Do you wake up each week day, trying to decide if this is the day you’ll call in sick? Maybe you daydream about walking into your boss’s office, telling him to shove it, and sauntering out with your box of things and newfound freedom. Perhaps you’ve taken a look at your budget and realize you can’t quit without finding a replacement job, but you’re keeping an eye on your LinkedIn alumni pages for potential job postings.
If you hate your job, you’re definitely not alone. More than a quarter of the American workforce is thinking about changing jobs this year, with 15% of Americans actively seeking a new gig. You probably feel that your situation is unique, and that no one can really understand your workplace frustrations. And while each problem does have its own nuances, it’s likely that your problems at work are similar to those in many other offices across the country.
It might not solve your problem, but it could make your frustration a little easier to swallow – at least while you decide if you’re calling it quits or going to stick it out with hopes of improvement. Take a look at these workplace issues you’ll find almost everywhere, along with some tips for how to deal with them.
1. Your paycheck isn’t fair
There’s a reason we’ve seen protests at McDonald’s and CEOs giving out $70,000 minimum wages – many people realize that income inequality in the United States is a real problem. Whether it’s an issue of gender or because a newly minted CEO gobbled up all of the money allotted for raises this year, many Americans feel their paycheck isn’t representative of their worth.
As it stands now, CEOs earn about $373 for every $1 an underling takes home. Sure, CEOs are likely putting in longer hours, have more experience, and in general deserve a higher paycheck for leading the company. But it’s a harder pill to swallow when most employee wages have moved like molasses in Antarctica recently.
Low wages have consistently been a top concern for American workers since 2011, one Gallup survey shows. And even though we’ve made it through the Great Recession and most things point to recovery, about 20% of Americans are still worried their wages will be reduced, not increased.
Though making the same salary or wage five years in a row can be disheartening, there are signs that companies are beginning to promote from within at a higher rate – meaning if you’ve remained loyal to your company and have proven yourself, there’s still hope you could get a raise if you play your cards right. If you’re skeptical about your chances of that happening, it might be time to job hop. According to experts, it can be one of the best ways to boost your salary.
2. You do your job differently than your co-worker
“Teamwork” might not be your favorite workplace vocabulary word, but in most cases you’ll need to rely on it to some degree to be successful. You might be working toward the same goal as your co-worker, but it’s likely that you’ll each approach the work somewhat differently.
Part of this could be based on which type of team player you are: You might be task-oriented, while your co-worker is someone who challenges everything and looks at improving the bigger picture. Those traits don’t always come together seamlessly, which can make projects a delicate balance of work personalities.
In addition, you might earn your salary by staying late most days, while another colleague packs up their stuff at 5 p.m. on the nose. Your boss might not care as long as the work gets done, but it can be difficult to keep workplace harmony when you stick a bunch of people with different work philosophies into neighboring cubicles. (Think of Angela Martin and Michael Scott in The Office – there’s probably not a bigger difference out there.)
You can’t control how your co-workers interact with yourself or others, but you can make sure you’re above reproach. Make sure you’re up to date on any necessary skills or trainings, so you pull your own weight in the office. Also be willing to pitch in to help a co-worker – even if the task isn’t in your job description. If you’re vigilant about your own to-do list and are generally easy to work with, it won’t matter what time you leave the office.
3. Your desk mate is the Type A to your Type B
It’s reality that most businesses need a variety of personality types to run efficiently. You need the guy talking incessantly about March Madness at the water cooler to incorporate levity, just like you need the buttoned-up executive to make sure the bills (and the salaries) get paid on time.
Work styles are one thing, but personality clashes are quite another. This is more than a difference in work philosophies, since it’s at the core of who you are as people. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t coexist in an office just because you’re laid back and your colleague is more tightly wound than a Tesla coil. There’s a reason why some experts say personality tests should not be used, especially for pre-hiring decisions. In most cases being introverted or extroverted will have very little bearing on how well you can actually do your job, and tests are somewhat unreliable in the first place.
In addition, there’s a big difference between being able to get along at work and actually wanting to grab a beer with a colleague after hours. You don’t have to be best buddies with the guy who sits a few feet from you, but it is in your best interest to have a pleasant relationship, even if it’s strictly from the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each weekday. Research shows that you’re 40% more likely to receive a promotion if you can get along with your co-workers. Talk about your mutual love for a sports team or certain band, or simply use the manners your mother taught you. Either way, master the methods for getting along with your co-workers that work best for you.
4. You never get time off
If the last time you had a “vacation” day was when you took off to get a root canal, you’re probably more than a little frustrated with your position. This is true even if you’re a self-described workaholic who chooses to forgo a break – your body needs a breather from the stress work often creates.
Whether you work in an office culture that frowns upon using your vacation days or if you simply can’t find a way to escape for a few days, not getting adequate time off is a problem for many employees. About 42% of employees didn’t take any vacation days in 2014, fearing the pile of work they would have upon returning, or believing they would be viewed as expendable, among other concerns.
But the bottom line is this: You need that time off, so find a way to take it. Otherwise, you risk a greater chance of suffering a stroke or shaving a few years off your life. Plus, there’s ample evidence to show that taking a break leads to greater productivity in the long run, which is why it’s a good idea for both you and your boss to sign off on larger breaks. In fact, that’s part of the reason why mandatory vacation time might be more common in the future.
In the weeks or months between your days off, make sure you find other ways to destress. That could mean getting in some exercise on your lunch break, or trying out meditation or other relaxation techniques. Whatever works for you, make sure you find a way to chill out and give yourself some space in the midst of a busy week.
5. You have an unbearable, toxic co-worker
Some jobs are toxic in and of themselves, simply because of the job requirements or office culture. Thankfully, that’s not usually the case, but you can almost guarantee that at least one person in your office should come with a hazmat warning because of their unpleasant demeanor.
Maybe you have a co-worker or two who you worry isn’t on the same team as you – they’ll stomp on anyone to get ahead. Maybe your break room has become like a soap opera, thanks to your gossipy colleague. In those cases, it’s best not to engage. Negativity only breeds additional contempt, and if you get involved it will likely be difficult to escape unscathed.
In some cases, you might have become that toxic co-worker without even realizing it. If you’re typically isolated from the rest of your co-workers, your work life reads like a tabloid because of all the drama, or you refuse to take responsibility for any missteps, it’s likely that you’re the workplace plague. Instead of digging yourself deeper, work on some leadership techniques that will add to the office culture instead of detracting from it. Who knows? It could even lead to a promotion if you show enough improvement – which might make you hate your job a little less.