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Why Do People Hate their Jobs?

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Guest Post By: Ken Keis, MBA

Did you know . . .

  • 80% of people dislike their job—from feeling slight irritation to absolute loathing—and of those, over 33% HATE their work.
  • A study by the US Human Resource Management Association found that 78% to 82% of all employees, including executives who currently have a job, are looking for other opportunities.
  • A recent survey revealed the number one factor creating high levels of stress in the developed world for over 50% of individuals is their work.

Why the dismal numbers? Here are some ideas.

Calling and Purpose

In an interview with a colleague who has been teaching career-development professionals for over 40 years, I asked why so many are unhappy in their work. He said “People are not willing to do the work to change!” What he meant by that is statement is most individuals have not taken the time or put in the effort, to learn about themselves and what makes them tick.

My experience in this field for over 2 decades has taught me that individuals simply don’t take the responsibility to better their situation. A very high percentage have no idea what they would rather be doing so they stay stuck and miserable. They cling to the certainty of misery rather than the misery of uncertainty.

Most people will spend more going to a movie than on their own professional development. Self-discovery is reserved for the seeker, not the complainer.

For my discovery process 25 years ago, I traveled 5 hours (2.5 hours each way) to monthly sessions with a coach for 6 months to get clear about my calling and purpose. To get the answers I was seeking, I wrote 50+ pages of narrative and finally was clear about my purpose statement—to help others to live, lead, and work On Purpose. Then I wrote My Source EXPERIENCE Journal, a book focused on helping others determine their own calling and life purpose.

Note: Calling and purpose are not the same as a career and job.

Wrong Advice and Recommendations from well-meaning but out-of-touch professionals

There is a group of career-development professionals who are outdated with their recommendations. Tools like “interest inventories” for selecting your career path no longer work today. In the US alone, no interest inventory even comes close to over 40,000 job titles. Others try to use National Occupational Codes (NOC) or Standard Industry Codes (SIC) which again are from an outdated, broken system. There are no NOC or SIC codes for my own calling, position, or job and millions of others have that same challenge so don’t get hung up on those systems.

In the past, many professionals used personality testing to foretell career paths. I can’t state this loud enough. NEVER use personality tests to determine your career path! There is no link between your personality and your gifts, talents, interests, and abilities. Personal Style or personality should not be used to predict or select a career!

The Effect of External Pressures

I was working with a medical doctor who hated his profession. When I asked why he was still practising, he said his dad always wanted him to be a doctor; family expectations and pressure had lead him down that path but it was not his passion.

After all his years of training and the tremendous expense, the pressure to remain a doctor was enormous. We created a plan for him to transition out of the profession. When he made the decision to change, his burden was lifted; he was free to serve his true calling—real estate investor and business consultant. Today, he coaches medical professionals and loves it.

So many professionals use the excuse, “This is all I know.” Rather than retraining, learning something new, and stretching themselves, they continue down a path of dissatisfaction. They stick with their negative comfort zone rather than realizing their potential.

My wife Brenda is an academic counsellor/coach at a university. One day in her office, an international student started to cry because she was struggling to pass her science courses. Brenda discovered that the student’s parents in Asia owned a cosmetic-manufacturing factory; the daughter was destined to be head of the company’s research and development. The young woman had a strong interest in the arts, acting, and music and hated sciences. Because of cultural and family pressure, she was miserable.

1. At a family dinner, my aunt asked my then-9-year-old son what he wanted to do in his life. He said he wanted to have his own band. My aunt responded, “That’s nice Tim, but what do you want to do for a real job?!” I immediately challenged her limiting comments. How many times have individuals with great and inspiring dreams and desires decided not to pursue their passion because some well-meaning (yet ignorant) friend or relative talked them out of it?! By the way, a few years later, my son—who thankfully did not listen to my aunt—was leading a worship band!

Subtle but significant influences around us can ruin our journey, direction, or development. Don’t let those influences into your space or thinking. Most everyone will have an opinion of what you should or could do but you are the only one who can decide if a job, role, or opportunity resonates for you.
No one else can live your life. At some point we all need to listen to our own heart and soul.

Money and Promotion

Money keeps people stuck. When I did a large research study on job satisfaction, there was one outcome I did not anticipate. As individuals were promoted, their job satisfaction levels decreased. Society thinks ambition means being upwardly mobile but that’s not how purpose and job satisfaction work.

A large retail client for whom we do training and consulting had a top cosmetic-counter specialist who loved her work. The client constantly encouraged her to become a supervisor. She kept saying No, but they kept asking. I stepped in to suggest that the lady was currently in her Zone and that by promoting her, they would reduce her job performance.

People falsely believe that promotion always means something better. My research proved that for many, promotion adds stress and creates job dissatisfaction. Some get addicted to the additional pay. Rather than switch back to where they were most productive and happy, they keep the higher paying job with the attached misery!

Fear keeps people stuck or frozen in jobs they hate. There is risk associated with change and they don’t have the courage to try something new. They worry about everything that might go wrong instead of visualizing the potential positive benefits.

Others like playing the victim, blaming others for the situation in which they find themselves. They do not take responsibility for their condition or life and they do little about it.

The most recent stats from Bloomberg predict that 50% of all jobs in the US will be “contract” by 2020. The reality is we all must shift back to the entrepreneurship model where we manage our own lives using the skills and expertise we provide to the marketplace. A few generations ago, the pioneers traveled with nothing more than a dream and they made it work. They had entrepreneurial spirit. We are heading back to our roots!

Another truth is that many individuals were trained in a profession but have never upgraded or updated their skills. In today’s world, you must be a continuous learner—constantly engaging new knowledge to stay current in everything you do.

My uncle operated his own automotive repair shop for 40 years and recently retired. He said, “Ken, the industry has changed so much that I no longer enjoy my work. It is mostly about computer chips and failing electronics. The job is no longer what I know.”

The job landscape is changing for all of us. The opposite also applies. Because of change, previously uninteresting or unattractive professions or opportunities might be a fit for you now.

There are jobs that have not been invented yet. There are new technologies and opportunities. We need to be open to new possibilities and options in the years to come.

For some people who hate their jobs, their unhappiness has nothing to do with the work; their discontent is inside them. They would be unhappy anywhere. That calls for an attitude adjustment rather than a change of job.

Some individuals are in the jobs they enjoy but their workplace environment is not supportive or positive. The number one factor that influences workplace morale is not job satisfaction, it is the leader or direct supervisor. If there is low morale, it is almost ALWAYS the leader’s fault.

Some of you work for jerks and so you need to make the decision to either deal with it or move on. Sorry, that’s the way it is! About 70% of leaders are viewed as incompetent by the employees. It could be that those leaders are unhappy in their work!

By the way, never underestimate the impact of a toxic individual on your team. He or she can be the reason others are leaving. Usually, it is the stars who have options and the confidence to leave a toxic work environment.

Everyone can improve their job and life satisfaction. Invest in becoming self-aware and knowledgeable about yourself. Awareness is so powerful because it immediately puts you in touch with a dimension of yourself that knows all things are possible.

Fixing the Problem

Here are few additional strategies for you.

First, you have to make a decision that something has to change or nothing will happen. You need to take full responsibility for your condition and for doing something about it.

Second, everyone must become fully self-aware of their Personal Style, talents, gifts, values, and abilities. That is foundational for optimum success. It transcends age, intelligence, education, profession, and job level. When you become aware, you cease being a victim of your circumstances. Own your own space!

Those insights will not arrive by accident so use assessments and tools to determine your Personal Style preferences, confirm your core behavioral values, and frame-out your passions, interests, calling, and purpose. Many tools and assessments are available to you, such as CRG’s Personal Style Indicator and Values Preference Indicator.

As mentioned earlier, I used a structured discovery process to confirm and determine my life purpose. Discovery is reserved for the seeker, so be proactive with that step.

Take all the other suggestions mentioned in this article and start acting on them—leave a toxic workplace, don’t listen to others’ opinions, develop the courage to leave a familiar place, take new training courses, reach out for professional help, and so on . . .

It’s sad to observe individuals who are in positions where they are not happy and engaged. It’s even more depressing that those people are doing nothing to change the situation . . . they put up with it, not just for weeks or months but for years and years!

Everyone can plan a transition, as I did with my doctor friend. Before you transition, you need to know where you are going. If you don’t know, that should be first on your list. The answers people need are there—if they intentionally seek them.

Keep Living On Purpose!

Ken Keis, MBA, President of CRG, is considered a global authority on the way assessment strategies increase and multiply your success rate. In 25 years, he has conducted more than 3000 presentations and 10,000 hours of consulting and coaching.

Author of Why Aren’t You More Like Me? Discover the Secrets to Understanding Yourself and Others, Ken has co-created CRG’s proprietary development models and written over 3.5 million words of content for 40 business training programs and 400+ articles.

His expertise includes assisting individuals, families, teams, and organizations to realize their full potential and to live On Purpose! Contact Ken at 604 852-0566,, and through

Why Do People Hate their Jobs? by
Authored by: Andrew Ostler

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