OPSEU/SEFPO member published in Apolitical: “Why job fulfillment is about perspective”

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The following article, written by OPSEU/SEFPO member Denise Grant, was originally published on Apolitical.

Denise is an OPS member from Region 5 who is currently pursuing her law degree. Through her articles on Apolitical, Denise captures the realities and challenges that many face, particularly during these difficult times.

View the article on Apolitical’s website.

The average person spends about a third of their life in the workplace. Here’s how changing your perspective can make you happier during that time.

We spend the equivalent of 90,000 waking hours in a lifetime on average at work. Is it surprising that out of the world’s one billion full-time workers, 85% are unhappy in their jobs?

Of course, there are external factors that contribute to poor job satisfaction, such as a person’s relationship with their boss, their colleagues, the type of work they do, even their commute. For so many, work has been reduced to a source of income.

Such factors aren’t so inconvertible as to be objective truths, however. I’d argue that lurking beneath current reported rates of job dissatisfaction are more complex stories of how people have come to perceive their jobs. There are far more situations in life we cannot control than ones we can, yet I believe we have more control over our work lives than we often imagine. Knowing this is crucial, where does giving up what little control we do have in life leave us?

Whatever your position as a public servant, the power to improve your personal job satisfaction lies within you. A simple change of perspective towards work, colleagues and duties can increase your levels of happiness, and help others too.

Bouncing back from scratch

A few years ago, I was overlooked for a promotion. On that occasion, I felt I was treated unfairly. I worked hard, put in countless extra hours, and made sure my work was consistently top-notch. But in the end, the work I’d put in did not get me the job it was supposed to.

For some time after, I was disappointed and frustrated. A little while later, I decided to rebuild my motivation from scratch. I looked for ways to improve my work experience. First, I stopped by a colleagues’ workstation to inquire how she was doing. When I did this, I made sure to ask the questions to which I really wanted to know the answer.

I also made new efforts to participate in office socials, and opened myself up to having lunch with colleagues outside of my usual circle. I then found creative ways to bring new experiences into my time at work. Just because I had always done things one way, it did not mean it should remain so indefinitely. Not every idea I had worked, but one that did was joining a collective in an area of interest to me: the succession planning and recruitment committee.

If you’re struggling against the tide at work, don’t wait for things to get better or back to whatever you think of as normal. Just as it is the job of labour pains to motivate the push that gives birth to a baby, so too it is the job of painful setbacks to push you to renew your situation. Change hurts, one way or another, but a change of perception is where you start to turn things around.

For a period of time in my career, I observed several colleagues at various levels who were moving on to new positions while others stagnated unhappily in their current roles. I thought about what was happening, and how it was impacting people in the office. This led me to develop a team-building workshop, which aimed to create an inclusive, diverse and open team environment in which to understand the needs of people on the team.

Decisions were made from the senior leaders in the office, and were fed down to various levels of workers below. Yet the main focus of the exercise was to give everyone a voice at the table. It involved conducting a survey, which encouraged participants to be open about their work experiences. The session was intended to be an in-person event, yet during the pandemic it became a successful, well-attended online event.

Three areas of change

There are three areas of change you want to strive for if you’re unhappy at work. The first two are a change of perspective and a subsequent change of attitude, which together lead to a change of direction.

To get started, I would suggest that you gravitate towards colleagues who display a positive attitude. These may be people who are new to your office and so aren’t bogged down by past events or legacy issues. The temptation with new people is often to dismiss them as naive. Don’t do that. They will allow you to make a fresh start. Through them, you can start making conscious decisions to adapt to the here and now.

Moving forward from disappointments and setbacks requires deciding to see the good in everything, to understand the world through others’ eyes, and how you want that to reflect back into your world.

Every situation, good or bad, is very often a perspective turned into reality through conscious behaviour. Work, like life, is what we make it.

You can also read other articles by Denise Grant on Apolitical: My long crawl to achieving my personal goals and A guide to self-care in action.