Happy at work
Work consists of the organisation you work for, your department / unit, your boss(es), things you have to do because the job description says so, things you’d like to do because they interest you, people you work with and people who work for you. If you hate any of these things you risk being unhappy. If you hate only one, and it is your boss, sort it out or leave. If you hate all of them, quit as soon as you have another, more agreeable job.
Easy to say, not always so easy to do. So you need to know how to manage all the components of your work life. Managing your boss may sound daunting, and in some cases it is. But for most people, handling other people is more about your attitude than a list of skills you need to acquire. Before we deal with people let’s look at the work itself. This will divide into creative and repetitive. There will always be some of each. Even the most creative painter has tedious brushwork to deal with at times. Even repetitive banging nails into wood has its excitement when one of them comes out to see which fool is driving it.
Try to think first about what you want to achieve [a] now, as you do the job [b] for your personal development, as a result of the work. There may be several things – pleasure in doing a good job, satisfaction in helping those you work for and with. Longer term you may wish for promotion. Or you may want to become Prime Minister. Boris Johnson did and – look! – he’s (almost) achieved it.
Sort out your purpose in life, not in a vague sort of way but specifically. If you cannot do that, get help. People who have a purpose are always happier than those who don’t. It is now established that they live longer, too. Make sure what you think you want really is what you want. There are unhappy billionaires. Our experience is that those who devote 60% or more of their time to helping others are happier than those who devote as much time to themselves. Life’s greatest paradox is that you get only what you give.
Working out your own strategy is the surest way to get the job you will do best. Before deciding to leave your present work think through the things you can do to make it more agreeable and successful. Most of them involve handling other people better. You can only do that when you handle yourself better. Your outlook on life will have been determined by your upbringing. You will almost certainly have to correct for it. If you are pessimistic by nature or nurture, learn to become more optimistic. Practice is the only way to do that. It changes your whole attitude.
‘Be cheerful not fearful’ is a good motto to help you deal with the ups and downs of work life. Try saying something positive to everyone you meet each day, even if it’s only a comment on the weather. Your handling people requires you to think more about them than about you. We spend most of our lives thinking about what we want, what our interests are. Since getting these satisfied is quite rare we predispose ourselves to being unhappy. Once we start to think about what other people want, what their concerns and worries are and what will make them happy, we start a new phase of life in which we find joy in seeing others succeed. Joy is joy however it happens.
Stop telling people what to do or what you want. They never obey and you never get it. Start asking questions about what they want, how they see their job, how they think they can do it better, how their attitude could make life more agreeable for them. When people discover answers for themselves they believe them. When they are given answers they half believe them – often less than half. By helping people to be interested in their job – including your boss – you make yourself happier at the same time.
The greatest spur to productivity is encouragement. Regardless of what you are doing, praise will make you do it better. Praising other people, giving them credit whenever you possibly can, is like a work aphrodisiac. I used to try to give others credit even when they hadn’t really done much to achieve a goal. It always led to them trying harder next time. You may think that this is just what your boss wants. Very likely, but he has a personality that is as capable of adjustment as much as yours. Other people’s success is sweet reward you don’t appreciate until you’ve got it.
Study your job to see how you can make it more interesting and rewarding. Can you make a better whatever it is you are making? Can you give better advice on the subject you tell people about? Could your job be done more efficiently or to a higher standard? Almost all jobs can be. How could you make the actual work more fun for everyone doing it? How can you show off the finished work more creatively so that those seeing it get a kick out of it too? Every time you make the work more interesting you improve productivity.
You are required to make an effort in your work, maybe a very big effort. If you devote some of that effort to making other people’s lives more interesting and easier you will find that the effort you have to put in suddenly decreases. At the same time the joy you get from doing your work suddenly increases.
We talk about ‘win-win’ frequently.
This one‘s a ‘win-win’ specially for you.