Last month the Office for National Statistics published a report about national wellbeing in the UK and part of that was obviously about us at work. The results date back to 2010/11 when just under 80% of employed adults (16+) in the UK who had a job reported being somewhat, mostly or completely satisfied with their job.
This seems like quite a large figure, particularly when you compare it to the figures from 2004 which were a little over 70%.
In fact, when you break it down to the categories used in the survey (the UK Household Longitudinal Survey), the only bit of their job that workers are less happy with now than 7 years ago is their job security. Pay, training and sense of achievement have all seen rises in people's satisfaction.
A commentator suggested that we have become more entrepreneurial as a result of the downturn which has given us a greater sense of value in the work that we do.
More significantly for me was the comment from Cary Cooper, Lancaster University. He said that people feel lucky to have a job at all and so are now comparing their salary to having none. This certainly is a change from years previously when people seemed to want the earth and expected to be given it too.
From a coach's perspective, this is a welcome shift of thinking in some ways. I am a huge advocate of people being interested in improving their lot in life, whether that is in terms of their financial wellbeing or whatever. However, I have often been frustrated at people living in cloud cuckooland who expect to get everything they want in life but without expending any effort on their own behalf. This has particularly been an attitude I have seen to be very prevalent in younger people who have been spoiled by doting parents providing for their every whim.
If we have some new thinking in the workplace where people are more grateful to have a job and be paid then maybe employers will see a greater commitment to jobs and consequently more productivity. My worry is that we revert back to a position where people become resigned to their lot in life and start to think that they are powerless to change it for the better.
However happy you are at your work, what can you do to improve it? You might want to read some of the articles elsewhere on the website about this.
Apparently Mario Balotelli, the Italian striker, doesn't think he should celebrate goals when he scores. He tends to strut in a seemingly arrogant, posturing way but otherwise shows little emotion. The story goes that before the game against Germany in the semi-finals of Euro2012 he was asked why he doesn't seem happier. His tweeted response is supposed to have said, "When I score, I don't celebrate because I'm only doing my job. When a postman delivers letters, does he celebrate?" He presumably sees football as just turning up to do what he is paid for.
It got me thinking about less superstar-like individuals like you and I and how we react in our day jobs but also if and how we celebrate achieving our goals.
So firstly at work, do you expect to do well every day when you go to work? If not, what gets in the way? But assuming you do expect success at some level on a daily basis, how do you recognise it? Some people need others to be constantly telling them how well they have done but how much better to be able to see it for ourselves, to be able to look at what we have done and be satisfied because we know we did it well. Not adequately but well. Maybe it doesn't require a bottle of champagne at 5 o'clock every day but some small passing nod to ourselves is good to keep us happy. Are you doing things very well, seeing it and congratulating yourself? If not, you want to change something.
What about when you achieve your goals, whether they are big or small - what celebrations have you got planned? Maybe once you have finally finished all the renovation and decorating in that new house you'll throw a party. Or maybe it will be as simple as sitting on your sofa surveying your wok with a large drink. When you achieve your target weight, I'm guessing you won't go out for a slap-up meal but what will you do instead? Having a celebration planned already is one of the motivating factors that helps us achieve our goals. For me, when I achieve my health goal, I am going to plan a holiday to reward myself. And for the work goal that I have set, on completion I will buy a nice bottle of whisky to savour.
What about you? As you look at the goals you have set yourself for the next year or two (I assume you have already decided what you want to get from life in that time - if not, see me immediately!) how will you celebrate when you reach them? And what about tomorrow when you complete your work and feel good - how will you acknowledge that?
My latest newsletter was about dealing with people you find hard, because you don't like or respect them. (If you haven't subscribed yet then click here to read it). One of the things I talked about was not bitching about them behind their back. Today, amidst all the talk of giving up things for Lent to make yourself a better person, I suddenly thought, "why don't we ever use this time for personal development, for changing our attitudes for the better". We only tend to talk about fasting and missing out food like chocolate but increasingly people are looking at a broader understanding of giving up things. Granted, the idea of giving something up is as a sacrifice, to prepare us for Easter and to mirror Jesus fasting in the desert so maybe developing ourselves by giving something up might not fit for some of you.
If you have no other plans for Lent though, consider sacrificing one of the habits that you are least proud of. Maybe it will be something related to how you deal with your colleagues and co-workers. What could you do differently that will make you easier to work with? How could you stop being annopying in return, to the person who constantly winds you up? What poor reactions do you want to stamp out when someone frustrates you at work?
Whilst this might be harder than giving up chocolate and may not have such a visible effect, it could be the start of new ways of behaving that ultimately make you a more attractive person to deal with. If you need help working out how to manage the change or make it stick then get in touch for a free chat
_The signals along the track turn to red and the trains stop. When the road vehicles slow to a stop, their brake lights glow. Milimetrically small advertising hoardings having changing electronic pictures on them, fans in the Hamburg football stadium have flags that tey wave periodically. On top of al that there are the mini-scenes within the different worlds; the frogmen diving a river to find the corpse; Pippi Longstocking lifting a horse in a village; gnomes working in a mountain cave; a couple making love in the middle of a field of sunflowers.
Watching some of the workers bent over their desks painting the tiny figures, you wonder what drives them. They are investing time to provide details that most of the visitors might never spot. Presumably they enjoy what they do - given some of their unergonomic desk positions, I hope they aren't being forced to work their. I'm guessing they even love what they do and get a kick out of including the little details into their worlds. Maybe people spotting the scuba-diving cows makes the workers smile as well. Yes, you could argue that they must simply be detail-focussed people and I would agree in part - they could never cope with the job otherwise. However, the level of intricacy goes beyond mere attention, moving into a passionate love of detail.
Which bits of your job do you love doing? What is there in your normal day or week or month that gets you interested more than the rest of the drudgery? Yes, the MW people need to make sure that the trains all run to the schedule and don't crash, that lights come on when 'night time' happens so that the basics of the wonderland work. They could stop there, but actually its all the exciting little extras that make the place so fascinating for everyone from 3 to 83, judging by the rapt attention of the visitors I saw.
Lots has been written about finding meaning in our work and maybe at the start of the year we need to re-examine what we do. Can we find an analogy to painting today's person faster than yesterday's, making it a neater job, with more colourful clothes? Maybe there are little scenarios we can include that make people smile or big thigs we can create that make people gasp. How can we relate differently to our boss, our colleagues or our visitors in order to make them feel better or for us to enjoy our days more? Its true what people say that the more you put in the more you get out; it might mean we have to give a little extra but isn't that worth it? Iif we enjoy our work more, how much more will that contribute to our happiness and mental well-being?
Okay, so maybe you won't recognise the picture but if I tell you he used to be an air steward (actually, he may not have lost his job yet) who lost the plot slightly when one difficult customer too many tried to push him around, then I think you'll have heard of him. If not, read the story here.
Allegedly swearing over the intercom following an altercation with a passenger, he left his place of work by sliding down the emergency exit, beers in hand. He is now alternately hailed as a folk hero for standing up for himself, or villified for setting a bad example.
The bottom line though is: he was fed up with his job and did something about it. Now unfortunately for him, he may not have made his life any better - the police caught up with him at home and he faces charges. We on the other hand, may have the chance to improve things. Maybe we will never be so drastic but even by changing little things about what we do and the way we do it, can we make it more bearable, enjoyable or even fun?
When was the last time you took time to review what you do? So start now...
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Nick has been writing for mass consumption ever since he was sending newsletters home from the Philippines 20+ years ago. He has carried on putting finger to keyboard, branching out into magazines, manuals and recently submitting lots of words for books. He has always aimed to be entertaining but at the same time challenging. If you like something, feel free to pass it on to someone else, but if you are challenged by it then even better - write a comment, start a debate, add to the fun.