If you’re feeling stressed, unfulfilled, or generally unhappy every time you head into the office, you aren’t alone. Studies show that roughly half of all Americans feel frustrated or disconnected at work. You’ll occasionally even turn on the news to find a high-profile example, like Andrew Luck’s recent retirement from the NFL. 

Unfortunately, being miserable at work can create a snowball effect with that unhappiness spilling into other areas of your life, too. But what should you do when you’re miserable at work? And when is it time to pack up and leave?


Keep Things in Big-Picture Perspective


One of the hardest things you’ll have to do when you’re in this situation is decide how and when to move forward. If work stress makes you truly unhappy, there may be no point in sticking to your current career path or position. Think of it this way: work is only one part of your life, but it tends to have an outsized impact on your overall happiness. If you regularly dread going into work, or if you find that your job is having a toxic effect on the rest of your life, you can’t let it continue. Even the “best job” in the world shouldn’t keep you from finding happiness in the rest of your life!


Catch Negative Patterns Early


Before you start heading toward the point of no return, you’ll probably start to see red flags in your workplace, things that should throw you on alert. I’m not talking about small things, like your boss looking at you funny one day, I’m talking about things that truly ruin your overall happiness. For example, if office bullying destroys your mood, if you’re tired of the acidic gossip that spreads through your team, or if you feel like your voice is being ignored, it’s important to take note. As soon as this behavior becomes a pattern and not a one-off problem, it’s time to speak up. Hopefully, you have a strong enough relationship with your supervisor that you can mention these pitfalls as they happen. If not (or if your supervisor is the issue), speak to Human Resources or whoever in your office may have the power to help before things continue down this path. You will be doing yourself and the organization a great favor.


Always Have a Backup Plan


This is true whether you’re in a bad situation or not. Sure, Andrew Luck can easily fall back on his millions now that he’s retired—but you probably couldn’t do the same if something were to happen tomorrow. It’s always important to be prepared. This will look differently depending on your situation, but you might want to consider having a little extra savings, an updated resume, or even a job hunt or side hustle already in progress. After all, if you had to leave your company or were fired today, you’d want a contingency plan in place to keep your career goals on track!

At the end of the day, your career is just one part of your life—so be careful not to let it weigh down the rest. You can find a lot of happiness by managing your career in a way that gives you that fits you and by keeping your personal growth and fulfillment as a priority.

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