First, try to recall some of the good times that happened on the job. Most people are quick to remember what’s wrong with a job and ignore the many things that are right. This is natural. Remember hearing about the Halo effect, when involved in a performance appraisal? If a person does extremely well in one area, we tend to rate them a little higher than merited in other areas as well. Especially in areas that are hard to evaluate, such as the ability to get along with others, or the level of motivation.
Well, something similar happens when an employee evaluates a company or a supervisor. If one negative quality stands out and has impacted them personally in the past, they tend to downplay other virtues or deeds demonstrated by those same supervisors. We are only human.
Negativity seems to be contagious, just as laughter, yawning, anger, and so on have been proven to be contagious. So, if you’re feeling a little negative now, think about the good experiences you have had in the past, and would like to see repeated. It helps to write down any happy happenings at work, even minor things such as a co-worker who smiled at you, or a Good job” comment from your boss.
It’s always better to focus on what’s right than to focus on what’s wrong, and what you would like to happen rather than what you would not like to happen. We tend to get what we focus on, whether it’s a bad thing or a good thing.
When you are in a more positive mood, think about what you can do to make that good thing happen again. For instance, if certain managers or coworkers ignore you when you pass one another, and you feel slighted, try taking the initiative by offering a cheery greeting. Those individuals may not be mindful of what’s happening because their thoughts are focused elsewhere. Perhaps they have a problem they’re trying to solve, or they had just suffered a bad experience themselves. They could be completely unaware of your presence at the time.
Do them a favor and acknowledge them and see what happens. It could encourage a cheery response in turn. In fact, it could change their attitude completely. When I was a teacher at Humber College in Toronto, I heard, by way of the Grapevine, that some students thought I was self-centered, rude, and stuck up, because I would walk past them in hallways without so much as a glance their way, let alone say “Hi.” It changed my behavior immediately and I apologized to a couple of the students who were affected. I had been so focused on how I would start the lecture or what case study I would use, that I wasn’t even aware of others while I hurried to my next class. They did me a favor by bringing it to my attention. Wherever I was from then on, I made sure that my mind was there as well.
If you find that you are unappreciated, stressful, or in a bad mood, try performing small acts of kindness. Get into the habit of helping others. One study showed that those experiencing a stressful event, such as a job loss, if they performed kind deeds within the same year, were more likely to live longer. The authors of the study (which appeared in the American Journal of Public Health) believed that compassionate behaviors buffered stress and enhanced resiliency. And it has long been known that volunteering improves mood, health, and longevity.
You may be looking for another job, but in the meantime don’t look at yourself as a victim but as a catalyst for change. Your happiness does not depend on the actions of others. Your emotions are yours to choose. You can decide to be happy and to help others to be happy.
Find meaning in your work, continue to grow in knowledge and skill, and treat others as you would like to be treated, not necessarily like you are being treated. Be positive. Be yourself. And be an example that others can follow.
I’ll conclude this series in part 9 and leave you with some references that may help you love a job that you may not particularly like at this moment in time.