There’s an unfortunate impression that seems to have taken root in our culture, that people don’t like to work and will naturally just lay around all day if they could get away with it. I’ve found that, in general, people like to work. In fact, I’ve interviewed many people who continue to work even after they’ve retired from their first career. A few even work full-time jobs in an office, then volunteer with organizations like Habitat For Humanity and help build houses for poor people on the weekends. You’d have a hard time convincing me those people don’t find reward in work.
Despite their willingness to work, it seems the majority of Americans are stuck in jobs they don’t like. These poor souls trudge off to work every morning because they have obligations and bills; they may like to work, but their jobs suck the life out of them and swallow their most productive years. There’s a knot in their stomach as they approach the office door, and they go to work every day with a sense of dread. What little life they enjoy is wedged into off-hours and weekends. Interestingly, the reasons people hate their jobs are surprisingly similar:
Dead End Jobs
There are few things that will more surely undermine motivation than being trapped in a dead end job. People who know they’re never going to rise any farther than the task they perform every day feel powerless and disconnected. Every company should have a promote-from-within policy, and HR should make career growth a priority, even if it means people “graduate” to other careers with new employers. Growth is necessary for every living thing and, without it, your employees, and your company, are dying.
If you’re stuck in a dead end job, then seek opportunities to invest in job skills training and find an alternative way to make a living.
A Lousy Boss
The sad truth is that the majority of managers have no real clue how to manage people. Most are in the job because of skills that have nothing to do with their ability to organize and lead productive work teams. A lousy manager not only saps creative energy out of the workplace — the relationship with employees can get so bad they start practicing avoidance behaviors, turn to substance abuse, and start manifesting physical symptoms of stress. The impact of one bad manager can send ripples of dysfunction through the entire organization.
If you’re stuck with a bad boss, try to swing a transfer if you work for a big company. If it’s a small company or family-owned business, then you’ll need to keep your resume sharp and look for a way out.
Generally a job that requires more travel involves more stress. Being away from home for extended periods sets up a complicated dynamic, and makes managing normal life difficult. It also puts more stress on family. What’s annoying is what some employers describe as 35% travel that translates to Monday through Thursday. Hello, math, people.
Competitiveness Within an Organization
Five years ago Eddie Lampert broke Sears into competing business units. This has, by almost any measure of effectiveness, been one of the worst management decisions in the history of time. Sears Holdings stock chart demonstrates that internal competitiveness is not a healthy working environment, and undermines the essence of teamwork. Lampert, a former hedge fund manager and devotee of Ayn Rand, believed that if managers were acting selfishly, they would run their business units in a more logical manner. Unfortunately, internal fighting and competition between facets of the same organization over limited resources has put Sears on what air crash investigators euphemistically describe as “controlled flight into terrain.”
Without some kind of deadlines, nothing would ever get done and product would never get delivered; yet those who work in environments with a never-ending series of daily deadlines are some of the least satisfied in the workforce. Every day workers in that type of environment know there will be another quota, another deadline, another set of deliverables. Whether it’s a production quota, sales goals, or the relentless prodding of management to deliver more with fewer resources, the daily crush of deadlines can suck the life out of employees and make them dread walking through the door. At the core of overly-oppressive workplaces are excessive deadlines.
By understanding what makes a job stressful, you can seek alternative career paths, and screen out companies that specialize in stressing out their employees. By understanding the qualities that make work unnecessarily stressful, you can make better choices about where to spend your working life.