The Zen of work

You're grateful to have a job, but your morale is in the gutter.


The past year has brought layoffs, furloughs, pay freezes, increased health care costs and heavier workloads. And it’s starting to eat at you.

You can’t control these factors, but there are things you can do to improve your outlook on work. From sprucing up to setting goals and being more positive, here are 10 tips to improve your workplace in 2010.

1. Examine your job and look for ways to become more efficient and organized, says Julie Cummings, director of HR for BKD.

Search for ways you waste time, think about what can be consolidated and look for mundane tasks that may be outdated in this work environment. If you find something that is bogging you down or a task that could be eliminated, talk to your manager. The more organized you are, the less stressed you’re likely to be.

2. Focus on your strengths and passions and build on them, says Sheri Phillips, director of career development at Evangel University.

Everyone has something individual to contribute to the workplace. Look at your skills and the aspects of your job you love the most and find ways to increase the work you love to do.

3. Tell a co-worker you appreciate their work, suggests Emily Marshall, counselor and clinical director for the Center for Resolutions, LLC.

It sounds small but can have a big effect. Everyone needs praise and if you make an effort to compliment coworkers, they may return the favor. Compliments can foster a more positive environment, she says.

The more a person feels appreciated, the better they perform, echoes Phillips.

4. Don’t get caught up in the negative, says Brendan Cruickshank, VP of job search engine

Attitude and work performance are tied together and all things equal, the employee with a positive attitude is more likely to get ahead of the employee with a bad attitude.

Keep a negative tone out of meetings, out of work emails and don’t engage in company bashing with co-workers, he says. Negativity is contagious and when you complain you contribute to a toxic work environment, and could hurt your career.

5. Talk to your manager about their job expectations and set goals around those expectations. People who don’t have goals can easily get off track; people who have goals are working toward something, not just working, Cruickshank says.

6. Make friends at the office. In his book Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without, Tom Rath talks about the importance of work friendships. People who have a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their job.

Employees at the Center for Resolutions go to lunch together and build a rapport outside of the workplace, says Patricia Clark-Hicks, counselor. This helps build a support system in the workplace.

7. Transform your weaknesses, says Cummings. For example, if you’re not organized but your co-worker is, ask he or she how to get organized.

“Go to lunch with somebody who has the skill you need or respect, buy 30 minutes of their time to say, ‘What tools work for you? What has been successful for you?,'” Cummings says.

If you’re not naturally a positive person, surround yourself with positive people. A good way to foster a more positive attitude is to do volunteer work, which can teach you how much you have to appreciate, says Cummings.

8. Spruce up: yourself and your desk. Dress up for work. When you look better, you feel better and you present yourself better, says Marshall.

Fix up your desk with photos and mementos from home to make your office feel more like home.

9. Try to resolve hostile workplace relationships. If you have a problem with a co-worker, talk to them about it first. They may not even know there is a problem. Use “I” statements, such as “I feel,” instead of accusatory “You” statements such as, “You do this” or “You always.”

Take responsibility for your own role in the relationship discourse. If they are not responsive, then you can talk to a manager, but the person you have a problem with should always be the first person you talk to, Marshall says.

10. Look at this as an opportunity. Now is the time for employees to ask themselves if this is what they really love to do, if their job fits in with long-term goals and if they are aligned with their company’s goals.

If not, now is the time to think about going back to school, retraining or changing jobs, says Cummings.

And when all else fails, remember that by having a job you’re in a better position than a lot of people.

“All of us have seen the effects of a lingering recession and that will naturally take a toll on us,” Cummings says.

“The task of staying positive and staying focused can be a challenge, but the fact each of us has a job and get to go to work says a lot.”

Author: Juliana Goodwin, News Leader