Why You Hate Your Job

Look at the co-worker to your left. Now, to your right. At least one of them hates their job. Maybe you do, too.

According to a recent Gallup survey of 5.4 million working adults, 52% say they are not engaged in their work. They limp to work, toiling without passion. That's half the workforce! Another 18% describe themselves as "actively disengaged" -- disgruntled and spreading bitterness among co-workers. With the exception of recession periods, the majority of employees start each new year vowing to look for a new job.

Imagine a 10-person bicycle. This means three people are pedaling, five are pretending to pedal, and two are jamming the brakes. That's you, corporate America. Now scale that bike higher: 520 out of every 1,000 employees don't care, 180 are trying to sabotage the place, and 300 are left doing their darnedest.

The most strategic act that any organization can take is to better engage and inspire team members. Here are three (of many) ways you can make life better at work.

1) Abandon your sick-pay and vacation-pay policies
If you can't trust me when I say I have the flu, why are you letting me engage with customers, define budgets, and access internal documents?

There's a radical disrespect involved in limiting the number of sick days employees can take each year. Replace that with this simple policy: require that any worker not come to work when sick. If you think an employee will abuse this system, you need to reassess your entire relationship with that person. Your workspace will become healthier on multiple fronts.

Get rid of limited vacation days, too. Show employees that you value the sustainability of their great work by letting them take as much time as they need, approved by their managers. At The Motley Fool, we observe that the best use of this policy is the use of half days as needed to tend to life. If you're worried about how much this will cost, you've missed the point: A culture built on trust and respect will pay for itself several times over.

2) Make your office live and breathe
Employees spend a third of their lives at work. Make your office a place someone would actually want to spend time.

No sane person can inhabit a cubicle 8-10 hours a day, sedentarily, and remain healthy. Buy treadmill desks. Hire a personal trainer to run classes in a conference room. Contract someone to lead meditation class.

Let employees check Facebook and ESPN. They're going to do this anyway. Don't make them feel like they're cheating the system. (Remember, at dynamic companies, more work is being done off hours -- via mobile texting and email – than ever before. Give your workforce credit for this!)

3) Let employees write their own job descriptions
This final challenge is more difficult, but also very rewarding.

The vast majority of employees performing well at their job are also miles below their potential and bored out of their minds. They're doing repetitive work. You know what happens next? They leave.

To counteract that, a few months after a new employee is settled, coach them through the process of writing their own job description. Their dream job description. As a manager or boss, your job is to do everything to make as much of that dream a reality (so long as the job helps your organization fulfill its purpose).

Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski calls this "job crafting." It's when employees get to reshape and redefine their work to better fit their passions and talents -- passions and talents the employer probably didn't know existed.

Maybe your accountant has unexpected marketing insights. Maybe your information technology manager would like to beat traffic by leaving at 3 p.m. and work from home in the early evening. Maybe your recruiter wants to create a new training program. You'll never know until you ask. Allowing employees to articulate their passion puts them on a path toward fulfilling their true potential. It's a win-win for you and them. Because there is simply no doubt that the average organization is operating at less than 30% of its full potential.

Peter Drucker said that culture eats strategy for breakfast. Get your fork and knife and let's get to work!

This article first appeared on LinkedIn. 

 

 


Read/Post Comments (28) | Recommend This Article (43)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2014, at 6:52 PM, funtime wrote:

    One reason Americans hate their jobs is that twenty one million of them cannot urinate in the presence of others. This is known as pee shy or Paruresis. Multi user restrooms are the problem. Single user restrooms can take up less square footage and cost the same or less to build. Google architects and paruresis. Architects need to start designing single user restrooms only so people can enjoy their jobs and be more productive instead of not being able to use the restroom.

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2014, at 7:03 AM, chowdachief wrote:

    It's clear this 'new' way of thinking about work is very successful. Look at the highly rated companies such as Facebook, Netflix, Apple, and the Motley Fool. I don't doubt the process. But I do question how this process would work across all work forces. I can't see how this process would work in the Federal government. Or work in an assembly line industry. Maybe I'm short sighted and would love to be corrected. I think a big obstacle comes in the way of unions. It's easier for the Motley Fool (I'm assuming) to fire someone for abusing the office culture than it is for a federal employee to be let go. The ability to hire and fire at will allows the organization to pick out people that fit into their culture. This simple fact just isn't true for all workplaces.

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2014, at 11:03 AM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    One reason that some people don't like their job is that they can get handouts from a government agency instead of working.

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2014, at 11:42 AM, esbita wrote:

    How about comparing the statistics with the proportion of people working in small businesses? You know, the ones that are too small for many labor protections (like family leave rights, employee benefits requirements) to apply to them. These are the businesses where the "conference room" doubles as the owner's office, where you might not actually have a break room, and "flexibility" is being able to shift your daily schedule by a whopping half hour...where paid time off is not a given. I could go on...

    This piece is so far out of the reality of most workers it's not even funny.

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2014, at 1:34 PM, JohnCLeven wrote:

    It's simple.

    Most jobs have high repetition and low autonomy, both of which have been shown to make people unhappy.

    Jobs with fresh, evolving challenges, (low repetiton), and allow a high degree of freedom to make your own creative decisions (high autonomy) are scarce, and most people won't obtain them.

    The vast majority of people end up with low and medium skilled jobs, which usually have high repetition and low autonomy, and thus, usually result in unhappy people.

    Wanna be happy at work?

    1) Start your own business, or 2) Find a high-skill niche job with low repetition, and high autonomy. (and aquire the skills/experience needed to get that job)

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2014, at 2:24 PM, FrankoJames wrote:

    What kind of title is that?

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2014, at 2:50 PM, mdk0611 wrote:

    The only way this might work is if it's as easy to terminate the employee who's jamming on the breaks as it is for the peddler to set their own off-site schedule, sick time, and vacation policies.

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2014, at 4:31 PM, Flubberton wrote:

    Most states are already "at-will employment" states, meaning employers need do no more than say "Get out!" to fire somebody. Against that backdrop, I'm not clear on what changes you're looking for to make it "easier to terminate" someone.

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2014, at 5:40 PM, xetn wrote:

    I don't hate my job!

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2014, at 6:52 PM, cmalek wrote:

    Morgan,

    Does your advice apply only to the private sector, or does it extend to the public sector? Because it will never fly. There would be such an uproar from the taxpayers as you've never heard before. For decades already all level of government workers have been portrayed as lazy, overpaid and having overgenerous benefits. To this you want to add unlimited sick and vacation days, health clubs with trainers, and employee-defined job descriptions?! If the taxpayers had it their way, government workers would have a six and half day work week, be paid minimum wage, be chained to their work station during work hours, not be entitled to any retirement pay or health benefits.

    BTW - another reason workers hate their jobs is that many of them are trapped in jobs they are doing only to support their family. They do not particularly like the work they are doing but the job provides a steady paycheck, so they keep on doing it.

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2014, at 10:11 PM, pdtgirl wrote:

    I have to agree with many other commenters. This only works when you can afford to lose 70% of your employees. It only works at high level white collar offices where everyone is mature, stable and intelligent. When you have employees that only make 12 to 16 dollars per hour ( because these are lower level jobs), if you tell them they can have as much time as they want to off, who is going to do their work when they are gone?

    Many employees have unrealistic attitudes about what they should get for what they do and expect so much, or else they complain. The more I give my employees the more they want. If we need something extra from them due to change that is out of our control, they complain bitterly about how this wasn't told to them when they were hired.

    The 30% who are the doers get it, because they take pride in their own work. Employers know who the slackers are and we don't like them. Maybe if they gave something of themselves they might find they are thought highly of at work and they might start feeling good about work. You get what you give, not give what you get.

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2014, at 10:37 PM, PaFrogboss wrote:

    Flubberton's comment about "at-will-employment" States was either intended as a joke, or indicated that s/he has never been employed in a supervisory role.

    Sure, you just can tell anybody to "get out," but you better have all your ducks in a row, especially when dealing with a pink, yellow, green or blue bi- or tri-sexual, who is physically, emotionally or psychologically disabled or lacking in self esteem due to not getting enough attendance awards in high school!

    A few years ago, I was ordered to lay off an eleven-person crew. One of them was only two weeks away from qualifying for a (small) vested pension. I went to bat, and got permission to temporarily defer that one termination. As a result, I spent about twelve weeks answering question from the EEO about why I "discriminated." You can bet the one ex-employee who filed that complaint never got a recommendation from me!

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2014, at 11:30 PM, mikecart1 wrote:

    Pay for performance would solve many of the problems in the professional workforce today. It would push people that work hard to the top because they would be rewarded while pushing people out that don't want to be there.

    The entire seniority system where older people get paid more despite how little they know about computers, or how much they are looking forward to retirement while doing as little as possible (since they have worked so long and believe they are entitled to not do much).

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 12:18 AM, enginear wrote:

    This is a tough issue, and it goes (way) beyond the statistics... 520 don't care, and 180 are sabotaging the place, with 300 going at it with all they can muster..

    We need to ask the question... Why? The 300 got 'correctly' trained, but that was at home... what their parents taught them largely. The parents of some of the rest may have raised their kids on public assistance and watched television instead of work (there's a fine stereotype for you), or they may have worked very hard so they could spoil the kids that never developed a work ethic, or ??? There are as many possibilities as people.

    You can't just lump everyone into a large group and assume they'll all react the same to a certain set of stimuli (that would be nice, but...).

    That said, I think there is a lot of negative "motivation" going on by supervisors that don't know any better, and it does cause problems. I've seen it go both ways, and you still end up with the 30% doing most of the work.

    I wish I knew the solution.

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 10:02 AM, bamasaba wrote:

    I believe that bad supervisors are the number one reason people dislike their jobs. Maybe instead of focusing on how companies can 'fire their employees at will' said companies should instead focus on their leadership practices. Start at the very top and get rid of CEOs that are focused on next quarters' share price.

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 10:32 AM, GeeBeeNC wrote:

    People will live up to or down to what ever expectations are placed upon them. Morgan's thesis is a strategy for placing high expectations on one's staff. I beleive he's got it!

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 12:08 PM, Johny205 wrote:

    Many people are also just plain lazy and would not enjoy doing anything for 40+ hours a week. That is why it is called "work" and not "playtime". Work isn't supposed to always be fun. I don't care what job you have eventually it feels like work, instead of fun. People need to realize that a majority of their life will be spent working and just accept that. If you have a job to do--do it well! Whether you enjoy your job or not, doing it half--assed isn't going to get you anywhere. If you work hard everyday and strive to do your best--you will eventually be rewarded, whether that is the last person to get laid off, pay raises, superviser positions ect... By putting no effort into anything, you take no pride in anything and will never feel accomplishment.

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 6:35 PM, devoish wrote:

    Wow.

    This is an amazing set of comments compared to when it was first published on the linked in site.

    I do not even know what to think of the extreme difference in the total disrespect for employees here as compared to the far more thoughtful and considerate replies on the linkedin site.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 6:51 PM, Minow wrote:

    Wow- who would've thought pee-shy?

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 7:55 PM, bamasaba wrote:

    I couldn't agree more, Devoish.

  • Report this Comment On April 24, 2014, at 8:49 AM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    We need an article titled "Why I hate not working".

  • Report this Comment On April 24, 2014, at 10:55 AM, TMFHousel wrote:

    <<This is an amazing set of comments compared to when it was first published on the linked in site>>

    That's common. Here, people are anonymous. On LinkedIn they are not only attached to their real name and picture, but linked to current and future employers. You will find much more sane, measured responses in that arena.

  • Report this Comment On April 24, 2014, at 11:40 AM, SkepikI wrote:

    < taxpayers had it their way, government workers would have a six and half day work week, be paid minimum wage, be chained to their work station during work hours, not be entitled to any retirement pay or health benefits.>

    No, actually if the taxpayers had it their way most government workers would be let go to make real contributions to us all and become taxpayers themselves rather than impeding and harassing the rest of us. But now that 1 in 3 or 2 in 5 voters are public employees (I use the term loosely) that is very unlikely to happen.

    The proliferation of non-taxpaying public employees (yes you make payments to the tax man SOMETIMES, but we pay your salary and therefore your taxes with our work) voting out the frugal and reformers and voting in the whimps and sycophants is the scourge of our times. Then there are the really bad actors like the IRS employees who dont pay their tax bills, get bonuses and extra time off...or the DOR employee in my state who was stealing taxpayers information and selling it to ID thieves.

    I'd say some of us hate to pay taxes and that's why we hate our jobs.....

  • Report this Comment On April 24, 2014, at 11:44 AM, SkepikI wrote:

    ^ Of course the alternative, laying about doing useless things is even worse.

  • Report this Comment On April 24, 2014, at 11:50 AM, SkepikI wrote:

    <That's common. Here, people are anonymous. On LinkedIn they are not only attached to their real name and picture, but linked to current and future employers. You will find much more sane, measured responses in that arena.>

    hmmm, I am not so sure about that Housel. You could also posit that people are much more CAREFUL, subdued and politically correct in that arena (I refer you to the Bond University definition of politically correct, which I am too careful to reproduce in this forum)- Which is to say they are LESS CANDID on Linked In, which I've found to be true in my over a decade experience on LinkedIn. Different Forum, different focus, DIFFERENT FEARS.

    Besides, who are you calling anonymous? I'm SkepikI ;-)

  • Report this Comment On April 24, 2014, at 4:41 PM, stan8331 wrote:

    Great article, Morgan. In terms of the comments, it's sort of amazing how prevalent the belief is that "the beatings will continue until morale improves" is actually a good business strategy. It shouldn't be rocket science that treating employees like responsible adults gives them agency and leads them to work harder to help their company/organization to succeed. Relying on a micro-managed, authoritarian approach is a comfortable one-way ticket to the basement that many people and companies can't bear to part with.

  • Report this Comment On April 26, 2014, at 4:02 PM, cmalek wrote:

    @Skepikl:

    "No, actually if the taxpayers had it their way most government workers would be let go to make real contributions to us all and become taxpayers themselves rather than impeding and harassing the rest of us."

    As evidenced by politicians who are re-elected by the taxpayers ad nauseam?! Politicians are also public employees. In fact they are very public public employees. I think your premise just fell apart under the weight of evidence.

  • Report this Comment On April 26, 2014, at 6:29 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    ^ Sadly, you could be right. On the other hand, an equally good explanation is that TAXPAYERS (that is those who create the value which pays all the public employees, politicians and THEIR taxes) are a seriously oppressed minority of voters...... a condition which also leads to the the observed behavior in spite of taxpayers druthers.

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