Conan O’Brien’s speech made me think. I think I’ve failed in my job happiness for about 10 years. I’ve had 5 full-time jobs since college and have pretty much hated all of them. (Well, except one which was taken to be temporary to get me through grad school but I stayed in for 4 years – the longest job I’ve had!) For a long time I thought what made other people would make me happy: money, title, prestige, accomplishment, relevance, company name, company mission. For the first time now though I’m in a job that I really like; that is a good fit for me. And lately I’ve been thinking about why.
What I’ve realized is most important to be in a workplace is the people. Not that I want to be best friends with people at work; hangout with them everyday, make friends with their spouses. Not at all. But it’s important for me to work with intelligent, capable, helpful coworkers who want to be there and who have integrity. Who say they’re going to do something and actually do it. Who admit their mistakes and find a way to resolve them. Who want to produce the best result and make the company look good and not just do the minimal amount of work to get by. Who believe in the work they’re doing and want to do a good job.
So far, and I’ve only been here 4 months, it seems like I’ve found that. And that’s why/how I’m happy at this job. It makes a WORLD of difference compared to the other jobs I’ve had. Here are some ways in which the job is so great. Mostly it’s the attitude and capabilities of my coworkers.
1. Willing to help. I was caught off guard when I started working here and would ask for help and my coworkers would actually stop what they were doing and come over and help me at my computer. Or they’d WALK me to where I needed to go. Being from the northeast, cold and suspicious of the simplest of niceties, this threw me off guard. Plus I was used to coworkers who guarded their work and didn’t want to have anything to do with anyone who couldn’t help them. It’s been 4 months now and my coworkers are still acting this way. I think they just really want to help. And this attitude creates SUCH a great work environment.
2. Knowledgeable, supported, and backed up. Have you ever worked somewhere where management wanted you (and your coworkers) to be something they just hadn’t trained you for? Or hadn’t provided the resources (ie pay) and technology to be? Well that doesn’t seem to be the case here. It’s very organized. There are processes and procedures in place for pretty much everything. Information is SHARED! (I’m, not used to that; at lot of places I worked in the past people have been protective of their work/sources, almost as if they worked at different competing companies.) So if you need to look something up somewhere (a form, template, email distribution list) you almost always find it at your fingertips.
3. Great management. At the only other job I really liked I had a GREAT manager. She was fun, funny, and supportive of my growth and development. Most importantly she always backed me up. She had faith in my ability to do the job and she left the details up to me. I always knew she had my back and this faith in me made it easy to do my job. In contrast I once had a supervisor who would single out her staff at meetings, asking “Jennifer–why didn’t you do this?!” when in actuality it was the supervisor’s job to get the task done. It created a horrible atmosphere of mistrust; you never knew when you would be the next victim. At this workplace my manager is knowledgeable, capable, flexible, and reasonable. Her door is almost always open. Even when it is closed I know I can knock on it and it’s okay. She wants to resolve issues right away. And she does; whenever we have a slight crisis or need for clarification she’ll stop what she’s doing and sit down and type out the email with me. And she knows stuff about how to do MY job! Plus she’ll check in from time to time when she knows I’m swamped and then take tasks off my plate by either doing them herself or handing them off to someone else. She wants to do a good job and knows that me doing a good job enables her to do her best too. I like that.
4. Real teamwork attitude; no unnecessary hierarchy. I’ve worked at places where the managers (or directors) didn’t know how to do anything the lower level staff knew. Technology. Check-in for guests/visitors, etc. You get my drift. (Even worse is when they say “All hands on desk” but they really mean “If you’re not in the clique of this small group of coworkers who are all best friends you have to do the menial sit-out-in-the-parking lot in the freezing cold tasks.” Don’t say you’re all about teamwork when you’re really about hierarchy.) But the managers and directors here really do know how to do all the stuff the lower level staffers know. They know how to update a program website. They know how to check-in a guest. And from what I’ve seen so far, no task is too small for them. They really do want to help. And if that means ordering books or running some papers over to another office they’re happy to do it.
5. Incredible resources. I am very lucky to work at such a large, financially strong company. We have departments upon departments for pretty much everything. And people to cover for you if you need to go to a wedding the week your program is in session. That’s one of the things that makes where I work so great. It’s like nowhere I’ve ever worked. Not to mention the benefits are great; for awhile I was working out everyday during work. (There’s a gym on campus.) It makes such a difference.
6. Respectful that we all have lives outside of work. This attitude is hard to find, don’t you think? But people here seem really cognizant of this fact. It’s okay to go to doctor’s appointments regularly; your health really IS more important than your job. You should use all your personal and vacation days; everyone else does. (And we get a lot of them.) I don’t feel pressure to stay late just for the sake of staying late. And we get overtime, which is extremely helpful and a sign of respect of our time, I think.
7. Interesting and international. Since I work as a program coordinator I work with my coworkers, who are all of the things above, and also I work with participants and faculty members. I’d say a majority of the participants are international. From all over: Tanzania, Abu Dhabi, Australia, Germany, China, Japan, Singapore, Nigeria, Italy, Mexico, etc. With them they bring their experiences, accents, and backgrounds (and sometimes gifts!) and it’s fun to host them, talk with them, and hear about their lives. I’ve realized I need this in a day-t0-day job.
8. Passionate. My personal mission or interests don’t lie in the business field. So working in a business atmosphere (business school) it’s been surprising to me that I find inspiration from people who do. Passion can be contagious. It’s inspiring to see these business leaders who have accomplished amazing things (seemingly impossible, sometimes at very impressive ages) talk about and share what they’ve learned and how they’ve done the things they’ve done. Even though I’m not wanting to accomplish the same things as them I can’t help but by inspired by their energy and excitement.
I used to think I didn’t like customer service but I realized lately that it’s not that I don’t, it’s that I don’t like the way it was approached in one of my last jobs. In one of my last jobs they wanted you to go above and beyond and there were no limits. The director did a presentation that had us define the difference between “quality service” “kissing up” and something else, maybe bad service. I forget. We had to give examples of each. In the end it was clear that the message was while kissing up seemed bad, it was actually what they wanted.
For example, when our clients were eating a meal and bringing their plates to their seat we were expected to ask them if they wanted us to carry their plate for them. The reaction would be a look of utter horror, “What, do I not look capable of carrying my plate?” At times it was humiliating.
Another example, we’d tell our clients our last shuttle would run at a certain time. But then we’d get word a bunch of them decided to go to church. So instead of sending the last shuttle at the time we said it would run all of our staff would have to wait an extra half an hour for those churchgoers to return. But then we’d find out they didn’t even intend to take the damn shuttle.
Where I work now, they handle customer service differently and it works MUCH better. They still deliver a very high level of customer service but when they say the shuttle is running at 1 p.m. it leaves at 1 p.m. Not 1:10. Not 1:05. If you miss it then it’s your responsibility. And we would never offer to carry a plate to someone’s chair. Here people know what their jobs are and they take pride in them and do them well. But they also know what their jobs aren’t.
What about you? Are you in a job you really like? If so, what do you like about it? Or have you been in a job you hated? Why did you hate it? When you contrast jobs you liked and hate what do you learn from those experiences?