80% of employees hate their jobs: why we need to change our attitudes, not our jobs

This is not going to be the type of article that encourages you to follow your dreams no matter what and go for that career or job you’ve always hoped for. [Insert generic quote about loving what you do and never having to work a day in your life], because newsflash –  but I humbly disagree and think that’s BS. If 80% of us hate what we do, we don’t need to change careers, we need to grow up and change the attitude we have towards our jobs. You are not a precious little flower who needs to be told they are special, and that to enjoy every minute you spend making a living is what you deserve. If work didn’t involve hard graft they would have called it cloud bursting, or petting the cat.

I was inspired to do some reflection after hearing someone mention during a talk about career goals that 80-90% of people hate their jobs. Surely not? Well… after some quick googling I discovered the truth is 80-90% of people either DON’T LIKE or hate their jobs (slight misquote there, naughty), but it’s still a crazy high number (you can read one of the many articles on the subject I found here). It talks about the usual ideas for getting more enjoyment out of your day job, such as choosing a field that you are passionate about, doing something that helps people or changes the world, or running your own business.

I’m sorry to be a party pooper, but there’s two things that annoy me about articles like that:

  1. The idea that if you don’t love what you do to pay your rent or your mortgage, you have somehow not succeeded in life and have to strive for better.

To be a true inspiration, to be like Steve Jobs or that women off of Facebook who bakes cupcakes for a living and wears a perma-smile, you must feel like you are merely doing a hobby and happen to have become a millionaire by complete accident from it. Sorry but I don’t buy it. You are allowed to work hard for a living, and while we all have our good days, sometimes it sucks. Hundreds of years ago we did not enjoy making the fields, milking cows, building roads, going down a coal mine or raising animals for slaughter. But we did it because without it not only would our families have died, the nation would have continued to live in the dark ages. We wouldn’t have had any industry, a military or basic infrastructure.

Can you imagine the British isles filled with happy-dappy hippies who only ever do what they feel like? 5 million of us on Etsy making dream-catchers and seashell necklaces, the rest painting pictures, composing poetry and cutting hair? How many bin men, toilet cleaners and baristas do you think we would have? 1 per 10 million people? Some jobs are created through necessity and because there is a need on both sides: the bin man wants your money, and you want the stinky nappies your offspring produced as far away from your house as possible. He takes care of it, everyone’s happy. But does he wake up every morning with a song on his lips and a spring in his step, ready to pick up foul smelling garbage? Of course not. And that’s ok. He’ll do it for as long as he needs to and then retire into a castle made of recycled fridges with barbed wire and a moat around it, enjoying his well-earned riches.

2. The other problem I have with this notion is the idea that the 9-5 office worker has given up on their dream and somehow failed at life. They are to blame for not having their dream job

That is, according to the guy who either got lucky or has the financial backing many of us wish they had to make that dream job a reality. Oh what I could do with a small loan of a million dollars! Or if I could quit my day job knowing my parents would be ok with letting me move into the spare room for a year or five until I have my future as a self-published author of cat cookbooks all set up. But I don’t have that luxury, and many other people don’t either. Admitting that is not a horrible dream-crushing reality-check either, it’s ok to be reliant on making a regular pay cheque. That’s what hobbies are for! But telling people that they are not being true to themselves by making an honest living is some short-changed special snowflake type crap that I don’t agree with.


I’ve rarely come across a worse comparison. Sex doesn’t pay you a five or six figure salary plus benefits like medical and dental insurance and a healthy annual bonus now does it?

I’m not in the BI business because people told me I was afraid to follow my dreams, or because mommy squashed my dreams by telling me I wasn’t good-looking enough to be a model. I simply wasn’t built for that kind of career and had to give up on those dreams early on. I also couldn’t be a policeman because I’ve been severely short-sighted since age eight. Have those things made me bitter? Hell no. Those are just things that happen to people for no reason at all. I fell into my career half by accident and half by design, and it combines things that I enjoy doing most of the time with a talent just big enough so that someone will pay me a wage for doing it.

And at the end of the day that’s what I think those 80% disliking or hating their jobs need to get to grips with. Only a small fraction of people end up becoming successful in their dream jobs or work that combines a unique talent with a hobby or burning passion for  something. I’m talking about your Wayne Rooneys and Mary Berrys here. That doesn’t invalidate the other 80-ish% of people who simply do something they tolerate enough (or are good at but don’t LOVE 100% of the time).

The argument “think about all those poor unemployed people” leaves me as cold as my mother’s warnings about the starving children in Africa when I was small and wouldn’t finish my greens. It doesn’t change the fact that you don’t have a burning passion for selling mobile phone insurance, or making pie charts of this quarter’s profits, or drilling holes into people’s coffee stained molars. But you have just enough passion for not starving to death to choose a job you can tolerate, and get a bit of enjoyment out of it sometimes, or surround yourself with people you get on with and that make it more tolerable. And until every single one of us wins the Euromillions and the country descends into the kind of post-apocalyptic frenzy where nobody works anymore and martial law is declared, we’ll all just have to get on with it.

Maybe those 20% who don’t hate or dislike their jobs just have a better attitude and don’t flagellate themselves for doing something that’s just OK, pays the bills or they can tolerate most of the time?

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