Nina Spencer

The honeymoon doesn’t have to be over: Six not-so-silly nor April-foolish strategies for renewed energy, enthusiasm and love of work

Work is difficult. Or so it often seems once the "honeymoon" is over. And the "honeymoon", reported Wallace Immen of the Globe and Mail on March 30th, is typically over within six months! Immen shares the findings of a large-scale survey of attitudes conducted by Sirota Consulting, based in New York state, which declares this three year study surveyed 1.2 million employees at 52 American Fortune 500 companies found: "Job satisfaction tends to decline with the number of years worked with the same employer. On average, employees rate their job satisfaction as 80 out of 100 points after six months on the job. That declines to an average of 69 out of 100 in employees with between one and five years and then declines more slowly after that."

In the book, The Road Less Travelled: A New Psychology of Love, Transitional Values and Spritual Growth (originally published in 1978) M. Scott Peck starts, "Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult--once we truly understand and accept it--then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters...Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them or solve them? Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life's problems. Without discipline we can solve nothing. With only some discipline we can solve only some problems. With total discipline we can solve all problems."

I massage Scott's opening words by suggesting that "work is difficult", too. Reread the above passage and, instead of "life", transplant the word, "work". While both The Globe and Mail and Sirota Consulting report that the majority of employees begin falling out of love with their jobs within the first six months, M. Scott Peck suggests that real love can only truly begin once the "falling in love"--the infatuation period--is over (typically in six to twelve months). Granted, Peck is referring to love and romantic relationships, but can't the same be said of the first bloom of "love" one feels for a new position--that the real work of sincerely loving what you're doing for a living starts to happen (or not) once you realize you're in it for the long(er) haul?

That haul sure does seem long during the winter months but, HEY, LOOK!...it's springtime now!!! Maybe now is the time to recapture some early days romance...to catch some healthy workplace spring fever and be an April fool in love with your job all over again! Here are six strategies for creating some renewed energy, enthusiasm and love of the good work you do:

1. Rest up. It's hard to love what you do for a living if you are burning the candle at both ends, taking only 4 or 5 hours of sleep nightly. If your bedtime has been creeping ever closer to one 1:00 a. m. (or worse), commit to going to bed an hour earlier. Now that the clocks have sprung forward you might be a bit more tired for a while, anyway. If you go to bed a little earlier you may be inspired to get up a bit earlier, too. Enjoying the early morning springtime sunshine in a leisurely way, before starting off to work, may just be the love potion you need to have a bit more patience with your workdays.

2. Recharge yourself with better eating habits. Yes, you know you promised this to yourself back in January, but somehow you fell off the rails with this commitment. Am I right? If so, that's ok--cut yourself some slack and get back on track; you owe it to yourself to try again. Respect your body's need for a recharge as much as you respect your cell phone's need for the same.

3. Declare each day this spring (and even beyond), "Today I will consciously choose to be nice, kind or friendly to at least one stranger". As corny, syrupy or koom-bi-ya as this may sound to the crustiest of colleagues or clients, dare to give it a try and note the difference in your experience of yourself, your spring days and how you feel about your work.

4. Recommit to the good manners and grace of "please" and "thank-you", whether CEO, president, VP, senior management, frontline staff or independent contributor in the workplace. Wouldn't that make your mom (wherever she is) proud? Remember the old adage, "You get more flies with honey, than you do with vinegar"? You'll never be openly or secretively criticized for demonstrating good manners and grace, but you just might be for not! And manners are for all...not just "underlings". If you're in a position of official leadership, remember the power and influence of the inverted pyramid organizational chart when it comes to wanting employees to love their work and give it their all everyday: the CEO or President serves VPs, the VPs serve senior management, senior management serve middle management, middle management serve frontline management and frontline management serve precious and sometimes undervalued frontline staff. Getting the most from your staff, at least in part, may be as simple as remembering to frequently and sincerely say "please" and "thanks". Maybe all you really needed to know you really did learn in kindergarten, after all! Make sure your "thank-yous" are tangible this spring by, eg. making an appearance at a series of your organization's local team meetings to express, in person, your heart felt and sincere thanks for all the good work well done so far this year, or by championing a series of branch or divisional staff appreciation days. Consciously and concretely model the behaviour and disposition you expect from staff. Make organizational expressions of "thanks" a top down experience this spring, especially in April--the month in which enlightened organizations celebrate and honour the often unsung and under-acknowledged professional contributions of administrative and support staff professionals.

5. Winter hibernation is over. Reawaken awareness of what you want from your workdays by starting a springtime, end-of-day work journal which answers:

One thing I did today that I shouldn't have done is...

One thing I didn't do today that I should have done is...

One thing I'm glad I did today is...

One thing I did exceptionally well today is...

One thing I learned from today is...

I plan to do even better tomorrow by...

6. List your top 20 best-loved workplace colleagues, clients and friends (include those to whom you report, too, if they are worthy of your list). Realize Paraeto's 80/20 Principle when it comes to your top twenty...80% of your work-life experience...your daily workplace pleasures, success, learning, inspiration, challenges, etc. probably comes from 20% of those with whom you interact. Acknowledge these top 20 individuals in your own mind and then, right now (in spring fever form and using this "illness" as you excuse, if you like), write to your top twenty, telling them just why you appreciate them so! This structure may help:

"One thing I appreciate about you is...

Another thing I appreciate about you is...

You make my job easier because...

...and I just woke up from my winter auto-pilot winter hibernation and wish to thank-you for being part of my personal top twenty! I'm lucky to know you and I'm glad we're on the same team."

Wow! How would you feel if one of your favourite clients or colleagues sent you a note like that? Pretty darned good, I imagine...and well appreciated, too!

Whether you're the "top dog" or essential support staff, you've got a choice to make each day about how you're going to show up for work. M. Scott Peck writes (again, in reference to romantic love but, again, the same can be said for love of work), "I have defined love as the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth. Genuine love is volitional rather than emotional. The person who truly loves does so because of a decision to love. This person has made a commitment to being loving whether or not the loving feeling is present".

If you're not quitting your job today...if you're not on the brink of doing a major career about-face, take this above quote and apply it to love of your current work experience: "love" your job in the here and now, no mater what, for the sake of your professional development; you decide--use your volition--to choose to love your current job, however humble or grand, however difficult or rewarding, however irritating or fullfilling, however respected or disrespected by the public (the emotional things that happen on-the-job do not get to decide about your love of your work for you...you do); make a commitment to loving the learning value your current job brings to your days, whether or not the loving feeling for your actual job is always present.

Maybe the honeymoon is over and maybe it's not. Maybe your love of work was in hibernation for the winter. Maybe the spring will cause you to contemplate a second workplace honeymoon. Who knows? Try any or all of these six not-so-silly nor April-foolish strategies for getting pleasure from your springtime workdays and maybe...just maybe your love for your current position will blossom once again.