Work Sucks: Part 2

Why Your Work Sucks 

Career satisfaction and employee engagement surveys consistently find that only 1 in 10 people have careers where work occurs as play (i.e., it fits their natural talents and sense of purpose). Here’s a rough breakout of how people feel, worldwide, about their work:

  • 10% : Work is Play – passionate, fulfilled, energetic, look forward to work
  • 20% : Positive – enjoy work most of the time
  • 30% : Neutral – compliant, prefer to complain rather than improve situations
  • 30% : Negative – clock watchers, cynical, complacent, lethargic, often defiant
  • 10% : Career Hell – resentful, angry, unhealthy, feelings of being trapped

Where do you fall? If you are one of the bottom 70 percent who complain that work sucks (because it supposed to?), but wish you had something better, it will be worth your time to examine how you ended up there.

My “Work Me” is not the “Real Me”

Statistically, even randomly chosen careers should yield a higher percentage of positive outcomes. Such abysmal reports of career fulfillment are not accidental, they are self-inflicted. A big part of the problem is in the rules we’re taught on how to choose a career. 

As of this writing in 2014, I still regularly meet recent college grads who are living by early 20th century ideal that work is a “means” to afford and socially display a successful lifestyle. The “real me” is not intentionally designed into their career path. Their “Work Me” pays the bills, while their real me suffers until the weekend. Or, until “I figure out what I really want to do with my life.” The problem is that most people don’t know how to solve this mystery, the statistics above have held steady for three decades. 

The conventional rules of thumb for attaining success are entrenched in how we think about “doing well” in life. We’re in a cultural hangover from the habits of our past. Many people feel guilty, or shamed by their families, if they want more meaning or exciting in their work. For some, it’s nearly an honor to be miserable on the job. Since the majority of people don’t enjoy their work, it makes it easy to camouflage a poor career fit as a prudent act. “I’ll do anything for my family, even if it means killing my soul at a job I hate for 20 years.” And we wonder why our kids end up in careers they hate?

The wisdom of previous generations encouraged us to seek a secure job and unfortunately the great recession economy has brought this virtue back around again. All the op-eds debating the value of college measure success with only one metric:  $$$. This advice and value system is no longer logical or even attainable. Even if you wanted to set up your life this way, it’s getting much harder to find out there. It’s time to give up that ghost and do something different.

Go on to part 3, Authentic Work.