Why We Stay In Companies We Hate – The Hidden Reasons Behind Workplace Misery


September 6, 2015

NEW YORK – I’ve consulted with thousands of professional women in the past ten years who’ve come to me and my programs for one key thing – to build a better, happier, and more rewarding professional life.

There’s been so much studied and written in the past about why we hate work – Provided by Forbes

September 6, 2015

NEW YORK – I’ve consulted with thousands of professional women in the past ten years who’ve come to me and my programs for one key thing – to build a better, happier, and more rewarding professional life.

There’s been so much studied and written in the past about why we hate work – Provided by Forbes

The vast majority of them seek outside help only after a long a period of paralysis in one company, position, or function, and they finally snap and decide it’s time to do something.

Part of the process we go through to understand what “better” and “happier” look like is a deep dive into their inner life – understanding the exact motivations, mindsets, thought processes and behaviors that have contributed to their inability to move out of damaging and unfulfilling organizations and roles and why — despite how truly miserable they are — they haven’t taken action to leave.

There’s been so much studied and written in the past about why we hate work (here’s a recent New York Times piece on why we hate work exploring why less than one third of Americans feel engaged in their work, and 17.5% are actively disengaged. And now, with Amazon in the headlines every day about its “bruising” yet “addictive” workplace, we have to ask ourselves “If I hate where I work and hate how I feel there, why do I stay?”

I’m not only an outside observer of this phenomenon, but I’ve lived it myself. I stayed in a senior corporate role for two full years where everything (I mean everything) was wrong about it for me. In fact, I got a real glimpse of how wrong it was even before my first day on the job. Two weeks before my first day, I was asked to sit in and steer a key meeting on my multi-million dollar programs with the marketing team (to set some critical strategy in place for the coming year). I could see literally within 20 minutes how utterly dysfunctional the entire organization and situation was, and even thought to myself when I drove home “Uh-oh. This is really bad. Can I get out of this?” But of course, “good girl” Kathy would never think to bail on something this early, even though I knew with 100% surety I was walking into a minefield.

So, why do professionals stay in companies they hate working for? The reasons are, at the same time, clear yet hidden. Here are the top 5 reasons I see every day:

The organization is renowned or impressive: It’s “good for my career” to stay

Take the situation of Amazon today. What former employees are sharing seems to reveal that Amazon’s approach to workforce management makes people “practically combust.” There are many organizations around this country known for their intensive, relentless, and crushing practices designed to weed out the slackers and retain the superstars. And many thousands of people think they want to work at these organizations, because they believe it will be fabulous for their growth, for their careers, and for their resumes.

The question you need to ask yourself is this: If you absolutely hate working at this organization, hate your daily life there — if you cry regularly, are sick continually, feel bruised, bullied and unsafe, and feel that your ability to honor your own authentic life priorities is utterly impossible (and in fact, if the concept of work-life balance is laughed at by your company), do you really want this for your life? Some very well may say “yes!” because they feel this work approach pushes them beyond their limits, and they value that. But many others, if they were brutally honest with themselves and confident in their own beliefs, would say “Hell no.”

We make ourselves “wrong” for hating it

I teach a course called The Amazing Career Project, and in it, we spend a good amount of time undoing the crippling practice of “making ourselves wrong.” What I’m referring to here is the habitual behavior (particularly among women) of denying and undermining what they feel and believe, telling themselves they’re wrong to feel it. I’ve spoken to countless women who hate their work and their companies because of how they’re treated, managed, led, spoken to, marginalized, and underutilized. Yet they stay because they have serious hidden doubts that what they’re experiencing is truly “legitimate.” In short, they make themselves wrong. Yet, from where I sit, I know without doubt they’re not wrong because thousands of others feel exactly the same.

Ask yourself: “If I stopped making myself ‘wrong’ about what I think and feel, what would that mean about what I should about this work, this role and this company today?”

The lure of money and benefits

Of course, we all need money to live in our society, and for many millions, the health and disability insurance plans and other benefits that come with their corporate jobs are deemed essential for quality of life. The sad truth is that people stay in jobs that crush them down, make them sick, depressed, and unbalanced, only so they can keep the very insurance plan that covers them when they get sick.

Ask yourself: “Why do I think this is the only job that will pay me this salary and offer this compensation package? Why aren’t I out there exploring as many other options, jobs and opportunities as possible?”

We’re afraid it will damage our reputations to leave

Another key factor behind unhappy professionals’ paralysis is that they believe it will hurt them or their reputation to leave this role or company. I’ve been told by hundreds of professionals that they’re afraid it will “look bad” if they leave, or somehow become a blemish on their record if they take a stand and find new work. Some feel that they haven’t succeeded fully in their roles and don’t want to leave until there are more impressive results to report. So they stay in these unsuccessful roles engaged in magical thinking that somehow, miraculously, things will change and the management team will come to its senses and things will actually improve there.

Ask yourself: “What is the better move here, staying in a role in which I cannot succeed, or moving on, on my own terms, to land a role I’ll thrive in?”

We’ve taken one too many sips of the kool-aid

Sadly, when I speak to professionals who are thwarted, disengaged and unfulfilled, 90% of the time, they’ve lost something critical to success and joy, and that’s the ability to think for themselves and take empowered, confident and authoritative action that’s aligned with their thinking and values. They believe only what they’re being told by their boss or colleagues, about their talents, performance, skills, contributions and achievements. They see only what’s on the tip of their noses. And they forget what they’re capable of.

I’m out of the corporate world now, running my own business exactly the way I want to. But when I was in corporate life, I was so swayed by those around me, and by the toxic culture and environment in which I spent most of my waking hours. The majority of professionals today are the same – heavily influenced by those around them, so much so that they tend to lose their ability to think and act as independent agents, or remember how capable they are. And that’s particularly damaging when they don’t feel aligned with the organization’s values, approach and outcomes.

Ask yourself: “Have I been so influenced by the people and leadership around me that I’ve stopped seeing myself as a powerful agent of my own life, and someone with great talents, skills and contributions?” Can I see beyond this immediate situation, culture and environment, and realize that I am free to make the right decisions for my own life?

If you hate your company and you hate your work, don’t wait until a crisis slams you to your knees (because then your actions won’t be empowered and authoritative – they’ll be reactive). Do something concrete today to shift out of work you hate.

Courtesy: Forbes