Unhappiness at Work

Note: You can also watch this as a 10 minute talk.

I hated my job in early 2011. I also hated my job in 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, and 2003.

There’s a common problem there and it has nothing to do with my jobs. One crappy job would be believable but six? No, the problem wasn’t with my jobs.

It took me years, but I eventually reached the obvious conclusion that the problem was me.

That’s not to say there haven’t been problems with every job I’ve had. There have been and that’s totally normal and expected1. Nothing is perfect. But that doesn’t mean every work environment I’ve found myself in was automatically awful.

Realizing I was probably the source of my own troubles was not fun, but the more I thought about it the more I knew it was true. I started to see how I sabotaged myself, how I actively made choices to keep myself from facing responsibility for my own happiness.

Here are some of the ways in which I’ve made myself miserable at work. I will write full posts about these in the coming days and weeks. As I do I’ll turn these into links to those posts. I will post the first of these tomorrow.

It’s hard to write this list without giving more context because I fear everyone (all 5 of you that read my blog) will judge me prematurely, but I’m hoping by writing it out now I’ll have to actually write those posts. Please try to hold back judgement until I’ve written more about it all. :)

Anyway, here’s my list in all its incomplete glory:

  • Complaining about work.
  • Gossip.
  • Working too much.
  • Thinking the grass will be greener elsewhere.
  • Making rash decisions.
  • Worrying about my ego.
  • Working with/for friends without clear work-life boundaries and expectations.
  • Not knowing what matters most to me.
  • Failing to properly estimate the amount of time a project will take.
  • Financial stupidity.

When I began my current job in September 2011 I made goals to keep me from making these same mistakes and thus making myself miserable again. Those goals have been instrumental in making my current job my favorite job ever.

Have there been problems? Sure. Have there been issues worth complaining about? Definitely. Have I complained? Unfortunately, but not much. Have I made rash decisions? Yep. Have I wondered if I’d be better off elsewhere? Yes. Has it been hard to keep my ego out of decisions? Oh yes. But the difference is now I take responsibility for my actions and my own happiness. And it’s awesome.

This post is also available in Portuguese.


  1. I’m talking about normal work problems, not real problems like sexual harassment or abuse. Those aren’t normal and are never acceptable.

Mistakes, Work
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