Unhappy at Your Job? Here Are the Top 3 Things That Create a Bad Work Environment

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If you are an employee it helps to identify a bad work experience early on before you are stuck there for years. If you are a manager it is good to review these three areas so you can spot these signs in your own groups and improve your teams. For both employees and employers it is good to know the major causes of dissatisfaction at work.

Keep in mind no company is 100% perfect and almost everyone will be able to connect with one or two of these workplace ailments, however if you see more than a few of these problems in your job then it may be time to consider that your company is not a happy place to work and could use some improvement.

3 Causes:

1. Your company – Is the entire company dysfunctional and a bad place to work?

Many companies create a work environment that makes being there eight hours a day (or more in many cases) an undignified experience. This could be the actual physical environment or this could mean the people in the company from the executive management team all the way down seem to be filled with jerks and shady characters.

  • Employees fight against each other – The atmosphere of some companies feel like a dystopian wasteland where the motto is everyone for themselves. It is difficult to get help from other employees and departments, or even worse they actively try to sabotage your projects to make you look bad. This makes for a very stressful environment. Employees who get along with each other, help each other, and act like a supportive team generally function like one as well.
  • No one gets promoted – Are you waiting for your manager to die so that you have a chance at promotion? Some companies are just not built to allow regular promotions. Maybe there is little growth or the bridge between job titles is too great. In these cases management needs to make up for the lack of real promotions with increased salary and additional numbers behind your job title. Even if there is no direct path from flight attendant to pilot, there should be a clear path to flight attendant level II and senior flight attendant. The company must provide a chance for growth, increased skills, learning programs, and regular salary increases above inflation adjustments.
  • Responsibilities are increased without the corresponding increase in authority – If your company is expecting you to perform ever increasing tasks and lead projects and programs there needs to be a publicly known increase in authority that gives you the ability to accomplish these tasks. This should be done in the form of a new job title or a public announcement stating you are in charge of certain aspects of a program. This allows people to know that you are not just being nosey and bossy, but are doing your job.
  • The skilled are not promoted – Often managers and entire companies reward friends or those who are most visible in the company over the most skilled and reasonable person for the job. This could be due to nepotism or it could be due to the skilled person being the only one who can perform a certain job and promoting them would move them away from the current job.
  • High turnover rate – Constant reorganization is tough on employees rather it is caused by layoffs, firings, or a lack of loyalty toward the company or employees. It constantly changes work requirements, causes a loss of friends and security, and removes experts who are most knowledgeable about their roles. High turnover rate is both a sign and a cause of a bad workplace.
  • No respect for employees – Employees are treated like property with no interest in their needs. They are never asked for their opinion, and never kept up to date on company direction. They are given no privacy, no independence, and are without the tools they need to perform at their best. Finally they are used up and spit out once they are no longer of value.
  • Appearance more important than results – Companies often choose to measure work hours, meeting attendance, or the appearance that work is being done even if creating that appearance takes away from actual productivity. These things often correspond with results, but it is the actual progress that matters in the end and results are what need to be counted. Sometimes a unique and unstructured workplace can birth the greatest creativity. Companies need to be mindful that one size does not fit all.
  • No time off – Vacation is made available and advertised on job descriptions but cannot be used since everyone is too busy or taking vacation is frowned upon and seen as being lazy. Vacation accumulates and is lost. Employees lose their personal life and become burnt out.
  • Payment is late or skipped – company is not fiscally solvent enough or responsible enough to pay employees what was promised. Checks are late or missing. If this happens once due to some mistake it may be forgivable. If it happens often then the company is stealing from you and not worth your time.
  • No one ever gets fired – A bad coworker can bring everyone down. Maybe others are forced to do their job, or they cause hostility or lack of fluidity in the group. Whatever the case the management team needs to have the backbone to stand up to these people and not let them harm the rest of the group.
  • Employees can’t tie what they do to the success of the company – Employees need to feel they are part of a bigger project and how their roles are important to the success of the company. The management team needs to keep them informed on company projects and how they are helping and share celebrations with them when goals are met.

2. Your manager – As a leader and a person

Managers set the tone and call the shots for the group and can make your work-life pleasant or crush your spirit. Managers are usually a key component to rather or not a person is happy at work. Good bosses are positive leaders for a department, insightful sources of experience, ambassadors to other departments, and they fight for their team during meetings with upper management. Bad bosses create a pocket of terror in an otherwise good company and tend to block progress more than help it along.

Here are a few common characteristics of a bad boss:

  • Everything is top priority – Some managers are very good at creating artificial stress in their department by inflating the urgency of every project. A good manager knows that their employees need a break and save the red alert situations for real emergencies.
  • Promising the world to upper management – Weak bosses cannot say no to upper management and pass on every request to their employees even if it is impossible. These bosses rarely provide good leadership. Other departments and even employees in their group take advantage of them. We also see this with managers who are more interested in promoted their own career over the needs of the group they lead. If their employees work long hours to complete every project that is asked it looks good for the manager and cost them little time to say yes.
  • Boss is overemotional and egotistic – Many bosses seem to confuse yelling and being a strong leader. Often loss of emotional control is used to hide a manager’s lack of real skill. Some schools of management seem to promote harsh words and threats as a way to motivate employees.
  • Manipulates situations to take advantage of you – During slow job markets many bosses take advantage of the situation by cutting pay raises to their employees, increasing work hours and generally rolling back promises made to employees. They know there are not a lot of other jobs available due to economic situations or realities of your type of industry. Bad managers use this to their advantage and forget you are a real person and not a commodity.
  • Doesn’t give positive feedback or guidance for improvement – Good managers give timely and regular feedback. They frequently and publicly praise employees’ work when it is good and give private feedback on how to improve when it needs improvement. Managers should not wait for yearly reviews to state progress or blow up at employees when things have been going downhill for months. Employees should know their role and have expected, required tasks that are achievable. Goals should not be constantly changing. Feedback should be given as goals progress. Finally, if employees work long hours for extended periods of time there needs to be reciprocal signs of appreciation from the management team to make sure the team feels appreciated and rewarded.
  • Your boss hates you – A bad boss may not be able to get over perceived differences with you. Maybe they think you have different political beliefs or a different work style than they have. They may allow this to cloud your work relationship and cause them to constantly be negative toward you. Good bosses don’t get stuck on these differences and instead can work with a wide array of personality types. They work well with the entire team and take an interest in each person individually. This allows the boss to know the strengths and weaknesses of each person in the team and know how to motivate them and get the best results from each individual. One person may not work well with constant supervision, but with a little room they may end up being the strongest employee in the team. Building these relationships also creates camaraderie with the team and can avoid situations where employees appear to lose interest in their work or snap unexpectedly.
  • Micromanaging – Bosses who don’t trust their employees will spend most of their time (and yours) checking your progress and questioning how you choose to attack a problem. This is fine for new employees or employees who work best if they have constant supervision, but if your manager doesn’t recognize your worth and intelligence after 15 years on the job then it can feel demeaning. This is made even worse if the boss is incompetent and knows less than you do but still insists to look over your shoulder and comment on every action. Managers need to let skilled employees do their job and give them room. They should value their opinions and allow them to bring questions and concerns to the boss when they have them.
  • Not around enough – If you boss is never available to be a leader then we have the opposite extreme of micromanagement. Managers are put in place for a purpose and if they do not guide the team, then someone else will. This can cause the members of the team to have to perform the role of the manager without any of the authority. They will not have the connections with upper management and will miss out on the guidance, direction, and experience a good manager would provide. This can cause bickering between group members and force employees to go around the usual chain of command to get things done.

3. Your roll – What do you want to get out your job versus what you are actually getting

Maybe there is nothing inherently wrong with the company, but it is just not the best place for you.

  • Not what you expected – If you went into your current position with a salary expectation and you ended up getting paid significantly less, that salary gap is going to eat at you. You may be happy performing a job for free if that is what you set out to do, but if you are not getting paid what you believe you are worth then your salary goals will keep you from being happy at that job.
  • You have no interest in what your company does – There is something to be said of being proud of what you do and where you work. If you believe chewing gum is destroying the lives of children then you are not going to be inspired to work harder at a chewing gum factory. If you hate what your company does or are even apathetic to its goals then your only motivation for working there is the money. You will have no enthusiasm and will not care about anything but your paycheck. If the money itself is not so good, then your motivation for the job will be minimal at best. Alternatively if you believe the products or services your company produces are really great or are helping benefit the world, then you will have extra incentive to go to work every day.
  • You work hard, but have no rewards or successes – In a school setting this is called busy work. You work hard each day but nothing of value is ever produced. You never get to celebrate the launch of a new product or start to work on new exciting projects. Every day is the same meaningless assembly line style tasks. No matter how hard you work there is no difference in your level of success and you never get to see the fruits of your labor.
  • You are not doing what you love – You spend a lot of time at work every day. Are you doing what you love or even what you are good at? Is this a creative outlet for your talents and passions or does it just pay the bills.

Flip these attributes for a good company that is healthy, productive, focused and driven.