Dave Conrad: How you can find happiness at work
Dear Dave: I’ll start out by saying I am not happy with my job. I am not sure why I am unhappy, because my job is something I have worked hard to get. Management is not great, but they do work hard. My coworkers are OK, but I am not friends with anyone at work.
To be frank, I don’t know why I feel like I do, and I do not even know what I want more of. Maybe I just won’t be happy with any job. Do you have any insight that can help me be happier at work? — S
Dear S: I’m not going to lecture you and tell you that you are messed up and should just be glad you have a job. (I guess I did just lecture anyway.) What I want to tell you is, there are so many people who feel the same way you do and their zest for a job with advancement potential has lost the glitter it once had. Some — dangerously — might exhibit a negative attitude and they might even try to make their coworkers as unhappy as they are — they don’t want to be alone on their “pity pot.”
I think we expect more out of our jobs and companies than they will yield. I think we want a continuous feeling of contentment and fulfillment — and we deserve it, darn it! The truth is, sometimes our jobs are just our jobs and we have chores to do that are not very glamorous, just necessary. We could take heart in knowing we might be the best at doing what we are doing. And I believe that fact should make us feel proud and glad we have an opportunity to practice our craft in constructive and uplifting ways.
There is not a one of us who sometimes does not feel like a hamster in a flywheel. We come into work — or if you work from home, log into our computers — and start the day with routine things and repetitive obligations. However, we were hired to do these things and we accepted our employment as a commitment to carrying out our work as designed. If we don’t, we should know there are others who will gladly take our place.
The fun part kicks in when we are able to do things in different ways, or work on things that are not routine and make us think more and break us out of our ruts. Even if we cannot change the way we do our work, we are able to converse with our coworkers, colleagues and friends at work — and that is a pretty cool thing to be able to do, as long as it does not interfere with our doing our work.
Breaking the monotony
Here’s an idea that will make you want to bonk me on the head: Ask your manager if there is anything he or she might need help with — providing you are completing your current work in quality and timely ways. Even if you are not seeking advancement — which is something that may perk up your state of mind — you will find that special projects, or unique tasks may make you feel like you are doing more and enjoying it. Plus, you are helping your company more and helping you secure your employment.
Are there any training and educational opportunities for you at work? Nothing makes us feel better than being “in the know” and learning new things. Often, companies have training opportunities that are provided by management — a good way to get to know company leaders — or are provided by suppliers or consulting firms. Not only will you grow in knowledge, but you will also expand your network of relationships. You know what they say, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Actually, I think it is both, but you know what I mean.
Are there things you could do outside of work that will help you feel more relaxed, invigorated or motivated? Are there things that you can look forward to each day that may put a “spring in your step” at work? Also, are these activities things that you might want your coworkers to join? Doing things with your coworkers after work — besides just hitting a bar (apologies to bar owners and people that love bars) — may give you more to talk about with your coworkers on breaks or at lunch, and also will build a bond between you and your workmates.
Finally, how about taking on a mentoring role at your company to help people who feel the same way you do right now? I am sure your coworkers, or others who are struggling to learn and find happiness at work, would be grateful to have someone help them better understand their work and their feelings at work. And I am also sure most managers would welcome your help — as long as you are not teaching your mentees to despise management.