My question is very similar to this one: How to continue working with low morale and burnt out colleagues.

However I'm burnt out for a different reason. I'm not effective at this company and I'm tired of swimming against the company culture. I don't think it's relevant what that culture is... but the culture is effectively[0]:

  • Software that will run is designed as well as any other software that will run
  • Software we're already running is always better than other software, even if it's poorly written and solves a different problem than the one we're pidgin-holing it for now.

I'm not asking how to change the culture, I think that would be an immense amount of work and I'm simply not up for it. I'm asking how I can be a happy cog in the machine I've become increasingly disillusioned with. This isn't forever, but I need to be happier for my last 6 to 12 months here, for my sake and my team's sake.

How can I be and appear happier about the work I no longer believe in? It feels fake to act like everything's great when it's clearly not, and it feels depressing/futile to make suggestions and constantly hit this wall of "we're never going to implement any of your suggestions because of either timeframe reasons or invalid reasons".

Edit: thanks everyone for your responses! I'll adjust my expectations about my current role, try harder to figure out what it is that's desired of me, and work at not getting so frustrated.

[0]: The majority of the time. There are exceptions and people trying to change thing. They're just few and far between.

  • Is there a reason you need to last 6 to 12 months? It sounds like a job search may be in order.
    – Chris G
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 0:09
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of How to continue working with low morale and burnt out colleagues
    – Jim G.
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 0:34
  • I'm reminded of Alfred Hitchcock's acting advice to Ingrid Bergman: "Ingrid, fake it!" Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 0:54
  • I kept a log book of stupid things that happened. Then I looked forward to the next stupid thing so I could add it to the log book. It made conference calls much more interesting because I had a reason to pay attention. Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 14:44

4 Answers 4


By actually being happy and agreeable. This is all in your head, all it takes is a simple shift in attitude to let the frustration slide off, not taking it so seriously and compromising.

I've worked in some shocking places, but I was a happy chap, because I don't get frustrated and I don't try and change things that I can't change. I didn't take responsibility for things I wasn't responsible for. It's an attitude shift that you have to proactively make at first, and then becomes easier as time goes by.

Frustration is your biggest enemy, it leads to bitterness, which in turn leads to all sorts of issues, none of them pleasant or useful.

  • 3
    Agreed. You have to learn to let go of the things you can't do anything about, and just focus on the aspects of your work/life that make you happy.
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 13:16

To appear happier, the simplest approach is to be happier. And while you may think that's not possible, it is. Your unhappiness appears to stem from two main issues:

  • the work that's being done is not being done the way you think it should be
  • you have no power or control to change the first bullet, but you wish you did

In each case there is a tension between what you want, and what you are living. Remove that, and you remove your unhappiness. There are four ways that could happen:

  • the work could be done as you like. You've accepted this won't happen.
  • you could change your mind about whether that's right or not
  • you could gain the ability to make them change. You've also accepted this won't happen.
  • you could stop wishing you could change things.

So, let's take the two things that are in your control. I hear you saying that existing running software may be suboptimal. Something better might be out there or within your power to build. And you're not wrong. But let's phrase their culture another way: existing is a feature. Having been shipped is a feature. Working software rarely has negative value. Depending on your job, putting up with suboptimal (but existing) software may be the appropriate choice. Developing the perfect software is not zero cost, and the improvement between the crap you are getting by with and the gorgeous stuff that could be built is not always greater than the cost of building the perfect software. Rather than focusing on the fantastic thing you want to build, can you look for the good in what is there? Can you get happier about what you're using or maintaining?

Failing that, can you take a good solid look at your job and your responsibilities? Apparently, you're not the architect who decides how things are designed. And you're not the stakeholder who decides what gets funded and what doesn't. So, what are you? What does it mean to be really good at what you are? Are you the person who knows the old system and how to keep patching and tweaking it to work in the new world? Are you the person who writes addons and plugins and accessories and scripts for the old system to handle the new world? What's your role? You know what your employers don't want from you - your opinion about how to rewrite everything and redesign everything. But get clear with yourself about what they do want. And then set yourself the goal of being amazing at that.

If you can do either (or better still, both) of those, you'll be genuinely happier. And you'll also be way better positioned to look for a new job, should that be the best next step.


Adding to what Kate said:

Your workday is a large part of your life. So it's very nice for you if you can enjoy that part of your life. And the easiest method is this: When you go to work tomorrow, pretend to yourself and everyone else that you are happy and enjoy your job. The first effect is that people around you notice it and cheer up and enjoy their jobs themselves. The second effect is that you can't just pretend to be happy, pretending will actually influence you and over time you won't have to pretend anymore.

That can be done in any job with very little effort (unless you have coworkers or bosses you actively try to make people's lives miserable, and I hope there's a special place in hell for them) and will improve your life. If you follow Kate's advice as well, that makes it even better.


Just because you're paid to be miserable behind a computer doesn't mean you need to be miserable behind a computer all day. Start an open-source project in an area you do enjoy. Look at new jobs now and learn some new tools that those jobs need (things have been changing fast). You don't need to take one, but simply seeing what's out there and getting ready for it will help. And if you find one you like, go for it. You put a 6-12 month timeline down... if that's true because you have something to do that starts in 6-12 months, you can find short-time assignments for that timeframe. If you're staying out of some type of obligation, don't. That's just enabling something you don't believe in.

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