Working For a Living: Smile! It’s Not So Bad

It is true that if you love what you do for a living then you will never have to go to work another day of your life. It is also true that you can always love what you do. But, be advised; this doesn’t always mean someone will pay you. Just because you love to do something doesn’t mean someone will buy into your craft. For example, I love music but I don’t think Radio City Music Hall is in my future any time soon.

Love what you do for a living and you’ll live a happy life. This is all true. However, for most of the world, the working life is a chore and tasked-filled event. For most people, their job often comes with few rewards. This includes dealing with people that are less than desirable. This means bosses and a possible environment that is substandard or unsatisfying. It is true that a harsh work environment can take over morale. It is also true that a good attitude can get any of us through the day. But yet, this is life and much of our life consists of working for a living.

Make no mistake. Work is nothing more than a mutually beneficial relationship. For example, each day, I arrive at a small machine that is mounted upon a wall in the hallways on a utilities floor. The decoration on this floor is certainly less than decorative. It is dim and old and has not been updated since its completion in 1927. To be more descriptive, the look of this floor is like something out of a movie with machine rooms and building workers in uniforms. I arrive at this machine to place my hand in a device. The device scans my hand and acknowledges that I have arrived onsite. This means I am officially on the clock. I start like this every morning. I end the same way; only, I do admit to more exuberance when leaving than when I come in. 

The meat between the sandwich is my day. I have a start and an end, which, in-between, there is a company that pays me for my work. Some of my days are more enjoyable than others. Some of my tasks are certainly less enjoyable than others. Either way, opinionated or neutral, this is my day; and in exchange for my efforts, I am paid my salary. I might not like what my bosses tell me to do. And I might not agree with them but either way, there is a trade here. The trade is my time for their money. It is really that simple.

I read somewhere that an estimated 85% of people hate their job. There are some who say if you don’t like what you do then go do something else. Of course this is easier said than done. Most people have these things we call bills. We pay mortgages or rent. Then there’s insurance, credit card bills and utilities, such as gas or electric. And speaking of gas, I suppose a big part of that 85% have cars, which means they drive and they have to put gas in their car and pay for routine maintenance. And let’s not forget the other essentials, such as groceries that include the basic simple things like soap to clean ourselves, toothpaste to brush and give us that feeling of minty freshness, or at minimum, let’s not forget the plate of food we need on the table at home.

Everything has a price tag to it. Nothing is free, which is why the working world muddles through their day with a sort of “Grin and Bear it,” sort of mindset. We fill our time on the clock and hope for at least a semblance of personal reward.

I can say that I have met miserable people in my work life. I have worked for tough bosses. I have worked for yellers and the bosses who rule by intimidation. I have had the unfortunate run-ins. There was one that nearly turned physical once. But to what avail? Was my job really worth this? Was my sanity worth my pay? Or, was there something that I could do differently? Was there a way to change my interaction with unhappy coworkers? How do you deal with the people that fit in the 85% of those who hate their job.

I used to believe there was a difference between white collar workers and blue collar workers. I swore this was true but I was wrong. The culture might be different but people are still people. The human mind is the human mind. Although we are all unique individuals, there are the basic and obvious commonalities we have with each other. We all have our own little quirks. We all have our things that drive us crazy. We all feel and think and we often jump to conclusions. We make mistakes. We have bad days. We have good days but hey, if you loved what you did then you would never have to work, right?

This is why huge companies look to keep their workplace as satisfying as possible. They do this selfishly because this keeps people in-house. working productively and happily.

I used to work for a boss that would yell at me. He saw me smiling and told me to wipe that smirk off my face. I was not smiling at him or laughing at him, which, of course, this is what he had assumed. I was probably smiling or laughing about something else. 

“What the hell are you smiling about?” He asked.
He was a bully and chose to bully me.
“The day they steal my smile is the day they stole me,” I answered.
“And I can’t have that on my watch.”

Now, in fairness, I do not like bullies. I don’t like being bullied. I had enough of this in my life. I do not recommend this answer to all bosses but in this case, my answer was fit. It was clear that I was on the way out and management was placing me someplace else. It was also no secret that this particular boss was problematic and that his crew suffered from a large turnover rate. 

Somehow, this man (if we can call him that) believed in his heart that intimidation was the right way to run his team. Meanwhile, no one wanted to produce for him. Nobody liked him. Not at all. In one of our parting conversations, the boss hurled an insult about my work and inability to do my job well. I simply looked at him and said, “Performance reflects leadership. Ain’t that right, boss?”

He walked away.

It is simple math. People who find rewards and satisfaction with what they do will produce more than say, someone who is miserable at their desk. People who are supported and find their reward systems met by promising initiatives will do better at work than someone who does nothing else but wait for something cosmic to happen. I used to work with someone who played lotto. They played with hopes to hit the numbers and tell their boss to “Go scratch!” Each day they played. Each day they lost a little more than the day before.

I worked for a boss that used to tell me, “If it was fun then they wouldn’t call it work.”
And maybe this is true.
Or, maybe it is true that no matter what comes our way, we can transform and create a better attitude to help us endure the tougher days. Maybe there’s a way to help boost our tolerance in the workplace by finding an outlet or something that at minimum, grants us a few laughs. 

There are team leaders, supervisors and executives who say that we are here to work. This isn’t a day camp. And I get it. No, the workplace is not a day camp. Then again, it shouldn’t be a prison either (even if we work in one).

I worked with a few jokesters that knew how to make the day go quickly. They knew how to balance efficiency as well as their professionalism; and all the while, they produced work with a smile. They were happy people who had magnetic personalities. They had it right. People were drawn to them because of this. There were others who certainly took this too far. I have worked with practical jokers who enjoyed certain pranks, which common decency prevents me from reporting here. I cannot say what happened; however, let me just say this about that – saran wrap on a toilet in a dimly lit bathroom did lead to a little bit of a catastrophe. End joke.

The truth is breaks are necessary. You have to eat. You have to learn some and laugh some and learn to balance your day some. Otherwise, at best, all we can do is fit in with that 85% of people who hate their jobs. 

There used to be a wellness office in my building. They had art therapy and people in the building who would come down to draw and paint. These were grownups, I might add; and other workers in the building would come to the wellness office to have lunch, do mediations, laugh a little bit, and in the hammock room, I supposed they slept a little bit. I think this is something to explore.

Back to that angry boss of mine, he once told me, “I ain’t here to be your friend!”
“Does that mean you have to be my enemy,” I asked.

Animosity creates animosity.
Contempt breeds contempt. 
And a smile well served can be healthy and contagious.

Now, if you ask me, I’d rather smile.
Wouldn’t you?

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