How to Overcome Things That Make You Unhappy at Work

Many other millennials are struggling to stay happy at work all the time. Whether it’s a boss that just doesn’t get you or the inability to stay motivated, we all have things that make us unhappy at work from time to time. In order to start working through this problem, First 5 lays out four things that may be making you unhappy at work and how to overcome them:


Whether you can’t stand most of your colleagues or there is just that one person who really gets under your skin, we all have to work with people we don’t particularly get along with at some point or another. When you encounter this, it can be useful to follow these tips:

  • Set boundaries. Establish boundaries with your coworkers and actually enforce them. Whether its identifying and saying no to inappropriate demands, declining to answer overly personal questions or refusing to talk about “not safe for work” topics, establishing boundaries can help you avoid conversations in which you don’t want to participate.
  • Protect your energy. Don’t let other people’s negative energy drain your own. You can practice this by limiting the time you spend with people who drain you and by practicing self-control when you interact with these people. While you may feel like rolling your eyes or disagreeing when someone you don’t like says something, it can be helpful to instead respect their contribution to the conversation and move on from the interaction.

Strict Hours and Office Spaces
An astounding 74 percent of millennials want flexible work schedules. However, many managers are hesitant to rock the boat and try out different ways of working. If your manager won’t let you work from home or try out flexible hours, you could be building some resentment towards your boss and your work place. Here are a few things you can do to work around this problem:

  • Re-approach the discussion. Did your boss flat out say no to you working from home or did you try it out on a trial basis and it didn’t work out? This doesn’t mean you will never be able to. Try approaching it by explaining how flexible hours and work spaces can benefit you, your manager and the company. Do your research and make a compelling argument for work from home that will be hard for your boss to refuse.
  • Focus on the good. If work from home and flexible hours are non-negotiable at your office, you can still focus on the positive aspects of working in an office. For example, an office environment can give you a way to structure your time, foster relationships with your coworkers and help you stay connected to what you’re working on.

Shortage of Training Opportunities
Many agencies don’t have the resources or capacity to send all employees to professional development events or trainings. This can especially frustrating for millennials who are just starting out and trying to map out the next steps in their careers. Here’s a few ways you can access professional development materials in the face of limited resources.

  • Check out webinars. Most webinars and online trainings are free and only last an hour. These trainings are an excellent way to learn about a variety of topics right at your desk. If you’re interested in this form of professional development, check out these additional tips for getting the most out of an online training.
  • Find a mentor. While a mentor isn’t a formal training experience, they can often offer just as much professional development capital. To learn more about mentorship relationships, check out these attributes of a great mentor and how you can make the most out of a mentoring relationship.

Lack of Connection to the Mission
Not feeling a sense of connection to your agency’s mission or the work you are doing can be devastating on your morale. This is because connection to the mission is one of the best ways to stay happy at work and to get a sense of fulfillment out of the work you are doing. Unsure if and how you connect to your mission? Here’s a few ways to foster a stronger connection:

  • Know your passion. The first step to finding meaningful work is knowing what you enjoy doing and are passionate about. Once you know this, you can start finding ways to connect to your current agencies mission. For example, if you are passionate about supporting returning veterans and you work at the Department of Veterans Affairs, it is easy to connect your passion to what you are doing at work.
  • Integrate your passion. Maybe there is not an overt connection between what you love and the mission of your agency. One way around this is to integrate your passion into what you do. Try hosting a brown bag luncheon or starting a small book or article club with your colleagues. Bringing your passions and hobbies into the workplace can work to bring you fulfillment.

What is your advice for millennials looking to overcome things that make them unhappy in the workplace? Be sure to add your tips in the comments!

This post is part of GovLoop’s millennial blog series, First 5.

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Kathleen Vaught

These are fantastic points – all of them! Finding the happy at work applies to all generations of employees. I might very well host my a brown bag lunch or start a book club. Thanks!

Howard Stoller

Also, please bear in mind that it’s the presence of adversity that makes us strong. And, if you want to try to resolve an unpleasant situation, the book Crucial Conversations provides good advice.


Courtney, is your opening sentence really only aimed at millennials? “Many other millennials are struggling to stay happy at work all the time.” Can your article apply to us “old folks” also? 🙂


Courtney, I enjoyed the article; however, I would love to see additional articles that include us “Baby-Boomers” who have several years to go until we’re put out to pasture.