Somewhere along the line, hating your job became “normal” in American culture. If you’re like me, you probably wake up on Monday morning to a handful of memes about the travesty that is going back to work after the weekend. Since the average person spends around 90K hours (or 10 years) working, spending that time doing something I didn’t enjoy just wasn’t in the cards for me. Sure, there have been many aspects of my work that I haven’t enjoyed – and we all have rough days – but I’m fortunate to have always made my living by doing something I loved – first it was teaching college, then writing, and now coaching, though I think I still do quite a bit of teaching and writing in my current role. 

If you’re like me and love what you do but have a friend who is in a toxic work situation, knowing how to respond can be a challenge. While you want to avoid toxic positively and acknowledge their lived experience, you also likely want to provide some words of wisdom and support. 

As a career coach, I’ve been around this block a few times, and usually, these four techniques help me to provide both the support and advice that my friend needs at that moment.

Technique #1: Listen

Be an active listener. For those of us who are in the helping professions, wanting to jump in and “fix” our friends’ problems is natural. However, your friend might not be ready for a fix right now. Right now, they might just want to unload, so when they come to you with their work challenges, take the time to listen – and listen to understand, not just to respond. To ensure you’ve understood what your friend is saying, repeat their words back to them in “I” statements. For example, “I think I understood that you’re feeling frustrated because your boss is asking you to do more work, but you aren’t getting paid more. Is that correct?” It might just be that your friend has had a bad day at work and needs to blow off steam. Or, they might really be feeling in a low place because of their job. If you take the time to truly listen, you’ll understand where they’re coming from, and that will help you to decide what to do next.

Technique #2: Ask

Once you’ve spoken to your friend about their challenge, ask them what they need. Are they ready to think about making a move to a new company? Do they think there might be an opportunity for them to transfer internally? Is this something that feels very urgent – such as the situation is driving an onset of depression and/or anxiety, and they need to get help right away? Or, is it something they are able to work at over time – for example, start slowly crawling down the career transition path? Or, maybe they really don’t mind their job so much but need to talk to their boss about working from home so they can stop spending 3 hours in traffic each day! No matter what, the best way to find out what your friend needs is to ask. 

Technique #3: Help 

If your friend is, indeed, looking for help, you can – absolutely – help. This is something I know quite a bit about as a career coach. You see, often people are looking for opportunities, but they are afraid to reach out – to start networking with their closest connections. You can help your friend by talking with them about what kind of job they might enjoy most and then considering who in your network you might connect them to. Odds are, you know someone that might be able to help – even if they aren’t a direct pathway into the industry or role your friend desires. They might know someone who knows someone who can help – and that’s a great start. 

Technique #4: Support

Once your friend shares with you that they are having trouble with their job, stay in touch. Reach out periodically and see how it’s going – if the situation has improved, if your connection has gotten back to them, or if there is anything they want to talk about. Often, just having someone to talk to during this time can help make the burden easier. 

If you’re going to spend 90K hours of your life at work, I believe you should do something you love, and I believe we can all find the position that we’re best suited to. However, we’re not all there yet. The good news is that if you have a friend who is having trouble with their career, you can help – by listening, asking, helping, and supporting. 

Whether you or your friend needs to talk about their career, I’m always happy to be a listening ear! Book a free call to discuss your job search here: