When friends and colleagues start saying they hate their job, and their work sucks. It just changes the lens I view my world in. I start to complain more. I see all the things that are going wrong, instead of focusing on the stuff I love, the awesome challenges in my life … then I start trawling the jobs portals ...
This happened a lot when I was a sailor. People enlisted on long contracts (6-10 years), they were away from their family for long periods of time, and the jobs they were doing were menial/low level. They would complain. A lot.
Maybe it was the ingrained workplace culture but any task that came up they would say how stupid it was, drag it out, and dwell on how the hated everything about their job. My mind-set began to change and I found myself repeating the same things they were doing. Even when the good tasks came around I was always repeating negative thoughts about how much this tasks annoyed me. I never needed up seeing how awesome everything was, or how I was learning and improving.
Years later, when I left the defence force I was adamant that I wouldn’t do that again. I put in strategies to break the cycle. I am now that person who looks at things in a more positive light, coming up with strategies to jump or manoeuvre around hurdles.
If you are finding yourself in a workplace that is challenging and you are starting to think that things need to change then these tips are for you ...
1. Create a clear goal.
There is no point plotting to take over the world if you can’t enjoy it. So enjoy the goal, but decide how to put it into manageable bite-sized pieces.
For me, I want to write this HUGE report on age diversity. So I am reading 2 articles and one (50-ish page) report a week. So I know what I need to achieve, how many pages I need to write, and who I need to talk to about my work every week. I can break these goals down further into daily tasks to motivate myself and see the progress I am making.
2. Explore your creative side
Work on something outside of work. Knit a jumper, learn a new language, or learn how to skateboard. Explore the world outside of work. Becoming a well rounded person can give you a new perspective, re-frame your thinking, and allow you to see new ways to approach difficulties.
This is definitely something I am still working on. I love learning and researching (yup - I like to nerd it up!) so I now do online MOOCs and community workshops to explore new hobbies. For others this comes a lot easier, all you need to do is unlock your thinking, and develop new neural networks! (Check out this Lifehack article for more personal creativity ideas)
3. Be open to discussion and debate
Approach all discussions, debates, and arguments as learning opportunities. Know that proving that you are right is not going to get you anywhere.
From those around you from your supervise, to your manager, everyone is in this together so creating a culture where you and those around you are open (and not defensive) is really important. It’s all about learning and working together to identify issues, find the best solution, and highlight what everyone can do to resolve this.
This can be difficult in aged care where the management structure can be quite flat and rocking the boat can be seen as non-constructive. Start with baby steps, learn who you can go to (a mentor, a friend, someone else in the organisation); someone who can help you work through this and learn how you can best approach it.
4. Look for ways to upskill
If there is something I don’t know or need more expertise in knowing places to find into is just amazing … People's brains to pick, MOOCs to trawl through, local workshops. Understanding where to go and seek out ways to expand my knowledge base, be it for industry knowledge or soft skills is what will make you a valuable employee. Never ever stop learning.
5. Make it interesting
Sometimes the work we are given just plain sucks. It is boring and we are the last person in line so it just needs to get done.
For me (again while in the Navy) I had to do a lot of shredding of paper through a slow, noisy, clunky machine. Two boxes of stuff everyday. (1) I knew that I was the only person in the office who had the task to do it. (2) This was helping my supervisor and boss, it reduced their risk and improved office security. (3) Could I feed the machine just enough paper so it wouldn’t jam? and fast enough so the engine wouldn’t stop? (yes i turned it into a game).
Now I have tasks that are vital, and some I might not enjoy as much as other (reading and writing isn’t fun all the time), but now when I catch myself being resentful/uninspired, I re-frame how I do things - knowing why it was important and how to make it interesting definitely stops me feeling resentful and keeps me accountable.
Leave a comment below and let me know two ways you stay positive at work. Share as much detail as you can as there are heaps of rockstars out there who love to read comments just like yours for insights and opinions. It might be just what someone else needs to have a breakthrough.