On adopting a Constructive and Rewarding Attitude
You spend a great deal of time at work, almost half of your waking hours. It makes sense to try to make the experience as rewarding and gratifying as you can. The key to doing this is to play an active part in how you view and shape your individual work experience.
The first thing to do is to recognize that holding on to whatever resentments, dissatisfaction and anger you may have toward your employers, no matter how justified, subtle or well-hidden, is only going to work against you. You need to clearly identify whatever is standing in the way of your giving your best and make the choice to put it aside in favor of pursuing constructive and enlightened self-interest.
You have to recognize and accept that your employers are more concerned about their financial bottom line than they are about your feelings as an employee. You must be willing to lay aside any bitterness and consciously and voluntarily take matters into your own hands. This can be both very challenging and very rewarding; the lessons you will learn may serve you well in other aspects of your life.
On Becoming Aware of the Hidden Costs of having a Bad Attitude
We derive enjoyment from doing our jobs well, whether we are sweeping floors, changing bedding, caring for the infirm, writing computer software programs or piloting jet planes. This is another simple, though naive-sounding, truth born out by psychological research, both on chimps and humans. Many people are embarrassed or uncomfortable in accepting this truth because it sounds so simple and homey; we prefer to think of ourselves as sophisticated and complex.
Perhaps it is easier to recognize this truth when considering your hobbies rather than your work tasks. Do you like spending hours weeding your flower bed, practicing the guitar, crocheting, or stomping around the golf course or tennis court? Why do you do it? With few exceptions, it doesn’t produce anything of economic value; you’re not being paid for your labor. The answer is that we enjoy doing things for their own sake; we derive pleasure and satisfaction from performing a task well. More to the point, we enjoy improving our skill levels and facing greater challenges for their own sake, getting better at what we’re doing (show me a golfer or gardener who doesn’t want to improve!). Now, I’m not confusing going fishing with going to work, but the same principles apply to each.
To the extent that subtle or hidden grievances determine your behavior and attitude at the job, the resulting guilt will rob you of much or all of the satisfaction you would derive from doing your job well. Because you are a decent person, the guilt you feel over holding a grudge keeps you from enjoying the deep personal satisfactions you would otherwise experience. That is exactly what I mean by “paying the price.” The good news is that once you are conscious of this dynamic, you can choose which path to pursue: the dubious pleasure of extracting momentary revenge, or the healthy sense of gratification and satisfaction of performing a task to the best of your intent and ability.
On Testing if you can Change Your Attitude
Think you can’t do it? Let’s play a thought game and find out.
Imagine that everything in your workplace environment is exactly how you’d like it to be: Your boss treats you right, you are being fairly paid, your coworkers are pleasant and pull their own weight, there is no favoritism, the physical working conditions are pleasant, and bonuses and praise for a job well done abound. Get the picture?
Now imagine what your attitude toward your job and employers would be if these conditions were in place. You can probably imagine yourself feeling pretty content, and perhaps even happy to go to work. There would be few, if any, impulses to act out in retaliation for shabby treatment, right?
The point here is to admit to yourself that you are capable of feeling contentment and satisfaction at work, but you refuse to do so because the outer circumstances aren’t to your liking. This awareness is a real blessing; it helps you to understand that your feelings about work are strictly a matter of choice. You are free to choose how you want to react to a given situation, completely independent of the actions of those around you.