THE BLOG
03/13/2014 10:49 am ET Updated May 13, 2014

If You Can't Be in the Job You'd Love, Love the One You're With

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Dis-engaged and struggling through the work week?

Meandering without a professional purpose?

Feel unappreciated at work and can't be bothered?

Craft your way into a new job... without going anywhere!

Inspiring research is being done at top U.S. universities to understand and measure some of the non-corporate but significant aspects at play in business situations, such as interpersonal dynamics. These include the effect of personal energy and generosity on interactions in professional environments; the benefits and challenges of sharing one's authentic self at work; as well as understanding bias, being aware of its impact and addressing it.

Results so far already provide impressive empirical evidence to persuade us that businesses would be more productive internally and effective externally if top management paid attention to these pioneering studies. As an individual, you also have the power to change your own situation dramatically by leveraging insights from the data. In this blog, the focus is on sharing more of yourself at and in work to change your involvement in and enjoyment of your job.

Why does it matter, and to whom?

Lack of engagement can feel soul-destroying to the individual concerned and it destroys value in a corporation as well. On a personal level, life is simply too short. So, if you find yourself in circumstances when you're lacking purpose and interest and if you don't feel you have the option to find another job within a reasonable timeframe... before you think about leaving, why not change your job, but without quitting? The key is to think differently.

It's not what you do, but how you view it and do it.

Your goal is to make your job not just a job; the solution is what has been termed "job crafting." Professor Wrzesniewski and her illustrious team of LoBuglio, Dutton and Berg at Yale did a fascinating study last year, "Job Crafting and Creating Positive Meaning and Identity in Work." They identified, recorded and compared situations where a number of people technically had exactly the same job, but different people interpreted and experienced the position and work in remarkably different ways. A group of participants in the study felt like cogs in the machine, while others found real purpose in the same duties and contributed differently and more, and they considered their extra attention and efforts as truly meaningful, which changed the equation for them dramatically.... as well as their performance.

What's the secret? How could you change your circumstances?

It's about attitude and approach, taking a deliberate and thoughtful look at the different aspects of your working role and almost recreating some of those that have been the most challenging for you. It is about changing the number, type and nature of your tasks and your relationship with them so you alter your perception of them and their meaning for you. This is not to be underestimated. It can take focus and real effort to get there.

The key is recognizing your strengths and what you enjoy doing, and leverage the most appropriate ones to increase your engagement in the position overall. If you develop a personal connection to aspects of your work and/or a greater intensity of involvement, it should allow you to have a different attitude. You should be able to engage in tasks more fully and actually get more satisfaction and enjoyment out of them. In turn, celebrating more of what you like allows you to express yourself better, to be more natural and engaged, so you are able to share more of what makes you unique.

This can also be of great value to your business when aligned well with the company's goals. It is important to be cogniscent and appreciative of the parameters that your firm operates within. Disregarding rules isn't beneficial for you or the organization. It is a matter of choosing elements that will enhance, or at least not be detrimental to, completion of your general tasks and objectives.

What does this mean in practical terms?

If you like people, you could focus on developing and nurturing your interpersonal relationships at the office and with clients if your position involves external interactions. Not only should you find you get more pleasure from doing your daily tasks, but you will find them easier to complete with the support of and input from others whom you are now closer to. An associated benefit is that you would also have more understanding about your colleagues and/or the needs of your customers. This could help you to better navigate or manage internal politics and channels, as well as serve customers better and even increase sales... with compounding benefits to you.

When someone is doing something they are engaged in, the quality of their work and positive energy is evident --- and these benefits can be leveraged and shared. It should be a win all round, since when you are aware of what you do, who it impacts and how, you can intuitively recognize that each one of us is a piece of the jigsaw. We all play a part. We all matter in some way. We all have value, and add value.

So, if you're feeling depressed or disconnected, "quit" your current job, but don't leave. Just "re-craft" it into a new one. Enjoy it, whatever elements you can. The change may surprise you, and it IS worth it. Life may be short, so make it sweet.

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