You may have seen an interesting experiment where Joshua Bell, an internationally known violinist, anonymously played in a DC train station and only a handful of people stopped to notice.* While a large number of the people walking through that train station would have most likely gladly paid the $100 a ticket he typically charges to see him perform, these travelers neglected to notice the beauty of his music while rushing through the train station. One cannot blame these individuals who were rushing off to work or to appointments for not noticing the music; however, think about how lovely it would have been for those who did take a moment to stop and appreciate a bit of beauty in their day. As Positive Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson says “The negative screams at you, but the positive only whispers”. We need to look for the positive to counteract the negative.
Why is it so important to see the positive? Fredrickson has a wonderful theory called “Broaden and Build”.** Basically she says that positive moments can foster more positive moments. Positivity promotes an upward spiral of happiness, creativity and openness. Had the people in the train station noticed the beautiful music and appreciated it for a moment, they may have been primed for more positive moments throughout the day. Intuitively, we all know how a negative interaction can set us off track for hours and a positive interaction can set our day on the right foot. The good news is that if we are intentional and pay attention to what makes us happy, we can increase these opportunities.
Increasing positivity on the job
As a career coach, I like to ask my clients the question “what do you enjoy about your job?” Sometimes this is tough for people who are miserable in their jobs, but usually you can find one bright spot in your day. Then we work together thinking of ways to increase those opportunities. Take a moment to think about what it is you like about your job (if you are not currently working think about a previous job or any volunteer work you are doing). Are there ways to increase those enjoyable moments?
When you think about what you like about your job and how you can increase those opportunities, you are essentially thinking about how you can craft your job to make it fit you better. Psychologists Jane Dutton and Amy Wrzesniewski define job crafting as an opportunity for employees to “redesign their own jobs in ways that can foster job satisfaction, as well as engagement, resilience and thriving at work.”***
Many of us neglect to notice what it is that brings us joy in our job in the same way people neglected to notice the beautiful music in the train station. We get sidetracked with our busy lives and we overlook moments of beauty in our day.
There are three ways to job craft. We can alter the tasks we do, the people we interact with or the way we perceive our tasks.
Task crafting “consists of adding or dropping tasks, adjusting the time or effort spent on various tasks, and redesigning aspects of tasks (e.g., a teacher who spends time learning new classroom technology to fulfill his passion for IT)”. **** Are there tasks that you do in your job that you dislike? Can you automate those tasks? Delegate them? Reframe them?
One of my clients was instructed to make cold calls as part of her sales role. She despised this piece of her job and dreaded doing it. She did however love other methods of marketing including blogging, social media and google ads. Therefore she researched the effectiveness of these sales modes in her industry and presented her findings to her boss. She now does much less cold calling and has increased the marketing strategies where she excels and enjoys.
Can you find ways to increase the amount of time you spend on job tasks you enjoy and decrease the amount of time you spend on tasks you don’t enjoy?
Clearly building strong relationships at work can make your job more pleasurable and contribute to productivity. As with all three of these modes of job crafting, sometimes changing one area changes another. For instance, if you want to introduce more technology into your job, you may need to increase your interactions with the technology group. Building relationships is a satisfying way to enhance your experience at work.
My husband Gideon is a good example of building relationships as a way to find pleasure in his job. A quintessential extravert, he has made numerous friends and acquaintances at every job where he has worked. Not only does he get to know his co-workers, he loves to have fun with them. Whenever he works from home and I overhear his conference calls, there is a ton of laughing and joking—while also lots of work talk too (just in case his boss is reading this). His ability to create a social environment at work is incredibly beneficial not only for his own enjoyment of his job but also for encouraging collaboration throughout his group. Prioritizing this aspect of himself allows him to be authentic on the job and authenticity contributes to productivity and happiness.
Are there relationships at work that you can cultivate to increase your productivity and happiness at work?
Alter How We Perceive Tasks (Reframing our job)
We do not always need to change what we do at work, instead we can change the way we see things. IT specialists can see themselves as teachers, clothing sales people can see themselves as people whose job it is to help their customers feel beautiful and leave happier than they came, people in product design can think of themselves as innovators, and the list goes on…. What I love about this form of job crafting is that you can do this without your manager even knowing you are doing this, it is a lot about perception and reframing the way you see your role.
A wonderful piece of research was done back in 2000 where researchers interviewed hospital custodians at a hospital about their jobs*****. Researchers discovered a group of custodians who saw their work as well beyond their job description. These custodians saw themselves as healers who contributed to the healthy environment of the hospital by keeping it clean and sanitary. They were members of the team committed to helping patients get better. As a result of this perception, they went out of their way to contribute to the patients healing in creative and loving ways. Job crafting in this way not only enhances your experience at work but also increases your productivity.
Are their parts of your job where you could alter your perception so you can increase the positive?
Increasing the positive in our life can have profound effects and focusing on the positive within our job is one way to do this. Take a moment to think if you have crafted your job. I would love to hear your stories, so please share with me anything you have learned in the process. Also, think of ways you can craft your job now. Happiness at work matters and luckily there are ways we can enhance our own happiness.
Interested in learning more about how to craft your job? Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
**Fredrickson B.L., (2009). Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life Penguin Random House
***Berg J.M., Dutton J.E., Wrzesniewski, A (2007). What is Job Crafting and Why Does It Matter? Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship, University of Michigan Ross School of Business
****Wrzesniewski A, Berg, J.M., Dutton, J.E. (2010). Managing Yourself: Turn the Job you Have in the Job You Want Harvard Business Review
*****Dutton, J. E., Debebe, G., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2000). A social valuing perspective on relationship sensemaking. Working paper, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.