Smile! It Ain’t that Bad

They always say “What goes around comes around.” They say don’t work angry. Don’t worry about revenge. I’ve heard people say “Keep the focus on yourself,” and “Don’t take things so personally.” By now, I’m sure that everyone has heard the saying, “It’s just business. It’s not personal.” And I’m sure that people are familiar with this saying too: “I’ve wanted to run away more as an adult than I ever did as a kid.”

My Mother used to tell me, “No one ever promised you a rose garden!” This means life is not going to play fairly. Others will not play fair in the sand box. Life happens. But either way, we have to find a way to get through.
I used to have a boss who would phrase this a little differently. He’d shout, “Suck it up!” and then walk away.
I have a shirt that says, “Nobody cares, Work Harder.”
Either way, the goal is to find the secret of our endurance which is different for everyone.

I spent an afternoon working with a person who took a few hours to create an easier way to do a job that was already easy. My coworker spent more than two hours developing a tool for a job that took half that time to complete. And what did this mean?
This meant that I spent a few hours working by myself and resentful that my coworker was somewhere else, working hard at being lazy.

Years before this, I worked as a salesman at a trade show. I was setting up the booth, moving boxes and arranging different items around the table. The trade show was for sportswear. I had to put out coats and hang up some signage. There was someone else with me. However, it was clear that they wanted no part of the physical work. Instead, they looked for someone who was supposedly coming by to help set up the booth and make sure everything was set up according to plan. Meanwhile, they did not set up anything. Safe to say that I was angry.

Nothing is worse than a bad mood at work. Or, wait no… nothing is worse than a bad attitude. Nothing is worse than arriving at work and wishing that it was already time to go home. This is dreadful; this is the uphill start at the beginning of the day—there’s work to do and people to deal with. Nothing is worse than an uninspiring or un-enthusing atmosphere that is stuffy and unrewarding. There’s nothing worse than seeming like a corporate spoke or a cog on the network.
There is that “Same Shit Different Day” feeling or another way of saying it is “Same Soup Different Bowl.”
(I like the soup one better.)

There has to be a break in the tension. There has to be a moment of laughter or something to interrupt the monotony of the grind. But wait, no. This is work. Right? We are here to produce and accomplish. We are here to exchange our efforts for profit. And that’s it.

Someone told me when I was young that if work was fun that they would call it something else.
I repeated this to someone once in an almost flippant response.
“What kind of attitude is that?”
I replied, “An honest one.”

There are people who I’ve met in the working world whose performance is truly amazing to me. They do not get unraveled. They do not argue. They may not always like the jobs they do but even still, nothing breaks them. They smile. In fact, I used to work with someone like this. If asked, “What are you doing?” They’d answer, “Getting some work done and having some fun.”

Wait, what?
Getting some work done and having some fun.
Is this real?
I can say that although the idea sounded crazy to me; I appreciated working with this person. Getting some work done and having some fun. What an amazing idea.

Meanwhile, this person ran a plant. He had printing presses and employees to deal with. They had sales to take care of. They had production issues. They had work problems like everyone else. They had private problems too but one would never know this because of the way they carried themselves. This didn’t mean the person never lost their cool or never had a bad day. However, at all points possible; this meant that throughout the day, this person worked on their attitude as well as their job.

In fact, our attitude towards work is part of our work. Keep in mind; no one wants to work around someone who is unhappy or boring or lazy. No one wants to follow a leader who sees no value in the team’s morale. Happy or miserable, the work is still there.

I was reminded of an office party at Christmas time. Everything was decorated. There was food all over the place. There was cheerful music and people exchanging pleasantries, laughing, enjoying the chance to talk to people who work outside of their groups. Meanwhile, there were cubicles filled with office workers on the other side of the building. They were away from the party but they were certainly close enough to hear the music and the laughter. I am sure they were close enough to smell the food too.
To them, deadlines came first. There was no such thing as afterhours. There was only work. Their supervisor saw it this way also, which meant whenever there was an event that would break the tension or ease the stress in the workplace, the supervisor would exclude the team. Is this right?

There is the ongoing discussion of work/life balance. There is the trick to find the right balance; to laugh some, work some and live some. There are tactics that help with this. There are effective thinking courses. There are personal energy conservation courses and ways to track your performance without overloading or burning out. There are mindfulness courses which promote a better sense of awareness to improve efficiency and self-efficacy. Imagine working less hours and being more productive. Think about this for a minute.

Our mindset is what determines whether we are slaved to a job or getting work done and having some fun. Our circle of influence, colleagues, acquaintances and friends are a support to this idea. Attitudes are contagious. For example, when I spent that afternoon working with someone who worked hard to get out of work, I found myself resentful. The attitude of my coworker was contagious. When I worked at the trade show, I was resentful. Again, the attitude was contagious.

When I would speak to the person who ran the printing plant and heard him say that he was “Getting some work done and having some fun,” I swear, I thought this person was nuts. But, there was something energizing about this. There was something that exposed the possibility that I could be equally productive and just as happy.

A few years back, someone I work with asked me how come I was always smiling.
I explained, “The day anyone steals my smile is the same day that they stole me.”
“And I don’t want to be stolen.”

I just want to get some work done and have some fun.

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