After years of working, coaching, and mentoring, I decided to run an informal survey on the topic. What I found were the top five reasons people who answered loved their jobs:
1. The Challenge
One hundred percent of the people who loved their jobs cited the challenge of their work as the single biggest reason they enjoyed what they did. They solved problems and put their skills to good use. No two days were the same; the job provided variety, and they learned something new every day.
2. Great Bosses
Almost everyone who loved their job cited their boss as a key factor. But when I delved into this in more detail, it was largely because their boss allowed them to experience the challenge I describe above and recognized them for doing so.
3. Great Coworkers
Most of the respondents who loved their job also cited their coworkers. They felt they were part of a “team” and believed everyone was marching toward the same goal (although not necessarily always in step). Many recognized their coworkers as talented and caring.
4. Work That Matters
For many, their satisfaction came from doing a job in which they felt they made a difference. They didn’t have to save the world, but they felt they improved it in some way. Helping others and achieving a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day made the hard work worthwhile—even if their time on the job exceeded a typical eight hour workday.
5. Being Employed
It’s a statement on the current economic environment that many people responded they loved their jobs because they had one. Having friends and family who had to restart their careers after a layoff made them glad to be working regularly.
Other positive comments included flexibility and work/life balance. What was interesting is that not a single respondent mentioned salary or benefits as the reason for loving their job. Not surprisingly, the first few reasons people hate their jobs correspond to the top reasons the “I love my job” camp loved theirs.
1. The Job Is Boring
Many felt the work was menial, didn’t yield results, or was repetitive. Several cited bureaucracy and other barriers that prevented them from getting things done.
2. Having a “Bad” Boss
Most of those who hated their jobs cited their boss as being difficult—too strong or too wimpy, uninvolved, wanting all the credit, invisible, or uninterested in what they were doing. Some also cited a boss who promised and never delivered as a huge demoralizer. Many indicated having a “bad” boss was the main reason they changed jobs within their firm or sought outside employment.
3. No Personal Time
Many of the negative responders felt that their jobs were too demanding—of their time, their energies, and their lives. In some cases, people said their boss never allowed any flexibility in working from home or in managing vacation or time off. Again, many cited this as a reason they had left previous assignments, often taking a lower paying assignment with more flexibility.
4. Difficult Working Environment
All of the “I hate my job” respondents felt that they were not part of a team. More often they referred to themselves as feeling alone and excluded with no one to go to for support. Some cited individual coworkers or clients who made getting the job done more frustrating.
5. Poor Pay
While salary was never mentioned in the positive responses, being underpaid, unrecognized, and not receiving a raise or promotion in many years was mentioned by many of the unhappy respondents. Some of the positive respondents actually took a cut in pay to go to a job that met the items cited in their “love my job” answers.
What Can You Learn From These Results?
If you are one of the people in the “love my job” category, congratulations. Appreciate what you have, continue to learn, and take on new challenges. If you are ever in a position of leadership, be the type of boss that you appreciate.
But if you’re in the “hate my job” category, is there any hope? Yes! It takes effort, patience, and commitment, but there are steps you can take to make your job one worth keeping. If you feel you are in a menial, repetitive job, is it because you’re not sufficiently skilled? Is there a training program available? Can you go back to school? Can you teach yourself a new skill? Does your company offer any training incentives? Is there a job within your company that would make you happier and, if so, what is required to be competitive for it? Working toward a goal, either within your company or outside it, can reinvigorate that sense of accomplishment and challenge you have been lacking.
If your boss is the problem, there are also steps you can take. If you work for a large company, can you transfer to a different department or area? If not, is there a way to get on your boss’s “good side”? Perhaps they’re just as frustrated with the job as you are and together you might recommend some positive changes. Perhaps you can volunteer for a task or special assignment that they will appreciate? This might also make you more visible to higher level management in the company. If your work environment is unpleasant, or you have difficult coworkers, these same questions and suggestions apply.
If your job is consuming all your time, you may need to step back and ask yourself whether there is an alternative. For example, new attorneys are expected to work exorbitant hours in their first years; it’s part of the training process. The same goes for a doctor going through a residency. You might be on a project with a short deadline and need to devote a lot of time to it. Before jumping ship, ask yourself if this going to be a continual problem, or a shorter-term one?
If the former, and the pace is not for you, it may be time to revisit what you want and see if there is some other position you might take. Can you afford to work part-time or take some time off to recharge? In today’s tough economic climate, many have been asked to do more with less. Perhaps it’s time to examine at all your tasks and assignments and decide which need to be put on the backburner, what you can delegate, and what you really need to pay attention to. Burning yourself out will only make you less effective in the years to come.
Finally, what about salary and recognition? In general, I have found if you move yourself from the “I hate my job” to the “I love my job” category, the raises and recognitions start reappearing. Focus on the other four areas of dissatisfaction, become the employee everyone loves to work with, and it will be hard for management not to notice you.
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