How I Survived a Job I Hated and How You Can Too

job hate

I worked as a mutual fund tax accountant for a little over three years. Trust me, it wasn’t as glamorous as it sounds. In fact, it was easily the worst three years of my working life. I was assigned a handful of mutual funds and I was responsible for preparing the tax returns for them.

My Job – A Quick Summary

I would get the year-end financials from another department within the company and then prepare my provisionary work papers. These were reviewed by internal auditors and once signed off on, they would go to the auditor that the mutual fund company hired for audits. Once the papers passed this review, I sat on the work papers until it was time to file the actual tax return. Once I completed the tax return, it was again reviewed by both internal auditors and the outside auditor.

If you’ve never experienced the joy of working with auditors, consider yourself fortunate. It was horrible. They would always, ALWAYS find issue with your work. If it wasn’t with the numbers themselves, it was with the description of the line items. This was always ironic to me since I would always look at how they told me to word the line items from the previous year. What was “Depreciation Expense” last year was “Mutual Fund Depreciation Expense” this year. The following year it will be “Mutual Fund Expenses Related to Depreciation”.

My Job – Department and Co-Workers

If working with the auditors wasn’t enough, there was my department and my co-workers. The department itself was a mess. Completely disorganized. Every day I would be asked if I saw a certain binder or file. No one knew where anything was and most times, when you went to the place where you left something yesterday, it was no longer there.

My co-workers were a treat a well. Have you ever been yelled at and put down on a regular basis? Not in grade school, but at your job, working with other adults? I have. I have never been yelled at so many times – and I was simply asking questions for how to do something. I would get yelled at because I didn’t know.

When my co-worker would be teaching me how to do something new, if I entered the number in the wrong cell in Excel, I would get yelled at. Some of you reading might wonder why I didn’t say something. I did.

After she was talked to by the higher ups, instead of talking to me, she emailed me everything the following week. After that, it was back to the good old days. And it wasn’t just with me. The another person that was on our team was treated exactly the same way. She almost hit another co-worker for not knowing how to handle Master Limited Partnerships.

My Jobs Toll On Me

As the weeks turned into months, my job was taking its toll on me. I began to hate my job. I dreaded going into work. Sundays were the worst day of the week for me. I would regularly use my paid time off to call in sick. I began to withdraw from my friends and family. I even started to treat girlfriends in ways that aren’t typical for me. My job was consuming the entirety of my life and making me miserable.

At first, I didn’t even notice how it was affecting me. But as time went on, it became clear that I was allowing my job to completely control and dictate my life and my emotions.

Deciding Enough Is Enough

It took me a solid two years to get to the point where I was able to stop letting my job control me. I was driving out to see my best friend for the weekend and the 4 hour drive alone allowed me time to think about things. I began to look at my life and how I was treating others around me. I also looked at how my job kept me in a sour mood the majority of the days. I decided on that drive that things needed to change. Going forward, I was no longer going to let the circumstances of my day at work affect the rest of my life.

I began to put a positive spin on everything at work. I found humor in most situations and learned to laugh instead of get angry. Granted, I never laughed out loud in front of people, just to myself. (I did however get caught a few times with a big grin on my face, prompting others to ask me what was so funny. I would just reply, “nothing”, and keep working).

At first, if I got yelled at, I would think, “at least I didn’t get hit”. That then evolved into my saying to myself “you can yell at me all you want, the second I walk out the door, none of this stuff matters”. I felt sad that doing mutual fund tax accounting could upset someone so much as to make them yell and berate others. Either they have a true passion for this, or they hate the job just as much as I do!

I also realized that when I was getting yelled at, it wasn’t necessarily because of who I was or what I didn’t know. It was just that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. My co-workers were taking their anger and stress out on me, because they didn’t know how to deal with it in a better way.

As time went on, and my positive spins on my work evolved, it became easier and easier to stay upbeat and have positive thoughts while at work. I began leaving my work at work, treating my friends and family with the respect I had in the past and treating girlfriends the way I usually would. I would no longer withdraw from others either. I was back to my old self before I had the job from hell.

Things Started Going My Way

The most interesting thing about it all is that when I started to focus on the positive side of things and expressed appreciation when things went my way, more and more things started going my way. More often than not, the auditors signed off on my numbers and they just had a few cosmetic changes. This was great for me since changing just one number changes just about everything else in the tax return.

The new funds I was assigned were less complex than the other funds, making my job easier. All along, I was applying for other jobs. I never heard back until I started to stay positive and be appreciative. Applications began to get responses and I ended up finding an awesome job less than 1 year later.

Staying Positive Is The Key

I credit everything that changed with staying positive. Once I learned how to stay positive and focus on the good things, my job became so much easier. Yes, I still hated it and I still disliked Sundays. But before I would wake up Sunday morning and stare at the clock all day thinking, only X number of hours until I’m back at work. Now I would wake up on Sunday mornings and live life. I knew in the back of my mind that Monday and work was right around the corner, but I refused to let it control me when I wasn’t there.

I’ll give my job 100% of my attention from 8am-4pm but that is it. No more. If you are in a job you hate, work on thinking more positively and finding the positive side of everything at work.

I won’t lie, at first it is going to be hard. Start off small and build from there. You’ll see that I did the same thing. I started out being grateful I was only getting yelled at and let it build up to just laughing at the dysfunction of the department and then realizing that I was just the scapegoat for others releasing their anger and stress.

If you can learn to only allow your work to consume you while at work, you will slowly begin to see a change in your outlook and attitude outside of work. Slowly but surely, you’ll come to enjoy life again and be a much happier person.

Photo by Paul Stevenson

14 thoughts on “How I Survived a Job I Hated and How You Can Too”

  1. Hi Don,

    It not only takes courage to persevere through such challenging work-related experiences, but to recall them in detail.

    I think all readers can identify with the proverbial job from hell – either due to a suffocating boss, surly co-workers, anxiety-provoking work demands, or a combination of all these imposing elements and more.

    Work dissatisfaction can easily affect quality of life, and it was wise of you to compartmentalize and separate work life and home life, making them mutually exclusive.

    I wish problems could be resolved by merely communicating feelings with supervisors and colleagues. For example, it seems logical that employees should have the right to ask questions and not get demeaned for asking them – a concern that you voiced.

    However, people who act in a thoughtless way may not engage in any introspection or take much responsibility for inconsiderate actions. (Still, it’s always worth a try or two to resolve problems.)

    But instead of waiting for someone to change, it’s imperative that we have to change – our perceptions, attitudes, and thoughts regarding how we process difficulties in the workplace or outside of it.

    Instead of feeling like a victim, you became more of an outside observer. Of interest, when you refused to internalize this harsh treatment, favorable results started to surface.

    Thanks, Don, for setting a great example for unhappy employees everywhere, and perhaps Sunday nights/Monday mornings will not seem so taxing (pun intended). :)

  2. Well, this has been an interesting read. Although I am not in love with y job right now, reading your experience has certainly made me feel that I did the right thing (which is stick it out). Sure, we’re not working our dream jobs, but as we get better and acquire new skills, we also get creative. And this quality is something not a lot of people can get – unless they work in a job they hate. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks for writing this. I have been through something similar. And I came to realize that learning to laugh is the best way to see oneself through most of the tough situations in life. Really appreciate your post.

  4. Thanks for sharing this life experience with us. A change in perspective can cause such a great shift in how we approach situations. I work in banking and I can relate to you on this, even though my passion lies in psychotherapy, which I am actively pursuing. Thank you :)

  5. Great tips! As a “free spirit” I always got bored with any job within the first 2 weeks. Then trying to force some sort of business venture out of the ground with the fear/worry & pressure in my mind that if I don’t make this venture a success within 30 days I had to return to another J.O.B. I have been in this cycle for more then 5 years till I learned to appreciate the little things. Find more inner peace, patience and be more positive as well. So I can totally relate to this article! Thank you!

  6. Interesting article. Did you ever consider that the company culture was what was effecting you? Did you seek out new opportunities in other organisations? It’s great you put a positive spin on things, as that takes a lot of reflection and dedication. I just couldn’t help but think throughout the article why looking for another company wasn’t an option on the table? I am blogging my own career change, chronicling my thoughts and feelings as a mid life career changer.I also put a positive spin on my situation, but over time you owe it to yourself to find a company that values you and vice-versa. You shouldn’t have to work in such an environment as you have described. Either way, you certainly have discovered a way for your days to be better,so I am pleased for you.

  7. I’m also curious if you’re still at that firm? If yes, have you considered finding something you really love doing?

    I like how you turned a negative into a positive, great habit to have.

  8. Hello Don!

    There is never a lack of people hating their jobs, so your advice in this article will always be relevant. Thanks for sharing :)

    I agree, showing gratitude and being positive towards what you have, even if it’s not ideal, will bring more blessings into a person’s life. I believe it’s what some like to call the law of attraction. A positive attitude attracts more positive things.

    Great article!


  9. WOw. Thanks for sharing your story.
    I believe that if you are in a job that you don’t like as I was, YOu’ve got to keep your purpose in mind all the time knowing that it’s not going to be forever.

  10. I remember having a very similar experience in one of my first jobs.

    It was horrendous. A real nightmare. I was on a training contract as an auditor so I couldn’t leave until my ‘training’ was finished. I can totally relate to the ‘Sunday Dread’. It really is bad for the soul.

    Luckily, I left as soon as I could but it was a very tough 3 years. The people incharge were not interested in training us, they were just on a power trip. What shocked me the most was how other people who also hated it didn’t see any other option. They were afraid to leave and became conditioned to the abuse. And some of them are still there to this day, more than 10 years later. Depressing or what!

    Some of them see it as a the way to work and then become part of the problem when the new recruits come in at lower levels. A vicious circle.

    Thanks for sharing. I bet it felt good to let it out.

  11. Hi Don,
    I can totally relate as I also feel I’m not fully engaged in my job. Im just in for the money. But after reading your post, I become interested in exploring the positive aspects of my job.
    You showed me there is hope in a bad situation.


  12. I enjoyed this post! I pursued a career I was passionate about. However, every job has it’s cons. I haven’t been as happy as I thought I would be, but I stay with my job for the salary and insurance provided. I appreciate your post about taking a positive spin on things. A co-worker actually mentioned to me today that it’s important to think positive by being happy we have a job with good pay and good insurance.

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