Working Wounded Blog: Feeling Trapped

As you might have heard, Washington State just saw its rain streak end at 27 days.

As you could imagine, once the streak got over 20 days long, it became a major topic of conversation around here. To show how soggy we are in the Northwest: A typical conversation between two rain-soaked locals invariably would begin with one person saying that they hadn't noticed it had rained for that long. After a while, you just stop counting the days and hoping for sun. No wonder GoreTex is our state fabric.

But often the conversation would take an interesting turn. Though both parties might complain about the rain, they would also likely say they hoped that we'd break the record of 33 straight days of rain. I must have had this exact same conversation 20 times. Apparently, we had come to embrace our shared misery.

As we do with rain, we often complain about our jobs and in the very next breath boast of some record length of time for surviving it. I can understand complaining and trying to leave a job. I can also understand not complaining and wanting to stay. But so many of us complain and stay. Why is that?

The obvious answer is that a lot of us probably like to complain. Like winter rain, it is something that just naturally flows when we talk about our jobs. Coming from New Jersey, I know a little bit about professional complainers. (That state seems full of 'em.)

The next answer is that we don't like to complain but that we feel trapped by our job. It's like the old saying: The devil you know is better than the devil you don't know. I'm going to throw out a couple of numbers for everyone who feels trapped by their job -- 76 and 44.

That's 76 million baby boomers and 44 million Gen Xers. Yep, we're in an economy that will have to replace almost 32 million workers over the next few years. OK, I can hear what you are saying -- the echo boomers will fill the gap. And you are right, my kid Hallie will make a great worker. She is diligent, smart and committed. The only problem is that she is also only 13.

We feel like the employers hold all the cards, when in fact, the balance of power is starting to shift toward workers. Don't believe me? Notice how many companies are hanging out help-wanted signs. And that's only going to increase as more and more boomers leave the work force for the joys of lazy Tuesday afternoons.

For a long time, being miserable in your job was the cost of doing business -- a necessary evil if you wanted to keep a steady paycheck. But increasingly, the vast majority of us will find that we have a lot of choices. Jobs will not be so hard to come by, and we won't have to be treated terribly at work. There are better options out there.

I'm sure I'll get e-mails from readers who will say that they are trapped, that there are few places for them to use their specific set of skills. The last thing I want to do is rain on anybody's parade -- if complaining makes you happy, then by all means complain as much as you like. But I think if you looked around, you just might be surprised to find your employment outlook is sunnier than you realize.

Quote of the Week

"For those who do not think, it is best at least to rearrange their prejudices once and a while." -- Luther Burbank

Blog Ballot Results

Here are the results from a recent Working Wounded Blog/ABCNews.com online ballot:

How would you describe your current job?

   I love it, 17.8 percent

   It's killing me, 25.4 percent

   I tolerate it, 56.7 percent

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, an internationally syndicated columnist, popular speaker, and a recent addition to the community of bloggers. He welcomes your comments at bob@workingwounded.com.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

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