By Paula Davis-Laack – July 15, 2015
Do you love your job? Do you pop out of bed on Monday, ready to tackle the week, or is your “pop” more like a slow drop and roll? Given the latest Gallup State of the American Workplace Report findings showing that almost 70% of workers are disengaged at work on some level (and that number actually increases to about 87% globally), I suspect you might be in the latter group.
Dr. Shane Lopez, one of the world’s leading experts in the science of hope, is now studying people who love their jobs in order to learn what they do differently. When he asked almost 8500 working Americans whether they loved their jobs, only 13% said yes. In his latest TEDx talk about his findings, he explains that one factor driving this disengagement could be the lack of autonomy or ownership people have at work. Because so many workplaces don’t give employees the ownership they crave, employees essentially “rent” their jobs.
Alternatively, Dr. Lopez discovered that people who love their jobs do these five things regularly:
Test drive your future. You have to get to know your future self so you can make choices and changes at your job today. What do you want from your work? What are your long-term work goals? When was the last time you even thought about what you want your work to look like? Forward-thinking companies are actually legislating “dream time” for employees so they can think about and work on an important life goal. For a good future self exercise, check out this one from professional coach Caroline Adams Miller.
Trust your gut. People who love their jobs surround themselves with caring co-workers and trust their instincts about who those people are. Over time, they phase out low-quality relationships and start spending more time with caring colleagues. They use what Dr. Lopez calls a “spend vs. send” strategy. They spend more time with the people who facilitate high-quality connections and send more emails and texts to the people they care less about. I interviewed for a job many years ago, and the person interviewing me couldn’t stop texting during our interview. That was a huge red flag about the company culture, and I should have trusted my own gut and turned down the opportunity.
Play to your strengths. Regardless of what your job description says, you can focus on incorporating your strengths at work. A growing body of research shows that people who use their strengths more at work are happier, experience less stress, are more confident, experience faster growth and development, and find more meaning in their work. There are a number of different strengths assessments, and this freestrengths challenge to get you started.
Job craft. When I work with people and organizations to address burnout issues, job crafting is one of the first exercises I teach. I define job crafting as changing your job without leaving your job. It’s simply a way for you to shape your job to better suit your strengths, values and passions. Think of job crafting as workplace Spanx! Once you map out your values, strengths, and passions, you can think of new ways to expand or alter the tasks you perform, how you relate to your colleagues, and/or how you think about your job as a whole. I offer a Power Hour coaching call to help you work through this exercise, and the University of Michigan Center for Positive Organizations has a job crafting booklet to get you started. The people Dr. Lopez interviewed consistently said that they didn’t land the perfect job – they had to morph it into something that was perfect for them.
Boss shopping. I could write a book about the bad bosses I have had over the years. I’ve experienced everything from outright harassment to general incivility to total incompetence. Unfortunately, many bosses aren’t groomed to be leaders. They are trained in other skills (e.g., doctors and lawyers) and are picked to be leaders by virtue of their successes in areas unrelated to leadership. According to Dr. Lopez, only 1 in 10 bosses are great bosses. While not everyone has the ability to look for a new boss, people who love their jobs have shifted schedules, offices, and/or teams within an organization to find a boss who will get the most out of them.
I burned out at the end of my law practice, and that was the low point in my career. I know how I felt at that point, and I know how I feel now. Having a job I love has probably added a few years back to my life that the stress of burnout took away. My relationships and my sanity are in a much better place simply because I now love what I do. I want that for you too.