Organizational Culture

How To Tell When An Employee Hates Their Job

By Sarah O’Brien

Depending on the report, we know that between 15% and 70% of people hate their jobs. We’re not talking about lacking motivation or being disengaged — we’re talking hate. When an emotion as intense as hatred is tied to something that most people spend 1/3 of every day of their adult lives doing, it affects not only work, but mental and physical health.

People hate their jobs for many reasons, some of which have more to do with personal needs and expectations than the job itselfWith the job market in recovery, fewer employees are willing to tolerate a job they hate, especially if the reason falls on the company’s failures to provide an environment and situation where they feel supported and engaged.

It isn’t difficult to identify the employees who hate their jobs. In fact, you may already have someone in mind whose unhappiness is palpable and even disruptive to your organization. Failing to identify these team members and re-engage them can not only hurt your team, but your bottom line. Here are a few things you should keep an eye out for:

Absenteeism, late arrival, long breaks or clock-watching

If your employees are punching in no earlier than they have to and clocking out not a minute later than required, you have a problem, Houston. Your employees cannot stand to be in the office, and you see it through their attendance habits. Long breaks, constant late arrivals or absenteeism are signs that they are struggling to bring their physical bodies into the work space. Yikes.

It’s quiet… too quiet

Laughter and conversation are natural results of a happy and engaged workforce. When employees feel supported enough to be their authentic selves, and to share that with their co-workers, they are significantly less likely to report that they hate their jobs, and are more likely to be productive and report being engaged at work.

If your office is quiet, with few friendships between colleagues, then it’s likely they don’t feel secure enough to share themselves or be themselves at work. Relationships with colleagues create commitment not only to team members, but to the success of the organization. Meaningful office friendships build an emotional bridge between the individual’s happiness and business results.


If we look at unhappiness at work like a tree, attendance issues and office relationships would be branches, and apathy would be the root. As the root grows, more branches can be fed, and the more difficult it is to erase. Apathy may not be the first sign of a problem, but it will grow and feed new problems.

Carelessness with assignments, daily tasks, their personal appearance or the appearance of their work space, openly job-hunting, being late or “no shows” — these are all signs that hatred has not only sprouted, but taken root. These employees may be sticking around to pull in a paycheck, but have mentally checked out of your organization.

Possible Reasons Your Employees Hate their Job


Organizational psychologists agree that getting paid for something makes us less satisfied with the task. It seems backwards, but it’s true. Few people come home from work, look at their paycheck and feel good about it. As an employer, you’re fighting an uphill battle with perception and motivation — but it’s not impossible to change this perception. There are countless ways to get your employees to view their job as “more than just a paycheck,” namely through employee engagement initiatives.

Be it through culture, coaching, or mentoring opportunities — building a relationship with your employees that’s rooted in their personal development and happiness will change their perception and keep apathy from setting up camp.

They don’t like their boss

People don’t leave jobs, they leave their bosses. It may be an old saying, but it’s true. Even if a boss isn’t the target of their hate; feeling micromanaged, under-appreciated or utilized, lacking feedback, or coaching are all reasons employees give for leaving a job.

Their self-value is driven by work

If you have a good relationship with the employee, this could be a mentoring opportunity, but sometimes people are simply in the wrong career, or are in need of some self-discovery.

If the issue is rooted in not feeling appreciated, feeling like they have no future aspirations with your company, or not receiving recognition for the work they do, then those problems can be a mentoring opportunity. The more attempts you make to understand your employees and reach them where they are, the likelier they are to feeling valued as a person, and not simply a unit.

Environmental factors

A commute that is too long, a decrepit office space, or a work station setup that doesn’t support one’s working style can all be reasons for long-term stress that wind up in job hatred. This is a little more difficult to address, but consider creating a flexible work schedule, or allowing employees with serious aversions to their commute or environment to work remotely.

The key to addressing employees who hate their jobs is taking some time to consider your employee as an individual, and work with them to create a solution.

Watch a 1-minute preview of “Why Do People Hate Their Jobs?” from The BizLibrary Collection here:

For more tips on ways to keep your employees happy and retain top talent, make sure you check out our webinar “The Power of Stay Interviews for Employee Engagement and Retention.” All of  our webinars are free and approved for one re-certification credit through SHRM and HRCI.

Webinar: Stay Interviews

Sarah O’Brien researches and writes on a variety of business topics, including workplace dynamics, HR strategies, and training trends and technology.