December 12, 2022

I came across an article by Jane Thier published last month in Fortune on a global study by the Workforce Institute that found 38% of workers said they would not wish their job on their worst enemy, and the figure jumped to 45% among US workers.  Nearly half (46%) of workers surveyed would not recommend their job or company to their children or any young person they care about.  While everyone surveyed said they wanted financial security for their kids, they all agreed they would urge their children to pursue work that gives them the chance to care for and spend time with family, is personally meaningful and makes them fulfilled, and ensures a successful career path.  More than half (53%) of global workers said if they could go back, they would choose a different profession and 40% said they wish someone had warned them not to take their current job.  Nearly two-thirds of workers said they would switch jobs “right now” if they could, and nearly half do not want to work at all.  More than three in five workers admit they work to collect a paycheck, clock out, and go home, while only 11% of workers feel their job is their “calling.”

When I looked online, I found a global Gallup Poll saying out of the world’s 1 billion full-time workers only 15% enjoy what they do, while 85% are unhappy at their jobs.  This comes while employers voice how they stress work-life balance, employee engagement, and company culture.  There are several reasons for this discrepancy.  A worker’s happiness can depend on the relationship with the boss.  If you do not like your manager, you are not going to enjoy the work.  How you feel about co-workers is another issue.  You will not get along with everyone, but if you do not like the people you work with you will not be happy at work.  The type of work can be another factor and if you work just to pay bills it will be harder to find satisfaction in your work.  The effect of commuting to work may impact happiness.  We spend around one-third of our lives at work, and a stressful or long commute is another big reason for people feeling unhappy, even if they love their job.  Doing the same task day after day can also grind on workers.  That is true for both blue- and white-collar jobs.  When there is no prospect for growth or progression workers will begin to resent their employer.  Other causes might be a poor attitude, overwork, ethics, or jealousy.

When I worked as an Historian for the State of Utah, I was able to spend some time researching old mining towns and sites.  I enjoyed this and would often take my son with me on the weekends as we traveled around the state documenting these locations.  He was sitting in the back seat as we drove when he said, “I want to have a job like you when I grow up.”  This was followed by a pause, and then a query, “What do you do for a job?”  While he enjoyed the trips and exploration, the main portion of my work was review and compliance of workers with state and federal regulations.  I responded, “I am a petty bureaucrat.”  There was another pause and then, “I think I want to be a paleontologist.”  Somehow being a petty bureaucrat did not sound like an admirable profession.

THOUGHTS:  A popular saying goes, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”  While some credit Confucius with this phrase it is unlikely as few workers had the option to choose an occupation in the 5th century BCE.   During the 1980’s, a Princeton professor used the saying to direct his students in their own job search and credited “an unnamed teacher” for the phrase.  Doing what you enjoy will help bring satisfaction, is not happiness, to workers.  It appears from the surveys most have not done this.  The closing words of Mr. Lizard the Wizard on every episode of the Touché Turtle cartoon were, “Be just what you is and not what you is not, those who do this have the happiest lot.”  Maybe Mr. Lizard knew Confucius.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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