Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


Don’t Whine About Your Job. Do Something!

My coworker hates her job. She keeps complaining to me. I have tried to talk to her about what she could do, but she is not listening.
My husband keeps threatening to quit his job. He only comments negatively about his job and the people who work with him. I wish he would just do something.

My friend was having difficulty with her schedule, but she didn’t go to her boss to discuss alternatives. She just quit. When I had a problem, my boss adjusted my schedule. My friend’s might have been adjusted, too, if she had said something.

As these comments from participants in my seminars indicate, tackling problems that affect our work lives can be difficult.

When some people become dissatisfied with their work, they do nothing. Perhaps they don’t know how to proceed, or maybe they don’t believe there is anything they can do to improve the situation. Usually, the only action they take is to whine about their bosses, their colleagues, or the work. 

Unfortunately, complaining doesn’t accomplish anything – except having your friends, colleagues and others stay clear of you.

Some, on the other hand, get so frustrated that they impulsively quit their jobs without having another lined up, or without even a plan for the future.
Both reactions can affect your career negatively. However, there is an alternative that can help people evaluate their work situations. Answering the following four questions encourages people to take action and decide their next steps. 

1. Ask yourself, what is the real issue? It is easy to say, “I hate my job,” but it is important to identify why. What is the real issue that is causing you to be unhappy? Be honest and be specific. Is it the type of work you do, or just one aspect of the job? Is it the commute, the money, your boss, the people you work with, or any number of other causes? One man I coached liked most of the facets of his job, but wanted to quit because he had to make frequent presentations. Another realized that her new position involved using unfamiliar technology, which made her feel uncomfortable and unqualified.  

2. Can you solve the problem? Now that you have identified the issue, is there something that can be done? Is there a realistic solution? If so, what do you have to lose by asking for it? Make the case for your suggestion, including any benefits to your department or to the company. One woman realized that she liked her job, but it was the commute that was driving her crazy. She asked her boss if she could work from home two days a week. Once she assured her boss that her productivity wouldn’t be affected, she was successful in having her schedule changed. Remember that if you don’t speak up, chances are nothing will change. 

3. Are there advantages to this job? If you can’t solve the problem, think about what you are gaining from the position.  Don’t just quickly say, “Nothing.” Here are four possible things to consider: 

--Is the job a stepping stone?  Will you need the skills you gain from this position to qualify for a job on the next rung of the ladder? One of my early jobs involved working for a horrible boss. Yet I stayed until I had gained the experience I needed, and then I left.   

--Is there any education or training perk to which you have access? Some companies will fund part or all of your ongoing education. This can be a major benefit for many people. 

--Who are you meeting? Does the job allow you to interact with people and build your network? If so, it is possible that by having a strong network, additional job opportunities will come your way.

--Can you learn to manage your boss? Learning to work with difficult people is an important skill that almost certainly will be beneficial to you at some point in your career.

4. Is it time to start a job search? Depending on how you answer the above questions, you may decide that it is time to start looking for a new position. You may even decide to change careers. Any number of alternatives may now be available to you. This doesn’t mean you just quit your job. Generally, it is best to look for a new job (or career) while you are still working at the old one. Information on conducting a thorough job search can be found in my recent book The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.   

Whether you decide to stay at your current job or to look for a new one, feel good about your choice. You are doing something: You have taken charge of your career.

I post regularly on communication and etiquette. We can connect via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or my
About: Barbara Pachter is an internationally-renowned business etiquette and communications speaker, coach and author of 11 business books. She helps individuals communicate more effectively and enhance their professional presence. Pachter is also adjunct faculty in the School of Business at Rutgers University. ( 


  1. For better or worse the working world in America over the past 20 or so years has turned (well, the smart ones) people into mercenaries. Employment is a contract between two entities for their mutual benefit where either party can terminate for whatever reason to suit their own interest. No loyalty. No games. No hard feelings.

    People, especially GenX and younger, figured out that transferable skills which equate to income matters more than loyalty, institutional knowledge and face time. Yes, you do work hard for your employer but in return you build your toolkit of skills, see advancement in pay or title (if that's important to you) or you leave. Second, given that we all saw our boomer and older parents work hard, sacrifice time with us kids, and forgo other opportunities - only to get laid off anyway - these memories only burned the notion of "Look out for #1" into our work ethic.

    Unfortunately, many employers in America haven't clued into this and want their cake and eat it too, the want a loyal workforce willing to sacrifice and work hard - that they can jettison at a moments notice without concern or notion of moral duties to their employee's. The boomers might have bought that notion, GenX and Millennials won't.

    Despite this, working hard and being dutiful to ones employer still is a valued notion and a secret to success. This said, unflinching loyalty and willing to "take one for the team" that leads to job loss and long term unemployment? Sorry, not happening.

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