Why Directors of Marketing Are Miserable

miserable marketing director
miserable marketing director

How many people do you know who truly love their jobs and are happy at work? How many times have you complained about your boss, a coworker, or a difficult customer?

One survey found that the Director of Marketing or Sales is one of the unhappiest jobs you can have.

You might think the key to being happy is to leaving your current manager or even to change your job. But that’s not always true.

I spoke to a former colleague just the other day who did the right thing in leaving her job because her manager (the CMO!) wanted to approve landing pages urls and review emails. Nobody likes a micro manager. How did they not get that message yet?

But think back to all the times you’ve started a new job and been so keen to escape your old one. You start off enthusiastic and excited about your new role. And then as this enthusiasm starts to wear off, you often find that the annoyances of your old job are just the same as your new one. In other words, sometimes it’s not your job that’s the problem – maybe it’s you.

As the old saying goes: Wherever you go, there you are. There’s no escaping how you feel or the thoughts in your head. Yes, it’s true, toxic workplaces do exist and they make it all that harder to be happy at work.

But in many cases, true work satisfaction is within reach. It’s all just a case of reframing your situation and focusing on helping others (customers, colleagues, or even your boss!)

Quick Takeaways:

  • Being happy at work isn’t down to the job you do, but about your own state of mind.
  • Everyone can be happier at work, even Directors of Marketing, by shifting to a more positive and customer-focused mindset.
  • Being empathetic and finding purpose in your work will make you and everyone around you happier.

Understanding the Science of Happiness

One of the things I keep finding is this link between Marketing and HR. Grumpy marketers work with grumpy colleagues in other functions, and they tell their friends, who tell their friends, and on and one it goes.

Why are so many marketers (and employees in general) unhappy? When I was researching my book, Mean People Suck, I came across this article about Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas, a “happiness researcher” based out of UC Berkeley.

Simon-Thomas believes that everyone can maximize their potential for happiness at work by practicing four simple habits:

  1. Savor the good times.
  2. Find the purpose in your work.
  3. Improve your resilience.
  4. Practice kindness.

A survey run by the National Opinion Research Center based at the University of Chicago compiled a list of the top 12 jobs in which workers are most likely to report themselves as satisfied:

  1. Clergy
  2. Physical therapists
  3. Firefighters
  4. Education administrators
  5. Painter, sculptors, related
  6. Teachers
  7. Authors
  8. Psychologists
  9. Special education teachers
  10. Operating engineers
  11. Office supervisors
  12. Security and financial services salespersons

And the unhappiest roles?

  1. Director of IT
  2. Director of Marketing and Sales
  3. Product Manager
  4. Senior Web Developer
  5. Technical Specialist

This is basically a list of the people I talk to every day!

Looking at this list, there’s a strong correlation between the four “happiness habits” and the types of careers in which people feel satisfied. Members of the clergy, teachers, and psychologists must practice kindness as a key part of their roles. Authors, teachers, and physical therapists are sure to find purpose in their work. And resilience is certainly an important requirement to be a firefighter or even an office supervisor.

But the point is, what you do for work doesn’t matter. The idea is that whatever type of work to do and wherever you work, you can find happiness.

Finding the Good Times

The difference between optimists and pessimists is not their life experience. I’m sure you can think of people who persist with a “glass half empty” approach to life, despite having a loving family, regular income, and a comfortable home.

On the flip side, some people manage to stay positive despite what life throws at them.

The difference is that optimists see the good in every situation. If you look back at your career history, I’m sure you can remember some good aspects of a job you didn’t really enjoy. In many cases, we can enjoy spending time with the people we work with, even if other aspects of the job are less desirable.

By shifting your focus to appreciate the positives, it makes you see your whole situation in a better light, and your happiness levels naturally increase.

Finding Purpose in Your Work

Not everyone is driven by a clear purpose in their careers. If you’re a therapist helping severely disabled children to live a better quality of life or you’re a debt counselor saving people from bankruptcy, it’s easy to find purpose in your life. But what if you just work in an office making money for a giant corporation?

We all want to feel like the work we do is having some kind of impact on the world. This isn’t always obvious in the day-to-day grind of admin and office politics. But remember, whatever your job is, the work you do is important enough that someone is paying you to do it.

Maybe your purpose is delivering great customer experiences. Or maybe it’s sharing your knowledge with your coworkers to help them be better at their jobs.

purpose of work

Everyone can find purpose in their work. If you can’t, then it might be time to reassess if your career is making the most of your talents and experience.

Improve Your Resilience


Everyone has to put up with difficult situations at work from time to time. Whether this means working under a mean boss or dealing with tricky customers, building your mental resilience can make a big difference to how you feel at the end of the working day.

A big part of this is not taking things personally. Remember, your boss isn’t angry with you – she’s
just trying to please her boss, and there may be other things going on in her life that you don’t know about.

Employing empathy can be of great help here. Everyone has bad days (or weeks, or years!), and sometimes we take it out on others. As long as you’re secure in the knowledge that you’re doing a good job, the reactions of others can’t hurt you.

Be Kind

Above all, be kind! I think everyone would agree that the world would benefit from a little more kindness. Empathy is more than just being kind, but it’s a good start.

Kindness is a two-way process. If you’re kind to people, you’ll find they’re more open to what you have to say and more likely to do what you want. Treating others as you’d like to be treated yourself can go a long way.

So what do you think? Please consider picking up your copy of Mean People Suck today, and get the bonus visual companion guide as well. Or check out our services to help evolve your company culture with the power of empathy!

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.