Why We Stay in Jobs We Dislike


We’ve all been there - the Sunday night dread, the Monday morning commute from hell, evenings spent ranting about our jobs, days spent plotting our escape, dreaming about how our dramatic resignation will play out. Perhaps you have friends who constantly complain about their jobs but never seem to do anything about it. I see it all the time as a Career Coach. Clients are miserable in their current job but something is holding them back from moving on.

Recent research from LinkedIn sheds light on exactly why we stay in jobs we dislike. It would seem that there a number of common barriers we come up against when we’re considering a job change.

Better the Devil You Know

As humans, we’re designed to fear the unknown. We have an innate need to keep ourselves safe, and it’s an effective survival strategy. We’re not natural risk takers for this very reason. It’s no surprise then that LinkedIn’s findings found that the biggest barrier to applying for a new role for UK employees was the fear that they might not like their new job, or that it could actually be worse than where they are now. I’ve heard a number of clients over the years say, “What if it’s a huge mistake? What if I hate it just as much?” Time passes by and this fear holds them captive in a role that leaves them unsatisfied and uninspired. According to LinkedIn’s research on average, it takes a year of feeling like this before we even consider applying for a new job. That’s a lot of miserable Monday mornings!

The solution here is to weigh up how likely it actually is that you’ll hate your new role. We forget that we have the choice to accept or decline a job offer after we’ve explored the role, company and culture through interviews and our own research. We forget that we have the right to resign and move on again if the new role doesn’t meet our expectations. We forget that we are never stuck in a job; there are always alternative options. All of these points suggest that it’s unlikely you’ll find yourself in a situation where you’re worse off than now. I’ve met very few people in my career that regret moving on, but I have met plenty that deeply regret staying in a job they don’t enjoy.

It can also be helpful to remember that any change can be seen as a step forward. Whatever the next role is, and however it turns out, you will always learn something new about yourself and what you do and don’t want from your career. Staying where you are does not always guarantee the same result.

A Lack of Confidence

Just over 42% of British workers cited a lack of confidence as a barrier to moving jobs. It’s very easy to look at a job description and dismiss our ability to perform well in that role. As Brits, we are notorious for under-selling ourselves. It can also be the perfect excuse to avoid the hassle of applying for a new job. By dismissing the opportunity with “I’ll never get it; There’s better people out there; I’m not good enough”, we protect ourselves from the possibility of rejection, and all the disappointment that goes with it. We also save ourselves the effort required to apply, letting ourselves off the hook by deciding we’d never get it anyway.

A tip here is to remember that someone has to get that job; why shouldn’t it be you? If you have 50-75% of the skills, strengths, and experience they’re looking for, go for it. Each day, think of an example you can use to demonstrate your ability in the areas they mention. As you see the bank of evidence stack up, so will your confidence in your suitability for the role.


“I’ll do it tomorrow” - the well-rehearsed words of a true procrastinator! Applying for a new job can feel like a mammoth task. It’s no wonder that we put it off, getting easily distracted by the cleaning, tidying, watching TV, checking social media, etc.

What I love about the LinkedIn platform is that it gives you the perfect place to start. Make sure your profile is up to date. Begin with the vacancies it identifies as matching your profile. Save the ones of interest. Turn on your Career Interests tab to let recruiters know you’re open to new opportunities. Use your network and connections to facilitate introductions to your companies of interest. These are all easy, simple ways to get the ball rolling.

Avoiding procrastination is all about having SMART goals to work through and towards. In approaching your job change, the steps you take need to be:

  • Specific - break each task down into at least three smaller steps
  • Measurable - quantify your goal in some way
  • Attainable - be realistic, bearing in mind your other commitments
  • Relevant - related directly to your end goal), and
  • Time-bounded - set a deadline for each task, and your end goal).

This approach can really help you break the habit of putting off your job search week after week.

Weighing up the long-term benefits and the temporary effort of changing jobs can also help put the task of finding a new role into perspective. It might feel like a lot of tiring work in the short-term, with the potential for setbacks and disappointment, but this is far outweighed by the opportunity to move into something that’s potentially far more exciting, that presents a refreshing new challenge, helps you develop your skills, and move forward in your career.

Alice Stapleton

About Alice

Alice coaches those who want to change career but don’t know what they want to do instead. She offers Career Coaching designed to help graduates, early to mid-level career-changers, and parents returning to work gain a clear vision of what career is right for them, and how to achieve it. She is also an accredited Coach Supervisor, and host of The Career Change Diaries podcast.