Liking your coworkers is so important to liking your job. In my last job, I really struggled because there were a lot of challenging people there. Briefly, there was a fellow who called himself “Mr. Diversity” and complimented a Vietnamese American student on “good Asian work ethic.” There was the person who cleared his throat and belched so loudly it was audible in my office, to the clients. The supervisor who condescendingly told me several things I said that I didn’t actually say. The person who repeatedly mis-gendered a trans student. The person who talked over me in meetings. The person with the campus-wide reputation for abusing student staff. The person who was such a bad public speaker that faculty began coming directly to me and begging me to do all the presentations myself. (That was kind of vindicating, I must admit, and I enjoy public speaking, so it worked out.) I tell you, it was rough! And I was very unhappy. I had fed myself the line that I was supposed to be content with the job itself—the things I did, the pay and benefits I got—but I hated most of my immediate coworkers, and one of the only ones I liked left. (Because of those very coworkers, actually.)
The situation was pretty terrible. I got called to the carpet for doodling during staff meetings, even though I presented evidence that doodling is helpful to concentration and creativity. I got written up and put on a performance improvement plan because I had a boss who communicated things in such a profoundly confusing way that I never knew what I was supposed to be doing. When I knew I had a meeting with my supervisor, I felt sick to my stomach and couldn’t sleep. I always knew she was going to complain about something, but I never knew what, or how I was supposed to go about fixing it. And because she was so very, very passive-aggressive, every conversation ended with her patronizingly asking how she could help me. Things got so bad that I was spending part of every day writing down the exchanged I’d had and emailing her, “This is what I understood from our conversation. If this is not correct, please let me know. Otherwise, I will proceed.” (I copied the big boss, too, for what good that did me.) I also added a weekly progress email, detailing what I’d accomplished, where I was stuck, and what I was starting. It was a huge waste of time, honestly, since nothing got better and I never got feedback on my extra hours of work.
Then, one day shortly before my dreaded annual review, I decided I just couldn’t put up with it anymore. I needed to quit. I was wasting time telling people who didn’t care about what I was doing, and I could be using that time to help people grow in their careers! Kind of a no-brainer once I opened my eyes.
That was 3 years ago, and I have never been happier. In normal times, I work out of a co-working space filled with people I really enjoy. Nobody ever makes horrible noises that disgust my clients. I don’t have any staff meetings at all (hallelujah!) but if I did, I would be able to doodle to my heart’s content. I don’t get mixed messages or passive-aggressive comments, and nobody is belittling or just plain cruel. It’s better than I could possibly have imagined!
All this to say, of course, that when you’re looking for something new, spend some time trying to learn who you would be working with and what those people are like. It’s probably asking too much to expect everyone in a workplace to have bestie potential, but do you feel like you would at least respect them? Maybe even like a few? If you’re anything like me, those things will be one of the biggest contributing factors in your satisfaction with a job.