How to Survive a Crappy Job Until You Find a Better One

A crappy job is no joking matter. Unfortunately, a plethora of people are spending more than one third of their time every week, month and year, working in such a job.

I’m not talking here about a job that’s just boring or unfulfilling. I’m talking about an entire work environment that’s psychologically debilitating. Think manipulative management, lack of ethics and sabotage of your advancement.

The logical and obvious step when you’re in a crummy job is to look for a better one (hopefully, a lot better) and to get out of there as soon as possible. You want to kill your job before it kills you.

Now, the practical challenge is that finding even a decent job, especially in some fields, can take 3 to 6 months and sometimes longer. So before killing your job, if you rely on it financially, you may need to tolerate it for a while.

As I often coach people in this kind of a situation, I want to share with you three of the most effective strategies I know for surviving a crappy job until you find a better one.

1. Reduce the Contact with Your Job As Much As You Can

Until you find a new and better job, you want to dedicate the least amount of time possible to your current one. Take plenty of days off, try to frequently get to work late and leave work early. This serves a triple role:

  1. It reduces your contact with a toxic work environment;
  2. It gives you time to relax, distress and recharge your batteries;
  3. It gives you more time to invest in looking for another job.

I’m a believer in integrity, but when you’re dealing with a crummy job and toxic relationships in the workplace, it is guerrilla warfare. Anything goes. So, use just about any tactic available to diminish the contact with you job.

This is a good time to catch every known type of flu out there, plus a couple of unknown types. It’s a good time to generally feel sick very often. On many occasions, you may not even have to fake it that much.

2. Set up Compensation Mechanisms

If your work causes you distress, exhaustion and lack of fulfillment, then you don’t want any other area of your life to add to this. On the contrary: in order to keep your mental and emotional balance, you want to compensate in your time away from work.

The period when you’re dealing with an almost intolerable job is a very good one to:

  • Develop nurturing relationships and use them for support;
  • Get involved in plenty of fun and relaxing activities (go to a spa, play some paintball, get plenty of sleep);
  • Do meaningful things in whatever free time you have (volunteer for a cause you believe in).

A particularly good idea during such a period is to eliminate as much as you can of the outside work responsibilities than can be stressful. Try to either dump them altogether or delegate them to somebody else.

Case in point: I’ve seen married people who in a period of real torment at work told their caring spouse about their work problems and asked them to take on more of the household responsibilities for a while, until they’ll be in a better job. If the spouse does care, they can help tremendously.

3. Stop Taking Work So Seriously

It’s crucial to realize the following point: when you’re set on leaving a job and will do so in a few months tops, apart from your short term check, the stake is pretty much gone. Being a good employee is no longer required. If you don’t, what is your employer going to do? Fire you?

First off, even if they do fire you, it will take months before your insolence accumulates, becomes evident and the decision to fire you is made. By that time, chances are you will already have another job offer.

Second of all, you’d be surprised how much shit you can get away with. I’ve met many people who are total assholes at work and they haven’t even come close to losing their job. They may get criticized by their boss or peers every now and then, but that’s pretty much it.

Fundamentally, surviving a crappy job is about strategy and attitude. Equipped with these two tools, you can deal with any job, for a while. And when you accept a new job, you’ve better not make the same mistakes again.

Image courtesy of Stepan Mazurov


  1. Entrepreneurship is the way to go here. Most people don’t like all of the rules, regulations, and politics that are involved working with a corporation or even small company.

    • Hey Justin,

      I don’t think entrepreneurship is for everybody, but I do think it fits well with most people. I wouldn’t give it up if my life depended on it.

  2. Could you advise how to avoid being found out that we are looking for a better job ? Like the less serious work attitude, leave taking for interview, sensitive boss/ colleagues ….. ?

Speak Your Mind