Learning to Love Work

“At long last I have been learning to work. By that I mean that there is in my daily life a satisfactory predominance of activity over passivity, of reality over fantasy, of creation over conception. It continues to astonish me that this simple human ability to work brings so much additional pleasure, order, solace, and meaning to my life.”

– Sarah Ruddick, A Work of One’s Own

Most employees do not have an aversion to work. Quite the contrary, millions of employees show up daily and expend countless energies moving the business strategy or their organizations forward. Along the way, they learn to do their jobs effectively. A question I wrestle with however is, “While employees are learning to work are they also learning to love their work?”

You’ve heard the adage; “It’s not work if you love doing it.” Well, that may be true for some professions, but according to statistics, many Americans are not as satisfied with their jobs as you might think. In a November 2012 poll, Gallup reported, “Overall, just under half of American workers, 47%, are completely satisfied with their job, while 42% are somewhat satisfied, and a combined 11% are either completely or somewhat dissatisfied.

So, what is an employer to do? Obviously, you cannot make employees love their jobs. However, you can create an atmosphere that encourages employees to fully engage in their work. Here are a handful of ideas to consider:

Focus on creating trust. If employees do not feel safe, they will not take risks. Whether that be exercising creativity or reporting malfeasance, employees who are mocked or fear reprisal or retribution simply will not fully engage. Don’t just say, “You can trust me,” but model it relentlessly.

Catch them doing something right. Peter Drucker’s counsel to “find employees doing something right” is timeless. If you do not consistently say, “Thanks!” or “The way you handled that situation was awesome!” or “Keep up the great work!” then you may find yourself experiencing turnover. Don’t embrace the “blame others when things go wrong” mentality. Instead, look for what is working and encourage employees to keep doing it!

Don’t sit on your pinches. Several years ago, I heard a broken expectation described as a “pinch.” Pinches hurt. The harder the pinch, the more pain experienced. In the workplace, we must encourage our employees to not sit on their pinches! In other words, when expectations are broken, take time to talk through it, change processes if necessary, rectify if possible; and if not, allow time to vent, adjust, acclimate, and move on.

Let’s keep the conversation going – what contributes to you loving your job?

Greg Anderson

Written by:
Greg Anderson
President of Online Learning, Strategic Government Resources
Follow Greg on Twitter!@SGRGreg

2 responses

  1. In my experience, the best thing a leader can do to help employees love their job is to help them understand the value of their contribution and service, or in other words to remind them of the purpose of their work. A noble purpose transforms work from a burden to be tolerated into an opportunity to be appreciated. When a leader helps an employee understand and feel the connection between what they do and the reason it should be done well, even a routine task becomes a contribution to something greater than themselves. And most everyone wants to feel part of something larger than themselves.

    1. Well said, Joseph. People definitely need to feel that their contributions are appreciated. It’s amazing what a simple “job well done” or “thanks for the hard work” can do to employee morale.

      Thanks for your comment!

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