Of the many things that separate humans from animals, one of the most puzzling is our habit of staying in bad situations when we have the power to leave them. Most animals will run away after being hit, or leave a place where there is no food. The exception to this rule may be in domesticated pets, who have been bred for senseless loyalty. I find this trait charming in my own pets, and I work hard to fulfill my end of the bargain by treating them well. But somehow the same idiotic trust in the power structure does not charm me when I encounter it in a client who is miserable at work.
To put it frankly, I just don’t get it. I mean, of course, I get it. I see the equation most people make between the paycheck and the abuse. As in, “I have to stay; I need the money.” But no, in the end, I don’t get it. In all the years I’ve been counseling job seekers and unhappy workers, I have encountered very few who actually needed to stay in their jobs because of their circumstances. Most were choosing to stay rather than face the tasks – and consequences – involved in the decision to leave. Oh sure, everyone thinks they’re trapped because of their bills and debt; but how many are doing every possible thing to buy back their freedom? It’s not the debt that traps them; it’s their inertia when it comes to resolving the debt. If your child’s life were at stake, wouldn’t you sell every possession and take a second or third job? Of course you would; the question is, why won’t you do that when it’s your own life at stake?
Luckily, for most people, the solution to a stressful workplace won’t be this dire. They don’t need to go to such lengths to buy their freedom. But they do need to decide: “Am I going to accept this misery in my life?” If the answer is yes, then have at it. But if you’re ready for a change, you’ll have to make the first move. Today.
Start by getting help from outside your workplace: credit counseling, financial advising, career strategies…it almost doesn’t matter which button you push first, as long as you start somewhere. Then keep going until you’ve put this chapter behind you. You really do deserve better.