Reality Check: Just doing my job…

“If only I could go to work and just do my job…” Do you ever think like that? Does your version of that wistful statement end with a “but”?

If so, you are not alone. There’s plenty of disgruntlement to go around, such as, “If only I could go to work and just do my job but my boss is so uncooperative, incompetent, or just plain nasty.”

Or, “If only I could go to work and just do my job but my coworkers are into power struggles, gossiping, undermining, or slacking off.”

Most of us work, whether paid or not. And it’s clear that many of us enjoy work. You see it in retirees who volunteer by doing jobs that, before they retired, were called “work.” You see it in employees who go above and beyond—arriving early, staying late, doing whatever is necessary to make an excellent product or deliver a valuable service. And you certainly see it in the self-employed who, while working to build a profitable business, are also building our communities.

Even if we didn’t need the paycheck, many people would still be doing something that looks a lot like work.

Work can contribute to our overall life satisfaction. Put in choice theory terms, work can satisfy the need for survival (paycheck), for recognition (I am somebody because I work), for freedom (money gives us choices), for love and belonging (with people you enjoy) and for fun (from learning and involvement.)

If work offers so much potential for satisfaction, why so many plaintive cries of “if only…but?”

The “but” often has to do with the behaviour of other people on the job. If it weren’t for other people, we could all get along, right?

Every day, you go to work. You try to do a good job. You believe that you could get joy from your work if only things were different. If you’re a worker bee with many responsibilities but little authority, it’s reasonable to wonder whether there is anything you can do to improve things.

Is it possible to turn your work into something other than a frustrating struggle? Could it become a rewarding activity; one you could take pride in? Could work occur in a happy, satisfying workplace? If so, how might one go about achieving this magical work-nirvana?

Here’s the short story: we can either change our reality or we can change our perceptions. Both approaches have their value and next time I’ll offer some suggestions for both.

In the meantime, if you are unhappy with your work, it may be worth putting some serious thought into this important question: “What do I want?” More specifically, “What do I want from my work?”

If you take this question seriously, you’ll uncover some truths about yourself. As you come up with answers, prioritize them. What’s most important about work for you?

For example, is your primary goal to have a steady paycheck? Do you want the opportunity to learn and grow? Do you want to become really rich? Do you want respect, to be recognized for your ability and knowledge? Is it important to you to have close, pleasant relationships with the people you work with?

Work can be complicated. Before you unleash your temper or even resign in a huff, try putting some thought into the “what you want” question. What do you want from your work and workplace?

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