Tell me if this has ever happened to you: you’re out with friends and you comment on your work situation. No, let’s be honest—you outright complain about your job, your company, or your manager. You’re mid-rant, really just warming up, and the person on the receiving end of your tirade says something along the lines of:
“Well, why do you think they call it work?”
I’ve never liked this response. It implies that work by its very nature is bad and unpleasant. A chore that’s to be avoided or, at best, barely tolerated. The statement implies that we can never enjoy work, because work is inherently joyless.
I suspect many of us reflexively fall into the TGIF-obsessed “work is a grind” camp, a sentiment perpetuated by popular culture and, too often, our own personal experiences. Yet, deep down we know this isn’t true. I’d wager that most of us (hopefully the vast majority of us) have had jobs we actually liked, or even loved. Jobs that challenged us and inspired us. Jobs that brought us real joy.
At the very least, we’ve all met people who love what they’re doing. Stop for a moment and think about the last person you engaged with professionally who obviously and passionately loved their work. Think about how they made you feel. For me the words that come to mind include energized, comfortable, trusting, and yes, joyful. Because joy is infectious.
I recently came across this Harvard Business Review article by Alex Liu where he discusses joy at work, and the positive impact it can have on business success. I’d highly recommend you read this and put at least some of his ideas into practice in your own organizations. As an employee of a company that takes employee culture seriously I can personally attest to the benefits of working in an environment that places an emphasis on joy.
We’ve heard it said that a happy customer is a loyal customer. Well a happy employee leads to happier customers. It’s money in the bank, both fiscally and emotionally. And who knows? Maybe one day when you’re raving about a positive employee experience someone will reply with, “Well, why do you think they call it work?”