“What the whole world wants is a good job, and we are failing to deliver it.” -Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup
According to a Gallup poll done in September of 2017, about 85% of the billion full-time workers worldwide dislike their jobs. This leaves less than one tenth of the labor force to actively keep economies going and enjoy doing it.
According to a friend, who is employed as a high-school Spanish teacher, the problem is that people think they need to like their jobs. I couldn’t disagree more: hating your job isn’t okay, but I think something should be done about it.
1) You don’t have time to hate.
I don’t just mean that life is too short for anything but love or that every working moment should be filled with passion. I mean in the practical sense: time is more valuable than money.
The theory goes that how valuable something is depends in large part on how rare it is, how necessary it is and how easy it is to get. This is why air is, at the time of this writing, free in the United States. A British entrepreneur has figured out how to sell bottled air from clean locations across the UK to China for about $115 USD a pop, which is not only horrifying but excessive, right? In their first year, the company’s sold hundreds of bottles.
Clean air is rare, vital and hard to come by in more and more cities around the world. The point is that there are ways to make more money — just figure out how to sell what’s right in front of you, for example. But there is, as of yet, no way to make more time.
Money is necessary for survival, but survival is a finite resource.
2) You cannot separate work from the rest of life.
Especially Millennials. We want more out of our jobs than stability and a pension at the end — mostly since those are relics of a bygone economic era. Because technology has enabled us to work more rather than less as was promised, we can hardly be faulted for wanting some emotional fulfillment, some sense of meaning from our work.
If I’m consistently unhappy at work, it’s likely to get harder and harder for me to keep my dissatisfaction just at work. I’m not as good at compartmentalizing as I think I am. And actually, being good at emotional compartmentalizing would be an indication that something’s wrong: there is a general consensus in the field of psychology that, while compartmentalizing is useful in certain time-bound situations, it is not sustainable.
Emotional integration is the way of well being.
Another thing that will happen if I’m actively disengaged at work is that I’ll start to put pressure on other areas of my life — my marriage, my friendships, even my hobbies — to deliver more than they’re able to. I’ll start to become stingy with what I give to the people in my life, even to the dreams I have for mine because I’ll be looking to balance the scorecard: as my job draws my resources down, my needs will increase and I’ll have to pull from other sources to level myself.
3) You will create constant stress.
It’s not just the hassle of dealing with my terrible boss or accusatory. It’s that the anxiety and irritation of having to deal with my terrible boss and accusatory coworkers impacts my physiological health. If the brain perceives a stressor, it will signal the production of cortisol, which, as we’ve all heard by now, helps us run from a predator or fight off an enemy — short-term events that can use up the cortisol before it corrodes the body’s cells.
But since I can’t run from my boss, my cortisol faucet is always on: when I’m at work, when I’m going to work, when I’m thinking about work, which I will tend to do if I dislike it and want something to change.
Exercise helps clear cortisol from the body’s system, but most of us sit at computers all day with maybe an hour break. High levels of cortisol contribute to weight gain, high blood pressure, trouble sleeping and increased anxiety, which was one of the triggers of high cortisol in the first place — this is a difficult cycle to get out of.
Hating my job is a disaster for my physical health, too.
4) You’re not being fair to your employer.
If I hate my job, I probably don’t care about the well-being of my employer. About 20 percent of Americans are actively undermining their employers. Since money is survival, people feel stuck and resentful, so they find ways to get back at their boss or the company. Resentment is a natural response to feeling powerless, but that’s exactly why my employer’s well-being is important.
The anxiety-cortisol cycle isn’t the only rut I can get into if I hate my job. Hating my job makes it harder for me to do my job, but since keeping my job is a matter of survival, I am constantly in fear of being caught doing a bad job. This primes the anxiety-cortisol pump, of course, but it also creates relationships based on fear and hiding. Maintaining these types of relationships adds takes energy I could be using to grow other parts of my life (if I’m not busy trying to draw from them to re-balance after a long day hating work).
Relationships between employer and employee have become much more adversarial in the past decade — a trend that has to do with forces largely beyond individual workers. But caring about how well my company’s doing reduces my anxiety, too.
5) You’re not being fair to the rest of us.
Your employer may be trying to do good work in the world — maybe you just can’t identify with the vision, maybe your supervisor is difficult — or maybe they’re not. Either way, there is so much good work to be done in the world. Maybe the clean-air people are humanitarians and the reason their price is so high is because that’s just barely covering the costs of farming the air, vacuum-sealing it and shipping it around the world.
But the fact that there is a need for bottled air is indicative both that there is environmental, community-organizing, and medical work to do in the world, and that we are surrounded by ways to meet needs in the world every minute of every day. Which means that it’s probably easier to find something that needs to be done in the world than it is to find your passion.
There is so much good work to be done in the world — we need you.
What should you do?
Many people think they’d be happier with their jobs if they made more money, but most people adjust their spending upward as their income increases; happiness levels off around $75,000 a year.
The career-coaching industry has exploded — as of 2014, it was a $1-billion-dollar industry. And it’s true that work that lines up with your skills and interests will generally make you happier than work that disregards them. But the thing is that skills can be learned, they’re not in born. It’s worthwhile to get to know your natural abilities, but one of the most important things you can do is learn useful skills.
And by ‘useful,’ I mean ones that will help you meet the needs you care about in the world.
The real problem, though, is that the fact that you don’t like your job likely isn’t your fault.The main reason people are unhappy at work isn’t the low pay or that they’re in the wrong field. It actually has to do with the boss. And here I have to admit that I just don’t have a good answer for this one. As more Millennials take on leadership roles in the workforce, the top-down, tightly-controlled approach to management will likely shift.
Until then, I’d love to hear from you about how you approach bad bosses, job dissatisfaction and work in today’s world.
Visit meganwildhood.com to learn more about me.