Learning to Say Those Four Little Words—I LOVE MY JOB
I love my job. I love spring. I love my community. I love raking the yard. I love my job.
Many of us, including myself, have lived through times when we haven't. Some of you may be there now. For me?
- Door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman
- Transcription typist
- Bricklayer's assistant
- Community file keeper
I really didn't like those jobs. But I did love it when I was a dishwasher, and when I was a short-order cook, and when I ran the news department and, today . . . I love my job.
Wouldn't it be great if we could all get there? Having been on both sides of the equation, I believe the more we can do to create the right environment wherever we are, the higher the probability we'll fall in love with our work. It hinges on three basic components: Control, Surroundings, and Positive Intent.
C'mon Carl, no dishwasher has control! Actually, I did. I made a lot of decisions at the Country Corner Restaurant in Columbiana, Ohio. Do I peel the potatoes first or schlep bags? Do I set up the dishes in the machine facing left or right? Do I stock the dishes in the counter or by the waitress' station? I got to choose! And a very smart employer let me. I didn't have much autonomy to think outside the box, but I took it where I could get it.
Today, I have the same dilemma. Do I handle Client A first or Client B? Do their contracts have to be served no matter what? Yes. But I take and make choices where I can. We have a tendency to focus on areas where we lack control. Before you continue with the rest of this article, take a moment and a Post-It and jot down three or four things you can control about your work and work processes. Office space? Peer access? When you go for a coffee? It's up to you. And when you realize what you can control and work it to your best advantage, it's a cause for celebration.
My office, much like yours, has an eclectic collection of stuff: a Terrence the Tractor toy, original art of my mother's old antique shop, awards from PMI Chapters, family photos . . . . Why? Each item touches a personal chord. It represents something I love. And keeping those reminders around helps keep us in love with our jobs.
And even if your employer won't allow so much as a Schefflera on your desk, there are still things you love around you. Maybe it's a picture of your spouse on the cell phone, or a favorite spot in the atrium where the sun hits right at lunchtime. Maybe it's just the joy of a ten-minute smoke break (even though you don't smoke) down on the park bench outside. We need to adopt a practice of taking a few moments out of the day to love what we do. What can you do to love your job today? Take the five minutes, or reorganize your desk or change your computer wallpaper to remind you of the things that make life worth living! They can give you a much more positive outlook on your job.
The whole point of the environmental assessment is to create, in you, more positive intent. All too often, we become willing participants in being ground into the pavement by our roles, jobs, co-workers, employers and environment. Assuming positive intent is the surest way to fall back in love with your job. The concept is one where you look at the world around you, including all communications events, and assume that everyone and everything is working in your favor. Not an easy task.
Think about it. Your arch-nemesis just walked into your workspace. First instinct? TENSION. But if you take an attitude of positive intent, your first instinct needs to be, "How might he/she be here to help?"
My favorite experience with this came with a co-worker who stole an idea I had been working on for months and claimed it as his own. The next time I encountered him, I knew that it would be worthless to challenge him, and there was the remote chance that he had forgotten it was my idea. So when he walked in the door, I simply welcomed him into the office.
"I just hadn't seen you or heard from you in a while, Carl, and wanted to make sure you're doing OK," he offered.
"Great!" I replied. "Nothing to complain about here."
He breathed a little sigh, said he had to be going and slipped away. As he left, it had been a positive experience for me. No drama. No accusatory interaction. I could have agonized over the loss of the idea and had a fruitless discussion about it, but instead had a positive (albeit brief) interaction. If we want to love our jobs, we have to be able to leave behind some of the pettiness that often seems rife in the workplace.
As a dishwasher, I used to watch two waitresses, Claire and Michelle, do battle over which tables they got, whose order was whose and whose turn it was to make more coffee. I also used to watch as Esther ignored the little tiffs entirely and made amazing tips.
It's easy to hate your job when others take control. But with just a modicum of control, positive surroundings and positive intent, you can fall in love with your own day-to-day. It's a wonderful place to be.