by Bruce Ferber
According to a recent Gallup poll, more than 70 percent of Americans hate their work. This is a staggering figure, considering most of us spend more than half our waking hours on the job. Many of us have watched our companies merge, trim fat and tighten belts, resulting in more standardized procedures and rules in the name of efficiency. The net effect is our individuality is sacrificed, causing us to become unmotivated, disinterested, angry or just plain bored. Our productivity diminishes, which is bad for employers, and our unhappiness increases, which is bad for us. Here are six ways for both employers and employees to better enjoy the workplace.
1. Humanize your environment. The first thing to remember is that while the company might demand standardization in work methods, the individuals performing the work are anything but standard. Each employee has his or her own unique story that is worth a listen. You don’t need to know Jane Doe’s entire family history, but taking a real interest in something specific to Jane (e.g. she paints as a hobby) will delight her, and make her interested in something you’re passionate about. This creates an environment of camaraderie, which leads to better group productivity.
2. Unleash your creativity. Just because a task is monotonous doesn’t mean the process can’t be fun. For example, if your unit needs to achieve a desired goal, take the individual strengths of your coworkers into account and create “Top Gun”-type nicknames for employees. While such “handles” might seem silly at first, they can actually convey respect for a unique quality each member of the workforce possesses. Also use creativity to counterbalance stress. If it’s a particularly demanding March, plan a fun, green-filled St. Patrick’s Day party so the office can take a breath.
3. Maximize your individual potential. The company has a bottom line, but so do we. Human beings are most satisfied when we feel we are performing our best, and we need to take personal responsibility for making sure that happens. Setting individual standards for ourselves, both in work methods and the way we present ourselves to clients and fellow employees can make a huge difference in how we feel about our jobs. Just as we teach our children how to be good citizens, we must strive to be the professional employers want to hire, and the colleague with whom employees want to work.
4. Open your mind. Many work environments are poisoned by a vicious circle of low expectations: “It’s always been done this way.” “He always reacts like that.” “There’s nothing I can do to make this better.” By opening our minds to the possibility of a solution, we free ourselves to take risks that change things for the better. Humans wrote everything by hand for thousands of years until somebody opened his mind to the idea of doing it on a typewriter, and then a computer. Open your mind not only to your own ideas, but those of fellow employees. Lurking beneath your office mate’s passive exterior might be an out-of-the-box suggestion that could improve the workplace for everyone. Encourage your coworkers to speak up.
5. Relate to your workplace. Perhaps you got the job because you had an important skill your employer valued. Or maybe you signed on simply because you needed a paycheck. Either way, as long as you are an employee you are part of the team. Maximizing individual potential will make you feel better about yourself, but identifying with the character of the team will make you feel better about daily life in the office. The workplace is a community, and we enjoy it more when we are an integral part of it.
You’ve read about five ways to enjoy your job. If you examine the first letter of each of these ways, you will find they spell the very important number…
6. Humor your way through. They say laughter is the best medicine, and as such, there is no better prescription for the workplace. An office that can laugh together is an office that can perform together. A joke, a funny story, a crazy outfit – any one of these can make your or someone else’s day. Levity relieves stress, which makes everyone feel better about what they do.
Follow these guidelines, and you’ll be among the 30 percent of Americans who don’t hate their jobs. Or better yet, 70 percent of Americans will actually like going to work.
Bruce Ferber is a comedy writer, the former executive producer of “Home Improvement,” and author of the new novel, “Elevating Overman.” Visit him online at www.bruceferber.net/.