As "The Golden Girls'" Sophia Petrillo would say, "picture it:" You’re so new to the job that you haven’t memorized the bathroom code. But you’ve been there long enough to realize your boss is a harpy. Or your responsibilities are insultingly easy. Your co-workers are nincompoops. Your work-life balance has tipped the scale the wrong way. Plainly, your job is a lemon, but the ink isn’t even dry on your first-day paperwork.
An exaggeration, maybe, but for some, not by much. Disliking a job you’ve worked for a while because it’s changed or you’ve changed is common and the solution is simple: Look for something new. But when it isn't what you thought it would be from the beginning, what should you do?
[Read: 6 Ways to Be Happier at Work .]
For starters, keep your head up. The first day and week aren’t barometers for how well you’ll like what you’re doing or whom you work with – something that people who love their new job should also remember.
But if time passes and your mood remains the same, here's how to improve your situation.
Retrace your steps. There are three reasons this might have happened: You were duped, the job was a gamble all along or you weren’t paying attention during the hiring process. It probably wasn’t the first reason, though – bait-and-switch job offers are the exception, not the rule, says Andrea Kay, career consultant and author of “Work’s a Bitch and then You Make it Work: 6 Steps to Go From Pissed Off to Powerful.” If you signed an employment contract that stipulated your job responsibilities and qualifications would be different, then you could claim there has been a breach of contract, but Kay says this loophole is more likely to occur in senior-level positions, if ever at all.
If the fault lies more with the employer than employee it most likely wasn’t intentional. “Maybe the job description changed,” she says. “Maybe your intended boss left the company, or maybe the hiring manager wasn’t privy to what was really going on, so the position isn’t what you thought it was going to be. But for the most part, I find that people don’t ask enough or ask the right questions about whether the job is right for them and will make them happy.”
Kay says she asks her clients to make a list of what’s not right. “I go through the list with them to determine what isn’t exactly right,” she says. “Is it the work? The daily activities? Your boss, co-workers or corporate culture? Too much bureaucracy? I’ve had people say to me, ‘I just can’t be myself in this place.’ Or a lot of people feel they’re having no impact on the end result. The root of the problem determines the action you should take.”
[Read: How to Handle an Office Pest .]
Talk to your boss. This is delicate, but if there’s any chance you might improve your current situation, your first step is to swing by your manager's office. “There are many outcomes you could ask for,” says Susie Moore, a life coach in New York City. “You could ask for different work assignments, a new reporting structure, the possibility of moving to a different team entirely. Think carefully and know what you want before you ask, but remember that opportunities lay dormant if you don’t explore them.” Moore also emphasizes that your options depend on your manager, your role, the size of the company and your experience level.
“This is a closed-door conversation,” Kay explains. “And what you’ll want to say depends on what the source of your unhappiness is.” Goals and responsibilities are negotiable, personality clashes aren’t sometimes. “Start with something like, ‘I know I’ve only been here a short time, but I have to say I don’t feel as if this job is what I thought it would be,’” says Kay, also suggesting that you be specific but tactful about your feelings, and patient to hear your boss’s side. “If he or she is willing to work with you to make you comfortable, then come up with a plan to tweak your position.”
Take a mulligan. In some cases, the tweaking needed is a new job. Conventional job-searching wisdom suggests you wait a respectable 12 to 18 months before jumping ship, and it's not wise to leave a trail of job hopping on your résumé. But if you’re truly miserable, begin your search again immediately. You could think of your predicament one of two ways, Moore says. “One way is from a résumé and LinkedIn perspective, where oh my gosh, it’s obvious you only worked a job for nine months,” she says. “The second way is to remember this is your life and your time on the planet. You shouldn’t spend too much time doing something that simply isn’t working for you.”