Do not – I repeat – DO NOT like your job

Liking vs. loving your job

With thanks to Kathy Sierra for letting
me borrow her visual style for a blogpost.

Except of course that her stuff looks much better :o)

After one of my recent speaking gigs about happiness at work, one participant told me this story:

I work as a programmer in a major bank. I used to go in every week, work my 40 hours (more like 50, but hey) and get paid a nice salary. It was a nice job in a good company, my boss was a good guy, my co-workers were neat people and the work was OK.

But as time passed, I felt like something was missing. Work was comfortable and secure, but I felt that there were sides of me that I never really got to use. I wanted to do work I could really feel proud of. I wanted to make more of a difference. And mostly, I was never really excited about work.

So I asked myself what it would take to improve things. I came up with three things:

  1. Being more creative and working on more varied projects, as opposed to only maintaining the bank’s internal programs.
  2. More fun at work. The mood in the department was very serious and professional, to the point of being boring.
  3. Learning some new professional skills.

I asked my boss about this and he was very supportive. We drew up a plan for some courses and certifications and found some new tasks that I could work on. We recruited some like-minded allies in the group and worked on lightening the mood in the group together.

To my surprise, this didn’t just change my work life a little, it made a big difference. With my new skills, new projects and a more positive mood at work, I went from feeling OK about my job to feeling really great about it.

I do much better work as well. Partly because I’ve increased my skills and increased my work experience but mainly because I feel so much more enthusiastic about work now. The difference between being OK with my job and being happy about it has been huge for me.

Most job satisfaction surveys can divide people into three groups:

  • People who HATE their jobs. Usually around 10%
  • People who like their jobs. Around 70-80% of us.
  • People who LOVE their jobs. Usually around 10-20%

This may sound strange coming from me, but I’m deadly serious here: Do not like your job.

Liking your job is nice. It’s comfortable. It’s safe. It’s OK. When you like your job you’re pretty efficient. You’re fairly satisfied. You can get by for years on liking your job.

But when you LOVE your job – MAN, what a difference that makes.

Like vs. love your job

It’s a relatively small step from liking your job to loving it. It doesn’t take much and the things we need to do are relatively easy and available to all of us.

But the difference in outcome is humongous. As long as you like your job, you’re only a pale reflection of what you could be if you loved it. You’re realizing only a small fraction of your full potential. You’re not having nearly as much sun as you could have.

Studies show that there are huge benefits to crossing the threshold and getting to the point where you’re really happy at work, as opposed to merely satisfied. Among other things:

  • You do much better work.
  • You’re much more creative.
  • You’re much more motivated.
  • You have much more energy.
  • You’re much more productive.
  • You’re a much better co-worker.
  • If your job involves sales, you’re a much better salesperson.
  • If your job involves customer contact, your customers are much happier.
  • Your quality of life outside of work is much higher.

And we’re not talking just a little more – we’re talking a LOT more!

Millions of people settle for jobs they like. The problem is that when you like your job there isn’t much pressure on you to change. Liking your job isn’t bad for you. It’s certainly much, much better than hating your job – which can make you sick or even kill you.

But when you love your job you are in a completely different league.

So I’m saying that we shouldn’t settle for any less anymore. Let’s make happiness at work the norm rather than the exception. It may take some work, but each and every one of us can get there.

First make that decision for yourself – decide that from now on, you will be happy at work. Then find out what you can do to get to love your job or what you can do to get a job you love. Then do it.

What about you – do you love your job? Have you had a job you loved? How does it affect you when you love your job? Write a comment!

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42 thoughts on “Do not – I repeat – DO NOT like your job”

  1. The only problem about loving (LOVING!) your job is than oftentimes you find yourself at the office very late at night with ABSOLUTELY NO INCLINATION TO GO HOME!

  2. Yeah, I’ve had several jobs I’ve just _loved_. Over time, co-workers move on and productivity must be maintained with fewer workers, and I’ve gotten too much lovin’. Somehow I’m reminded of the scene in the movie _A Boy and His Dog_ where the underground people need to come up every generation to get a fertile male. When the guy realizes what they want, he says, “Yee Haw, bring ’em on!” The next scene shows him in a hospital bed hooked up to a machine that is extracting some white stuff, while next to him is a preacher and a line of brides…

    Your chart needs to be extended to the right to show the S-curve.

  3. I work for the best company ever. You have to love what you do. You have to work with people who challenge you to raise you game. My weeks go so fast, I am afraid im giong to be old very quickly.

    Were not the biggest in our industry – but we enjoy what we do the most.


  4. What crap. “[D]ecide that from now on, that you will be happy.” I smell a Positive Mental Attitude.

    You can fool youself some of the time, but eventually, you’re going to crack, realize you’ve been lying to yourself (that’s great for self-esteem) and ignoring the stuff that really makes you unhappy. Good prescription.

    What about daily affirmations? Or crystals? Pyramid Power, anyone?

    Only the truth will save us. Some of us have crappy ugly jobs that *should* make us unhappy, and the best we can reasonably hope for is to land a different job that pays the bills and makes us less unhappy.

    Prozac, Wellbutrin, Cymbalta, etc. are useful, too.

  5. I hate my job, but I’m also really really good at it (and it shows, too). That doesn’t seem to figure on your chart.

  6. Bob, dude. You sound like you could use some Prozac :). But you do make an important point: “success” in your career (unless you’re only after the money) is not about convincing yourself that you love your job. It’s about making sure that whatever you decide to undertake in life is as likely as possible to jive with who you are, what you want, and what you’ve got to offer. Do that now and you can avoid the need for medication later.

  7. Tomi: Thanks a lot – that made ME happy!

    Jonas: That is indeed a problem – but not the worst problem you can have :o)

    Viji: Thanks!

    a: Actually, I don’t think you can be too happy – what you describe would make me less happy, taking me back down the curve. Does that make sense?

    Anthony: Cool – who wants to be the biggest, when you can be the one having the most fun!

    Bob: I agree – you can’t fool yourself. What I’m advocating is to do something about it so that you ARE happy – not just pretending to be happy. I would much rather do that, than accept that work must be unhappy and that I will spend 1/3 of my adult life on a job that is – at best- OK.

    Graham: Well, if you’re already good at it when you hate it – imagine how much better would you be if you loved it?

    Jonathan: “whatever you decide to undertake in life is as likely as possible to jive with who you are” – I like that!

  8. For me it depends on the day. Some days I love my job, the people, the tasks, the challenges. Yes, I work late when I love my tasks. Other days, I dont enjoy problems, confusion, miscommunication. I could do better to avoid those issues.

  9. I like that comment above: “You have to work with people who challenge you to raise you game.”

    Question: What do you do if you work at a place where, every time you try to “raise your game”, i.e. creating coding standards, improving functionality of commonly used systems, etc, you are told that “We don’t have time for that.” or “We should put that on the back burner until we have more staff.” or anything else that ends up sounding like “No”. What advice do you have for those who want to improve things and are consistently met with opposition?

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  12. I had a job that I loved, I worked hard, loved what I did, did well with the people I worked with. But then the 18 month contract ran out and I can’t go back for six months and they can’t make me a permanent employee.

    So what do you do when you lose a job you love and take a job you may hate?

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  14. But what do you do when the job you love doesn’t love you back? What am I supposed to do now that things are uncomfortable between us?

  15. hay! i hate my job ,i am 23, i know i can do better .but not living in a small town in the north west. i have fiber glass in my arms i am tired eavry day after work i smell of chemichals. the people around me are all 20 years older then me and they seem unhappy about 85% of the time the owner feels that production is key but nobody it educated in the trade its funny and repetitive BULL

  16. Hi Alex,

    Thanks for this article. I would like to know your opinion on this situation:
    I was offered a job in a company right after I did my technical writing course. I was the sole tech writer there. Now I find I need more supervision regarding how to complete my projects well.(It involves, organising different parts of work, gathering info from developers, getting network engineers to work out my comp problenms,getting feedback from competent persons, and most of all understanding office politics …). I am at a loss regarding how to finish my assignments in a fine way….

    Kindly offer your comments and suggestions on this situation. I will be grateful. Thanks.

  17. You are a bunch of fools. Live your pointless life loving your jobs. Do you even know what love is, for pity sake? More positive thinking crap like this and the world will be toast. I bet the Bush minions loved their jobs. A wake-up call: the Nazis loved their jobs, too. A job is just it: a job. You love your family and if you are lucky they love you back. A corporation is no place for feeling. Try growing some vegetables in your garden and a pair of hens; it is more rewarding than any ass-sitting desk-locked world you live in. Peace.

  18. I don’t enjoy the work I am doing at all. I clean up after other people, cleaning smelly dirty washrooms, and counter tops.. The people are mean and ignorant and stupid, that is the customers and workers.. I dread going to the job, and if I could miraculously find a better job I would quit.

    Actually I would rather quit looking for a job all together and enjoy my life and travel, but it takes stupid money to do it..

  19. Youre f**king crazy man.. I hate my job, its pure stress and bullsh!t, im getting nosebleeds just working there.

  20. I don’t like my work and being 61 I wish I was in a financial to retire. I do house painting and no matter how well you do your work you just get rewarded with complaints from customers and the boss. I have actually more experience then the boss but he is employer, not me so I work for him.
    Yes work is not a place to share happiness as work is work and when you are finished you are now free with pay. That is all work is to me unless I do jobs that is rewarding like my art jobs I sometimes get. That is when I like the work. That is when I have that sense of worth while.
    I was told once that he does not come to the job to work, he comes there to make money and that is just how I feel. I hope my art contracts in time, very quick time, will over take the other work I am currently doing.

  21. are’nt there any Laws against your boss treaty you like your a piece of shit,talking to like your a 15 year old ,making you feel like your no good at what you do.Do I get an attorney or what…she makes me want to quit my job with the company………….

  22. I’m quitting my job in eight months. Why eight months? Because that’s how long it’ll take me to save enough money to stay afloat for a couple of jobless months. Hopefully I will find what I’m looking for. At first glance it sounds stupid, not knowing what’s in store for me even in hard times like these. The one thing I do know for certain is this: it can’t be worse than my current situation. I’ve dread coming to the office for quite a while now, I feel deep inside like I really need a change. I’m not married and don’t have any kids, so that’s probably why I’m able to give this crazy idea a try.

  23. Very interesting slice of American life these past 5 years, yes?
    As we prepare for the tail of that dragon called Lehman-collapse (no, we

  24. I am in the job for last 3 months. I have got a new role and its a complete technical job with lonng hours at the desk which is totaly different from my past role of leeding on the ground and without my boss sitting on my head.
    Trying to figure out how should i fit in, and finding it an uphill task.
    i lack passion or remotely connected to what i am doing.Though i never felt associated with things but this time need to find somrthin for a leaving

  25. its a good job but i tire realy hard to leaner it i do realy well allday then its like i can;t do endly thing right i don;t no if its going to get beter its like i have bad luck i just want to run like hours are good you work 4 12s and you get 4 off sould i keep tiring or what i din there a month iam going to give some more time i hope its gets beter

  26. I hate my job, I hate my career and I always have, but it is the only think I have every been good at. I’ve tried (and failed miserably) doing thing I love because I am basically an incompetent moron. Death can not come fast enough. I have had it with life.

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