Steven McConnell

Family Photographer,

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Why Do So Many People Loathe Their Jobs - And How Do We Fix That?

The default context for work is this: work is not fun, but we need to do it to make a living.

And we dream that, one day, when we "make it big" and earn enough money, we can quit work and have more fun in life.

In other words, for most people work is seen as the opposite of fun.

I believe that is a lie which we've been born into.

For a lot of people - even today - work is their passion, their mission in life, the source of fulfilment and a means through which they make a difference. People have dedicated their lives to their jobs. They have even died - willingly - because they believed their work had meaning greater than their own life/

It's an incredible gift and a privilege to enjoy your work. The question is - how to we allow more people experience that gift? How do we stop people from wasting their lives in meaningless 9-5 jobs which they loathe?

How to we allow people to realise their passions and translate them into successful, profitable business ventures which feed their souls and make a difference?

Those are the questions I'm interested in exploring.


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    Mar 19 2013: Hi Steven,
    WE, do not fix it for other people...we can only create our own reality. As a child, I learned to do what I love, and/or love what I'm doing:>)

    If we go into something believing that "work is not fun, but we need to do it to make a living", that is exactly how we will perceive the experience. I have always been able to find SOMETHING about any task that is fun and enjoyable...even if it is as simple as realizing that the task is not my favorite thing to do. Could be the only thing I learn is that it feels REALLY good when it's finished, and there may be some contentment or pride in having finished something that may not have been the favorite thing.

    What is the point in spending time and energy loathing something? Change our thinking, we may change our feelings, which may change the life experience for us. I call the life adventure my work/play. Everything I do provides a multitude of opportunities. Sometimes, in order to "fix" our perception of something, we simply need to open our mind and heart to the possibilities. With EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING, there is ALWAYS the opportunity to learn, grow and evolve, and that is very joyful for me.

    I agree with you...."It's an incredible gift and a privilege to enjoy your work". It is a gift we can give to ourselves simply by changing our perceptions. Passion is not something "out there" somewhere. It is a feeling we can nurture in ourselves.....or not.
  • Mar 14 2013: The problem we have as a society is that we are often dreaming about "making it big" instead of living in the moment and doing what we can today to make things better. We are unhappy with what we have, with what we are doing and dream of a better time. There is really no better time than now to change that thinking...we need to look at the things we like about life, about our lives and build on that. You have to decide whether you want to follow your passion or follow the money. I do believe that following your passion should be your first step and then examine whether there are ways to make more money doing it. I think it's better to make a "comfortable living" do what you love to do than to try to gather lots of money in the hope to one day do what you love to do. Remember the quote: "Tomorrow is promised to no one."
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      Mar 14 2013: Good points, Barry. May I ask - what's your passion?

      • Mar 15 2013: Photography, arts, culture and heritage.
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    Mar 19 2013: I think personal autonomy plays an important part in job satisfaction. By that I mean having the opportunity to take full possession of jobs assigned to you and therefore experiencing the passion-enhancing thrill and esteem that comes with doing those jobs well.

    Any passion in a job gets destroyed by autocratic 'rule book' management, inappropriate project possessiveness, and disrespect for employee talent. But the real destroyer is management taking the accolades for the work you have done, with no acknowledgement whatsoever. (I speak from personal experience)

    Without respect and autonomy, the 9-5 workplace will forever be 'just a meaningless, loathsome means to an end'.

    I guess the answer is in your question: to find that personal passion and then go all-out to translate that into being your own boss as a self-employed professional. Not always easy, but well worth the hassle once a reputation has been established.
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    Mar 15 2013: Steven, As I read through the replies, I was astounded by all the .. its the companies fault .. responses. So I want to ask some questions from the other side. You apply for the job: Nuclear Physicist and during your interview you tell me you have a degree in Under Water Basketweaving with five semesters in the life of Elvis the younger years. I say there is a job in transportation if you are interested ... you take it and think that you can work you way into the Physicists job. Your very unhappy and will stay that way.

    It is all about expectations.

    My kids want to leave home and move into a place that has all of the things that it took my wife and I fifty years to build up to. They don't want a job they want a position ... with pay to match. Is this a reasonable expectation?

    It is the job of Human Resources and the interviewer to recommend those who have the best opportunities to match the job and person to the benefit of the company. Yep companies are about profit ... it ain't gonna change get over it. The company does not owe you anything. They have a job available and you need one.

    Mom and dad spent big buck to get you an education and if you major in Ping Pong ... good luck with that. We say we need to improve our education system .. no argument. We also need to make good and realistic choices. Just because you can take 32 courses in the history of jazz does not mean you should ... Poor planning on your part does not necessitate a change by me to facilitate you.

    Not everything is the fault of the man .... the rich .... someone else. Time to man up. Some of the blame may be your fault .... sorry to break it to you ..... Just because politicians blame everything on the other guys .... is not a good practice for those of us who work for a living.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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    Mar 15 2013: I find work cuts into my free time.
  • Mar 14 2013: We need to dramatically improve our education system so that kids grow up knowing what are they capable of and that they can follow their dreams. If we give kids good foundation of entrepreneurship, communication and creativity, they will more likely be able to find jobs they like. They will also will be more likely to create such jobs for themselves i.e. creating their own businesses.

    I think for people working in jobs they don't like, they can continue to educate themselves in areas of interest and in their free time try to volunteer or otherwise exercise skills in those areas. Hopefully that will help them to switch to a job they like to do?
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    Mar 14 2013: Probably because quite simply everybody wants natural happiness (e.g material gain) and that once you achieve your goal, you just set a higher one.
    And that due to this not many go into a state of "flow"
    Watch the Ted talk :
    and there may be not enough intrinisc motivation.
    Watch the Ted talk :
    I mean there are many ways to make work more meaningful, rather than just promising profit. I hope I have helped with this conversation. :)
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    Mar 20 2013: .
    My answers:

    (1) To "Why Do So Many People Loathe Their Jobs"? ----

    . . Because they do not find "a-step-better".

    (2) To "How Do We Fix That?" ----

    . . Quit invalid happiness.


    (For details, see the 1st article, points 1-3, 5, 14, at

  • Mar 18 2013: I worked with information (computer) systems for over thirty years. I think I loved my job for about three years.

    In my experience, it is a very rare individual who still loves their job after a few years in the same position.

    Most people eventually get a job doing what they do well. Most people want to maximize their income, and that is best accomplished by repeatedly doing what you do best. I think it is unrealistic to expect that you will like an activity just because you are good at it. The idealistic notion of finding your passion and following it does sometimes work out for the best. But just because you are passionate about something does not mean you are necessarily good at it. There are many passionate actors looking for work.
    • Mar 19 2013: I am not certain it's just the individual that's rare,,,I think the workplace plays a role in keeping in touch with the staff and working with them in a productive manner.
      I worked at a job I loved for over 25 years, as did most of those I worked with....but that probably is unusual.
  • Mar 18 2013: Asking whether anyone loves their job seems to be a real conversation stopper...does anyone like their job?
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      Mar 19 2013: Of course people can love their jobs if they are doing things they find worthwhile and feeling opportunities to be challenged, to be creative, and to learn. Why not?
  • Mar 17 2013: Anyone out there that loves their job? If you do have a job you love, I have a question/s for you: Was it the job that you loved from the start or did you fall in love with it? Was your relationship with your job something you had to work on? I'd be interested in hearing from people. Do you think that people really loathe their jobs or is maybe some of it to do with how the person relates to their job? The words from the 1970's song is in my head" "if you can't be with the one you love...then love the one you're with." Not saying that you don't move to a better job when it becomes available, but for now do the best with what you have and try to have as positive an attitude. What do you think?
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    Mar 15 2013: With not forcing our children to choose certain paths that we (their parents) like.
    With encouraging our friends and children to follow their heart and not to choose their career by force of society or for financial reasons.
  • Mar 15 2013: The MASTER/SLAVE relationship model used in the job market is unhealthy. People should all be bosses of themselves. Too many power and control freaks squeezing the health and happiness out of the lives of others. EQUALITY. RESPECT. TRUTH. Stuff like that will elevate output, profits, health, happiness and general well-being of individuals and society.
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    Mar 14 2013: well, not convinced so many people loathe their jobs. What is your evidence on that?
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      Mar 14 2013: Look, first of all I'd like to point out that we'll always find evidence for what we want to believe, so even if I provide you with it (or you provide evidence to the contrary) it's not necessarily an indicator as to whether the situation exists.

      All I know is I meet a lot of people who, when I ask them how they are - say to me "I'm busy working - and you know, work is work", "I'll be better when I finish the day/workweek" or "It's Monday - how do you think I am?"

      And how many happy faces do you see if you stroll through the city at lunchtime? Or when you're on a bus at 5pm?

      It seems that there's a belief that we're born into, which goes something like: "work = sucks". And anything not work = "fun".

      I think if we buy into that we short change ourselves because we're effectively condemning ourselves to big chunk of our life being of lesser quality than it could be. Work can be a huge source of fun, fulfilment and meaning - we just need to find a way to help more people tap into that.

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    Mar 14 2013: You might be interested as one part of your research in reading Studs Terkel's classic book Working. He interviewed hundreds of people in all sorts of jobs, mostly not professional or 'elite" sorts of jobs.

    What I found truly intriguing was how almost all of his subjects addressed how they made the most of that particular stepping stone in their unfolding lives.

    Beyond this, there is room on both ends of employment for productive movement. One is for the employee or not-yet-employee to become adept at taking every opportunity to learn not only about things he finds immediately interesting but also about what his immediate situation offers. On the employer end, employees will be more productive and innovative if their work is made more interesting and if they have some range of choice in what they do or how they do it rather than being entirely routinized.
    • Mar 14 2013: " On the employer end, employees will be more productive and innovative if their work is made more interesting and if they have some range of choice in what they do or how they do it rather than being entirely routinized."

      From what I see in many companies, unfortunately there is a trend to make ever larger profit and cut expenses related to employees. This results in fewer choices for employees. Companies are less willing to provide in-house training, transition to a new career within the company and allow greater work schedule.

      The future does not look good for non-IT employees as the growing automation will continue to replace more and more people, causing high degree of competition between job applicants, thus giving employers more power over employees?
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        Mar 14 2013: Hi, Zdenek. An organization that benefits from productive employees who go beyond what they are required to do has an incentive to organize work to get that sort of performance from employees. The company may not be able to offer bonuses or a channel to promotion within the company, but it can often restructure work processes at little cost to make the employee happier in his work and therefore more commited and productive.

        There is not necessarily a tradeoff between employee satisfaction and benefit to the company. The two can move in the same direction.

        I am not saying that organizations or managers are necessarily skillful at this, but it is a growth area for managers and high level decisionmakers at firms.
        • Mar 15 2013: Hi Fritzie,

          Yes I agree with you. However I see growing trend that drives businesses in opposite direction. I think because of pressure from shareholders and increasing competition from oversea, businesses increasingly care more about short term benefits than long term gains from having happier employees.

          It does take time, skills and effort to make a good environment for employees and some leading edge companies are recognizing this. However it is easier for many companies to use carrot and stick approach esp. if they feel they have easy way to replace their workers.

    • Mar 18 2013: Hello Fritizie and Zdenek,

      Thanks for the interesting exchange. My two cents worth: In many instances, the manager does what is easiest for the manager to do, not necessarily what is best for the company. Companies that want to make employees more involved and happier (and stay longer) are sometimes thwarted by lower level managers.