Creative Counselling: I Hate My Job!
by Marie Bruce
You spend a huge chunk of your life working and for many of us, our work is part of our self-identity and how we define ourselves, so when you’re having difficulties on the job, it can cause serious mental and physical health problems. According to UK government statistics, a massive 44% of all sick days are due to work related mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression.
Working for a living is a fact of life. Everyone has bills to pay and expenses to meet, so for most people there is a sense of obligation attached to the work they do because without their job, they wouldn’t be able to survive financially. This obligation will be less stressful if you enjoy your job and have built a satisfying career for yourself, but if you hate your job, it can feel like a ton weight pressing down on you and holding you back rather than helping you to succeed and move forward.
This is especially true if you are working for minimum wage, or your work involves dealing with disgruntled members of the public such as customers complaints. Even if you are on a good wage in a recognised career, if your interactions are largely negative – say for example a police officer who has to respond to criminal behaviour or accidents – then you are also at a high risk of developing some form of work-related mental health issue.
So what can you do about it? The first thing I suggest to my clients is that they identify the main problem. It could be that they enjoy their job, but dislike their boss or a colleague. It could be that the commute is too long and the excess driving or travelling by public transport is getting them down, leaving them with no time to relax. In many minimum wage sectors employees are often expected to cover for several colleague’s holidays and sickness, adding to the number of hours they work each week. In the summertime when holidays run one after the other, this can mean long weeks of extra shifts – all for minimum wage. Eventually this can grind you down to the point where you don’t even want to go in for your own hours, let alone to cover someone else’s hours as well. It can also mean that when your own holiday comes around, you’re too exhausted to enjoy it.
Unfortunately, the lower the pay sector, the more easily-replaceable workers are assumed to be. This means that employers rarely feel the need to look after their staff properly as they feel that they can soon recruit more workers if they need to. This leads to exploitation, with staff working long days and only getting a short break for lunch, or having to work through their lunch answering phones and seeing to clients et cetera. Again, this adds to stress and over time can have serious mental health consequences.
Once you have identified the main issue, look at the job overall and make a pros and cons list. This list is invaluable in seeing exactly what you’re dealing with each day, and once it’s written down in black and white, it’s hard to ignore. If your list of pros is the longest, then try to think of ways in which you could eradicate the cons – or at least lessen their impact on you. For example, if you like your job but dislike a colleague, could you move to a different office or department? Could you encourage that person to go for a promotion, which takes them away from your work space? Working on the cons and looking for ways to ease their impact on you will help to make your job less stressful.
On the other hand, what if the cons outnumber the pros? In this case, you need to think of what you do want from a job and start looking for employment elsewhere. If all your current job gives you is a wage, then there is surely another way to get that income in a different job that also gives you something extra, such as the chance of promotion and a career ladder to climb. Nothing is worse than feeling stuck in a dead end job that is going nowhere and which is dragging you down with it.
A feeling of being trapped is not unusual in dead end employment. Book a week off work so that you can think clearly and from a place of emotional detachment. Then put together a great CV, maybe go shopping to buy a new interview outfit and start taking control of your working life. Because although some employers might treat you like they own you, they really don’t. Even if they like to analyse every word you say, weighing it up as either positive or negative, that is only their own opinion. No-one has the right to tell you what to think and how you should express yourself, providing you are not being deliberately offensive. Activate your autonomy, decide what you want from a job and start looking for that instead.
Remember that no job is worth risking your mental health for. I have seen many people who have had to have time off sick over the long term, and although they have to adjust financially, they rarely tell me that they miss their job! Frequently, they leave that employer altogether and move on to something else. I think this is because they have given themselves free time to think things through with clarity and have realised the negative impact their job is having on them, and in turn on their family.
One of the tricks to success is to constantly assess the situation (which can change from day to day) and then adjust your own strategy for dealing with it. So if your job is no longer working for you, don’t be afraid to move on to something better. Your mental health will thank you for it! Until next month,
Marie Bruce x
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