The Cure for Workplace Blues

Back when I was in college, I remember dreaming of what my first job would be after graduation. I didn’t know what I would do, exactly, but I assumed whatever job I found would be challenging and fulfilling. There I would be, working for some company’s marketing department, the creative communications pouring out faster than I can write them down.

My first job was for a great company and I got to work with great people. I did get to develop some interesting, creative communications. But I was surprised to find that the majority of my days in that company—in what I affectionately called Cubeland—were rather mundane. Sitting at my cubicle desk for hours on end, completing paperwork, and making phone calls were not the kind of things I learned about in college.

After a few years in Cubeland, I could tell my once eager heart was losing steam. My career path would soon take a major turn—university teaching, then freelance writing—but before it did, I worried I would become like so many corporate career workers around me: detached and unenthusiastic.

An article posted at Social Media Today refers to this workplace listlessness as a “lack of engagement” due to a variety of common work frustrations, such as: “monotony, a lack of a strong team dynamic, no positive reinforcement for a job well done, managers not listening to employees, and inefficiency caused by redundancy or just bad operations.”

The research cited that an astounding 71% of all employees are frustrated to the point that they are disengaged from their work—they are not excited about their jobs, resulting in lost time and money. The article proposes that better in-house communication via new social media tools will solve much of this listlessness, thereby increasing passion and productivity.

As I look back at my own discouragement while in Cubeland, some of those common frustrations affected me. Perhaps, in time, I would have become part of the disengaged 71%. But I don’t think better communication would have solved my listlessness.

I think my lack of passion can be best attributed to an improper job fit. The marketing communications, the people, the company—all that I loved. But the Cubeland experience requiring eight-plus hours of desk time per day? The paperwork? The processes? That was not me. And no new communication tools would have remedied this. Also, as I moved into different avenues of marketing communications (teaching, freelance writing) I found that I was much more engaged and passionate, even though those common frustrations would pop up.

In a setting that was a better fit for me, my purpose wasn’t lost in the mundane.

Perhaps the same is true for the disengaged 71%? They may be in a job structure that’s simply not a good fit and it is stripping away their sense of purpose. God has wired us with a distinct personality as well as specific gifts, talents, and passions. When those things can be applied to a job with a purpose we can back, we have passion and engagement. The Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics addresses this pursuit of purpose and passion in our work. It helps people understand how work is meant to make an eternal difference as it employs the unique way God has planted His reflection in us for use in our jobs for the good of others.

This higher view of work would spark the passion and purpose for the disengaged 71%. Perhaps better communication via social media tools would curtail those common frustrations, but passion comes when we are engaged in work that makes us come alive. Social media tools offer plenty of benefits, but I don’t think transcendence is one of them.

About Erin Straza

Erin Straza (Associate Editor) is a freelance writer, editor, and marketing communications consultant, helping organizations tell their stories in authentic and compelling ways. After a stint in corporate marketing while earning her MBA, Erin taught marketing communications at Illinois Wesleyan and Illinois State. She is crafting her first book, writing from the Illinois flatlands where she lives with her husband, Mike. Find more from Erin at her blog Filling My Patch of Sky and on Twitter @ErinStraza.
E-mail: erin [at] FillingMyPatchOfSky [dot] com
Blog: Filling My Patch of Sky
Twitter: @ErinStraza