Stay Positive

By Diane Schlindwein

May 7, 2010 4 min read

In today's economy, with layoffs on the rise (that's about 9 million jobs lost in this country since late 2007) and wage freezes considered "the norm," you should be happy just to have a job. Right? Well, maybe not.

According to a Gallup Poll taken earlier in this recession, a whopping 77 percent of Americans say they hate -- or at least strongly dislike -- their jobs. Chances are most of those folks don't dare quit, because as we've all heard -- and the numbers show -- these days decent work is hard to come by.

Tag Goulet -- who co-founded the career guide website FabJob.com with her sister, Catherine Goulet -- says that during times of job uncertainty, there are likely to be fewer "job leavers," a term used by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to describe people who quit their jobs voluntarily.

So, maybe you really abhor your job -- or you are just afraid that someday soon someone from personnel will bring the dreaded "pack up your stuff and go" box to your cubicle. In either situation, you still can take charge of your work life and find some peace on the job.

"During times of layoffs and pay freezes, it's natural to feel fearful, angry or sad," Goulet says. "However, it's important not to let those feelings show, especially when applying for a job or if your current job is on the line."

Pat Olsen, who blogs for the Harvard Business Review, has three tips for staying positive on the job. In his post titled "How to Survive in an Unhappy Workplace," he wrote that you must first face the reality head-on by understanding what you are feeling. If you show up for work irritated, it affects your performance, he notes.

Second, develop a plan to become proactive. Brainstorm with trusted friends or even co-workers. A lot of companies hire from within, so maybe there is a better job for you within your company.

Third, find (or accentuate) the positive by listing the good points about your job, for example, great benefits, cool co-workers or a short commute. "Listing what you do like about your job will help shift your perception and keep you from feeling so trapped," Olsen writes.

Remember that even if you are truly unhappy in your job, you do have a life outside the workplace. You may spend 40 hours a week on the job, but you still have 128 hours of free time. Don't waste all your energy complaining to your spouse or best friend. Instead, take a mini-vacation, have fun with your family and friends, or take up an enjoyable hobby.

"If you have time, find a part-time job in a field you enjoy, or start a part-time home business," Goulet says. "You may actually get started on a new career without risking your current job or financial security."

But you still have to feel positive and motivated, she says. "I believe it's very difficult to simply 'think yourself happy.' Instead, I recommend 'acting as if' you are positive, and even if your feelings don't automatically follow, you're likelier to get the results you want in the workplace."

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