5 Suggestions When you Find Yourself In a Miserable Work Environment

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What should you do when you find yourself in a miserable situation? How should you respond? Rather than quit, what other options do you have?

About once a week, I talk with a minister – usually a younger minister – who is miserable in their current context. It isn’t always because the workplace is miserable. Sometimes, it’s a misfit for them personally. Sometimes, it is an unhealthy culture or a controlling leader.

Many times, even if they’ve only been there a short time, they seem ready to quit. Most of us have been there at some point in our careers.

There are many things I love about the youngest generation in the workplace. They are intent on making a difference. They are family-oriented. They want to do meaningful work. I love all that.

One difference, in my observation, is how they respond when they find themselves in one of these miserable situations. Many seem to check out too quickly. They are ready to quit – give up – even before something else comes along, as soon as they discover they are miserable.

I’m sure this is true of other generations, but there were generations who endured an entire career in less than ideal situations. They saw work as, well, work.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not advising this either. Why spend 40 years in a miserable environment? Life is too short. Work doesn’t have to be miserable. And there are healthy places that understand and appreciate the change in workplace attitude, especially being introduced by younger generations. That’s a positive.

But what should you do when you find yourself in a miserable situation? How should you respond? Rather than quit, what other options do you have?

Here are five suggestions when a work environment is miserable:

1. Soak up all you can. 

You’re learning valuable lessons, even when you don’t enjoy the place where you’re working. I’m not sure you can see them at the time, but it’s true. It won’t be a wasted experience if you learn from it. Some of my best leadership skills came from watching leaders do leadership the wrong way. I once had a boss throw a huge sales book at my head because of disappointing numbers. I learned from that. Throwing things doesn’t work. (And, many other principles were learned from that leader.)

2. Dream your next big dream.

Don’t quit dreaming. Invest your energies somewhere you enjoy outside of work. Create something inside or outside the place where you work that you can get excited about. Start your own ministry or company in a garage on your days off. Some of the best we know started this way. These extra energies will keep your heart filled, which is critical. (Above all else guard the heart -- Proverbs 4:23)

3. Work to make life better.

You may be the one positive voice encouraging others on your team. Chances are, others are miserable, too. Some people have better game faces. Even if this is your only purpose in being there, it’s a worthy cause.

4. Strengthen your patience muscle.

Sometimes, the staying power takes more strength than leaving. It builds character. It builds tenacity. You may be the senior leader someday and find yourself miserable again. Leading at the top level brings that sometimes. The captain of a sinking ship isn’t supposed to jump ship. 

5. Pray and watch.

Pray for discernment. For change. For delivery. For relief. For small moments of encouragement. And watch. For doors to open or things to change. God is doing something – working a plan – even when you can’t see His hand.

Are you miserable?

I’m not suggesting you stay forever. That doesn’t seem wise to me. I’m also not suggesting you quit — at least not immediately.

I am strongly suggesting you not waste the opportunities this time is presenting.

Begin to see every moment of your life – good and bad – as character-building, life-shaping opportunities. 

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