Despite our desires for personal satisfaction, our workplaces are filled with imperfect people. This fact challenges us to grow and learn to appreciate what is present to us.
Even the best jobs are not always easy. People are imperfect, and therefore the companies they create are all imperfect. I hope you have a great self-image, but I’m sorry to tell you there are no perfect employees in any role, at any level. They don’t exist at the company where you work now, and they don’t exist at any other company you might think about joining down the road. We all have difficult weeks, and they typically come from places and at times we do not expect. Sometimes people or projects surprise us. Sometimes they disappoint us, and sometimes we disappoint them. Throughout a career of navigating this fact about imperfections, there are moments in time where we learn things that stick with us regarding what’s most important in terms of our personal satisfaction, and we get better at filtering out what outside entities tell us we should want or need in a job if we are going to be fulfilled. Experience nudges us toward where imperfections are tolerable in favor of a greater overall good, and it teaches us how to navigate and even appreciate each others’ imperfections to make us better along the way.
I sometimes wonder if, in the midst of so much external uncertainty, people are forgetting about the fulfillment that comes with simple appreciation for what is good about their job. Appreciation is not about titles and compensation. Having a sense of appreciation is impossible if you are perpetually keeping an eye on the next opportunity. Satisfaction does not require perpetual pursuit of new roles, increased responsibility, or promotion. I think there’s an increasing tendency to overlook the immense reward that simply comes from working with people you enjoy being around day after day. I worry the collective mindset views that as utopian and naïve, but I experience it regularly and I feel others can as well if they are willing to accept that being appreciative and content are not “deficiencies suffered by those without aspiration.”
I think the transactional tendency in employment, where people are so tempted to check out the green grass on the other side of the fence, is robbing people of the satisfaction of committing to making their current work environment better, of taking ownership, and of appreciating the feeling of shared success with people you enjoy. I wonder, amid a time of historically significant changes in jobs and companies, if the messaging is causing some to underestimate the unique benefit of being a valued participant in a healthy company culture. Those types of cultures – where companies value employees and employees value the company – do exist, contrary to so much of the job advice readily available. I’d encourage you, wherever you are on your career arc, to make an appreciation list and to spend some time thinking about what is uniquely wonderful about what you already have instead of persistently thinking about what might be wonderful if you were to chase something different.