Don’t Like Your Job? You Have Company.

The Washington Post reported that a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the University of Phoenix found that 55 percent of American workers would like to change careers. Nearly 80 percent of working adults in their 20s and almost two-thirds of those in their 30s would like to do so, too.

Similar, Gallup reported that 52% of American workers lack involvement, enthusiasm, and commitment to their work. Eighteen percent are actively disengaged (less loyal, less productive, more stressed, miss more days): those folks sabotage company strategy and pressure co-workers to dumb down. In other words, 70% of us go to work disengaged or actively disengaged. Only 30% of us feel invested in our jobs. The Gallup data has been consistent since 2000.

Some observations:

We do a poor job of choosing our careers. If we select our profession based on money, prestige, or what our parents did, then the odds are great that we will choose badly and end up stuck and miserable.

How might we choose our work? We put in the time and effort to know ourselves: our natural talents, our core values, and our sense of purpose for our lives (why we exist). Then we figure out what activities best express our most authentic selves and we seek out careers that will allow us to spend the most time doing work that makes us feel alive. If our careers then pay well and have prestige, so much the better.

Organizations structure jobs badly. Most enterprises were structured on a mechanistic model of organization, which emphasizes conformity, efficiency, and uniformity. They then force employees to fit into rigid boxes, categories, and job descriptions. Most jobs are too small for people. I had a great boss who had me write my own job descriptions. When I would give it back to him, he would say, “Add more responsibilities.” We went back and forth several times, and I always ended up with work that fulfilled me. Organizations need to structure jobs less mechanically and more organically to allow the huge untapped human potential that lies dormant in most organizations to come forth.

Ignorant managers: Most executives grew up with the machine model ingrained in them from a lifetime in schools, churches, and workplaces. Many don’t understand why we do things the way we do in our bureaucracies. Many don’t know that the machine model isn’t the only metaphor we can compare our work world to: The greater our metaphorical diversity, the more creative we can be. I think of organizations as living systems that encompass mechanistic processes. Machines are mechanical; people are alive. Wise people think of each differently.

Bad Bosses: The Gallup data showed that people don’t quit the company they work for; their quit their bosses. I’ve had a great boss and I thrived. I’ve had a bad boss and I stagnated. Get away from a bad boss as fast as you possibly can. They only drag you down.

The sooner we begin to search for our right livelihood, the more likely we will make a successful transition.

I am responsible for the life I create or do not create for myself.