Remember your first “big boy” or “big girl” job? Do you remember how excited you were the night before you started? Do you remember the care you took in setting up your work area on the first day? Do you remember how eager you were to take notes in order to understand everything you had to do? Do you remember the smile that stayed on your face that entire day?
What happened to that moment in time? Where is the enthusiasm? What happened to that eager conscientiousness? Has the company you work for sucked the life right out of you?
I remember working in education years ago. I had great plans. I reopened the school library, established an after-school homework “crew” for those at-risk and increased scores for national testing. Unfortunately, the atmosphere I was in did not encourage its teachers. Many of those would cry or express outrage each morning. This is not the stuff of enthusiastic engagement.
So why? Why does this happen in many companies? The answer lies in a few places. First, we have an unrealistic expectation of work. When work is the goal, it is a let-down. The work itself can garner some enthusiasm for a while, but it is temporal. The lasting elements are found in how that work contributes to the larger mission. When a company does a poor job in disseminating a consistent message of mission, it is quite easy for the work to seem unrelated. As this happens, disappointment, frustration and blame set in. Departments begin to look at other departments as the problem, as if it’s because of “them” that your department isn’t succeeding. Our workplaces are to be filled with people who fulfill a vital part of the workflow process rather than the norm of workplaces filled with work done by workers.
Secondly, we forget to be leaders instead of followers. In every department or cubicle, you are a leader. You may not have a team reporting to you, but you at least have yourself to lead. Often, we are too easily influenced by negativity at work. Listen, I am a fan of “The Office.” Michael Scott is one of the best characters created on network television. But think about actually working at Dunder-Mifflin. Wouldn’t you just hate it? Wouldn’t you just become another participant with Oscar, Dwight and Angela in commiserating about how awful it is to work there? There are people reading this right now who live in that environment and have fallen into the bad habit of participating in negativity. Be a leader in your conversations, in your self-discipline and in your career (rather than your job).
Thirdly, we hate those new people with all their enthusiastic rah-rah. Many of us have worked in places where the establishment is so embittered that when new recruits arrive, the long-timers look them over like “lifers” in a prison movie. The look is about how can I break you down? How can I wipe that smile off your face? This place stinks so don’t think you’ll be happy; be ready to be miserable like the rest of us. Many have trained themselves to hate what they once had – excitement, pride in the work, passion to succeed for the sake of the company. We’ve got to re-train ourselves and get back to what we know is right!
Make a choice today to be different. This isn’t about self-help; it’s about corporate health. Wouldn’t you rather be motivated to get to work each day? Wouldn’t you want to enjoy your time at work? Think about how many hours you spend at work. Why not make it great? And think about what the entire company will be like under such an influence.
Choose a moment in time today to reclaim what you once were. Don’t allow anyone to decide for you how you should think about work. If many are negative, then they’ve made that choice. You don’t have to.
I love working with recent college graduates. Their energy and desire to learn is palpable. It energizes me and causes me to remember, with fondness, how much I wanted to tackle the world with my great ideas and enthusiasm. You know what? I can still tackle the world. I might need some Advil, but I can still do it.