I hear this from time to time.
Interestingly, from white collar to blue collar people often have this same complaint.
Years ago I read that 'tollbooth collector' was in fact the worst job in America. Like many other positions (grocery store cashier? gas station attendent?) the tollbooth collector of today is more often machine than human, but some folks are still out there.
It strikes me there are a lot of crappy jobs, eg., metro bus driver, men's room attendent (I'm not familiar with the ladies' room), sanitation engineer. And yet, in each of these jobs I've seen happy people. Productive workers.
People who might have reason to honestly say “my job sucks” but don't.
I Love My Job
There was the rental car shuttle bus driver in Atlanta's Hartsfield airport who picked us up and welcomed us loudly and enthusiatically to “Hotlanta!” and told us fun facts about the city as we rode to the rental lot. At 2am.
The recycle guy – we called them garbage men when I was a kid – who told me not to worry about my stack of excess boxes – that was his job.
And yes, the tollbooth collector who laughed when I tried to pay my toll with not enough change and told me to drive safe and god bless as I pulled away. She could have just easily yelled at me for backing up the line.
What's The Difference?
Any job can be great or lousy dependent on your point of view. Yes, I find those motivational quotes somewhat pedestrian but the truth is some really do make sense – your attitude really does define your altitude.
So what are the keys to a good attitude in a challenging job?
- You are not your job. Any HR person who's laid off a long-term employee can empathize with the pain and sadness one feels as that person loses their 'identity.' You are more than your job: it does not define you. This simple point – being more that your job – separates the truly happy from the oft' hapless.
- Time is fleeting. Your job, your employment and your life won't last forever. Recognizing that all things must pass helps us focus on the good we can do without focusing on the momentary upsets. Its like traffic – it may be bad in the moment, but its not going to last.
- You have options. Somehow you worked yourself (or backed yourself) into your current job: if its a total non-fit, work your way out. Yes, there may be obstacles to overcome but ~90% of what we worry about never materializes anyway. Focus on what you want, not what you're afraid of.
- Create joy. Every role has opportunities. I've been a dishwasher, line cook, production hand and Vista volunteer among other things: jobs that are not inherently fun. Yet in each, my ability to connect with people was more than enough to offset the humdrum nature (you ever wash dishes?). Each of us can create joy.
Yes, there are bad days, times when any job seems more pain than pleasure. Yet many people go about their work every day with a smile on their face and in their heart. Why?
I'm convinced much of the difference is their inner locus of control, the fact that they determine how they'll look at work, and life.
Your job doesn't suck, although your attitude might.
Thankfully you can change that.