Getting Over Those Workin' Man Blues

According to a survey by the National Organization for Research at the University of Chicago, among the happiest jobs to hold are clergy, firefighter and physical therapist. I get clergy, since your boss tends to leave you alone to do your job (which may, in certain Connecticut churches, include meth production and distribution). Not so sure why running into burning buildings is so gratifying, or telling people for the 800th time that if they don't do the exercises at home, they will take twice as long to heal.

Perhaps more interesting are the results of a survey of hundreds of thousands of employees conducted in 2011 by CareerBliss that found that tops among the "Ten Most Hated Jobs" was Director of Information Technology -- largely, it said, due to “nepotism, cronyism, and disrespect for workers.” Wow -- who knew that guys with pocket protectors were so sensitive? Sounds like a perfect normal corporate workplace environment to me. Most amusing, however, was that of the "Ten Most Hated Jobs," eight of them -- from Director of Sales and Marketing to Product Manager to Senior Web Developer  -- are found in most new-media companies.



New-media companies? Aren't they the "progressive" companies that do cool and unusual things to attract and retain employees, from providing equity packages and ping-pong tables, to bring-your-dog-to-work days and Pilates on the premises? I realize that Marissa's ban on working from home was a major setback for employee perks, but Yahoo every day seems more of an old- than a new-media company (even with apps on Android phones).

With an economy that is still limping along, we all have to deal with uncertainly and anxiety like they are vultures perched on the conference room whiteboard. Regardless of whether we love or hate our job, we can't afford to see them disappear in the next contraction, which could be triggered by something utterly out of our control, like Russian millionaires who don't want to take a haircut on their offshore hidden-asset Cypriot back accounts. Or some nut job North Korean who thinks his international weenie is too short (wars have been fought over stupider stuff).

So I suspect that working under this cloud only amplifies the tensions attendant to the workplace. Add to that the relative youth of the new-media company workforce, who lack the experience or maturity to "let it go," and the structural unfairness of the typical hierarchical management structure becomes even more "annoying." Who among us hasn't had to work for or yield to superiors who were clearly talentless, hard-hitting dumb-asses? What could be more demoralizing?

But there is hope. Here are some things you can do to improve your happiness at work.

Do your job. Seems kinda obvious, but if your work is bulletproof all of the time, you will succeed in getting the recognition and financial rewards you deserve.

Keep your nose clean. No matter how good your performance is, it’s hard for management to protect or keep you if you are "that guy" who behaves inappropriately and thinks "I was only kidding" is a compete defense. 

Don't Whine. If you have a legitimate beef about something wrong at the company that has escaped management, speak up. But do it in a calm voice without sarcasm, backed up by indisputable facts. Go in knowing that every issue has lots of other factors pressing on it, and in all likelihood you don't know them all. Be flexible, not pedantic.

Play for the team. As governor and president, Ronald Reagan famously kept a sign on his desk that read, “There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Workers, especially younger ones, tend to obsess over making sure they get credit for everything they do at work, from landing a big sale to cleaning the conference room of a mess they didn't make. Take a note from Ronnie and help out everyone around you without seeking any reward. Not only will you become a well-liked coworker, word will get to management.

Do not take what is not yours from the fridge. You know you didn't bring that Diet Coke. The guy who brought it knows you didn't bring that Diet Coke. If you believe in any kind of God, gods or just Intelligent Design, one day you may stand before One who will judge you for taking that Diet Coke. It is worth the risk? Prove to yourself your moral compass has a true north. Go get yer own.

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