“If everybody loved their job, they probably wouldn’t call it work.” That was the opening of an online article I saw a while ago.
By Allen Clark
“If everybody loved their job, they probably wouldn’t call it work.” That was the opening of an online article I saw a while ago. It reminded me of an app called Quora, where a group interested in getting discussions going on all kinds of subjects floats questions out into the ether.
A recent Quora question was: “Why do so many people hate their jobs?” That in itself wasn’t all that special. What’s remarkable is this. Answers to most posted questions die out after a couple of months; answers to this one are still rolling in more than two years later. Apparently, lots of us have some negative thoughts about our jobs. How about you? Did/do you hate your job?
I’ve been keeping tabs on what the most common gripes are and the interesting counter posts from the minority who like or even love their jobs. Certainly near the top of complaints is what I’d call “No Exit.” At some point lots of workers feel locked in; they don’t know what to do next or how to change. It doesn’t necessarily matter how they’re doing financially. Money clearly matters, but after a certain period of time many see too much risk switching careers, let alone firms. So they do the same thing for the rest of their lives.
“In general, the fix is in ‘you’ and not in the job.”
A different group believes jobs no longer have stability. “Instead of knowing that after years of excellent work I’ll be promoted, I can almost guarantee my job will be made redundant so the company can save a few bucks.” This same person went on, “Workers hate their jobs because their employers hate them and they let them know through a million micro-aggressions every day.” (She really wasn’t having a good time.) Another blogger put a more positive (well, less negative) spin on it: “It’s because employers make the mistake of trying to motivate their staff with money and not with satisfaction.” Another: “Jobs are modern-day slavery.”
A third group of complainers believe the problem is money. Chasing bigger paychecks leads many to feel misdirected motivation. “Most jobs are devoid of meaning…. People are simply doing those jobs to get money and survive.” Another view, “They forget they’re working to live and instead start thinking they’re living to work.”
A wrinkle on this is the fact that many people actually like to work. We do it for free all the time. We like being active and producing things or results. We do it with hobbies, our gardens, sports, volunteer work, and so on. The problem occurs when we do it for pay. This leads to many people doing things that they normally wouldn’t like all that much. They are told when to do it, how to do it, in order to please people above and around them.
The “how-to-do-it” part seems to bother a lot of people. “I think there’s an immense amount of influence society has over people to conform to a certain mold of success and happiness,” wrote one blogger. Even if you “do it right” and are financially rewarded but don’t feel significant ownership of what you’re working on, you end up feeling undervalued.
Today’s looser, more entrepreneurial work environments have changed much of that, at least for those with creative ideas, strength of conviction, and a fairly high risk-tolerance. “Follow your bliss” has a more convincing ring to it. And that seems to be the message of the “I like my job” people sounding off on Quora.
At the end of the day (or the endless list of Quora comments), those who don’t hate what they do believe the problem isn’t the job, or the boss, or the pay, or the working environment, or the lack of security. In Pogo’s famous words, “We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.” In the words of an anonymous blogger, “There are a ‘small percentage’ of ‘reasons’ and ‘circumstances’ that provide genuine reasons to hate your job. But the percentage is very, very small. In general, the fix is in ‘you’ and not in the job.”
As the advice columns tend to advise, it’s up to you to find something that works for you, not you for it.