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What would you do if you loved your job but hated your work environment? Would you leave? How would you cope?

For example, I've worked as a copy editor and/or copywriter for both my high school yearbook and college newspaper, and while I wouldn't say that I've LOVED journalism, I do find it enjoyable at times. I would prefer to be doing creative writing, but I genuinely enjoy all types of writing, and I've cherished all the times that I was able to have touching experiences and interesting conversations with people that I wouldn't have talked to if it weren't for my job as a copywriter forcing me to conduct interviews. However, in both cases, I've hated my actual work environment. There are so many things that I resent, like how I know I'm perfectly capable of doing my job and I'm probably one of the best writers on the team, but I'm not treated like it and my work isn't valued. I never missed a deadline when I wrote for the yearbook, and I even picked up articles that other writers couldn't complete in time when we were in a time crunch, but no one ever thanked me for it. Honestly, I don't think that being thanked or feeling appreciated is too much to expect; these should be essential components of a healthy work environment. But when these components are in fact missing, what should you do? Should you quit your job? Sometimes it's not that easy. And if you choose not to quit and just stick it out, how do you cope? How do you stay sane? When I don't feel valued for the work that I do, it's extremely difficult for me to find motivation to keep up the quality of my work. I mean, if I don't feel that me or my work are valued, what's the point? What should I do? college writing journalism career job career-advice help career-help advice college-student work career-counseling student-advice burnout work-life-balance stress work-environment job-environment

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Charlene’s Answer

If you've isolated your unhappiness to your work environment and it shows no signs of changing, then you should begin looking for your next work environment. It's important for your mental health and your career success that you are enthused most every morning when you head into work.   

As I read your question, it appears your unhappiness rests with your supervisor.  A Gallup study showed that half of adults leave their jobs because of their supervisor. Other studies, including one from O.C. Tanner reveal that 79% of people who quit their jobs cite "lack of appreciation" as their reason. That means you are not alone in facing the challenge of boss who is inexperienced or not focused on employee satisfaction and retention.

If moving on is not an immediate options, here are some things to consider:

1) Ask your supervisor for feedback in a 1x1 setting.  This will give him/her the opportunity to provide you praise for your work, and insight where you can improve.  Be specific in your questions -- ask about your timeliness and quality of writing. 

2) Ask your supervisor whether there are colleagues you should be watching in order to learn and grow.  Although you might be the top performer in your work group, you need to show a commitment to lifeline learning, and an appreciation for diverse perspectives.  It will absolutely help your performance. And a little humbleness can go a long way.

3) Be purposeful about providing thanks and appreciation in a public setting to your colleagues in the work group. One of the best ways to change behavior of others is to model that behavior.

4) Offer to your supervisor that you would like to start an appreciation program for staff.  This will put the subject on his/her radar screen, and ultimately could begin to change the culture of your work group. 

5) You will encounter many poor supervisors and work environments in your career. I did. Each one of them made me better because I used it as a learning experience. If you can't move onto another job at this time, use this experience to identify exactly what is wrong with the environment and learn from it.  Pledge that you will become the kind of supervisor who is motivating, encouraging and supportive.

Above all, know that your ability to write and communicate effectively is a priceless skill that can help you in any career you choose. As you work through theses struggles, don't lose sight of the enjoyment it provides you, and the passion that it stirs in you.  Best of luck!

Charlene recommends the following next steps:

As your supervisor for feedback

This is truly an amazing answer; thank you for taking the time to share this advice with me. It's both comforting yet crazy to know that so many other people experience lack of appreciation in their work environments. I also really appreciate the list of options to consider if leaving isn't an immediate option. Again, thank you very much! Catherine T.

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Derek’s Answer

Life is too short to love what you do but hate the company (or boss) you work for. The question is going to be, do you think you can change your work environment for the better or do you think you need to move on? If you are not being recognized for your valuable contributions, maybe others aren't either.

Be the change you seek!

Have the courage and resourcefulness to spark change – to make better your products, your people, your place of work. Continuous improvement is a shared responsibility. Action is an independent one.

Is there a mechanism, policy or forum where people you work with are recognized for their contributions?

Derek recommends the following next steps:

In the next few days, thank a coworker publicly. Make them feel appreciated.
In the next few weeks, suggest to leadership the need to recognize others and make people feel appreciated.
If leadership is not receptive to your suggestion, start looking for a new job. Make sure future companies have values that align to yours.

Thank you for sharing this advice! Catherine T.

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G. Mark’s Answer

It's impossible to give an absolute answer to this. It depends on the relative levels of those emotions and their importance to you personally. In my case, I would tend to lean toward putting the environment on top. But it also depends on where you are in your career. In early stages when starting out, you may have to put up with more negative environments so you can establish yourself. You need to also put out an effort to be objective in your assessment. Sometimes what is a negative work environment is a learning experience, and you need to take advantage of that. Sometimes a job you love may not necessarily be the best learning experience for you. One way to cope with a bad environment that's negative because of the people may be to consider them to be having a tough time themselves and not take it personally. One thing many of us do is to imagine that our feelings and our lives are just as important to others as they are to us. We need to realize that sometimes people are jerks because they are also stressed out and they have their own problems. Reducing your own significance to them in your mind can take a lot of stress away from you. It's pretty difficult but often worth it.

I really like your answer; thank you for sharing this with me. It does make sense that I'd have to put up with more negative environments in the beginning of my career and try to view them as learning experiences rather than solely acting on my emotions and my own discomfort. I could definitely adopt a more objective approach to the environment. Thank you again for your answer! Catherine T.

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Judith-Ann’s Answer

How to cope with a work environment is a much too common dilemma. As a therapist, 50-60% of my practice is working with clients who love their work, but are not happy with the work environment. Here are some suggestions for coping that you might have tried or would find helpful to implement: 1) Isolate what makes you unhappy. Once you have isolated the problem, decide if it is something you can change or something you have no control over. If you can change it, write a plan to change it and put it into action. If you can't change it, learn to accept it as is, or decide if it is a big enough deal to find another place of employment. 2) Write down all your co-workers' names. Beside their name, rate their energy toward you as positive or negative. Set an intention to surround yourself with the positive energy people, and avoid or ignore the negative. 3)Make a list of all the positive things about your work environment such as location, convenience, amenities. Are these things contributing to the quality of your life? If not, what can you change regarding this issue? Maybe a change of location in your living situation is an option. 4) Find a mantra for each day: For instance, "I will accept the things I cannot change, change the things I can, and act respectful and kind to all." 5) Schedule an appointment with a therapist and talk it out. I wish you well and hope you find your serenity.

Judith-Ann recommends the following next steps:

Schedule a therapist appointment.

Thank you, this is a really helpful answer! I will definitely try some of the suggestions you've given me; I've never thought of doing those before. Thank you again for the advice! Catherine T.

You are so very welcome, Catherine T. I wish you much happiness on this adventure. Judith-Ann Anderson

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Kelly’s Answer

I would not leave I would work with my leaders and with Human Resources to improve the work environment.

Kelly recommends the following next steps:

Work with leaders to create a better work environment.
Be an example for others as a positive employee, creating your own positive work environment.

Thank you for the advice! Catherine T.

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Ross’s Answer

You are not a victim. You can change the environment you work in if you decide it's worth the effort. The people you work with do not want to have a toxic work environment. You can win them over with kindness and a consistently good work product. However, sometimes it's best for everyone that you either go out on your own or find a new environment.
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Courtney’s Answer

First off, every challenge in life is designed to help us evolve as people. Try to assess and embrace the things that you dislike in your work environment. Use this to help keep you honest about who you want to be as you evolve in your own career. Knowing what you value in a company will help to better align you with future companies, it will also arm you with questions to ask during future interviews.

Feel empowered in your opinions, constructive criticism should go up and down the org chart. When I have given feedback to my past managers it was always surprisingly well received. At our core, we all want to be liked and be better.

Courtney recommends the following next steps:

Find a mentor
Know what you are looking for in a future company.
Have tough conversations with your current leadership.
Start looking for a new job!

Thank you very much for your response! I appreciate you taking the time to write an answer :) Catherine T.

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Carole’s Answer

I understand your situation, as I have also been in this dilemma. At this time you already have a job , but I get that the work environment is not up to your liking. This isn't an easy question to answer for yourself.

I will give you a few hints of what worked for me: 1. The first step that I took was making an appointment to see the director, manager or person in charge that you think will be able to help you. 2. When you go into that meeting have a list of question that you would like answered about your situation. (be careful not to mention anyone's name, especially if you don't like them). If the reason for you hating the environment is a person, refer to them as a PERSON and state your reasons for your difficult situation. 3.If it is an environmental issue or the fact that one person got a raise and you didn't, then refer to that situation without saying the name, but tell them what you have been doing for this company and how you feel about yourself not getting the same kind of compliments that others get and that you are very proud of what you do for the company but you are never complimented on your work. 4. If you just can't cope with the circumstances at hand, I would start looking in your spare time and answer the job listings that you think sound like what you might want. Before you go on any interviews look this company up on the internet so that you know something about them and feel like the sound like a good placement for you. 5. The other idea that I used was: I wrote a poetry book because I also liked writing too. I sent my poems into a company and eventually wrote my first book! 6. Ask yourself what you really like about the job have now, without thinking of what you hate about it. Make a list of these positive feelings and put them together for the next possible job, but make sure that after your make your list you look at the job skills that you have and how you can apply them to the job you already have, and possibly make another appointment to talk about the skills that you would really like to utilize for this company and how you can make things better for this company(all the time being very positive.) I have utilize all the ideas that I have suggested and it usually turns out very nicely, but please don't show you displeasure while in your appointment, because then the interviewer will a negative feeling about you.

7. Coping is very difficult when you are in an uncomfortable situation. Please try the suggestion I gave that worked for me and maybe they will work for you also.

Carole recommends the following next steps:

Make an appointment with Director or Manager, or Human resources. Then check other job listings and make up the skills that you really like in your job so you can apply those skills to other job listings. Then possibly make another appointment with the manager you saw first and use your skill list that might apply to another job within the company. If that doesn't work another job would be best, but follow the skills that you love and want to use in your next job.

Thank you very much for the advice and sharing your personal experience with me! I appreciate it! Catherine T.


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Carole’s Answer

As I said earlier, I would make an appointment to talk personally with a director and present the skills that you have and that are pertinent to the job that you are doing. This can be the starting point for a great discussion and one that should have been done awhile ago. Don't bring any anger into the meeting just be pleasant and talk about your skills and ask the questions that you need answer such as: " What can I do to make this company more successful?" With a question like that it isn't about you, it is about making the company more successful. Gear your questions more towards making the company a better place!

Carole recommends the following next steps:

Make an appointment; Have questions ready to ask; be prepared for the director to ask you her own questions; In your answers always thing about how it would successfully affect this company. Bring your HAPPY FACE to the meeting and always use complementary feelings about the company, but also have suggestions about how to improve it.