Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Do You Hate Your Job?

It felt like another harmonic convergence. A strange conjunction of the planets produced three interesting articles by three fine writers on a question that I often encounter, and did it within a twenty-four hour time period.

Alan Lurie kicked things off by recounting how he counseled a man who was dissatisfied with his job. Link here.

The topic is a staple for coaches and therapists. Too often we see people who hate their jobs and do not know what to do about it.

The old answer, offered by some therapists, is that you hate your job because you are not doing what you really, really want to do. Or else, that you are betraying your commitment to an idealistic cause.

You hate your job because: you are not following your bliss; you are selling out; you are compromising your ideals; you are not living your passion; you are not acting out your heart's desire.

If that is the problem, the solution is to undergo the kind of therapy that will help you find yourself, to find out what you really believe, and to discover what you really want. Then, all you need is to go out and do it.

The net result is a cohort of people who have discovered an artistic calling but do not have the talent to make a career of it, and another cohort of people who are willing to sacrifice their material well-being for a cause.

Aside from the fact that this interpretation is a grandiose glorification of the powers of the therapist, it is grossly oversimplified.

There is much more to the question of whether you love or hate your job. Happily, the articles I read today, along with Lurie's, will offer a sense of the complexity of these issues. See the comments by Gretchen Rubin here and those of Anthony Balderrama here.

If you want to know why you hate your job, begin by following Lurie's advice and ask yourself a few questions.

Are you good at it? Does it provide you an opportunity to excel at activities where you have demonstrable talent?

If you do not have a feel for numbers you are not likely to be a very good accountant or bond trader. If you are not very creative, then advertising is not for you.

Next, are your efforts recognized and acknowledged by your manager and your company? Does anyone tell you you have been doing a good job? Are you compensated reasonably in proportion to your contribution to the company?

If you are working hard at your job and no one seems to notice, you are not going to be happy for very long. If you are doing more than your share and others are receiving the praise then you will not look forward to work.

Then, do you believe in the company and its mission? I am not saying that you will not be happy until you go out to save the world. It would be better to try to understand what your company contributes to the efficient functioning of the national and world economy. Are you proud of the quality of whatever your company produces?

And ask yourself this: are you being well managed? Are you treated with respect by those above and below you? Do you know what is expected of you and are you provided with what you need to accomplish the task?

Next, is the business of your company business? Or has your manager let the office become a toxic work environment, where everyone is involved in some kind of drama. If you are constantly distracted by other people's personal issues, you will not be happy on the job.

As Anthony Balderrama explains well, workplace relationships have a logic of their own. They are based on place in the company hierarchy and seek to create and sustain a functioning team.

Being overly familiar with your boss or your staff will undermine respect and discipline. No one takes orders from a friend, and if you are too familiar, you will be less likely to follow instructions.

The next series of questions concerns your attitude. Are you committed to your job? If you do not put your best into your job, you are not going to be satisfied with your performance, and will certainly not excel.

If you think you are too good for your job, you are not likely to have it for very long. You are not going to be promoted if you show people that you cannot do your current job effectively. They will not be impressed by your arrogant belief that it is beneath you.

You can show how committed you are by doing more than you are asked... as long as you are not doing someone else's job. Be present and on time for all meetings. Come in early in the morning and stay late at night.

Such simple gestures will be noticed and recognized and will make the entire job experience more constructive and enjoyable.

By the way, in the current job environment, it is a really bad idea to throw away a good job in order to go off and follow your bliss.

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