I moan, I moan, it’s off to work I go…

Are you lucky enough to do a job that you love? I speak to so many people that have job-related issues that it seems job hating, or at least, ‘work-whingeing’ is the norm. Does this mean that, for most people, work is a necessity that they derive little true pleasure from, something to be tolerated in order to keep the money coming in, or is it more that we have a culture of moaning about work? Or is it simply in our nature to complain?

I’m lucky I have a job that, at certain times, gives me huge satisfaction. As a Trainer, there are loads of great aspects to teaching adults in the workplace: quite simply it can be good fun, even hilarious (which tends to be either when it’s going extremely well, or not well at all…) and seeing learners have ‘lightbulb moments’, where you just know they’ve discovered something that will change how they work, is genuinely rewarding. Then there’s the post-session high. Dunno what’s going on neuroscientifically, maybe adrenaline from having to be totally ‘on it’ for hours plus a whoosh of dopamine at the relief it’s all over. It’s an excellent feeling and just about the only thing I’m addicted to (apart from chocolate. And wine. And needle felting. And The Walking Dead).

Work for me feels like a roller coaster though; every high is inevitably followed by a crashing low. And when I’m in a dip, knowing that a steep climb is coming up, frankly, it scares the cr*p out of me – every time. On the whole, this is pretty tiring but it’s definitely not dull and I know (I think), on balance, I’ve got it good. So why do I catch myself bitching about work all the freakin time? At work, with equally whiney colleagues, to my long-suffering husband (oh how we love a good old work-whinge over dinner!), to myself on the way to work…

Yes it’s human nature to complain. I’ve talked about ‘negativity bias‘ before and the fact that our brains are wired to alert us to danger, hence we have a natural tendency to notice the bad stuff.  And I get that we all have to off-load at times – having a moan to a colleague or partner can be a healthy way to get some stuff off your chest so that you can then drop it and move on. It’s kind of a bonding thing with colleagues as well, like, “Oh you noticed that manager is a complete tool too! Hell yeah, work buddy!”

Does everyone who works feel like this sometimes?

I had a reality check earlier when a door-to-door window sales guy came knocking. I think I was pretty assertive about not being in the remotest bit interested but the annoying little bastard tenacious young man showed an incredible level of commitment to his task and tried every tactic in his repertoire to keep me talking. I swear the guy was enjoying himself. Doing a job that would surely crush my soul irreperably within the first hour. This reminded me to try a bit harder to be thankful for my job.

Some of the occupations with the highest level of satisfaction are: Engineer, Teacher, Nurse, Gardener, Personal Assistant.  If you want to know some of the reasons why these rate so highly in the polls, read this nice Guardian article. Thinking about this, it strikes me that something all of these may have in common is a high level of autonomy and choice about how the tasks get done, or at least a decent proportion of time spent just cracking on with the work, rather than sitting in an open-plan office next to a complaining colleague. That’s just my hunch but there’s no doubt that workplace morale is like a virus – one misery guts can quickly infect a whole team.

Gits like that switch your focus. You could be thinking about how awesome that spreadsheet is that you just made but here comes Jonny Whingebag to remind you about another over-paid, ineffectual manager, or that the printer’s out of action again. You could be reflecting on how great your little team is, or how you only have an easy, short commute to work but, on no, here’s Beryl Bitchface, reminding you about the lack of leadership, lack of funding, lack of good quality teabags.

I’ve had this up to my eyeballs. To the point where I’ve on the verge of quitting a not-actually-that-bad job. I was convinced that the company’s issues were my own personal issues to worry about and, dammit, what fool would stay working somewhere there was just soooo much to moan about?

Some bad news: Moaning isn’t just catching. It gets worse over time. Theory is that, when we complain, over time our brains rewire so that we are ever more likely to moan. Here’s another article to illustrate the point: Workplace complaining is toxic.

It’s possible of course you may have actually reached a point where this isn’t the right job to be in. But it’s worth properly evaluating if that’s true or if you’ve maybe just caught the moaning bug. Here’s a nice article by a guy who is way more qualified than me: When you hate your job.

But if things aren’t actually that bad, it could be time to start training your brain to a more positive outlook: Be grateful for the good bits, focus on what’s inside your sphere of control* and be on your guard against the work-whingers.

Circle of control
*Handy diagram: Sphere of control

I, for one, will aim to take my own advice about being thankful and try adding some work-related things to my gratitude list. And generally giving far fewer sh*ts about things out of my control.

Do you like my diagram? I made it myself. I’m starting to think there is no end to my talents.
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