“Complaining about your job doesn’t make you ungrateful – it makes you normal”

“Complaining about your job doesn’t make you ungrateful or spoiled – it makes you normal”

You’ve landed your dream job and on the outside, everything looks perfect. But how can you talk about career troubles without sounding ungrateful?

When I’ve had “one of those weeks” at work, my first instinct is to find the nearest friend I can vent to and get it all off my chest.

Complaining about your job is a difficult minefield to navigate in any context, but against a backdrop of economic hardship and rising unemployment, it can feel particularly difficult to express.

I’m incredibly aware of the privilege I hold not just to have steady employment but also a job I truly enjoy. I feel lucky that my role doesn’t put me in any danger or require me to sacrifice my mental health, but that doesn’t stop it from being challenging and at times overwhelming.

It seems that even when we enjoy what we do, the old adage “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” fails to ring true for most of us.

So why do we feel so awkward about expressing it?

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Jalena Shand is a 21-year-old photographer, model and content creator working in New York.

Despite having a glamorous-sounding career people would “kill for”, she admits she still has days when she doesn’t want to go to work.

“I used to fully subscribe to that NYC ‘grind’,” she tells Stylist. “I grew up believing that if you weren’t constantly working then you didn’t exist. I carried so much guilt whenever I wasn’t able to give a job my all. Even if I was giving 80% of my time or ability, I would feel so much guilt for not being able to give that extra 20%.”

“I’ve had to learn that there’s no shame in having mixed feelings about any aspect of your life, but especially your job,” she adds. “I’ve had to really work to step away from the mindset that work is everything, and to be able to look at it as an equal exchange.”

“Women are expected to be sweet and grateful at all times so when we complain about work we almost have to insert the caveat ‘I am so lucky and grateful to be working’ before stating anything remotely negative,” agrees Rachida Benamar, a founder and business coach.

“Work is still work no matter what you do, and it can be exhausting, stressful and challenging.”

Even though Benamar works for herself, she says she’s still not 100% motivated every single day and stresses that it’s completely normal to not love or even like parts or all of your job on a regular basis. “It does help to like what you do but we are treading in dangerous waters when we blur the lines between our passions and work. We start thinking that we are not allowed to complain because we love what we do,” she explains.

Why, as women, do we always have to make sure people know how ‘grateful’ we are for what we have?
Why, as women, do we always have to make sure people know how ‘grateful’ we are for what we have?

Careers coach Soma Ghosh says that she’s often felt guilty when complaining about her work, particularly if it was a well-paid role that others told her they envied.

“I kept a lot to myself,” she says. “If I ever expressed annoyance with the length of my commute or something else trivial, I’d have people tell me: ‘At least you have a job to go to.’”

“I think I actually refrained from ever complaining because I felt bad that they were struggling. I never wanted to seem ungrateful for what I had.” 

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Over the past two years, we’ve had to learn how to grieve the small losses of the pandemic – the missed birthdays and skipped pub nights – against the backdrop of larger tragic events.

And we should continue to give ourselves the same space and permission to grumble after a tough day at the office or sound off with those closest to us.

Complaining about your job doesn’t indicate you’re not grateful to have one – it’s just a normal part of life we should be embracing and supporting each other with. After all, doesn’t another, much more accurate adage say that a problem shared is a problem halved?

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