After working for a while in a job that you dislike it’s only natural to focus on how to find a better one, usually at a different organization. Unfortunately that’s a process that could be frustrating, lengthy, and ultimately even unsuccessful if, as many do, you wind up in a job that isn’t much better than the one you left. That’s not to say by any means that a job change is a bad idea – it’s often the only smart solution. It’s just that I’ve often found that clients who make a genuine effort to change things at their current job quite often experience significant, positive change in a number of areas, and so can avoid or postpone the inevitable disruptions and learning curve associated with a new place of employment. Today and next time I will go over some common areas of dissatisfaction and will propose some ideas and techniques to smooth the way towards major improvement.

First a general pointer: avoid engaging in negative conversations about your workplace and steer away from constant complainers. Of course there’s a lot that could be better where you work, but you need to be focused on what’s good rather than solely on what’s bad. Clients who come to me because they’re miserable at their current jobs are often surprised when I ask them to tell me about the positive things – the things which it turns out had essentially disappeared in the litany of negatives. I recommend making a practice of noting at the end of each work day three things that you enjoyed or that went well at work. Maybe you overheard someone speaking positively about the organization’s latest proposal, maybe someone offered to buy you a coffee, maybe your boss returned a draft with only a few minor revisions, maybe you noticed that the reception desk had some pretty flowers on it. You may be surprised at how, in a short period of time, your overall attitude will start to shift. Training yourself to focus on the positive will highlight what works for you and dim what doesn’t.

Your Boss/Client

Certainly one of the most important factors in job satisfaction is your boss (assuming you have one who is fairly involved with your work). If you have clients they’ll often play an essential, and similar, role. Just contrast a boss or a client you’ve had who shows appreciation and respect (I hope you’ve had at least one) with one who is constantly micromanaging or reluctant to accept your ideas, and reflect on what a big difference that’s made to you. You may think that the person is just “that way” and that there’s nothing you can do to change their essential nature. But what I’ve found in talking to hundreds of clients is that their boss’s intrusive, overbearing behavior often comes from the boss’s or clients’ fundamental lack of trust* That trust is essential for you to gain. If you’ve made anything other than a minor mistake in producing work for that person there will inevitably (and appropriately, I think) be reliability question in the back of her/his mind. That question can be removed if you diligently apply yourself to accuracy, to adherence to agreements, to meeting deadlines, and to a productive flow of information, among other things. Don’t disappoint!

Another key to improving the boss and/or client relationship is for you to determine their key issues. Particularly at the outset of a new business relationship you ought to work much harder on making their lives easier rather than yours. The appreciation and trust that you build up will pay innumerable dividends down the road, whether it be through compensation, autonomy, power, or function. Learn about their goals. Looking good to the powers that be or avoiding getting fired? Breakthrough thinking or don’t rock the boat? Besting a peer or allying with one? You may not hold the same goals as she/he might, but at least become aware of them and see if you’re able to go along with them.*

Finally, there’s the super important issue of your personal relationship with him/her. One of your primary goals in any job in which you’re dealing with a boss and/or a client is to build the relationship person-to-person. I DO NOT!!! mean brown-nosing. I mean exerting at least the same effort that you would in cultivating a new social friend. You probably wouldn’t gush all over that person, but I imagine you’d focus on their positive qualities, compliment them more frequently than you might a casual acquaintance, and look for opportunities to bond (whether around interests or to extend an invitation to grab a sandwich together at lunch, or to go to the baseball game or a concert). Your colleagues might accuse you of brown-nosing…if so, let the accusation stand. Making your primary relationships at work work, where you probably spend 40% of your waking hours, is a perfectly valid goal.

Implementing these suggestions won’t be a “magic bullet.” Building, or turning around, key relationships will undoubtedly take some time, and there are certainly exceptions with whom nothing will work. But in many, many instances you can definitely improve those two key relationships. Next time I will address colleagues, compensation, function/routine, commute, work/life balance, and location.

*Or from a deep-seated fear of losing the job because of poor performance, Beware of that situation – you’re in line to be a potential scapegoat!

**Sometimes even if you’re not it still may make sense to abet, but certainly not oppose, your boss’/client’s agenda, at least until you’ve either found a new job or implemented some of the ideas herein!