How to keep your job even as you struggle

Dissatisfaction often arises from the individual's inability to cope with the job

In Summary

• You need to let go of expectations about an easy and perfect life

Employees in an office setup busy on their computers on September 29
Employees in an office setup busy on their computers on September 29

In modern times, the word 'employment' goes hand in hand with 'unemployment'. One cannot think of one without the other. At any given time, there is a large number of unemployed people seeking employment.

Getting a job is often a cause for celebration, especially if the job is permanent and pensionable. A job represents not just a source of income but a change in status. Being part of an organisation gives the individual an identity bigger than him or herself.

The converse is also true. Being unemployed is a stressful state of existence because the individual remains anonymous, without an identity to brag about. It's one of the reasons people who abruptly lose their jobs experience a sense of grief as they come to terms with the loss of identity.

Society places lots of emphasis on getting academic and technical skills to qualify for a job. That's why families make huge sacrifices for the youth to get higher education. On getting the job, the newly employed soon realise that it takes much more than academic certificates to thrive in employment.

Obedience and hard work are not enough to acquire the much sought-after promotions. The employed have to deal with colleagues and bosses with various personality traits, unpredictable schedules, nasty customers and economic uncertainties that threaten their job security.

Many employees loathe their jobs but keep showing up at work for the sake of the salary. Besides, there aren't that many alternative jobs around. An employee satisfaction survey in Kenya conducted by recruitment firm BrighterMonday revealed that just 42 per cent of employees were happy with their employer. The survey results were published in November 2021.

Eleven per cent of respondents expressed dissatisfaction with their employer, while 47 per cent were neutral. 54 per cent of respondents said they were planning to leave their employer within six months. In its recommendations, BrighterMonday urged employers to prioritise employee satisfaction to retain talent. Suggested steps include fair compensation, good working conditions, improved communication at all levels and overall employee well-being.

"Healthy employee satisfaction is one of the best signals of a happy workplace," the company noted. "A happy employee is more productive, commits to the job and tends to stay with the company."

Success in the workplace isn't just the employer's affair; employees also have a role to play. Employee dissatisfaction arises from unfulfilled expectations. Perhaps the employee thinks he or she deserves a salary rise, the work may be too much or too little, the working environment may be toxic or the employer has no opportunities for promotion.


Lots of people realise much later in their careers that the dissatisfaction they felt with their jobs had nothing to do with the employer. Except for blatant cases of poor management, most cases of employee dissatisfaction arise from the individual's inability to cope with the job. Such individuals may quit and run off to a new employer but, without the skills to retain a job, the problems they were fleeing keep cropping up.

The Society for Human Resource Management, a global organisation of human resource professionals, offers five guidelines for employees to handle workplace complexities. The first tip is to let go of expectations about an easy and perfect life. Accept the inevitability of change. The Covid-19 shock demonstrated life's unpredictability as anybody can suffer the pain of loss. Second, developing an attitude of acceptance can help minimise frustration when things go wrong.

Third, acknowledge that negative emotions, such as anger, frustration, disappointment and impatience, are part of the human experience. Being happy does not mean feeling good all the time. Fourth, don't listen to every thought that says you are not good enough. Everybody experiences these emotions, the key thing is how you handle them. Lastly, adopt a positive outlook. Choose to focus on the positive instead of looking at the negative side of things.

If you think you are no longer satisfied with your job, what can you do? Quitting should be the last option because there are no guarantees things will be better in the next job. Human resource experts suggest you first explore the reasons for your unease. Could it be there are changes at work or a new boss you have not adapted to? The unease you feel could be from changes in your personal life. For example, having a baby can be exhausting and the fatigue can spill over into your work life.

Engage with your workmates and your bosses. Don't be aloof or passive to ongoings around you. If there's something you believe can be done to improve the work environment, initiate a discussion about it. You may feel you have not been provided with the necessary resources to do your job. This is a valid discussion point you can raise with your supervisors.

Maintain a work-life balance. Remember why you took the job and the contribution it has made to your personal development. On the other hand, don't forget your aspirations, whether it's acquiring higher qualifications, building a home, running a business or spending time with your family.


It is, therefore, not enough to gain academic and technical qualifications to keep a job. The modern employee and those still in the education system must become employable. The coping mechanisms described by SHRM above are part of the employability skills required to meet the demands of employment.

Employability requires soft skills. SHRM describes soft skills as the "behaviours, personality traits and work habits, such as collaboration, critical thinking, perseverance and communication, that help people prosper at work".

Forbes magazine lists soft skills as including empathy, emotional intelligence, kindness, mindfulness, adaptability, integrity, optimism, self-motivation and resilience. Other sources add teamwork, leadership skills, time management and problem-solving to the list of soft skills. The list of soft skills shows that the ability to stay in a job requires employees to work in a cross-cultural setting, provide value to the employer and be a solution provider instead of a source of problems.

The main challenge that exists with soft skills is that they are rarely taught in formal settings. Most of us acquire soft skills from our cultural environment. Individual employees must, therefore, assess themselves and find out which soft skills they need to improve. Honest job appraisals between employees and supervisors can help identify the right set of soft skills.

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