Unhappy at work: what to do?

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Joe Dispenza
@joedispenza
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Unhappy at work: what to do?

Written and verified by the psychologist GetPersonalGrowth.

Last update: 15 November 2021

Being satisfied with your job (without losing it) and making a living isn't always easy. When you are unhappy at work, we often hear, that the cure is to look for a new one, but, given the objective difficulties, it is not always possible. This explains why work-related mental illnesses are increasingly common.



Studies such as the one published in the Economic Research journal highlight a fact: personal job satisfaction improves business performance and efficiency. That is to say, a happy worker who feels appreciated for his skills and his commitment is the real capital for a company.

Something so obvious does not seem to have a response in most of the working realities. Being unhappy at work is a very common condition.

When we are parts of an inflexible gear

There are many companies that overshadow the qualities and needs of employees to focus only on results and on achieving goals.

Our economic and productive activities often rely on vertical, rigid, traditional leadership with low emotional intelligence. And anyone who doesn't adapt quickly to these inflexible gears runs the risk of being quickly replaced by someone else; a recycling of labor in an increasingly competitive system.

Current work dynamics tend to put productivity before values ​​such as well-being, the ability to innovate, create and evaluate the potential of the employee. The result is that the psychological disorders associated with work are constantly growing. The main source of stress in our lives is work.


Furthermore, studies such as the one published in The Scientific World Journal remind us that being unhappy at work affects our health and alters all our lifestyle habits (food, rest, free time, etc.). So what can we do in such a painful and common situation?


“When work is a pleasure, life is beautiful. But when it is imposed on us, life is slavery. "

-Maxim Gor'kij-

My job makes me miserable (and I'm not the only one)

Being unhappy at work often means being unhappy in life. A job takes up a large part of our time and creates, moreover, the vision we have of ourselves, an image that should give us dignity. Thus, waking up every morning with the anguish of finding the same activity, a source of anxiety, stress, low motivation and no satisfaction, plunges us into an unpleasant and even dangerous psychological state.

A curiosity: in 2017 a study was conducted in the United States on the levels of personal satisfaction among employees of a large number of American companies. The results of the report are surprising and somewhat bleak:

  • 75% of employees were looking for a new job to leave what they already had.
  • 77% said the most qualified and contributors to the company are ignored.
  • 44% indicated that the company's most skilled workers were never considered.
  • 55% revealed that the salary was not up to par with their performance.

These numbers are more than indicative of what is happening in the world of work, in Italy as in other countries.

Causes of Unhappiness at Work

Let's see what are the main reasons that make us feel dissatisfied with our work.


  • Salary. Salary is still the main cause of unhappiness at work today.
  • Uncertainty. At the moment, uncertainty about the ability to maintain employment, even for a few months, is a major cause of stress and anxiety.
  • Type of occupation. In addition to the salary, the type of job we perform undoubtedly counts. It may be far below our training, not identifying us, being boring, or going through complicated shifts that affect our health and make it impossible for us to have a social life or connect with colleagues.
  • Work environment. This aspect is fundamental. In some work environments there is too much pressure, competitiveness, abuse by managers or toxic colleagues.
  • Manager with few skills. Managing a company implies knowing how to lead, being able to enhance the skills of employees, encourage, create productive and respectful climates, know how to innovate. If that doesn't happen, it's normal to be unhappy at work.

Unhappy at work, what can be done?

When you are unhappy with your job, two things can happen. The first is to decide to find something else. The second and most common is getting used to the idea that there is no other option but to adapt to an unbearable job in exchange for a salary. Now, before choosing the first or second path, it is worthwhile to adopt an intermediate way of thinking.


Some strategies to improve (as much as possible) our situation:

  • Prefer contacts with colleagues who transmit positivity, empathy, motivation and positive energy. On the other hand, people who infect us with a bad mood and negativity should be avoided.
  • Find out if there is the possibility of accessing another type of job, through a promotion or a transfer to another department.
  • If we feel a toxic or abusive attitude in our managers or bosses, we set limits. Carrying out orders that are denigrating or against our principles is dangerous for our physical and mental integrity. We always keep our dignity.
  • Once you leave the office, forget about it. To the extent possible, avoid taking stress, worries, and problematic relationships with colleagues home.

Finally, never underestimate the alarm bells. They represent the limits that must make us consider that, sometimes, it is better to lose a job than health. If our efforts, our skills are constantly ignored, if the climate is toxic and violent, the salary is negligible ... if we feel that all this is undermining our balance, ruining our lives, it is better to look for an alternative.


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