I never used to dread going to work on Monday mornings. In those days, I ran a non-profit I started with a group of friends. I looked forward to every day. I enjoyed the autonomy and loved the creative work it allowed me to do. Then it failed and we had to shut it down.
I was out of a job with a wife and a small kid to support. My opportunity came in the form of a 9–5 job which was unrelated to anything I cared about or wanted to do with my life.
That’s when I started dreading Monday mornings.
I entered a world where most people seem miserable with their life. Everyone I know at work either wants to climb the ladder, or wants out. That’s basically how we’ve trained ourselves to live, isn’t it? Upward and onward, or on to the next shiny thing.
We’re discontent, unhappy, and overall miserable at work.
It doesn’t matter how much the company you work for talks about work-life balance. It’s not important that their values include “happiness” or “purpose” or “well-being.” When it comes down to it, as long as you work for someone else, your responsibility is to make the company more money.
If you can derive happiness from KPIs, quarterly earnings, and customer satisfaction, go for it.
If you can chase a never-ending stream of goals for decades and never get tired of it, good for you. But it’s not your job’s responsibility to make you happy. The sooner you accept the truth, the sooner you might be able to do something about it.
You’re always building someone else’s dream
There’s a quote by the famous motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want.”
That quote doesn’t hold up in the modern workplace.
I once worked with a woman who excelled at her job. She did all the work of a manager and got paid half a manager’s salary.
When she tried to move up through the company, our regional leaders secretly blocked her. They gave her some cookie-cutter reasons, but she knew the truth was they didn’t want to have to replace her. The company was losing too many people and it was easier to leave her in place.
Whenever you work for someone else, you’re always building their dream.
It doesn’t matter how much you contribute to goals, profits, or the bottom line. The profits you generate might provide healthcare and buy groceries for you, but it’s the level above you that gets all the rewards. Your hard work pays for the CFO’s Tesla and the CEO’s yacht.
When the higher-ups smile and encourage you to go after your dreams, they don’t mean for you to go outside the company. Your work supports many lifestyles other than yours.
Some folks might be able to merge their personal goals and dreams into the companies. But most people have things they’d like to accomplish outside the company. When you work for someone else, your main goal is to accomplish the dreams of the people at the top.
What to do:
Use your current work situation to learn new skills. They can be hard skills like accounting or finance, or soft skills like rapport building and conflict management. The skills you learn now will help you build the life you want as you move forward.
Your job can do what they want when they want
The idea of a safe job is laughable, but we still cling to it.
We use it as an excuse for staying in situations that are often bad for our mental health.
One random Friday, my friend Kenneth got called into his manager’s office for no apparent reason. It was an ambush.
The manager had upper management on speakerphone, and Kenneth was unceremoniously told he had to start working at a different location. Had he refused, he’d have been given a severance package. His crime? He was the most recent hire, so he had the least amount of time with his company.
Kenneth’s boss told him, “I know it sucks, but at least they didn’t cut you a check and tell you your services aren’t needed anymore.”
Translation: Be thankful you didn’t get laid off. His new location was terrible and he left the company six months later.
When you work for someone else, you’re like a piece on a chessboard. You are at the mercy of your employer, dependent on them to keep the IV drip called benefits and a paycheck turned on.
What to do
I have to jump on the income stream/side hustle bandwagon here. Years ago you could expect to stay at a company for 45 years and then retire. That is no longer feasible. There are many ways to make money online and diversify your income.
I’m not talking about get-rich-quick schemes. People will pay to know what you know. There are endless opportunities online and it feels pretty great knowing even a small portion of your income isn’t reliant on a job that can dump you at any time.
Your job invades your private life
There is no such thing as leaving your work at work. What I mean is, when the day is over, it is impossible to simply stop thinking about your job and go on with your life.
If you’re unhappy at work, that unhappiness can cause long-term negative health effects. Have you ever had a bad day at work and just wanted to go home and eat a gallon of ice cream instead of going out with your friends? Or maybe you have snapped at a significant other because your unhappiness carries over from the office.
You can’t be unhappy at work and happy in life.
Jobs today can invade your private life in ways past generations would’ve never believed. Think your boss doesn’t look at your social media? Think again. Nothing is private if it’s on the internet. But it doesn’t stop there.
Many employers will require you to report any outside employment for approval by human resources. In many cases, this is to ensure you aren’t engaging in anything that might be an encroachment on your employer’s field of business. In some cases, your employer can deny you outside employment or business practices.
Never mind if your company doesn’t pay you enough. You’d better hope your additional employment doesn’t compete with your main job’s interests.
What to do
I think this one is fairly self-evident. For one thing, don’t post stupid stuff on social media. Second, play the game until you can get more freedom. If you’re in a bad situation that is negatively impacting your physical or mental health, there is no shame in trying to find a way out.
It boils down to this
If you’re unhappy at work, I have to ask: Why do you expect your job to make you happy?
Companies will act in their own best interests. I’m not saying there aren’t great places to work out there that care about their employees. But when it comes down to deciding a single employee, you can guess who they’re going to choose.
That is why you must act in your own best interests as well.
Your company is not going to lose sleep if you are unhappy.
If you quit tomorrow, the only real tears shed would be over having to find a replacement for you. It’s not their job to make you happy.
It’s time to let go of your romantic expectations. They’re holding you back and killing you slowly.
Your job may want you to be happy, but only you can control that. Do what you need to do to get to a better place.
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Kyle Chastain is a writer who has been featured in Illumination Curated, Medium, and The Startup. Follow him on his website.
This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.