Tablegroup Video Placeholder

Bad Job vs. Miserable Job

Employee Engagement

When I was in high school, my mother gave me a copy of the book What Color Is Your Parachute? so that I could start thinking about what kind of career would be most suitable for me one day. About seven years later, I finally read that book and benefited from it immensely. In addition to helping me find a job more suited to my strengths, it provoked my interest in career counseling—a hobby that I dabble in today.

However, in the past few years I've come to realize that the pursuit of the right career may be a little over-rated. Don't get me wrong. I continue to enjoy, and greatly value, finding a career that allows people to use the talents God gave them. It's just that we sometimes mislead ourselves into thinking that this alone is enough to make us satisfied in our work. Let me explain.

The Bad Job

It isn't uncommon to hear someone say that so and so has a good job. If you ask that someone what a good job is, you'll get a variety of answers depending on the person.

For some, a good job is about being paid well, for others it's about the prestige of working for a well-known company, and for others still it might be about having the freedom to avoid sitting behind a desk all day. We also hear people say that so and so has a bad job, which can mean that they are underpaid, have to do manual labor, or sit in any office without ventilation or natural light. A bad job is almost entirely subjective.

The Miserable Job

What is not subjective is the definition of a miserable job. Misery at work looks largely the same whether you are an executive, waiter, teacher or professional football player. It makes you dread going to work and brings you home frustrated, cynical and weary. The cost of this is very real, both for the organizations where miserable employees work, and for the families and friends of the people who must live with them. The causes of the misery, are as simple as they are common.

Those three causes are the subject matter of my upcoming book, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job. I will be writing on the model more in my next newsletter. For now, I'd like to invite each one of you to reflect on your own employment history. Most people seem to identify with the qualities of a miserable job. As I have started to tell clients about the model, everyone seems to have a great story to share—either about job misery or fulfillment. We wanted to capture these stories on our website and hope our TTG Quarterly readers can contribute. And so, as you consider all your jobs—both past and present—keep the following questions in mind:

Have you ever had a job experience in which…

…your manager made you feel anonymous? Didn't know who you were as a person? Took no interest in you?

…your manager took special steps to be interested in you? Made you feel that they cared about you and your future, and made you enjoy working there?

…you felt like your work was completely irrelevant? Had no impact on the lives of anyone, including customers, colleagues, vendors, your manager—anyone? Where your manager didn't try to help you understand the importance of your work?

…your manager helped you understand the importance of your work? That it was relevant and made a difference in the lives of others?

…you felt like you had no way to assess or measure your performance? Where you had no idea if you were doing a good job? Where you depended on your manager's opinion or mood to know whether you were succeeding?

…your manager helped you figure out how to assess your performance in some objective, relevant way? Where you had a clear sense of whether you were succeeding or not, without having to rely on your manager's opinion?

We look forward to hearing your stories. If you would like to submit something, please click here»