Work and thoughts of thanksgiving often do not go together. Work and complaining is usually the common duo. I have done my share of complaining about work. It usually leaves me more depressed and agitated. As I have been learning more about the importance of gratitude and the importance of a thankful spirit, in the Positive Psychology course I am taking, it has challenged my thoughts on workplace attitudes.
Does all the complaining about work ever help? Usually it spirals into deeper negativity and turns our work into drudgery and exacerbates the difficulties and levels of boredom in our work. I have read and tried the calculation out with a calculator; that we work about 85,000 hours in our lifetime from age 21-65. The big question is how do we want to spend that amount of time? Do we want to spend it in a negative manner of boredom and long-term complaining? Or do we want a work life with a sense of fulfillment and positive feelings of enjoying our work settings? There are several topics that relate to this such as finding our calling, using flow in the workplace, and utilizing our personal strengths in our work. These will be discussed on a later date. With Thanksgiving this week I thought I would focus on using Gratitude in the workplace.
You would think in our present economic circumstances of over 10% unemployment and most likely 17% real unemployment in the country just having a job would be a cause for thanksgiving. That doesn’t seem to be enough to halt the complaining about work.
First let’s look at what causes the negativity to set in. Each job has its routines. As we begin a new job we are in learning mode and everything seems fresh and new. The learning is a challenge. Then as we get into the groove we start doing everything the same way. The client interaction and paperwork starts moving in a circular cycle and becomes routine. If we focus on the routine then boredom begins to set in. The boredom can then create a sense of restlessness about our work. Negativity begins to be the lens through which we start to look at our work. Day in and day out the negativity can spiral into complaining about the boredom.
A loss of purpose also occurs when letting negativity about our work take over. When we start a new job there is a sense of learning how our work fits into the whole of the company, whether it is a shipping clerk sending finished orders to clients; a customer service representative helping a customer with a problem; or a career counselor helping a college students open their eyes to a major possibility that connects with a personality strength. Becoming more competent in our work then helps increase our purposefulness in serving our customers. If we lose focus on our work purpose and begin to focus on the negatives such as letting ourselves become overcome with boredom or petty comparisons of how other workers are doing their jobs in a complaining manner; what started out as an enjoyable dream job can turn into a hellish nightmare.
What can be done to turn the negativity around? I will discuss a couple of ideas for you to try out. These are ideas I have stumbled upon that have helped me and I am just passing them on. First of all write down a list of 5 workplace duties that are routine to you. These may be reports that you have to do; regular assessments that you perform; or certain work activities you do in a regular manner. It is often these routines that start us complaining. “Oh no, I have to do that again!” That complaining then compounds into other complaints. So find some time to brainstorm new ways of doing your routine activities. If you work with a teammate, brainstorm with them to increase the creativity. Even a small change may be enough to add a positive lift to your work setting. As a Career Counselor I can get into a routine of doing our career assessment with students and the temptation could be to just test and tell the student quickly what to major in to just get the session over with and back to my desk. To fight that I make a commitment to see each student as unique and remembering the importance to opening their eyes to the possibilities in their futures.
Another idea is to make a list at the beginning of the workweek of 5 things you are thankful about concerning your work. One may be as simple as just being grateful to have a job in bad economic times. By building up a list you are thankful for about your work, will be a natural positive arsenal against the negativity of complaining. In regularly building up a list of gratefulness about your work it may also help when you are tempted by co-workers to jump into gripe sessions which just add to workplace negativity.
Then finally renew your passion to be the best in moving towards excellence in your work. Boredom can not overtake you if you are constantly challenging yourself to be your best. If you are trying to promote excellence in the workplace a positive attitude will follow and help diminish negativity in the workplace. Try these ideas out each Monday in your work to try to beat the Monday work blues.