Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion about workers’ rights, what you should expect from a job, how your employer should treat you, and how hating your job affects your mental health. As hard as it might be to believe, some studies even show that having a “bad” job—meaning a job you hate—can be worse for your mental health than being unemployed.
Disliking aspects of your job isn’t rare, or even that uncommon. Gallup data shows that stress among the world’s workers hit an all-time high in 2022. Employed adults also showed dramatic drops in satisfaction with jobs, income, and amount of leisure time in the period from 2019 to now.
For many people, staying at a job can be extremely detrimental to their health. We’ll discuss why this is the case and what you can do to improve your mental health if you hate your job.
Identifying the Factors That Contribute to Job Dissatisfaction
Okay, so being dissatisfied with your job can harm your mental health, but why? It begins with the hours you spend at work. The average American works 60 to 70 percent of their days and, on those days, spends at least half their waking time working. That is a significant amount of time to be in an unenjoyable job.
The factors that affect your mental health are so variable and personal that there’s no way to count them all. However, studies show that interpersonal events have the biggest effect on workers. Some of the most common issues include inept bosses, toxic work cultures, poor communication, and low recognition.
In other cases, job dissatisfaction may stem from job insecurity. People at risk of losing their jobs feel much higher stress than those who know they will be able to continue working.
Work-life balance is also a major contributor to job dissatisfaction. Technology like the internet and smartphones have made many aspects of work much easier. However, they also ensure that you are never that far away from your work. Many people don’t get to be “off the clock” because they are responding to work calls or emails, even in their personal time. Even something that seems small—such as a boss calling you in on a day off—can harm your mental health.
Over time, all these factors lead to job burnout. This is a special type of stress that is related to issues like depression. Some signs of burnout include:
- Being cynical or critical at work
- Having trouble starting work
- Becoming irritable with coworkers and clients
- Lack of energy
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Changes in sleep habits
- Compensating with food, drugs, or alcohol
How Hating Your Job Affects You Mentally and Physically
Hating your job isn’t necessarily a problem, but it may become one if your work affects your health. Even in people without previous mental health issues, rates of stress, depression, and anxiety skyrocket when working in a negative environment. For people already managing these conditions, a miserable workplace will amplify their symptoms.
Poor mental health affects your body. Sleep issues are some of the first signs of this. You lay down at night, only to find you can’t sleep as your mind races with thoughts of responsibilities piling up or recalling a traumatic event from that day. As your anxiety worsens, this becomes more common and severe. A lack of sleep has long-term effects on your body, stress levels, and mental health conditions, forming a vicious cycle.
High levels of stress can also lead to muscle tension, especially in the head, neck, and shoulders. This leads to headaches, migraines, and chronic muscle aches. Stress and depression can also harm your immune system, making you far more susceptible to illness.
Some individuals develop stomach issues in response to stress. And, with newer research showing the links between gut health and the brain, this can also cycle back to harm you mentally.
Over time, chronic stress, depression, and anxiety can have major complications. These conditions have links to problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. Research from 2016 has even found that poor management at work accounts for up to eight percent of annual health costs in the U.S. and upwards of 120,000 excess deaths each year.
How to Manage Your Mental Health and Job Dissatisfaction
Recognizing how and why hating a job affects you is the first step. Then you need to decide what to do about it.
Your first instinct when hearing about how a bad job affects you mentally might be to call up your boss and immediately resign. However, don’t make any hasty decisions. Identify what your specific issues with your job are and prepare to make adjustments.
If your problems stem from a coworker, consider reaching out to them or a supervisor to talk about it. You can also try to build connections and befriend coworkers that you might not be close with. Sometimes all it takes to feel more positive about a work environment is enjoying the company of the people you work with.
Now, if your problems are things you can’t control, like constant deadlines, poor job security, or a toxic culture, you may not be able to address them yourself. If you feel that it is worth it, try reaching out to human resources or a supervisor far above your own.
Having something to look forward to at the end of the day can make it far easier to manage a bad workplace. For some people, this is a loving family and close friends, while for others, it’s a hobby they enjoy. Practicing mindfulness, exercising regularly, and eating well are all ways to improve your mental health.
Sometimes you won’t be able to conquer a poor workplace on your own. Speaking with a counselor or mental health professional may allow you to manage your stress and mental health symptoms outside of work. Many professionals can teach you healthy coping mechanisms to help you get through the day. You might even be able to find a support group of people with similar issues.
These measures are often easier said than done, though. At the end of the day, you understand your struggles and your mental health better than anyone. If you feel your job is impacting your life negatively and you’ve done all you can to address it, it may be time to quit. Managing the mental health effects of a bad job may be enough for some people. For others, the only real solution may be to fix the underlying issue and find work elsewhere.