It’s difficult not to have an opinion about this topic given how much empathy each of us can feel towards this subject. We all have bosses and therefore only need to think about our own jobs. I’ve personally worked at Merrill Lynch, Boeing, Genworth Financial (G.E. spinoff), Citi, as well as startups in LearnVest, SmartRecruiters, and one I founded in FreshGrad. I’ve pondered this question from a multitude of angles. Here’s my perspective:
Respect and be respected by your boss
Studies show that a dispute with a boss accounts for 50% of why people leave jobs. I find a good boss to be more important than a good job. It’s similar to being in school. I’d rather choose my classes based on the quality of the teacher than the topic of the class (within reason). You stand to learn so much more when communication flows smoothly between you and your boss because after all, what’s a job or a class if not a series of conversations targeted towards one goal?
Have a clear objective
Bosses are often guilty of not making up their minds on a clear goal. They give unclear direction that sends their employees off on tangents trying to figure out what they mean and end up producing useless work. That’s a frustrating waste of time. It’s ok for management to change their mind from time to time because making decisions based on a set of evolving facts is a big part of their job. But an ability to filter noise from signal, the guts to stick to a plan, and clear communication to their team is the only way the team can reach the finish line.
I often catch myself thinking: trust me with this, and I’ll build a work of art for you. Productivity, just like everything on this earth, comes in cycles. We are oscillatory beings in an oscillatory universe. It’s unrealistic to think I’ll only be productive from 8 to 5 on weekdays. I often do my best work on Friday nights or on Saturday at 8am (which is the time I’m writing this article). That’s not an excuse for bad work ethic because the only way you can take your productivity to the next level is to have an established routine. However, taking two hours off work to go for a tennis game is not something an employee should feel guilty about, because if trusted, these two hours will be returned 5 fold in time and happiness.
Build something that matters
I can’t produce my best work unless I have a sense of purpose in what I’m doing. Work turns into love, and it quietly infiltrates my dreams, my thoughts in the shower, and in my jogs. The paycheck then becomes a basic security need, and it’s the challenge of what I’m building that takes over my thoughts and actions. I then join meetups, learn about the industry, become a better listener, a student of the game. This produces innovation that disrupts industries.
Trust your team
We are collaborative beings. Unless you’re Albert Einstein, your chances of success are much higher building something as a team. That’s not the same as being part of a team. The main differentiator is trust. You ought to do all your investigation before you hire someone, but the moment you do, don’t second guess them or debate their motives. That’s wasted time. Start each conversation with the the assumption that your colleague is doing her best. You will be surprised by how much more productive each conversation becomes with that in mind.
I count my lucky stars for the opportunity I’ve been given to be part of such a team at SmartRecuiters. What’s your take on the keys to happiness at work?