You Probably Hate Your Job — But You Don’t Have To

Seventy percent of U.S. employees are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work. Put more simply, most of us hate our jobs.

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Seventy percent of U.S. employees are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work, according to Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report. Put more simply, most of us hate our jobs. But there are ways to make work more than just a place to count down the seconds until you’re back home again.

According to Gallup, 30% of U.S. employees are “engaged” at work, which the polling organization defines as those “who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and contribute to their organization in a positive manner.” The rest of us are “emotionally disconnected” from our workplaces, making us much less likely to be productive. Fifty-two percent of employees says they are basically “checked out” at work, and 18% say they’re so unhappy they’re actually acting out their unhappiness in the workplace. “Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish,” Gallup’s report says.

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You might expect that levels of employee disengagement have gone up since the Great Recession, considering both the extent to which employers have squeezed productivity out of existing employees and the large number of people who are under-employed. But that 30% engagement number has actually been relatively static since Gallup started tracking happiness in the workplace in 2000. In fact, 74% of employees said they were unhappy at work in 2000, more than at anytime since the recession.

Employers play a key role in determining whether a workplace is enjoyable or not, of course. But employees also maintain significant control over whether they feel fulfilled at work. “A lot of what drives performance comes from the culture the manager puts in place, but individuals can take action to increase their own engagement,” says Jim Harter, Gallup’s chief scientist for workplace management. “It’s not just a one-way street.”

Harter suggests five ways you can feel more engaged at work:

Understand expectations. First, and most important, Harter says employees should have “role clarity” at work, which can often get overlooked by employers. “We define it as doing what you do best every day,” he says. The more employees know what’s expected of them, the better they might feel knowing they’ve accomplished what’s being asked.

Make sure you have the tools you need to be effective. Employees would also be more engaged if they simply had the materials, equipment, and authority to do their jobs right. Construction workers need the right pair of gloves. Office workers need the right software. And everyone needs the authority to solve problems as they arise. “Many employees show up and want to do a good job – they just don’t have the tools,” says Harter. “The employee has to tell an employer, ‘This is how it relates to my objectives.’”

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Tell your boss what makes you most effective and fulfilled. Harter suggests communicating exactly what gives you the most fulfillment from your job. Essentially, are you doing what you do best? Employees who don’t have the opportunity to reach their potential can get frustrated quickly.

Develop relationships. “The human part of us doesn’t leave when we get to work,” Harter says. Employees should seek out supervisors who care about them and their work, someone they can connect with on a more personal level. But friendships between co-workers also help. “If you’re having a bad day, it’s good to have someone to talk to about it.”

See the bigger picture. A big part of feeling fulfilled is making sure you have the right job in the first place, and that’s often a matter of feeling invested in the overall goals of the organization. “We have a basic human need to see ourselves as part of a group that has an important purpose,” says Harter. “The more people feel they’re connected to that larger tribe, the better the performance because they’re thinking about something bigger.”

71 comments
acoutu
acoutu

Sometimes, changing things at work helps. Sometimes, it means cultivating passions outside work, whether it's through a hobby, volunteerism, a side job or starting a small business. For me, even when I was going to college or working full-time, my consulting business was a way to indulge some of those passions. I was able to get a huge amount of project management experience and really focus my expertise. This led to more opportunities and promotions at work. Eventually, I had grown so much that I grew my business into a full-time endeavour and got more sophisticated and senior projects from my prior employer, making more than I had when I worked for them. Over the years, I've worked with a diverse client base and set of projects and the flexibility has allowed me to do stuff I really love - like going to my kids' field trips and sports or taking off for the beach on a Wednesday afternoon. I started blogging about my experience 8 years ago, because so many people were finding my business blog and asking for advice. I started Consultant Journal at http://consultantjournal.com and one of my articles went viral and eventually I started writing books about consulting. For me, this became a business endeavour and a way to indulge my passion for teaching, coaching, writing, publishing and entrepreneurship, plus the social change of putting individuals in charge of their careers. This, in turn, has opened opportunities for me to work with major media and teach for universities, which I have also truly enjoyed. Now, all these passions and pursuits combine together to make up my day, while still fitting around family. I feel truly fortunate that I followed my heart and I encourage others to make changes at work - or make changes outside work that may lead to new opportunities.

iankyoko
iankyoko

I reckon the reason why work is unsatisfying is that there isn't a sense of community. You could say that about all of society. The commerce done today is between strangers. What do I care about a person who is a stranger? Superficially I feel something for him but that is all. And the same for the work that I am doing for a stranger - how can it feel meaningful to me if I don't even know the guy? Somehow we have enabled commerce to be done between strangers. Work needs to transmit community and not be just 'business'.

danjumamba
danjumamba

If you hate your job read this and contact me because I have an opportunity for you.

You were not put on this earth to be told when to wake up, when to eat, when to sleep and when to go to work. Run your own business and map your own future. Never quit and do not let anyone tell you that you can't succeed.
Let the amount of effort you put into your work determine the amount of money you make. Let it be that you make a residual income for the rest of your life if you work hard enough.
If you like what you read here message me on Facebook or send me an email at danjumamba@gmail.com

Knowsall
Knowsall

Micro -managing, know it all people who get promoted into supervisory positions are the death of employee satisfaction in all organizations

BobBillyboo
BobBillyboo

I laugh at all of these spoiled sacks of crap in here whining they can't find a job that pays them a million dollars a year sit around on a beach all day.

Get real. The average, normal person are lucky to get a job making 35k a year. Spare us your tears and go get another degree spoiled turds.

zintuigmedia
zintuigmedia

Most common and reason of the all major problems is communication gap between employee and boss. Business Promotional gifts are an effective way  to make a bond between employees and their boss. Employees feel valued and happier when they are given even a small gift by their employer. It can be anything like gift vouchers, lunch treat,etc.

gethppy
gethppy

I think the main problem is most managers:

1. Do not understand the links between employee engagement, satisfaction and workplace happiness and their impact on the bottom line.

2. Treat disengagement as if it were an employee's deliberate choice or fault. After seeing hundreds and hundreds of feedback pieces sent to managers from employees we started to make sense of the bigger picture and it's one of the toughest issues to solve.

3. Do not promote a very open and communicative work environment.

We're sure that if these 3 issues would be taken into consideration, many more people would be much, much happier at their workplaces and companies would see a positive impact on their bottom lines.

thewonderfulnow
thewonderfulnow

Role clarity is so important. It creates a desired end result and a process by which the employer receives quality, efficient and effective work and the employee has set expectations to reach. One thing an individual can do to increase job satisfaction is to create either an exit strategy, maintaining strategy or promotion strategy... meaning releasing being stagnant and taking ownership right now. In doing so, one feels in control and simply working a plan. As a Life Coach, I help unhappy employees become happy successful strategist!

PacificSage
PacificSage

I can't speak for the people who work in secure buildings.......but...........all the people who work in retail and food service are, at best, functional. Most have a deadness about them. It's a syndrome akin to the grey life that righties warned if communism took hold in the US. 


In short, working with a franchise corporate structure has zero freedom to inject uniqueness. Everything is:

1. A rigid formula that is the same no matter where you are.

2. Identical buildings that are the same all over the planet.

3. An owner who is almost always absent.

4. Low margins that send whatever profits gained to corporate.

5. Low wages in which you get what you paid for.

6. Prices that are not a low are the advertising would have you believe.

7. Quality that is almost always below truly privately owned businesses.


VladOutlia
VladOutlia

Like it or not, employment is kind of slavery. A society that establishes productivity and GDP as the supreme standards is bound to treat humans as tools

maddmartigan93
maddmartigan93

As an employee at a company that has us go through the Gallup survey every year I can tell you that if you rate anything other than high marks you are given the task of improving your scores.  Notice that I said YOU are given the task of improving your scores.  Basically stated, if I don't like what's going on at work then I'm given more work to do to fix it.  Most of the complaints at my workplace are regarding leadership and management.  Giving me the task of improving my "engagement" when the source of my unhappiness is based on my management or leadership doesn't fix it.  So, since I do like my job and my career I just rate everything as the highest rating so that I can continue to do the work that I like without adding to my workload.  All these surveys accomplish is that the old joke of "the beatings will continue until morale improves" is all too real.

CarlosHernandez
CarlosHernandez

get into network marketing, no brainer..why work hard for someone when you can work hard for yourself and live the life of your dreams.

sagolia
sagolia

Maybe if they are unemployed for a year they would appreciate even having a job.

DevinRed
DevinRed

If you hate your job, it's probably because you're not in the right position.  If you are an IT professional, a book I can recommend that really helped me is "A Technologist's Guide to Career Advancement".  It helped me get promoted to a position which I actually like!  Otherwise, if you really dislike your job, move on, life is really to short.

willowsunstar
willowsunstar

I don't hate my job.  I actually don't mind the work.  What I hate is my always-crabby and complaining co-workers who make everyone else miserable.  And I hate the piles of stinky bologna that get dumped on my lap because not all of the co-workers want to do their job, but it still has to get done by someone.  At which point do people get fired, I have to wonder? 

barbil
barbil

Upon reading the five suggestions, the real power still lies with the employer to make a difference.   The employee still and will always have a lesser role.   It is hard to beat earth movers with a shovel.

unraveling
unraveling

It's not my job.  It's ANY job.  I had my first job when I was 12.  Started paying taxes at 16....and have done so every year since....while I watch folks who just plain don't want to work live off of the government.  I have never received a dime from the government and expect I never will.  I had some months of unemployment.....and enjoyed it thoroughly.  During that time I spent my days working on my house...preparing it to sell.  I've lived in the same house for almost 30 years, driven the same vehicle for 20.  As such, I am almost in a position to stop working...which I will do in 5 years or so...or the next time I get laid off....whichever comes first.  At that point, my income will be 0.  I will live a simple life, living off the meat I garner from a $45 elk hunting license.  I won't be going anywhere and my life won't be fancy.....but I won't be working.  I will answer to no one, I will go nowhere.....and spend my days tinkering with this and that and drowning worms (a $12/month habit).

johnqueuepubliq
johnqueuepubliq

I love my job. I love the people I work with. I feel like I am overpaid. I am probably the only person who gets up wishing to go to work every day. I could telecommute a couple days a week, but I would rather go to the office.

jimgravesus
jimgravesus

First off, I think it's good for your character to work a job you hate for a while. We shouldn't have the expectation that we should only do things that we want to do at every moment in life.  In the end though it is up to the individual.  I learned over the years that people who complain about their jobs and lives don't necessarily want to change them.  When I didn't like I job I would get the training needed to get a new one. Or I would take a risk on something new.  I would often make suggestions to grousing coworkers about how to change their situation.  My advice was never heeded. Why?  Because they didn't want change.  They were comfortable with their situation.  They just wanted to b!tch about it.  In the United States no one is stuck with a bad job forever.  There's all kinds of ways out.  But I've realized that many people would rather just put up with what they have than make the effort to change.

SocialLoginIsBusted
SocialLoginIsBusted

People hate their jobs due to lack of control, lack of purpose, and having to work for overbearing/unqualified idiots. Changing any of those things requires that you already have good bosses and a responsive work environment. If you have those things, you probably don't hate your job. 

Most of the above suggestions depend on managers/supervisors in the first place. Since bad bosses are the main reason people dislike their work, it's sort of silly to suggest workers can effect these changes.

It's management's job to be open to employee suggestions/requests, provide the tools & environment employees require to be productive, set expectations clearly, outline work roles, and explain the "bigger picture" when employees ask to be more involved. If they refuse to do these things after employees have asked repeatedly for changes, there's not much you can do about it, except:

1) develop a negative attitude & actively call out your bosses when they say or do something to demonstrate their ignorance

2) Become a mindless drone who's ok remaining unfulfilled in a mediocre job and be "disengaged" as most people are

3) Quit & find (or start) something else, at your own risk.

innagadadaveeda
innagadadaveeda

I had an engineering job I hated. I changed jobs in the same field several times but nothing changed. It got to the point I just couldn't take it any more so I quit, during the recession. Away from that misery and researching professions I came across one I would like in healthcare. So I went back to school, graduated, passed the national boards, and now I have a job I love. And there are way more jobs than there are qualified people to fill them.

My advice: look into healthcare, if the field interests you. There are so many jobs they can't fill them all. Yes you'll have to go back to school first but it's well worth it.

HelmyElsaid
HelmyElsaid

Manager culture,performance(Legal case at USA court against Obama,USA government,UN,vodafone company-As my documents at : www.helmyelsaid.blogspot.com)

calson33
calson33

The author is missing the point - The reason people are so unhappy is because bringing up any of those topics will get you labeled as a troublemaker and you will end up losing your job - I have seen this so many times it's ridiculous.

Fortunately, I am now in a job where anyone can bring up topics like that - morale is great.

JustAGirl
JustAGirl

This doesn't apply when you took a slave labor job because of the economy and its even worse than I expected.  I hate the job, hate the company, hate the field and am uninterested in my coworkers, they are all married with children and I'm single and like it that way. I come from a creative field, this is probably the most staid field out there.  I've been here 3 months. I've never stopped looking for a new job.  I am was googling job articles, which is how I found this. The companys restrictive time off policies make this more difficult.  There is a form for everything.  Sometimes, there is no way to become engaged, stuffing envelopes and cleaning the kitchine is not my dream jpb.  It was a stop gap to be able to pay the rent after a year of unemployment. In this economy, there are a lot of mes.. Engagement is just not a possibility.  None of your points apply.  They apply to being frustrated at former jobs but not to this place which was hate at first site. I knre it was a mistake the day I took it.  I had 5 months left on my unemployment extension.  I should have chanced it.  Live and learn.

NotWorking
NotWorking

I know this is long.  Please bear with me.

I had a job I hated. I had an uneducated, immoral boss, the company was very confining, and there was no trust.  I was making close to six figures.  Then I resigned, and started a marketing and communications company.  5-6 years ago, we were so busy, we were turning away clients.  Success was not only within my grasp.  I had a firm hold on it.  I had people working for me, an awesome office location, and everything was fantastic.  I loved life.

Then the economy tanked.  We lost clients at a rate of two a week until hardly anyone was left; not by our fault.  My wife, who was also my business partner, became an alcoholic from the stress, stopped coming in to work, and her health deteriorated (she's OK now).  We lost our health insurance, and bills mounted.  We somehow kept our family together.  The business closed, and I am now doing freelance in an impossible market.  My wife is working for a tech company, but does not make much. I thought work gave me stress. This seems comical now.

I am looking for good employment, and it seems hopeless.  I have a BS in Communications, 27 years of exemplary experience, a great skill set, and an impressive resume.  I'm healthy; shouldn't be a problem, right?  At 51, my age is the problem.  I have interviewed well so many times, gotten my hopes up, and come so close to success, and it all dashes away at the last minute.  I have also applied for all types of work outside of my industry, but younger people prevail; most of these companies don't even reply.  I am feeling worthless, can't support my family, and am probably going to lose my house.  My once-perfect credit is now a only dream, even though we are trying to pay our debts.  Starting a new company or venture seems out of the question. My credit rating hurts my chances of employment, which is not fair.  If I didn't have a family to love, and some good friends, I would probably either run away, or end the whole damned thing.  Yet I know, given the opportunity, even for much less than that six figures, I would be a tremendous asset to a good employer, and work very hard.

You can laugh at me, give me pity, or be completely indifferent.  But know this.  However bad you think you're employer is; however much you dislike some of your coworkers, how uncomfortable your desk chair feels, how small your office is, how unappreciated you feel, there are those like me out there; somehow falling through the cracks, even though very aware of what it takes to be successful.

When people complain to me about their careers, I just smile and say, "Hey, at least you're working!"  And invariably they reply, "You know... you're right."


sundownr
sundownr

This issue of work happiness is most likely the key issue in Americas future. I do not see how America can compete in such a competitive world with two thirds of the work force out to lunch.  

gdoyle2000
gdoyle2000

Well,  as my wise old Dad said it back in the early '80's -   the next generation of leaders in Gov't and in Business will create alot of problems because they've rejected classic morality and ethics.

The lying, cheating, stealing done by the business leaders (and the workers) are all a result of that.  

GregMiliates
GregMiliates

Hating your job is actually GOOD for you. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but my last bad job was honestly one of the best things that ever happened to me. Without that bad boss/job, I'd probably still be stuck in an unfulfilling, frustrating job, instead of building my own business.

Job dissatisfaction MIGHT be helped somewhat with the strategies in the article, but the underlying cause of job dissatisfaction is often you feel like your job gives you no control, no real security, little validation, and meaning/purpose. 

What I used to do--and what most people do--when they're dissatisfied with their job is look outward and blame--blame the boss, the work, the company, coworkers, the economy, politicians, etc. Complaining and blaming might make you feel good in the moment, but it does nothing to change your situation. 

Besides, complaining and blaming only keep you in a victim mindset.

Instead, once I realized what control I had, I started making changes to create what I wanted.

If you hate your job, use your negative emotions to propel you toward something better. Thinking about your crazy boss and lousy job each day can create motivation to take action that moves you to a better situation. Taking action--even small steps--every day will, over time, create the changes you want in your life--whether it's a new job, a new career, more fulfilling relationships, whatever.

I made the transition from frustrated employee--with a micromanaging boss--to satisfied business owner. I started a consulting business part-time, and built it into a full-time endeavor which is the sole income for my family of 4.  

I've more than QUADRUPLED what I used to make at my day job, and have much more flexibility & financial security.  

I used my day job to finance my business (though a consulting business needs little or no cash to start). I started small, tested my ideas, and iterated to improve. 

A while back, I did an interview where I talk about how I made the switch from employee to consultant, my fears & doubts, and give actual income numbers:

http://www.startmyconsultingbusiness.com/how-i-made-the-switch-from-employee-to-consultant


Greg Miliates

www.StartMyConsultingBusiness.com


jhhinck
jhhinck

Typical.  Here's a story about the reality of how workers feel, along with a lecture on how they "should" feel.  These Orwellian attempts at mind control always seem to be at the center of efforts to "motivate" workers.  If this isn't totalitarian slavery, then what is?

Woody_Brown
Woody_Brown

This is the age-old result of two principle factors:

1) Following your bliss generally does not leader to a satisfactory income.

2) Employers aren't interested in your mind, they only want your labor.

If your employer could replace you with a machine, he would.  We can't all be investment bankers, NBA players, Hollywood actors or even starving artists.  Breaking your tired back, at the point of a whip, to move that enormous stone in place tends to detract from feeling the pride and reward of seeing that pyramid built.

That's why they call it 'work'.

Saving
Saving

A lot of people hate their job ,this situation is happening to china .

dimbulb70
dimbulb70

Some employees do need to be micro-managed otherwise they would be blogging or on Facebook all day. As a manager I can tell you that it is my job to manage... and if people don't like being managed they should leave. Better for the company, better for them.

suemtchlrnw
suemtchlrnw

@sagolia Many appreciate having some time off also...the grind can be deadly.

PurpleLady
PurpleLady

I agree Willowsunstar.  I don't mind the work, but I hate working with co-workers who have no work ethics.  Don't show up on time but the first to leave.  When they do show up they go in the cafeteria to get breakfast as if you aren't late already.  Don't do any work and pass the buck.  Basically getting a free paycheck and always complaining about doing the work that they get paid to do.  I can't take it anymore!!!

rbetten1
rbetten1

@barbil  Really you are willing to give someone else control of your level of happiness? I feel bad for you, but I will still determine my own feelings and have a fun night w/my family and make Monday a good day at work even if my boss is having a bad day.

suemtchlrnw
suemtchlrnw

@jimgravesus I think they are stuck in mental ruts...The mind is bad place to hang out for many people...especially those that got lots of bad advise growing up.

NotWorking
NotWorking

@JustAGirl Do not listen to anyone advising you to start a business right now!  I have been in creative my entire adult life (27 years) and I have never seen a worse time for this profession.  The market is FLOODED with designers looking for work.  To make matters worse, the freelance sites are dominated by creatives in India and other countries that are willing to work for $10/day.  5-6 years ago, I had a busy agency with graphic designers and web designers, plenty of clients, and a beautiful office.  This is all gone, and it has nothing to do with the way I conducted business.  I could blame Obama, Bush, or anyone else, but instead I'm simply going to get a full-time job and leave this hell behind.

gwrigley780
gwrigley780

@JustAGirl Don't follow the rest of the sheep.  Start your own business.  You can begin with nothing if you use your head and stick to it.  I've been self employed all of my life, over 50 years on my own.  I'm not rich, but comfortable and doing the things I love most.

You will never learn these things in school because school is meant to develope employees.  That's the whole purpose of school.  Think for yourself; do something you love; and you'll never spend a day hating your work.


JustAGirl
JustAGirl

I'm even losing my abilty to spell in this brain-drain job.

unraveling
unraveling

@NotWorking My girlfriend is in the same boat.  At 54 years old she's probably the best paralegal you'll ever see....but can't find a job doing that.  In the mean time she works a part time job (they love her work but just can't quite bring themselves to bring her on full time due to the economy) and cleans houses on the side....scrubbing toilets for a living.  As a single mom raising a teenager (ex pays 0 child support) she scrapes to get by (with some help from me....which she reluctantly takes).  You do what you have to do......end of story.

SocialLoginIsBusted
SocialLoginIsBusted

@NotWorkingHave you considered looking into federal employment? The gov't is full of older, experienced people & doesn't tend to attach the same stigma to age. Pay grades are public/set & promotions are governed by a fairly explicit set of rules that don't apply in the private sector. Lots of PR jobs out there if you're able to pick up & move. Maybe not exactly the safest bet at the moment & it takes a long time to process, but better than nothing...

The main thing: don't let the material BS like your home & job define you & make you feel "worthless." None of that really matters. Like you said, you still have family & friends. If you lose your house, so what - you can't eat it anyway. There are always other options. 

Good luck

 


JustAGirl
JustAGirl

@NotWorking I don't mean to be a bitch but did you think of taking a crap job with a huge pay cut as slave labor with 15 years experience and a college degree?  Yeah I did, see above.  At least you are working is not consoling, I didn't work for a year - NOW that I have this crap job I have panic attacks, now I'm close to suicidal.  When I was unemployed I had hope that the right job was just around the bend.  Now I think my life is on hold and will be forever and I am running out of time.  I want my life back. I want my friends and a new boyfriend, these are things I can't afford to do even though I'm employed.  I would like to get married someday (no kids) but that is not going to happen when you are so embarrassed by what you do that you can't date. No one "gets" that I can't afford anything, I tapped out my 401k when I was unemployed.  I held out, I ruined my credit and to what end. I ended up with a crappier job than those I turned down when I thought that the economy couldn't be that bad. There was an article on LinkedIn where it listed 8 reasons to not take the offer. I had at least 6. I knew better but fear of homelessness is a strong deterant to intelligence. Now what, my life is on hold and this job has had me close to suicidal.  I want my old job back.  I'm 40 for the record, younger than you, older than @la_vamp.  I'm supposed to be in my prime careerwise. 

la_vamp
la_vamp

@NotWorking Thank you for this. I generally veer towards younger people having a harder time (because statistically we do... experience does a lot), but I also understand your situation. It can be very frustrating. My brother graduated from law school in 2010 and faced an unrelenting job market. He went to interview after interview, rough at first, but then they got better. Still, when he thought he had secured a position, met everyone in the office and toured around to see all that they had to offer, he would get a rejection, or worse, nothing at all. Now I'm watching my boyfriend go through the same thing after graduating with his Master's degree. I know that the situations aren't the same, but it makes me sad to read the story, because I understand your situation so well.

My heart hurts for you and your family. I wish you the best of luck. Thank you for your perspective.

sundownr
sundownr

Actually, when you think hard about work productivity, no nation can afford, for very long, to withstand such low work productivity as is in the US.  I will bet this issue alone will come to dominate the political debate in years to come and that many American companies will simply quit production in the US.

NotWorking
NotWorking

@unraveling @NotWorking Not to sound racist, but it seems like you're better off being a lazy minority that has no education or experience, than the average middle class 40-50 year old looking for work, (minority or not).  Your girlfriend should be put on a pedestal for her integrity and honor!

NotWorking
NotWorking

@SocialLoginIsBusted @NotWorking Thanks for the tips.  The support helps immensely.  I still have a level of optimism that keeps me going.  It's simply the market and the current human resource department procedures/requirements that are an obstacle.  Anyone that has interviewed recently gets tired of the inane questions that have nothing to do with the position.... Tell me of a recent time when an older, yellow cat made you angry, and how did you handle the situation, and what was the outcome....

NotWorking
NotWorking

@JustAGirl It's comforting communicating with those that understand.  I am young for my age, but I think even 40 is tough right now.  I feel that you are in the same pain as me.  The only thing you and I can do is hang on until things change.  Right now, I will probably take a crap job with a huge pay cut as slave labor (I've heard this somewhere?).  

When I graduated from college, I went to work for a great company, flying on the company plane, staying at their luxury villa in Jamaica; I thought this is what life would be like.  If someone had told me even 5 years ago where I would be right now, I would have laughed my @ss off.