1 A Brief History of Being Unhappy at Work | The Billfold

A Brief History of Being Unhappy at Work

literally no one in the world who i don't hate rn

 I was talking to someone who is in that “wanting to quit” phase of work and wanted to remember what it felt like so I did a search in my journal (YEP) from a few years back for the words “work” and “job.” What follows is a nice, horrifying portrait of someone on the edge of sanity who really needs to quit her job. May I never be this angry again! Or may I um, emotionally detach from work and just put my head down and do my work? That always sounds like the right idea.



Work was hell again today. Some of it was fun. Some of it was creative. I had some decent ideas. I had hopeful, uplifting, reasonable conversations with people I like and respect. Had bitching, hilarious conversations with people I love. Made jokes with people who drive me crazy. Complained about people who are bothering me. The drama of the workplace absolutely consumes me. It’s all I care about. Who is frustrated and why. Who wants to quit. Who is threatened by whom. Who feels territorial. Who is powerless. Who is wielding their power with too much brute force.

Had a few rages. A prolonged back and forth or two. Dustin told me to go get a snack and I did. And I did feel better. One Fudge Stripe, 1/4 of a cupcake and a handful of almonds later. :(



When did rage become such a dominant emotion in my life? I am always frustrated, enraged, cynical, afraid, worried. Everything is negative. Now I am panicked thinking about it.

On the way home I think about how horrible I feel about my life. About everything. That dreaded train ride. I am starting to feel (STARTING?) like staying at my job is the most advantageous thing for me but I can’t stand it another minute. Like I really “get” this company and feel loyal to the project of it but it’s eating away at me and turning me into a shell of a human being / a monster / a bad person / etc. I am “unbalanced.” I scream and scream in my head (solemnly) about how unhappy I am and then do nothing about it.



Well it’s Saturday morning and I am working on some last-minute shit. It’s been ridiculous but I know I did well with it, and to have T satisfied with it is a bit of a thrill.

I’ve felt pretty at sea with work but it is undeniably more fun to feel like I am a part of making new stuff. Working with designers feels right.



Things were weirdly good yesterday. Work was you know, annoying but not horribly annoying. I was in a strange mood. Not combative, just goofy. Work is/was weird.

I like my new desk — is it strange that that could do it? That could put me in a better mood? Maybe it’s being so close to the window, and not having X face my monitor all day. Either way it’s nice.



Well, work blew. I had to write a really dumb thing and it was so dumb it made me cry. I just sat there feeling so gross about having to do it, and staring at the page and hating myself. Rubbing my face, procrastinating. Hating everything and everyone.

Maybe soon I will admit to X that I am losing my mind not working on anything else creatively, and really resenting my job, and that I need a break.

I also need a vacation, obviously. Though god, time away might just make me want to never come back.



I got a drink with a girl tonight who interviewed with us for a job she didn’t get. She wanted to know how to “break in” to working in tech from the journalism/media world. She seems smart and nice and just nerdy enough. I liked her, though she was sort of clueless when it comes to the internet.

I told her to, in so many words, manufacture a narrative for herself and how she fits into whatever company she is applying to. Keep in mind the people who are hiring have no fucking clue what they are doing, and want to feel like it’s “fate” and be told about themselves, and be offered help. They want people who “get it.” So be the person who gets it, who has some history of caring about the company they can point to, and who isn’t afraid to tell the company what they need and how they will be the person to provide it.



Maybe I can get out, wiggle out, of my role and into something else for them. Something less fucking nightmarish and exhausting. Maybe I can learn something new. Maybe I can just do decision-making stuff. Maybe I can just manage people? Who the fuck knows.

Or maybe I can get the fuck out of here and take a fucking sabbatical and not kill myself.



Work. It was kind of nice today. Most of the company didn’t come into work, and we just got a lot done. Oh wait, no we didn’t. I sort of sat at my desk hanging out and joking around with M.



Work was pretty terrible today. Some days it’s just so bad, and I just can’t do it anymore. I want to give up. Or I do give up, temporarily. I stare at a screen and just think, “No. Fuck this.” And I try but I can just do nothing.



Today in my meeting with X we talked about how hard it was to push anything through, and how hard it was to establish consensus. And I said, “Uh, YEAH.” And felt like crying. And I looked at him and said, “Sometimes I just have to wonder, is it really supposed to be this hard?” He said, “No,” really quickly and with assurance. And I said, Yeah. I mean, I don’t know, I don’t know how it’s SUPPOSED to be, but I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to be like this. And he said “Yeah I don’t know either, but…” And we just nodded. And I felt fucking hopeless.



Maybe I should go on some interviews. Maybe I should get drunk with X and tell him how I really feel. Maybe I should keep my head down and apply for new jobs. It’s so easy, culturally, to stay here. Though there are times I feel at sea. I like so many of my coworkers, and laugh so much with them, and so sincerely.



I just got home from work.


There were moments where it was fun. It is nice to “sit at the table”. It makes me feel less threatened, less defensive. You see and remember that we are all just trying to figure it out.

I feel really zen about this right now, and/but I’m not sure how long I can hold onto that. I feel very, “it is what it is.”



We just watched a whole hell of a lot of West Wing and all I can think about is this line, the President says to Josh Lyman, “You know the difference between you and me is I want to be the guy and you want to be the guy the guy depends on.” And all I can think is, maybe that’s my problem at work. I don’t want to be the guy the guy depends on. I want to be the guy. I am such a brat.



Work: I got none done. But I was happy! I was happily avoiding work all day.



Me and R got coffee at 5 today and it was not a constructive coffee. We were back in the same place we were in four months ago, which is a really bleak thing to realize. All of our complaints were well-rehearsed. We can articulate all of it very clearly now. It’s simple. Un-mysterious. And sad.



After our dinner tonight i felt really convicted about leaving, or about taking a leave. Of course saying “I quit” would be amazing. The _____ meeting was hellish today. I am in burnout mode big time. Ugh it was untenable. And I have to get out of here.



Work is getting hilarious this morning. In that bleak way where all you can do is laugh. A and I are commiserating and replying to shitty emails with purple text and centered email replies and such. I feel like our only power here is to either leave or agitate everyone. I guess that is kind of bitter and shitty. But whatever.


I quit my job a month later!


22 Comments / Post A Comment

Pitts (#5,529)

The West Wing always makes my work issues so clear. “There is literally no one in the world that I don’t hate right now.”

kellyography (#250)

@Michelle Pittman@facebook Not a day goes by when I don’t brandish an imaginary cricket bat and utter in my head, “I will KILL people today, Leo!”

Clearly, I am also in this “I need to quit my job for my sanity” place right now, but I am trying to move across the country and can’t rationalize quitting without something lined up on the other side.

Marille (#5,933)

@Michelle Pittman@facebook I really loved the decision to use a photo of Toby in this essay. He’s kind of awful, but also one of my favorite people.

katethegreat (#2,545)

@kellyography my go-to West Wing for Work quote is “bring me the finest muffins and bagels in all the land,” which I guess gives you a sense of my work priorities.

hershmire (#695)

I’m not sure which is worse, having a job you love working for people you hate, or working for nice people in a dead-end job that requires no skill and has no impact on anything. Both make you feel totally worthless, but in different ways.

I’m currently in the latter and there is no escape.

moreadventurous (#4,956)

@hershmire I’m in the latter too… it’s the worst.

City_Dater (#565)


Having recently fled a dead-end job working for a simply terrible supervisor, I think it is easier to work with good people, no matter what. Even if I had loved what I was doing, there was no way I could continue coping with the environment.

andnowlights (#2,902)

@hershmire I currently work with people I LOVE in a job that is boring and feels pointless. 11 months ago, I left the same job with a TERRIBLE boss within the same organization. It’s easy to leave a job you hate, but I can tell you right now that leaving my bosses here is going to be really hard when the time comes (could be as soon as November, as late as 2016, depending on my husband’s school schedule) because I seriously adore them.

hershmire (#695)

@moreadventurous When people ask what I do I say “Professional e-mail writer”.

zimm (#2,228)

@hershmire ooh.. I’m in the latter too :/ feeling particularly bleh today

I guess my job isn’t completely dead-end but I don’t see it becoming something I feel excited about. At the same time, I feel like a complete brat complaining about it because it’s a really cushy position for someone who just graduated college.

erinep (#4,236)

This. All of this.

Every day I think of the premise from Office Space – what would you do if you had a million dollars to do whatever you want? For me it has varied, but it is generally buying a bigger house with a yard for a garden, room to sew, and a big kitchen to bake and cook and brew beer. I’ve figured out in the last year or so that I just really like to make and create stuff and “work with my hands”. I just don’t know what direction to even attempt to take it in, and then it just circles back to money.

OllyOlly (#669)

Wow at least I got a laugh reading some of my old gchats about my old company just now. Some days I can’t believe I ever worked there, I am just a generally happy person now. Which I never was while working in an environment in which you feel disrespected everyday.

beastlyburden (#6,122)

Oh, man. So many feelings! I’ve also been wildly, wildly unhappy at work before, to the point where I started crying *before* I got into the office, anticipating all the stress and drama to come.

Now I’m in a zero-stress job with coworkers I like very much… but I feel really meh about the work itself.

All I want is an easygoing job with cool coworkers at an organization I believe in doing work that is meaningful and respected. Also, it pays me a ton AND I can bring a dog to work AND we get summer Fridays. Is that so much to ask?!?

andnowlights (#2,902)

Oof. Right to heart, and so many tears over this. Well done, Meaghan. I LOVE my bosses, but my job and my company are… useless.

I actually left a job 11 months ago in which I was crying in the car every day before work. It was dark times and I’m still not sure how I managed to get through it (except I gained SO MUCH WEIGHT from stress eating, so I guess that’s how I got through it?) I stayed within the company but moved departments, so the company part still sucks and the title is the same. Ah well.

erinep (#4,236)

@andnowlights I have a feeling I would drop 15 pounds without trying in a month if I got a new job. I stress eat like mad.

Karebot (#5,803)

Meaghan, that’s really great advice you gave to the girl who was trying to get hired! I’m copy-and-pasting it for the future.

Thank you! Yeah it is only tenuously related to the point of the post but I left it in because I was like, Damn that’s kind of conniving but I stand by it.

samburger (#5,489)


Keep in mind the people who are hiring have no fucking clue what they are doing, and want to feel like it’s “fate” and be told about themselves, and be offered help. They want people who “get it.” So be the person . . . who isn’t afraid to tell the company what they need and how they will be the person to provide it.

That’s the best piece of advice I’ve ever heard about how to get into a company. My wife is about to enter Big Scary Salary Negotiations and I sent this snippet to her because IT WORKS FOR ALL THINGS. Super super true.

This is a great post, btw!

bittysoda (#1,551)

Today I really needed to hear that I’m not the only one, and that there will, in fact, be life after a terrible job at a terrible company. Thank you! (And thank you to all the other commenters, too!)

halloliebchen (#5,373)

Yes yes yes a thousand times yes. This could be from my gchat history.

calvin (#7,336)

When did work become something we expect to fulfill us instead of just being a means to an end? That laundry list of things we do that allow us to live our lives? Not become our lives? Add that thought to the idea that here in the States we take less vacation and leisure time that in nearly any other industrialized country and is it any wonder so many people here loathe their jobs? It’s not supposed to be like this. What happened to the fight for the 40 hour week? We should have kept that momentum going:)

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