How Working At A Job You Hate Might Be Worse For You Than No Job At All

December 26th 2014

ATTN: Staff

A bad job is more harmful to your mental health than having than no job at all. This comes from a study that found people in the poorest quality jobs showed a decline in mental health worse than those who were unemployed.

So what makes a bad job?

Jobs that are very demanding, offer low job security, provide workers with little control over decision making, and have an effort-reward imbalance.

Moving on up

The study suggests that workers need to change their mindset from finding any old job to finding one with positive health effects. Of course, people need money for, say, food and shelter. Or health insurance. It's not that easy to wait to find that satisfying job (or to even quit your current bad job) when there are bills to pay. 

Getting a promotion at your current workplace might solve some of these problems. Perhaps also changing your boss or your job responsibilities.

Not all workers are in the position to move up, though. For instance, according to research at the National Employment Law Project, less than 9% of fast food workers are supervisors, and only 2.2% hold managerial, professional, or technical jobs. That means there is little room at the top for fast food workers.

Job insecurity

Job insecurity -- the worry that your job won't last  -- can affect your mental health. Workers in the fast food and retail industries often deal with job insecurity in the form of unpredictable hours. One week they might work 30 hours, while working only 10 hours the next week. A new study from the Brookings Institute reveals that inconsistent hours are particularly prevalent among Millennials. The study, which talked to 26 to 32-year-olds, found that 41% of hourly workers learn their work schedule only a few days in advance. 

What to do?

+ Get Congress or your state legislature to raise the minimum wage. If people are going to be in bad jobs, they should at least get paid more. This would help lessen the effort-reward imbalance that makes your job a bad job. A 2013 study from the Economic Policy Institute also found that a $2.85 increase in the federal minimum wage would "either directly or indirectly raise the wages of 27.8 million workers, who would receive about $35 billion in additional wages over the phase-in period."

+ Also, be nice to people with tough jobs.