We all complain about work every now and then, but most of us have jobs that are better than we realize. This is because most problems in life are not work-related, but rather they are personal. Because it’s a lot easier to change jobs than it is to solve personal problems, our first instinct is often to blame our job.
Here are three ways for making even a bad job seem good. After giving these three suggestions a try, you’ll have a good sense of whether the problem is your job—or if it’s really just you.
Make two friends
Any job, no matter how good or how bad, is emotionally challenging. You go there every day, you try to do your best, and in many cases, you spend more time with co-workers than you do with your spouse. Of course, there will be problems. So a lot of what makes a bad job good is your ability to deal with inevitable stress and conflict. This is the thinking behind the research from Gallup that found that people are happy in their job if they have two friends. That’s right: Two friends at work means that you always have an emotional support system. Because in work, as in life, nothing is perfect, but resilience saves the day. A strong support system equals more resilience.
This research is also a good reminder that no one has a perfect job. Instead of trying to get something that doesn’t really exist, focus on finding workplace friends. No matter where we are in life, we are much happier when we focus on things we can control versus things we cannot control. You control workplace friendships, which means you control whether or not you’re happy at work.
It’s a lot easier to say you can’t do anything, and simply change jobs. But we feel a long-term sense of strength and stability when we tell ourselves that we control our own happiness. So go make some friends!
The skill of managing your boss is called managing up. It’s making sure that people above you in the organization understand your value and enjoy working with you. This symbiotic relationship doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen. Part of any job you have is managing up, and people who have good jobs have them, in part, because they have managed up so well that their boss loves them.
There are lots of ways to manage up, and you should familiarize yourself with a wide range of tactics so you can pick those that best suit your personality. The bottom line is that you have to understand your boss and what his or her motivators are. That’s the way to make yourself most helpful to your boss. No matter how competent or incompetent your boss is, your main job is to make their life easier. Keeping that in mind will help you forge a good relationship, and a boss who likes you will make your job better.
Do you have a micromanager for a boss? Don’t bother doing the work she’ll redo. Let her do it herself. If she always tells you that you did it wrong, then spend the majority of your time doing tasks she doesn’t like doing. That way, you know she won’t micromanage. Because micromanagers are people who are not comfortable in management roles and wish they had your job instead.
Do you work for a yeller? Just walk away. Say, “I’d be happy to hear what you have to say when you stop yelling.” Yellers don’t yell when there’s no one to yell at. And if you get good at creating boundaries, your boss will find more respect for you. Quickly.
Does your boss take credit for your ideas? People who have a lot of ideas can give credit away like free popcorn. There’s always more to be had. If you are so worried that you’ll run out of ideas, then you probably don’t have a lot, so it’s okay if you are not known for your ideas—you’re probably better at something else, like executing someone else’s ideas. Assess what your strengths are and focus on that, instead of what your boss is doing.
Remember that if you focus on your boss’s needs and fill in where they are weak, your boss will respond by helping you. It’s human nature.
Fend off perfectionism
Sometimes people mistake perfectionism as a positive trait, but actually, perfectionism is more like a disease. Perfectionism slows us down, because getting the last 5 percent right takes as much time as getting the first 95 percent right—which is why most people accept 95 percent as good enough. Perfectionists start looking unproductive because their standards are unreasonable.
People who try to be perfect are scared of being judged, scared of being wrong, and scared of not being good enough. But in fact, healthy people accept imperfections in their co-workers and in themselves. If you can squash your own perfectionism, you will get along with people better, you will think more highly of yourself, and your workload will start to feel much lighter.
But perfectionism is hard to quit. So I’m going to tell you something even more compelling: People who are perfectionists are at high risk for depression and suicide because their expectations for themselves are impossibly high. It’s a serious problem and it’s one that’s most likely to rear its head at work. If you can use your job as a starting point for teaching yourself to relax about details, then your job is doing something very good for you. And if you’re not a perfectionist? Help someone at work who is.
Jobs do not come with meaning. Rather, we make our jobs meaningful by doing meaningful work in addition to the work we get paid for—and work is always more meaningful if you are helping someone be their best self.
No one gives you permission to have meaningful work. No one interviews you for that. You make meaningful work by doing good. And that’s good news for us all, because we control whether or not we have a good job. We control whether or not we take time to do good.
What are some of your tips for staying mentally sharp in the office? Let us know below in the comments!