Learning to be Content in a World of Monday Blues (Part Two)

Yesterday I posted some thoughts on working and promised to post how I learned to get the most out of my job today. In short, here’s the conclusion!


Why was my manager reminded of me when reading the book? Well, the book is called “Three Signs of a Miserable Job” and the author, Patrick Lencioni, has put into fable form three reasons for misery in the workplace — Irrelevance, Immeasurement, and Anonymity. He then identifies the cures to those illnesses, and when put into practice, great things happen!

According to Lencioni, Irrelevance as a reason for job misery in an employee means this: If you feel that your job does not matter, you zone out. Quality of work quickly goes down, and it is not long before you’re feeling depressed. Why do your best when it doesn’t matter?

That was something that I struggled with during the hard times at work. I had lost my “do unto the Lord” and of course my job didn’t much matter to those around me. (Lencioni says that the mark of a good manager is one who helps his employees feel relevant.) Now of course, I had gotten highly distracted by pleasing man (or surviving) and not suffering my cross with dignity and perseverance. I needed my job to matter to someone, and I could see no one it mattered to. I could SEE no one. If only I had turned to the One I couldn’t physically see at that point… But I sat around in misery and it was only when a spark of hope returned that I remembered to bring God back into my work life. I was relevant to God, and my job mattered to Him! (I understand I’m taking Lencioni’s words a different direction and adding a spiritual tone, but this is really what it means to me.)

The second sign, Immeasurement: If you can’t measure their work, how will they know if they are doing well? Where will their motivation come from? I don’t know about you guys, but I want to do my best! I needed to know how I was doing, and how I could do better. I began measuring my work by the reactions of the people I served, whether they were coworkers or customers. Did I visibly improve somebody’s day? Did I help them to feel better? Did they feel like they mattered? All of this, I did without even realizing that it was part of Lencioni’s theory. I asked God each day to help me to be a light to others in my work, even if it just meant stepping out of my comfort zone and engaging a stranger in conversation. I asked God to give me the ability to see that one or two people that I served who needed a light. Now, I know so many “strangers” in my town and I’m reminded of the verse in Hebrews…

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

The third sign is Anonymity. Lencioni believes that people cannot be happy in their job if they are not known. Does anybody know they exist? Does anybody view them as a person with feelings, dreams, aspirations, struggles, joys, etc? Once again, I am reminded of that verse when I help others. As far as myself during that time, if I had only remembered that I am known inside and out by my Maker. He knows who I am and what my dreams are, as well as my struggles. He knows me.

Reflections on the Book and the Results of Putting it into Practice

After reading the book, I began to see why my manager was thinking of me, and she even said, “I have seen you try to get so much out of your work, aspire to more, and take initiative and responsibility without even being asked.” And I believe that’s the best form of witness to another anyway! Is that not what we are called to do? Live a life in faith and show our love and His love? I began to put Lencioni’s “signs” into practice with my coworkers and even my customers, and the change was astonishing. Now, I no longer have those “Monday Blues” and work life is so much more fulfilling. I’m learning more and more each day how to keep God involved. He’s showing me currently how to trust him with our finances and it really makes me laugh and cry at the same time.

Application to our Daily Lives

I really think that these methods can be used not only in the way that Lencioni meant for them to be used (at work for managers), but in all aspects. What if we applied them to our spiritual walks (as I learned the hard way)? What if we applied them to our daily lives with the short interactions we have with people (the cashier at the grocery store, the teller at the bank, the neighbor with which you try not to make eye contact)? What different lives we would lead…

Learning to be Content in a World of Monday Blues (Part One)

In my job, we have quarterly evaluations. As you might be suspecting as you read this post, I just had one recently, and it stayed on my mind for a while. I’ve been at this job for two years now. It’s certainly not a glamorous job, and I never really thought I could be happy at it, but, call me crazy, I really am enjoying my days.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not always a bucket of sunshine. I hate early mornings like everybody else. I am definitely not saying that work is a place where flowers grow out of people’s ears, stars twinkle beautifully overhead, and unicorns dance a ballet either. I’m not saying I get paid a bunch of money to do the humdrum, tiresome work. I’m absolutely not saying that I never come home frustrated with the work, the day, or the job.

I’m merely saying, I’ve learned how to appreciate my job, and get the most out of my work for me (and if I’m honest, that often times coincides with getting the most out of it for the company too — but, the first priority is the motive of my heart).

My evaluation went very well this term, and as I talked with my superior about the job, she mentioned a book that she had recently read and said that I was on her mind the entire time she was reading it. She then asked me if I would be interested in reading the book (obviously it isn’t required reading for the job). I answered that I would very much like to read it (a book that was going to make part of my job easier? I’m on board!) and with that settled, I waited to receive the book from her in a couple of days, with curiosity about why she was thinking of me while reading it! Now, for you to understand why, I will have to launch into my history at the job.


The History – Chapter One: Growing, Learning, Aspiring

Two years ago, I was trying my hardest at my job. Trying to succeed. Trying to do my best. Trying to learn more and advance. I had few skills as I first started, but I learned on the job. It was all around a good experience, even if just that it was a completely new one to me. I had aspirations to become a leader, and not just do a job well, but to help others do a job too! I even asked my boss how I could get there faster. I was happy because I was growing.

Things did not stay that way for long, though. With an interesting turn of events, management changed suddenly, and things at work become much more chaotic as we waited for our new boss to arrive, two months later. The managers that were inspirational to us on the bottom rung of the ladder were gone, and we were left with dried up, disheartened and careless leadership. Work was unpredictable. Would we accidentally do something wrong today?

Chapter Two: Misery, Bad Habits, Discouragement

I was a nervous wreck, and slowly, my thought process changed from “do my work unto the Lord” to “make my bosses like me — or at least not hate me (oh, and they did for a while).” I was no longer growing. I was surviving, and I was not doing it well (just ask my husband). I would come home from work and rant for forty-five minutes about the atrocities of the day. I would often cry in discouragement and fear of losing my job (and our only source of income). I would be weary everyday upon arriving home, and I would only have enough energy to fall into bed, turn on the television, and eat takeout for dinner — never mind actually cooking, getting some fresh air, or doing anything productive! I set such horrible habits for myself and for my husband that took a long time to break.

I remember being discouraged at the monotony of it all and fighting a daily battle of wills with God (I could not see how I could possibly be learning anything as wonderful, useful, or as meaningful as learning how to be a mom — I just wanted to be a wife and mother right then. A story for another time). How could what I was doing be anything less than a source of constant depression? Yes, the job paid the bills. Was it edifying? Was I learning anything? Did I do anything but dread Mondays, only to live for 24 hours of peace on the weekends?

I was in a terrible place, and I dragged Daniel there with me for a long time. I thought I could never love my job. Somewhere along the line, I watched the bad management that we had at the time from afar and vowed to never enter into such misery and corruption. I stopped aspiring to leadership. This job just became a waiting period to the next job, the next town, and the next chapter of life. I would think, “I’ll be happy when…” and I would stop living the fullness of life and faith that I had been living during the first part of my working.

Chapter 3: Hope, Stubbornness, Growth again? (When passion makes a come back)

As there are seasons for everything, a new season sprung forth at work, and things began to change once more. This time, I looked at the change as a “seasoned war veteran” so to speak, and I planted my feet, folded my arms, and refused to budge. It wasn’t that things were good or even satisfactory at work, I was just terrified that they would get worse. And so, with as much stubbornness as I could muster without getting in any sort of trouble, I silently protested the changes, and made one of my (now favorite) new manager’s life really difficult. You see, I was assigned to her for a new system of evaluations. But before we had those new evaluations, she was meant to help me to grow in my job. A job I’d been working at for nearly a year at this point.

All of the sudden, someone was trying to tell me how to do my job better, and I wanted no part of it. “Why? It’s not like I’m getting paid more. You just want to make my life harder. No one else does it this way!” Those were the thoughts rattling around in my mind. And because I was so stubborn, I refused to even talk to her about any of it. It took a lot of work getting the company back to high standards, and it started with the arrival of our new boss.

When he arrived, he had to interview each of us to see if we would even stay on. I cannot remember the exact question I’m thinking of, but it went something like this…

“Why do you want to work at the company?”

I answered from the mind of an employee who had been downtrodden and ignored, and all that she could think of was her paycheck and her rent check. “I think the company is a really good company, I’ve always admired it, and I’m glad to be a part of it.” (Glad. HA.)

He scribbled some notes down and then after a little dialogue, he told me that he was likely to make some changes around the place, he might keep us all, but it could be possible that he would cut some people if they did not meet his standards. He gave me the impression that he would not tolerate any nonsense, and that he wanted to run a legitimate business with great customer service, and care for the employees (if we worked hard and earned it). With a little hope in my heart, I blurted out my honest thought, just as he was closing my folder.

“I’ve been here for almost a year now, and honestly, this place has fallen apart in the last several months. When I started working here, it was a place that inspired me to be the best person I could be, on the job or off. I went home after a ten hour day and cleaned my whole apartment from top to bottom every week. I cooked dinner even after two shifts for my husband and did it happily. Now I go home exhausted, discouraged, and have no energy for my family. I miss that inspiration. I miss those standards at work, and the pettiness that goes on behind the scenes is depressing.” I was shocked by my own blunt words, but I waited for a response. Hoped he would respond, and not be offended.

“That’s what I’m talking about. Yes! That’s passion. We need that here!” He exclaimed in enthusiasm. I started to think that he was just the man we needed for the job!

We both got up from the table smiling, and he shook my hand. That was the day hope sprung in my heart for a more satisfactory job. I still had a long way to go, but I began examining my heart and a little bit of that attitude I had before started to come back.

Now, over a year later, work is such a blessing. I am happy to be a part of the team, and my heart is in the right place. The time where I suffered through everyday at work did not leave me with nothing to learn from though. It was then that I discovered that I did not want to be a manager, at least not at that point in my life. Even now, I’ve turned down the offers. Why? It’s a long story. But I know that I have a lot to learn about being a servant, and I’ve also found a way to help others do their job well, and become better people in their work environment without becoming a manager. I instead became one of the first trainers in my job. I love it. Getting to help others who remind me of myself during my stubborn times, and seeing them blossom is rewarding in and of itself, yet God has seen fit to use that position to help us financially as well.

Where does that leave us with that book I mentioned? Tune in tomorrow to read the exciting conclusion, what I learned, and why things changed!

And, here it is! Learning to be Content in a World of Monday Blues (Part Two)