A big part of being able to do your best work ever is actually enjoying the work that you do.
Sounds simple right?
But unfortunately, that simple principle isn’t reality for the vast majority of people working today. According to the Gallup organization, only about 20 percent of adults report being highly engaged in their job. In the United States, the number rises slightly to about 30 percent. But that is still 7 out of 10 people who are missing out on an essential element of a positive working life.
And for many of this unsatisfied majority, the easiest solution seems to be quitting and trying again at another job. But there’s a lot more methods to attempt before going that route.
In this article, we’ll outline how to love your job again through four proven methods you’ll want to try before you try working somewhere else.
Connect To Customers
The first way to love your job again is to connect with customers. Often the most boring and least enjoyable jobs are ones that seem pointless. They lack what psychologist call task significance—perceiving your work as impacting other people within or outside the organization. Most often, this means customers, the logical end users of the product or service your organization offers. But sometimes, it means internal customers, the people you hand your work off to so they can do the next step in the service of the end user.
Regardless of whether they’re external or internal customers, you’ll want to try to rearrange parts of your job to put you in contact with them more often. You could add tasks that put you in touch with them more often or spend more time with them during the tasks that are already part of your job. And as you do, make sure to savor (and save) every thank you or every story you hear of how your work made a difference. Put it in a folder in your email inbox for any time you need a quick jolt of inspiration and task significance.
Claim More Control
The second way to love your job again is to claim more control over the tasks that are assigned to you. It’s been known for decades that autonomy is a powerful determinant of whether or not people feel intrinsically motivated by their work. And it’s obvious why the feeling that you have a choice and are willingly doing what you are doing would affect how much you love what you’re doing.
There’s two ways to claim more control in your job. The first is to claim more autonomy over existing tasks. Have a conversation with your boss about how you work, when you work, where you work and yes, what you work on. If you’re a good employee, you’ll likely be given at least a chance to express more autonomy. And if that makes you a better employee, than you’ll likely get even more. The second way to claim more control is to volunteer for additional tasks that aren’t part of your job. This might be by joining a committee, a project group, or just seeing a need on your team and volunteering to be the one who meets it. Because this new work isn’t part of your job description, you’re much more likely to be given a chance to do the work how you want.
Reframe Your Role
The third way to love your job again is to reframe your role to rediscover its purpose. Part of the reason connecting with customers works is that it helps you understand the impact of your job, and reframing your role is about understanding the meaning behind it. And “meaning” here is different than impact. Meaning refers to understand why your role matters and how it fits into the bigger picture (whereas impact is how your role and your organization’s product or service makes a difference). Jobs without meaning make employees feel like a redundant cog in an outdated system, instead of a vital linchpin in a well-oiled machine.
One way to find meaning and reframe the importance of your role is the “It’s A Wonderful Life” test, named after the black and white film synonymous with Christmas (despite it originally being a box office flop). In the movie, the main character considers committing suicide before being shown by an angel what the world would look like without his important life. In a less gruesome way, you can conduct your own thought experiment about what would happen if your role didn’t exist, or if you just didn’t show up for work for a few weeks. What systems would break down? What would get lost? Those answers are clues to the meaning behind your work and the vital role it plays in the organization.
Block Bad Bosses
The final way to love your job again is to block bad bosses. The old maxim is true: people don’t quit bad jobs; they quit bad bosses. The tragedy that plays out too often in the office is when people like their job and their coworkers and customers but have a boss so bad it negates all of that. And in these situations, quitting may actually be the best long-term solution. But in the short-term, you may still need to work for weeks or months before you find that new job. So, to the extent that you can block or limit interactions with that bad boss, you can stay sane and maybe even love your job again.
Now, “block” here doesn’t mean ignore your boss entirely—unless you want to be looking for a new job quickly. But instead, it means trying to reduce your interactions with this person and make your unavoidable meetings more scripted and more psychologically distant. It means drawing, or redrawing, boundaries that make it clear you’ll be available when needed, but unavailable the rest of the time. Block what you can, it will help you tolerate what you can’t.
At first glance these methods might seem too simple to work. But a wealth of research into “job crafting” has shown that, while these methods and others like them seem simple, their effect on your mindset at work is significant. It may not happen right away, you may have to connect with multiple customers or volunteer for a few different tasks, but over time it will help remind you of what you enjoy about your job and give you opportunities to do more of it. And that will give you a much greater opportunity to do your best work ever.
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