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Mike Figliuolo


Hate Your Job? Then Shut Up and Quit

Time to stop whining about it and do something

Published: Monday, September 11, 2023 - 11:03

Do you find yourself muttering, “I hate my job” every day when you wake up? Have you been saying that for more than a month straight? Are people starting to avoid you because you’re a downer to be around?

Then it’s probably time to shut your mouth and quit your job.

Yep. Time for another provocative post that’s a slap upside the head for some of you. It falls in the same camp as the “10 Reasons Your Team Hates You” post that got a ton of attention.

I know: The economy is terrible. I know: You need health insurance. I know: You have to pay your mortgage. I know: You have to feed your kids. (You’ll get no sympathy from me on the last point; when my son was 13, his nickname was “Galactus,” from the Fantastic Four villain known as the Devourer of Worlds.)

I know all those things make it hard to just up and quit. All I’m saying is if you’re that miserable, you have some serious introspection to do. What I’d like to offer here are a few thoughts on how to grapple with that process.

Your employment is ‘at will’

When folks read their employment contracts, they tend to focus on the point that their employer can let them go at any time. What they never think about is they’re free to quit anytime as well.

For those of you lucky enough to have stock options or other long-term unvested incentives, I’m going to tell you to shut your cakeholes if you object that you can’t leave because of everything you’re walking away from: “But Mike! I have a gazillion dollars of options, and I can’t quit or I’ll lose them!”

Shut up. Now. You’re making a choice—you’re choosing to hate what you do in exchange for a financial reward you’ll get after you finish doing what you hate. Hmm... That sounds eerily similar to another very old profession.

The first step in evaluating whether you should stay or go is admitting to yourself that you can go and calculating your losses. Then ask yourself the hard question of whether that amount of money is worth your happiness. If not, then consider leaving.

“If you don’t do it by the time you’re 40, you’re never going to do it.”

When is it time to leave?

A wise man once told me: “If you wake up one day and dread going to work, you have a bad meeting coming up. If you wake up for a week and dread it every day of that week, you’re on a dog of a project. If you wake up for a month and dread it every day of that month, you need to polish your resume. If you wake up for two months and dread it for those 60 consecutive days, what the hell are you thinking?”

The point of the above exercise is that you must separate the different kinds of pain your job inflicts. You should be tough enough to fight through the daily ups and downs or stick out that tough project.

It’s only problematic when the dread is structural. When every fiber of your being rails against driving to the office for a prolonged period of time, it’s time to consider a big change. You have to get out of that role, or you’ll lose yourself forever. The last question that remains is where do you go if it’s time to get out?

How far is far enough?

If the above conditions are all met, you should definitely evaluate finding a new job. The good news is, sometimes you don’t have to quit to find it.

First, look internally in your company. Unless it’s a tiny organization, there are usually other groups or functions that would be delighted to have you there. Maybe you can change divisions. Or go overseas. Or move into a brand-new function. Doing so keeps your long-term incentives in place, keeps your benefits (like healthcare), and most important, moves you somewhere you’ll be happier.

The downside of looking internally is many organizations have strong cultures. Those tend to permeate the organization into every nook and cranny (mmm, buttered English muffins... oops, sorry). If the culture is what’s causing your pain, moving to another role internally likely won’t solve your problem.

OK, now let’s look externally because of the culture clash. I know the economy is a dogfight right now, but people are hiring. If you want out badly enough, you’ll find something that will suit you. Sure, it might take time and effort—but isn’t your sanity and well-being worth it?

If you can’t find something ideal, maybe try your hand at starting your own dream business. Or go back to school and change fields. Find that which makes you happy. Yes, there are risks involved, but last I checked, this country was founded on risk taking. At worst, Burger King is hiring.

Another really smart guy once told me, “If you don’t do it by the time you’re 40, you’re never going to do it.” Whatever “it” is for you—starting a business, getting a degree, changing jobs to a new field you love—his logic was that by 40 you’ve typically invested enough in a corporate career that the long-term incentives are a crushing weight to walk away from, and you’re more focused on retiring than you are on growing your career.

Yes, this is a wakeup call. I’ve had a few conversations with folks during the past few weeks that have prompted this post. They’ve bemoaned their plight in the cubicle farm. They’ve complained about how unhappy they are. And yes, I’ve looked them dead in the eye and given them the same advice I just gave you. If you hate what you’re doing, go do something else.

So, who’s quitting tomorrow?

Published Aug. 23, 2023, in thoughtLEADERS Brief on LinkedIn.


About The Author

Mike Figliuolo’s picture

Mike Figliuolo

Mike Figliuolo is the author of The Elegant Pitch (Weiser, 2016) and One Piece of Paper (Jossey-Bass, 2011), and co-author of Lead Inside the Box (Weiser, 2015). He’s also the managing director of thoughtLEADERS LLC, a leadership development training firm. He regularly writes about leadership on the thoughtLEADERS Blog.


Have you tried to improve where you are?

While I agree that when an employee crosses the line to what I call a "Fatal Atitude," it is best for the employee and employer that the employee find another place to continue his or her career. This is when the attitude has turned to the point that it is very negative and not going to resolve. If you are not quite there yet, another option is to discuss the situation with you employer. As a manager, I have learned work with employees during annual reviews and other times to develop goals for each employee. This involves understanding their strenghts and weaknesses, and planning to work each employee's gifts and interests into the department to the degree that I can . This option is good for matching interests and talents to the tasks and projects within the parametes of the department goals. While this option is not available in over-all toxic environments, it can be very successful in environments where there is some level of open communication available between the employee and management.