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Why some people who hate their jobs never end up quitting, according to a psychologist

Workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman says giving your two weeks notice is easier said than done.

Workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman says giving your two weeks notice is easier said than done

Quitting your job when you're unhappy is easier said than done, according to workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman. (iStock)

Getting up for work every day when you hate your job can be tough. But mustering up the courage to quit can be even harder.

According to a 2016 survey by recruitment firm Hays Canada, nearly half of Canadians are unhappy in their jobs.

But workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman says it can be tough to overcome the fear of quitting, and venturing into the unknown.

She joined host Rick Cluff on CBC's The Early Edition to outline why some people just never quit their jobs.

Rick Cluff: What kinds of situations make a job horrible?

Jennifer Newman: The number one reason is your supervisor. When workers endure abusive supervision they tend to fantasize about quitting.

Another situation that makes a job awful is being uncertain about whether you're going to keep it, or be suddenly laid-off.

Many get advice to quit jobs like these, but workers don't follow it. Why is that?

It has to do with what psychologist's call 'embeddedness' — the experience of being completely attached or enmeshed in your work.

It's when we're highly motivated to stay, even though things are bad. Sometimes it's having great co-workers that makes workers reluctant to quit, or we get to use our skills most of the time.

Leaving would mean losing things we value, like seniority, a great salary or a vacation schedule.

If workers are happy at work, being embedded is a good thing. If they aren't, it can mean being stuck or trapped.

Staying in an abusive supervisory relationship or with an organization that could terminate you at any moment, can't be good for worker health.

It's not. It takes a physical and psychological toll on workers.

What can workers do if they find themselves trapped and unable to leave a toxic job?

If you weigh things up and have to be a 'reluctant stayer', recognize this is can be very unhealthy. You'll have to take steps to decrease the risk to your health.

You'll need to think about how to survive. It'll mean planning breaks, both big and small. Your vacation time will be a chance to recover — a little.

Some find creative ways to avoid their abusive supervisor. I've seen workers organize it so they could work under someone else for small periods of time. Some even report the behaviour to HR.

Work hard on getting sleep. Make eating properly a big priority. Let your doctor know you are planning to gear-up to endure at toxic workplace.

Tell your family you have to stay at this job and need their help to endure it. You'll need to have a good sounding board outside work.

If your family is tired of listening, go to EAP or a psychologist. They can help you hang in, if you are intent on staying.

Watch out for wanting to get revenge on your company or committing little acts of sabotage. This has a tendency to backfire badly.

What are the effects on an organization when embedded employees encounter abusive supervisors and the threat of job loss?

Employees who feel trapped tend to be sleep deprived and emotionally exhausted. This can lead to lateness and being absent.

Their performance suffers and they may engage in small acts of defiance like stealing time, not mentioning errors, or neglecting to notice things that need attention.

If this is happening, the company or agency needs to take a hard look at how its managers are treating workers and how uncertain the jobs are.

With files from CBC's The Early Edition

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Why some people who hate their jobs never end up quitting, according to a psychologist