Let’s be honest, working sucks.
But does it have to? I am on the verge of finishing my graduate degree, and my peers and I are all in “job hunt mode,” in search of at least a tolerable job that will hopefully be the beginning of a promising career and won’t leave us in the poor house.
U.S. citizens have accepted for quite some time now that work isn’t fun. After all, that’s why it’s called work, right? Long ago, the myth of loving your career disappeared somewhere along with Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. At first, when we were young, work seemed fun. We had wild dreams of being a fireman, or train conductor, or veterinarian, and all of these jobs seemed glamorous. Even in our teens we saw careers on television; those CSI workers have such cool jobs, and they never complain. Or better yet, the characters on The Office don’t even do any work, and somehow they manage to be the only branch to survive the bankruptcy of Dunder Mifflin. Then we grew up and hit college. We picked a major, got an internship, and realized life is a lot different. Most of America ends up struggling to pay the bills and gets stuck sitting in an office all day.
77% of Americans are stressed about their work. They spend a minimum of 40 hours a week doing something they have no passion for, creating a vision for someone else, and living for the weekends when they finally have a chance to enjoy life. It seems like a miserable way to live. It’s even worse for those who are financially struggling and work overtime, for them work can actually be deadly. The stress we endure from the jobs we hate can literally kill us.
Many of us stay at jobs we dislike because of financial obligations, but it turns out that having no job might be better for us than having a bad job. Gallup discovered that workers who have no emotional connection to their work rate their quality of life as poorer than those who are unemployed. And those who are unemployed actually have more positive daily experiences than disengaged workers.
Another study showed that psychologically, it’s healthier for us to stay unemployed than to work at a job we despise. Those in the study who moved from being unemployed to employed at a job they disliked, actually had a sharp decline in their mental health, displaying increased symptoms of depression and anxiety, even with the relief of a paycheck. Those who couldn’t find a job actually coped better.
So where do we go from here? We have to meet our financial obligations, so we have to work. But I think too many of us have become apathetic about the concept of working, and have already written it of as something we can’t really enjoy fully. This is the real myth. Forget everything you thought you knew about working, and have an open mind. Many employees have been able to either escape the office, or turn it into a place they look forward to going.
Communication research has discovered that it is really “the people who make the place.” Organizational culture and climate are created by those who are members of the organization. You can work in an office eight hours a day like everyone else in America, but you can actually enjoy most of your time there. I’ve mentioned in the past that happiness is contagious, and this goes for the work environment too. If coworkers are difficult, bosses are constantly micromanaging, and you have no voice at work, that’s likely a recipe for misery. You should start to look for other options. Either find something you love to do, and start that part time on the side, or find an office that offers an environment that wants to bring out the best in you and have you flourish at their corporation.
It’s not unheard of, look at the offices of Google or Facebook. Even Best Buy is beginning to create programs that increase employee satisfaction. Granted, these are competitive companies to find jobs at, but the organizational model can be reproduced in other offices. Many corporations that might seem boring or dismal have integrated methods and benefits to help increase employee satisfaction. If employees have to do a job they aren’t passionate about, they should at least be in an environment that promotes well-being and offers advantages for working there.
I know a lot of us are in tough economic times, and we have no choice but to take a certain job right now to make ends meet. My advice? Don’t get stuck in that job forever, unless it’s a job you learn to love. We have one life, one chance to make the most of our time here, and no one’s gravestone is going to read “Most sales in 2011,” or “Made employee of the month one time.” What is it that you want to do in life? If you still don’t know, make the best with what you are doing right now and bring happiness and positivity to your coworkers (who are likely in the same position). Don’t settle for a demoralizing job, or give up on “childish dreams.” Some people make those dreams come true, and you could be one of them. Grandiose ideas from passionate people are what have made America an amazing, innovative place. And those people didn’t settle for a job that just paid the bills.