@heyjasperai, unhappy woman holding her head while sitting at a desk, in the style of Dali

"I Hate My Job" - The Disgruntled Worker

Sep 15, 2021

What you should do to get out of that situation.


Dennis Guzik

Quick Summary/Intro

I recently published an article on Medium on how leaders should handle the disgruntled worker.  That resulted in feedback asking, OK, but what if I am that disgruntled worker?  What should I do?  Based on online posts, there are no shortages of people who hate their jobs, so I thought I’d try to offer some suggestions, having been at times a disgruntled worker as well as a leader of disgruntled workers.

First, what is a disgruntled Worker?

To paraphrase the comedian Jeff Foxworthy, you might be a disgruntled worker if:

  • You get up each work day and dread going into work
  • You hate your boss, co-workers, or both
  • You hate the actual work you must do
  • You hate the company that you work for
  • You hate the people you are supposed to lead
  • When given an assignment, no matter how simple or small, you look upon it as a death sentence
  • The product you turn out is mediocre at best, AND you do not care that it is that way
  • You feel under compensated for the work you do

I suspect that most disgruntled workers experience more than one of these feelings, to different degrees.  If this is familiar, read on!


Then You Have to Ask, Why You are Disgruntled?

Before we can get to what should do as a disgruntled worker, you need to determine what it is that is making you feel that way.  Let’s look at it two ways.

It’s not them, it’s you.

It’s all together possible that the company you work for and the job you do is fine, but it’s your mental health that is not.  No company or job can help you get through your depression, although it’s true that the work may exacerbate your feelings.

I am not anywhere close to being a mental health expert so will stay away from offering advice in this case.  You need to seek out professional help.  I would offer, however, that quitting your job if it results in loss of income and insurance could make things worse, vice improving the situation.  But a healthcare professional is more capable of helping you make that decision.

It’s not you, it’s them.

Here I do feel competent in offering advice based on my many years in the professional services industry, as well as in the Marine Corps (I’ve seen a few – temporarily - disgruntled Marines after a 15-mile hike with a heavy pack…).  So, let’s break this down into possible causes and then some things you might want to try before you throw in the towel and look elsewhere for new work.  This is not an exhaustive list of reasons, but in my experience, these are the most common causes of external disgruntlement.

Your Boss Sucks

It’s been said that people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses.  There is a lot of truth in that.  It amazes me what jobs people will tolerate when they have good leadership.  But, we all know, bad bosses are not uncommon.  I will look at two common “boss mistakes” and some potential ways of improving the situation.

First is the micro-manager.  This type of boss is constantly looking over your shoulder as you work, asking for updates, and in general making your getting your work done harder than it should be.  Why is it this way?  First, you need to be honest with yourself and ask if you are somewhat a cause of this by your poor performance.  If this is the case, doing a better job could be what it takes to solve the micro-managing boss problem, although it might not go away with your first “job well done”. 

But let’s assume you are doing a good job (as most workers are).  One common cause of the micro-managing boss is that he or she has done your job in the past, did it well, and is very comfortable with it.  They may have done it so well that they were promoted, and you are filling their old job.  They may feel that instead of being a micro-manager, they are actually helping you by teaching you how to be as good at the job as they were.  They do not see themselves as a micro-manager, but rather as a good boss.

This may actually be a good situation.  If they take pride in their management skills but do not realize they are micro-managing, then a potential way out of the situation is to ask for a one-on-one discussion with your boss.  Let him or her know that while you appreciate their attention, you’d like a little more freedom to get the job done.  There is no harm in having this discussion, and the result could be you get less attention and then the boss can give more time to other needs.

The second situation is probably the worst one to be caught in.  This is the one where you are disgruntled because your boss is a “screamer”.  He or she is constantly berating employees, often loudly and in front of other people (intentionally).  This boss may have been promoted to the point of incompetence and the stress is causing this reaction (i.e., he or she may also be a disgruntled employee!).  It may also be a case of a personality disorder that you are highly unlikely to change.  In either case, confronting your boss will not typically make things better, and could make things worse.  My advice in this case is to have a discussion with your Human Resources contact (if you have an HR department) and let them know the situation.  That alone could result in a conversation between HR and the boss, and if others do the same thing it almost certainly will.  Companies are very sensitive to a hostile work environment and its possible the situation will improve. 

None of these boss problem approaches are guaranteed to work.  I’ll address what to do if they don’t below.

The Work Sucks

Your company made you an offer, and you accepted it, based on the job description.  But sometimes that job description isn’t accurate or complete.  Sometimes, over time, the job changes.  Or you change, and something you used to like to do, no longer appeals to you.  What now?  Before you start to hate the work and possibly start to perform poorly because of that, you should speak with your manager and let him or her know that what you are doing is no longer what you want to do.  It should not be a threatening discussion – a give me a better job or I’m leaving approach.  But an open conversation to see if you can find common ground.  Are there other jobs under that manager’s purview that you could do?  Are there other jobs within the company that you could shift to?  By having this conversation, you may be able to make a smooth transition to another position that allows your boss the time to backfill your current position.  That’s a win-win situation, one that we should always seek.  But what if there are no other options?  I’ll discuss that below!


The Pay Sucks

You don’t feel fairly compensated for the work you do.  It could be because you took the job years ago and have never had a pay increase since.  It could be that the pay would be fair, but over time the company has added tasks to your job and now you do not feel you are fairly compensated. 

If your company has an established salary review cycle, you need to prepare for this with rationale for the raise, in terms of what you can do for the company.  If the company does not have an established salary review cycle, then you should ask to speak with your manager, letting him or her know ahead of time that you’d like to discuss a salary adjustment.  This gives them the time to rectify the situation, if that is possible.  If you are doing additional work, make sure you let them know.  It may be possible to get a promotion that includes a raise.

It may turn out that a raise isn’t possible, but maybe a reduction in your tasks is.  Not a likely situation, but I’ve seen it happen.  Work gets added to the tasks of the best workers, and sometimes they add up without the boss being aware of how much they are asking of their key people.  But what if there is no raise, or change of tasks?  I’ll talk about that below.


What if my recommendations don’t work?

So, you spoke with your boss and instead of backing off the micro-management its gotten worse.  Or HR spoke with your boss and things are now worse.  Maybe there are no other positions with this company that satisfies the type of work you want to be doing.  Or maybe you asked for a raise and were told, sorry, that’s as much as we can pay you. 

What now?

This is not as bad as it seems because it clarifies your path.  You’ve done all that you can do, and unless you want to go through life with the disgruntled feelings described at the start of this article, you need to make a commitment to yourself that you are moving on.  That does not mean you go into your boss and quit.  It means you assess your skills, desires, needs and the market then make and commit to a plan to move on.  This is your call to action!

The fact that you did all that you could to improve the situation and it didn’t work needs to be the impetus to fight that voice in your head, that voice of fear of change, and commit to improving your situation.  And when that fear arises, as it will during this process, use the fact that you did what you could, the situation is not going to improve, so you need to take action to keep you on track.  That action may include getting training in a new area, or a certification in something you want to do.  It means brushing up your resume and interviewing skills. It means actively networking and looking for a job.  It does not mean that you decide to leave, but just sit back and wait for something good to drop in your lap.  You can fix your disgruntled situation, but you need to take charge of making the change.


If you fit the description of a disgruntled worker, depending on what is causing your feelings, I’ve outlined some concrete steps you can take that may result in your staying in your job and feeling good about it.  And if those steps do not pan out, then you now have a compelling rationale for taking the steps you need to take to leave.  You should not live a life of a disgruntled worker, but you need to take action to make that so.