you blew a perfectly good vacation obsessing on exactly how horrible your life will be when you get back to work. That really would be depressing.

Another career expert, Cathy Goodwin, suggests you focus on “developing skills rather than serving time.” Unfortunately, your job is not a prison sentence. Prisoners get time off for good behavior. However, the idea of developing skills does make sense, assuming that anyone in your company has skills that you can use. You can definitely learn how to depress and demotivate employees and how to run a successful business into the ground. These skills may not be valued at another job but will be very useful in your company if you are ever promoted.

Author Roy L. Cohen cautions against sharing your job dissatisfaction with your manager. He recommends that you first “consider whether how you are treated is unique to you or shared by your colleagues.” Either way, I suggest that you speak up. Explain to your manager that you are a delicate flower and must be carefully nurtured if you are to blossom. It probably won’t change anything, but think positive — your manager might laugh so hard he or she has a stroke.

If you can’t find emotional satisfaction and you can’t quit, another suggestion is to “look outside your job for positive feedback.” Places to look for that loving feeling, Tugend suggests, are in a volunteer group or a professional organization. I can be more specific. Considering what you live through every day at your job, you’re a perfect candidate for the Hell’s Angels. Compared to your management, the Angels are a bunch of fuzzy-wuzzy bunnies bursting with positive feedback.

Alternately, you could buy a pet. A rabid dog will, at least, growl at your before he lunges for your throat, which is a lot more than you can expect from your supervisor. A gerbil running on a wheel for food pellets might also help you get to your happy place. At least, you’ll be able to identify with Mr. Gerbil.

One common response Tugend received in her reporting was the suggestion that the woefully employed “change their perspective.” Taking a dance or memoir-writing class were two perspective-changing suggestions, but I have to caution you, no one is going to believe what you write about your job in your memoir, not unless you have the talent of Stephen King. But a dance class does sound fun, and it could do some good for your fellow sufferers at work. How about ballet? Facing an endless day of grief and misery, the sight of you doing soaring tour jetes over the cubical walls is sure to make your stuck co-workers become totally unglued.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at


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