Unhappy with your job? You're not alone.

By glblguy

Me on that TRS-80 color computer at age 13

I’ve been programming and working on computers since I was 12 years old. I saw my first computer (a TRS-80 Model III) at a neighbor’s home and immediately found it one of the most fascinating things I had ever seen. So fun in fact, while my mother shopped in our local mall, I would spend my time playing on the computers in the Radio Shack located in the mall. I wanted one of my own and asked my father if I could have one. At the time, computers were really expensive for what you got. My Dad said that if I continued to show interest for a few months, he would get me one.

I proceeded to read every computer book and magazine I could get my hands on. A few months later, I proudly came home with a brand new TRS-80 Color Computer. I remember pulling it out of the box, setting it up and powering it on for the first time. I remember that evening like it was yesterday. Little did my father know the impact that little TRS-80 would have on my life.

I graduated in 1991 with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and started my very first corporate job as a software developer. I’ve been in the IT industry now for 15 years and now manage a team of 6 really sharp software developers.

The first few years of my career were amazing. I couldn’t wait to go to work the next day and sometimes even had a hard time going home as I loved what I was doing. I still do today, but the passion has subsided somewhat. I don’t program much, at least not at work, and spend far more time managing other developers now. Sometimes the job is great, others days terrible. Overall, I’m happy but to be honest, I miss developing software. I miss putting together tons of random control statements together to make incredible software. Much like I enjoy putting together random words to make articles here on Gather Little by Little.

So where am I going with all of this? Well, I was recently reading an article in a some magazine at my doctor’s office that talked about how unhappy people are with their jobs. The article made me reflect back on my own career and on where I am right now, and ask that tough question: Am I happy? To be honest, I’m not, but I’m not unhappy either. What I have learned is I love blogging. I love writing, learning, and I would love to be able to set my own schedule and frankly to work for myself.

Reasons employees are unhappy with their jobs

Recent studies have shown that 6 out of 10 works are unhappy with their current jobs. Other studies show that only 4 out of 10 works felt they were in good jobs. Good jobs being ones that were interesting, exciting but not overly stressful.

Salary.com did a survey that asked a sampling of employees, what kinds of things make them want to leave their current job and really sheds some insight into why people are unhappy at work:

Inadequate Compensation

Percent Responding: 57.2%

Coming as no surprise, Salary.com’s survey results showed that inadequate compensation is by far the number one reason that employees aren’t happy with their jobs and want to leave. If you feel you’re receiving an inadequate salary, do a little research on what your salary should be. Make a list of considerable contributions you’ve made and the positive financial impact they’ve had to the company. Take this information to your manager and and ask for a raise.

The worst thing that could happen is they say no. If that’s the case, and you strongly feel you made a legitimate case, than maybe it’s time to look for another job opportunity.

Inadequate Opportunities for Career Advancement

Percent Responding: 37.3%

In many companies, including mine, the higher up you move, the harder it is to move up, as more senior positions are scarce. I was a bit surprised at the high percentage on this item. As a manager, I don’t find many employees are really all that interested in advancing. Sure they want higher salaries, but not higher level positions or more responsibility.

Insufficient Recognition or Appreciation

Percent Responding: 34.2%

This one didn’t surprise me at all. Recognition is a key tool in helping employees feel they are making a positive contribution and making them feel good about what they do. It would be difficult to be happy with a job where you don’t feel appreciated.

One reason that insufficient recognition may be an issue is that your manager doesn’t know that recognition is important to you or maybe even how you specifically like to be recognized. Have a conversation with your manager, and let them know recognition and appreciation is important to you and how you like to be recognized.

As an example, I’m not personally fond of public recognition.


Percent Responding: 20.1%

This is my biggest problem. I have tons of work, but most of the time I don’t enjoy doing it. Why? Because it just doesn’t excite me. Another facate of this are employees that just plain old not having enough to do.

If you are bored, spend some time thinking about what you could do to make your job and maybe even your teams environment better or more efficient and do something about it. Another option would be to talk with your manager and tell them you’re bored and need more to do. There is usually lots of work to do, finding it sometimes is the trick.

Inadequate Benefits

Percent Responding: 16.9%

One of the major recent trends in companies over the past few years has been increasing the cost of benefits to employees. This is due to rising healthcare costs to employers cutting back on their contribution to the cost, thus increasing the employees cost.

Rising healthcare costs are particularly effecting small businesses who are paying more and more each year for basic medical insurance for their employees. As a result, these soaring healthcare costs are forcing many small businesses to lower employee take-home pay.

Inadequate Opportunities for Professional Development

Percent Responding: 15.3%

15.3% of unhappy employees feel as if they can grow further in their professional development at their company. Professional development opportunities and growth play a critical role in how happy employees are.

If professional development is important to you, find some classes either within the company or outside the company you would be interested in taking and make a case to your manager. Focus on how the training will help you to do your job better.

Insufficient Job Security

Percent Responding: 11.8%

In the field of IT, this is a big one these days. More and more jobs are being sent overseas to India and China where labor is far less expensive. Outsourcing aside, with the fear of a pending recession, many people are justifiably worried about their current job security, as in a recession one of the first visible impacts is a sharp increase in the unemployment rate.

The article from Salary.com said “Many of the 11.8% of respondents who cited insufficient job security as their top reason for leaving lack confidence in upper management’s ability to save the company.

Undesirable Impact on Health or Stress Level

Percent Responding: 10.5%

I’m a little surprised this one ranked as low as it did. For me, this would be the number one reason. My job is highly stressful, and as we get challenged to do more for less this has become even more so.

Employees these days are working long hours in very stressful conditions. These two items combined are having an overall negative impact on employee health and stress levels.

Poor Relations with Management

Percent Responding: 10%

Managers often forgot this, but your employees are watching you. Your behavior has significant effect on how happy they are with their jobs. I mean, who wants to work for a jerk right? Employees who disliked their boss provided salary.com with some particularly entertaining feedback:

  • “Upper management has no spine, they are jellyfish.”
  • “My boss has a diagnosed mental condition, but doesn’t take his medication.”  <== My particular favorite
  • “My employer wants to disregard regulations and laws in order to meet company goals.”
  • “My direct employer is sexist, tyrannical, and engages in extreme favoritism, cronyism, and nepotism.”

Undesirable Commute

Percent Responding: 9%

Rising gas prices have become an effective pay cut for commuting employees. As a result many are starting to consider about leaving their job for something closer to home or for jobs that offer work from home opportunities.

Are you unhappy with your job? If so, why? Is it for one of the reasons above, or for a reason completely different? Share your thoughts and perspective and add a comment!

30 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Unhappy with your job? You're not alone.”

  1. Four Pillars Says:

    Great post – I feel the same way about my job. When I first became a programmer I couldn’t wait to go to work – I actually looked forward to Monday I loved it so much. Now…well, it’s just another job.


  2. Greener Pastures Says:

    I always like to see hard data. Nice post, but, well, good that you can vent and all, but I can’t help thinking, there must be something you guys like about your jobs? The whole thing sounds kind of depressing. Are there things you can do to improve the situation at all?

    Don’t mean to be sounding critical.


  3. Nicole Says:

    I love my job. My boss is great, the work is varied and interesting. But I wonder if the company really cares about me as an employee at times.

    I wanted to take a college class over the summer. I tried to get my employer to pay for all (or even part of it). I was turned down.

    My dad died very suddenly a few months ago. I was given no bereavement leave.

    I get paid so little that if my company doesn’t even want to invest a class or a few unpaid workdays in me, it makes me wonder how much I am valued.

  4. Lynnae Says:

    I love my job! There’s no pay, there are no benefits, and I don’t always get a lot of recognition. But I am the boss. I am MOM. :)

  5. Curt Says:

    Great post – I feel the same way about my job. When I first became a programmer I couldnÂ’t wait to go to work – I actually looked forward to Monday I loved it so much. Now, itÂ’s just another day.

    But, I have found the excitement in starting new businesses. I have tried several over the years, but have yet to find a market to really take off and replace my job. Their are so many things to do on the Internet, it would be fun to join together with a few others to build a new service. It would be great if we could find a way to invest the time I have to blog into a new business idea. It would be great if I could create a service that others could also participate in to build their dream. Blogging is Ok, but I think if we could join together, we could create much more value. I’m working on a few ideas, but let me know if you have any ideas.

  6. Student Financials Says:

    Great post and great timing!

    It’s amazing how many students graduating this year are taking jobs they dislike only for the sake of being employeed. It really begs the question – how do we balance our well-being?

    Can we quantify how much income we need to maintain a set standard of living for happiness?

    I love my job!….the only problem is, I love it so much I’d rather be working than doing my graduate course homework! ;o)

  7. Brian Bain Says:

    Your experience is almost exactly the same conclusion I came to recently. I was hired into my current job to write code. I did, and now I’m managing a little department and we’re moving away from my project and toward a third party vendor’s product. I’m just not interested anymore! I’ve got a little pet project that I love to code on, and it’s making me realize that I would be much happier creating new pieces of software than managing business processes.

  8. Frugal Dad Says:

    Wow, what a timely post. I’m going through a bad case of burnout myself in the software industry and am looking at other opportunities. That Tandy sure took me back. I missed the Tandy craze, but my cousin hade a Commodore 64 with a game called Zac McCrackin (sp?). Man, we used to play that game for hours!

    I think my biggest problem is boredom. I’ve only worked for two places in ten years, so it’s not like I am disloyal. I just get tired of doing the same thing day in and day out. Eventually, I feel like I am just going through the motions.

  9. Kristen Says:

    Good post! I recently switched careers. I went from being a cops and courts reporter at a daily newspaper to doing public relations for a non-profit credit counseling agency. Huge difference!

    I was really unhappy at my old job. The pay was bad, the hours were terrible, the management was terrible. I spent a lot of time in very undesirable neighborhoods covering sad stories. I was 30 and had high blood pressure. I got to the point where I was literally crying before I went to work.

    My new job is a whole different world. The hours are great, and there is a management team that actually wants my input. Plus, I really believe the agency is helping people. My blood pressure is back to normal. I’m much less stressed. And my timing was good. In the past few months my old paper has fired dozens of people because it’s in financial trouble. All of my friends who are working there are more miserable than ever, and everyone is holding their breath that they’re not the next person to be let go. It’s really sad.

    No one should stay in a job where they’re unhappy if they have an opportunity to make a change. Life is too short to spend such a huge chunk of your time miserable.

  10. That One Caveman Says:

    “I miss developing software. I miss putting together tons of random control statements together to make incredible software.”

    “What I have learned is I love blogging. I love writing, learning, and I would love to be able to set my own schedule and frankly to work for myself.”

    Sounds exactly like me! I have a proposal for you: Gibble-Caveman Software and Blogging, LLC. Maybe even blogging software if we feel so inclined…

    With the new child on the way, I’ve put my business to bed for now so I can concentrate on being a dad, but I have always wanted to work for myself and do my thing. My business and my blog are what I think are the first steps in that direction. I can’t wait to get out of my career and get full-time into business.

  11. Mrs. Micah Says:

    I think a combination of unbelievable boredom and the stress of going to a boring job every day made me leave the admin assistant one. On the plus side, I discovered blogging….since I had the chance to use the computer during my downtime, which was a lot more than I wanted.

  12. Lee Says:

    My last job seventeen years ago as a librarian was a great job when I began it, but after a year and a half, I realized the job was stressing me out. You might think how is a library job stressful?! Well, it was the particular county system and some changes going on with management, and us workers always expected to do more and more work for very little pay. I was blessed the day my new husband told me to just quit the job…he’d rather me be home. It was a good decision at the time, and it lead to a better atmosphere in the home, which helped later when my husband went into the ministry. So my advice is, pray about it, maybe it’s time for a change.

  13. Aaron Stroud Says:

    Boy, there are a lot of coders here today.

    Glbl, sorry to hear that you don’t enjoy work the way you use to. I wish more people understood how debt can trap them in a job they don’t enjoy.

    Nicole, I’m sorry for you loss. Regarding work, it sounds like your employer feels like there are many people who can do what you do. As free agents (like in baseball), it’s up to us to develop our skills and learn new ones that will be in greater demand. That’s the recipe for better benefits and more flexibility.

    Employers will always seek to get the best deal from employees, just as we (employees) will always try to get the best deal for ourselves (higher pay, more benefits, flexibility, etc).

  14. glblguy Says:

    Thanks everyone, very glad you enjoyed the article.

    @Green Pastures – There are lots of things I like about my job, but many things I don’t like as well. It’s ok…I am just loosing the passion for it. There are things I can do, the question is do I want to. In order to code, I would have to take a demotion…not an easy thing to do, and seldom works well. Hard to be the boss one day, then not the boss the next. I just want to problog :-)

    @One Caveman – Awesome! Sounds like a plan…love the name too! Always dreamed of running my own business…maybe someday soon!

  15. plonkee Says:

    Go and code somewhere else. Or, even better, use it to springboard your pro-blogging life.

  16. PT Says:

    Great article…even better picture. That 3/4 sleeve shirt is classic. Nice curtains too, Mom. :)

    I think boredom is my biggest downer at work. I liked the advice the survey results gave though. Even though I’m slightly down on my work sometimes, overall I’m super lucky and blessed to make what I do considering the work I put in.

  17. Stephan Says:

    I just fell accidently over your article. I just wanted you to know how much I reflect in your life-story (pretty much the same here).

    My situation is very similiar – I call it “intellectual starvation” because I have found what makes me unhappy is the absence of friends on the same level and fascination of computers and electronics.

    Not unhappy and not happy either – so true.

  18. July Bucks Says:

    Great post!
    It’s not at all surprising that inadequate compensation is a top reason why employees are dissatisfied with they jobs. However it’s very surprising that undesirable impact on health is such not a reason for disliking a current job. I guess that it’s true that we are ready to stress ourselves to death for a good salary.
    You are saying that you have tons of work but most of the time you donÂ’t enjoy doing it. Did you talk to your managers and told them you were bored with your job? The thing is, I like the way you stand in all things you mentioned but I doubt if talking to managers really helps. In which situations this approach helped you?

  19. KG Says:

    I’m glad I read this blog. Today reminded me that sometimes, it is not the work, nor the benefits, nor the management, etc. that make working an unhappy experience. It could just be the toxic people you work with and around that create an intolerable environment to work in. Other than that, working is great!

  20. Snuggles Says:

    I am surprised by negative impact to health not being higher. I think studies tend to downplay the negative impact as companies don’t want to have to make things better for employees or deal with lawsuits from a heart attack etc.

    I would say negative impact to health is my number one. I was recently fired from a job for suffering a nervous breakdown. It took me 1.5 months to even begin to feel normal again. I was depressed, had trouble sleeping, very anxious, high blood pressure, etc. and now I feel fantastic, better than I’ve felt in years.

    I’m also in IT and still like what I do even though it is boring and stressful. I left management to go back to hands on and there is nothing wrong with that.

    I think the problem is the work week is just too long. After all the hours and the commute, a person hardly has any time to do anything except collapse on the sofa.

    American jobs are nothing more than sweat shop conditions anymore. Work tons of hours for very low pay. I left the country and won’t be back and feel compelled to get the rest of my family out of there before it collapses.

  21. Gina Says:

    I had a lot of problems with my previous jobs.. :(

    Crazy boss, crazy activity, stupid colleagues..But now I am very happy with my job..makes me feel happy and so good about my self.

    From my point of view, it you are not happy with your job, search for another! There is no point in getting stressed.. ;)

    Good luck!! :*

  22. Christina Says:

    I am very happy with my job, to bad that the salary is not very good.. :( But I can’t have it all..can I? :)

  23. Yani Says:

    i luv my job have been working 5yrs. My company went bankrupt and new company take over. Since then it change my life. I hate the working environment & hate the management. They employ new hire n give training to them but not me :( i fell outcast. I’m happy with my salary but not so happy with my job. Planning to switch career & find new job. I rather work in happy environment.

  24. Starlit Says:

    at least you have jobs try being a atay at home mom now that’s sucks bigtime!