I was surprised this morning when I began to do research on the number of people who are dissatisfied with their jobs / careers. Although I knew that a large number of people were unhappy at work, the magnitude of the problem appears even greater than I’d thought:
– A 2011 Gallup survey found that 71% of employees are “not engaged” with or “actively disengaged” from their jobs.
– A 2011 Mercer study found that 32% of workers were “seriously considering” leaving their jobs in 2012(that number would have undoubtedly been much higher if job prospects at the time had been brighter).
– A 2012 Yahoo Finance survey revealed that almost 60% of employees would choose a different career if they could.
You’ll notice that of the three numbers above, the 71% in the Gallup survey is the largest. That didn’t surprise me, since a precursor of job and career dissatisfaction is disengagement from one’s work.
A couple of months ago I wrote about some ways to address dissatisfaction with work, emphasizing the importance of making an active effort to notice / identify aspects of your work that are at least somewhat engaging. Although this may seem a straightforward task, in fact it can be very difficult: when in a negative mindset (about a person, place, or situation) it is much easier to notice additional negative information than it is to notice positive, or even neutral, data. That’s because human minds have a stubborn drive to prove themselves correct once they’ve taken a good, preliminary look at the subject to be evaluated and formed an opinion.
Today I’m asking that you do your best to “wipe the slate clean,” and to “reconceptualize” your job. There are several ways of doing this. For example, try approaching your job from a curious, rather than judgmental, standpoint. You might, for instance, think about what initially attracted you to the job (this is akin to my asking couples who come to me for relationship counseling to immerse themselves in the feelings they had for each other when they first met). Another approach is to think about what more you would need to be demonstrating or producing at your job in order to have a shot at being offered different, more meaningful tasks. And, obviously, you might invest some effort in thinking about what changes you yourself could make in your work that would increase your satisfaction.
Whether you’re a World Bank executive, a personal trainer, a partner in a law firm, or a software programmer, there are many aspects of your work that can be fulfilling. If, however, your focus shifts to what’s wrong with your situation, you’ll undoubtedly find plenty: unreasonable bosses, difficult clients, repetitive tasks, insane hours. Granted, there are jobs on the low end of the skill and pay scale in which it would be pretty hard to identify lots of positive aspects. But even a Walmart greeter can take pleasure in the smiles he / she gives, and often receives, from customers – although admittedly it most certainly takes effort to stay focused on the positive.
By seeking the positive aspects of your work you are automatically increasing your investment in job satisfaction, and this investment can pay off in any number of ways. First, and most obviously, you’ll simply feel better about what you’re doing, increasing your moment-to-moment level of enjoyment or satisfaction. This will yield benefits not only at the workplace but in your personal relationships as well. Second, shifting to a more forward looking, positive attitude will help you see opportunities that your previous, negative mindset had blocked off – opportunities to do work that will bring you more fulfillment. Third, as you begin to shift your attitude towards your work there’s a good chance that you’ll be more favorably noticed, possibly leading to increased responsibility, pay, and perhaps a promotion. Any of those could be a genuine game-changer for you. It all starts with a conscious, perhaps very difficult, but certainly worth trying shift in attitude.