Diane Stafford: What is wrong with your job?

You’re itching to quit. You’ve said out loud, “I hate my job.” But do you hate the work you do? Or is it something else?

Now that hiring and health insurance options have increased, the “quit rate” — the share of workers voluntarily leaving their jobs — is going up. Employees who felt stuck finally feel freer to explore options. Some of them come to life and career coach Lorrie Eigles for guidance.

“When people aren’t happy with what they’ve been doing, the first thing I ask them is to write down the pros and the cons of what they do now,” the Kansas City consulant says. “I tell them to concentrate on the three W’s: the work, their fellow workers, and the work environment.”

There’s danger in smooshing the three W’s together into one big unhappiness package.

“You have to distinguish the parts you like from the parts you don’t like,” Eigles advises.

Surprisingly, she has found the mismatch most often is the nature of the work itself — that people aren’t doing things they’re suited for, according to their skills, interests or abilities. They need to develop better self awareness and search out jobs that are a better fit.

Some others are good at, and enjoy, their essential duties but can’t stand some of the people they work with. They need to change work groups, departments or organizations to do the work they like with people they like.

For still others, the physical enviroment is the drawback. They’re working in a high-activity open office when they crave solitude. Or they’re in a quiet, private office when they want sociability.

“If you understand your likes and dislikes, and you have the perspective about where else you could do what you want to do, then you can sort out what you have control over and what you don’t,” Eigles counsels.

After weighing all the options, she says, some people are left with the hard-to-accept realization: The only thing they can control is their own attitude.

Some unhappy people are fortunate enough to find different jobs that feed their souls. Others have to focus on accepting things — or change things that are within their power. Eigles, for example, recognizes that she’s an artist at heart and needs to be in an aesthically pleasing environment. People like her can feel better by “prettifying” their workplaces.

It can be a lot harder to tackle the problem of disliking co-workers. Some interpersonal clashes qualify as discrimination or ostracism and aren’t fixable by one individual’s effort. Leaving may be the best solution. But, Eigles says, a lesser personality problem can be eased by concentrating on positive attributes about the people you dislike.

“You may need some help to genuinely appreciate the good things about a person you dislike,” Eigles notes, “but if you can remind yourself of the pluses, it can reduce the minuses.”

The bottom line: Understand your true source of unhappiness before seeking change.

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to Follow her online at and @kcstarstafford.