Why do intelligent, well educated people who live in a free country choose to work at jobs they don't like for...
Sticking out the terrible job
The reason people stay at jobs they can't stand is incredibly varied, incredibly diverse, complex. I think it's safe to say no one in this position took a job thinking, I absolutely hate this company, I don't like the guy I'm going to work for, but I'll do it anyway.
What happens more often is that people who interview in order to land a job tend to put their best foot forward, so they'll be offered the job they interview for. On the other hand, so too the people doing the interviewing. No one in a hiring position does so thinking "this person is a lazy slug, he'll make my team look bad, I think I'll hire him".
Seldom is the problem so clear cut at the beginning anyway. As you work at a company for a while you start out with a positive attitude, gradually start to learn the difference between the public image they try to create and the actuality of the company they are, in the free market, how they treat their employees, how they encourage their employees to grow into more responsible positions, or not.
More often an accumulation of things start to erod employee happiness. They may get passed over for a promotion they thought they should receive, they may find the work is much more boring than they thought it would be. The people they work for or work with may change, develop personal problems that carry over to their careers. Sometimes people who are excellent workers are terrible managers, this is often the case with carpenters and sales. An excellent carpenter may not have the skills to break work down in manageable units to assign teams to, good sales people often can't learn to let go, let others make the sales and they in turn become unhappy managers with unhappy employees working for them.
An employee may find they have a boss who is always interfering with their projects, insisting that the bosses way is the only way something can be done, or worse, meddling where they simply don't understand what they are doing. I had a job a while ago where I was supposed to run the construction program for a company, in theory that meant hiring the supers and carpenters, hiring the subcontractors and approving their payment. I also purchased all the material all the way through construction. The job is generally called Construction Manager or Project Manager. My immediate superior. it turned out, thought that because he had hired an architect once, he knew about running the day to day activities of a construction entity. This is similar to thinking you know how to run a restaurant because you like good food.
A built in friction system like this is demoralizing, it eats at your self esteem because you are continually countermanded, frequently to the detriment of the project you are still responsible for. Yet, leaving immediately is not a good long term strategy because if you show too many short term jobs on a resume you may flag yourself as a job hopper. And don't think you can "explain" the issue to the next person who interviews you. Bad mouthing previous employers, no matter what they did, is a no no in the job seeking world.
Some careers, like construction, advertising, and sales, to name a few advancement is often coupled with a job change, so a two year stint might not be to bad, but much less is problematic. In other careers, there may be few other places to move to, and the costs in giving up seniority on a job, pension benefits, a favorable commute, may all combine to make even a terrible job situation better than no job, in spite of the common illusion of free choice.
In the current economic climate I know of few people who would voluntarily leave a position unless they had a new one lined up, and as you advance in a career, that may be harder to do than when you are younger, as the higher you go, in general the fewer the spots in any industry.
Many public service jobs like police, fire, emergency medical, military, and such offer retirement in 20 years, when one is relatively young, so the incentive is to stick it out even in very difficult situations to get to that goal line.
Changing jobs as one get older in in ones career starts to take physical and mental toll that sometimes eclipses the day to day aggravations that make the existing job unpleasant. Some people find it's simply easier to stay put until the house is fully paid off, the kids are out of college, or because there is only a few years to go until retirement anyway. Like many other things in life, there is no one sweeping answer, simply a lot of variables and possibilities that interact differently for each individual.
There is no clear cut way to avoid getting into such a situation but the more you like a field, the better off you are in the long run, i.e. follow your interest, the money will follow.
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