A global poll conducted by Gallup has uncovered that out of the world’s one billion full-time workers, only 15% of people are engaged at work. That means that an astronomical 85% of people are unhappy in their jobs. 

When topics such as work-life balance, employee engagement and company culture seem to be as hot on the press as they currently are, it’s almost impossible to fathom why this percentage is so high. 

Why is the Statistic so High?

It begs the question – if employers are being more conscious of their employees’ happiness and wellbeing than before, why are people so unhappy at work? 

There are actually a large number of reasons as to why employees might be feeling disengaged with their work or employer, and I’m sure that a lot of them won’t really come as much of a surprise. 


A good relationship between a manager and their staff goes a long way to shaping a team into a well-oiled machine that is productive, hits targets and, most importantly, gets along nicely. 

This relationship has (perhaps) the most impact on how people feel at work. At the end of the day, if you like your manager then you’re more than likely going to enjoy being at work to some degree. But if you don’t, getting up and out the door in the morning can become a chore. No one wants to spend time with someone they don’t like – or who doesn’t like them – least of all when that someone happens to hold some sort of authority over them. 


Likewise, if you don’t like the people you work with then it’s likely that you won’t enjoy the time you spend at work. While it’s true that we won’t always like everyone, sometimes, there are people that we just cannot get along with no matter how hard we try. 

Type of Work

Sometimes, we find ourselves doing any old job just to pay our way. Bills don’t sort themselves out, after all. However, although we don’t live to work, it’s important to feel at least somewhat happy and comfortable in the job you spend the majority of your waking hours performing. 


On average, we spend around ⅓ of our lives at work. That’s around 90,000 of our waking hours in a lifetime. Now add on top of that a long and stressful commute either end of an already long day five-plus days a week and you’re basically just a walking machine. Commuting is one of the biggest reasons for people feeling unhappy in their job – even if they love the job itself. 

Stagnant Growth

Doing the same work day in, day out is a tedious and laborious task. Especially if you have been doing the same job for a long time. The saving grace in most long-term positions is the prospect of growth and progression. However, some employers fail to offer this to their staff (or worse yet, promise it and never follow through). Not only does this create resentment within the employee, but it also damages trust and loyalty. 

And More…

These are just a few reasons why people might be feeling unhappy in their jobs. Other causes might include:

  • A poor attitude from the employee can create a bad air at work. If they aren’t willing to try to be happy, they never will be. 
  • Overworking is another big issue. There is only so much that one person can do, and when someone starts burning the wick at both ends then it’s not unlikely for them to stop enjoying work they used to love. 
  • Ethics – something that we can never agree on. Some people hold their morals to a very high standard and expect others to do the same, while there might be some people who have little to no moral compass. 
  • Jealousy can also be a big factor in unhappiness at work. Some people fixate on what others have that they forget about what they are doing or where they are going themselves. 

What’s Keeping them from Leaving?

You would think that if you hate your job, you should just leave, right? Unfortunately for most, things aren’t that simple. From contractual ties or to simply pay the bills, there are many reasons as to why quitting might not be an option for some people. For some, the option to leave might be available but something else could be holding them back from making the right choice for themselves. 


This is easily the biggest reason for people staying put in jobs that make them unhappy. Having any sort of responsibility, be it kids and a mortgage or debt that needs to be repaid, is enough to make anyone shy away from something that could potentially have a negative impact on their ability to provide for their family or pay the bills. 

Lack of Job Opportunities 

Head to any job listing site and you’ll find a myriad of vacancies. The trouble is that not many of them are at entry-level, so if you don’t have the exact experience or qualifications then you are out of the running before you’ve even put your name down for the race. Likewise, because the majority of these jobs are so specialised, the chances are that openings in specific fields are limited. That means that there will be a lot more people gunning for jobs than are available. A lot of people might feel like risking the loss of a perfectly secure job (even if they aren’t satisfied with it) isn’t worth the small chance that they might land themselves something better. 

Fear of Being Wrong

A lot of people worry that the decisions they make are wrong. They think that something is going to go bad or they will fail before they’ve even started. It’s that fear that’s stopping them from trying in the first place. At least in a job where they are unhappy, they know that they are capable and aren’t risking failure. 

Fear of the Unknown

There’s no doubt about it – change is scary – but many people have a ‘better the devil you know’ attitude. What if the next employer is horrible? What if I hate the next job even more? It’s sad to think that a large reason for people staying in a bad job is that they just don’t want to risk going to something worse. It brings an inspirational quote that always gives me the courage to do something that scares me – ‘what if you fall? Oh darling, but what if you fly?’.

A Seniority Complex

It’s sad but true. Some people (namely managers or other higher-ranking staff members) who have worked their way up the pecking order enjoy the feeling of being ‘at the top’ and fear the prospect of having to start from the bottom again. As much as they might dislike their job or employer, these people are quite often known to stay put just so that they can keep that feeling of seniority. 

Good Salary

Probably the most upsetting truth is that most people refuse to leave jobs that make them unhappy because they don’t want to lose their salary. It’s understandable – you work to live, so the money is pretty much all it’s about when you come down to the foundations of it all – but it makes you wonder whether the stress of staying in a job you hate is really worth it. 

If you’ve read this, and don’t relate to anything at all then you’re lucky. It’s a rare thing to find a job that you love inside and out. However, no one should feel miserable and trapped in a job that they simply hate. 

Employees that feel this way need to recognise that they owe it to themselves to be happy and find a job that excites them. But more on from that, employers need to start making a more concerted effort to understand how their staff are feeling and put it right if they don’t feel engaged or valued at work.