Today I start a new series of articles, on what I call “good jobs” – how we can create future jobs that make people feel fulfilled, happy, and expansive, rather than disengaged, unfulfilled, and/or depressed.


There is a danger, when I speak onstage about my life’s journey and particularly that pivotal obituary exercise, that I accidentally incite people to quit their jobs. They come up to me afterwards and whisper, “My god, when you described how you felt in your old job, that’s exactly how I feel now. And I know I want more. I’ve made up my mind to leave/seek redundancy/start my own business/cycle around the world.”

It used to cause me some consternation that my story could have such an impact on people, until I realised: a) that they must have already been unhappy in their jobs for a long time, and I could only ever have been the straw that broke the camel’s back (with apologies to all camels), and b) that generating this kind of response was going to cause me serious problems getting repeat business from their employers.

So I started thinking about how we could flip this around. Rather than changing the attitude of employees so that they quit, how could we change the attitude of employers so that their staff stay?

I was recently reading Why We Work (clue: it’s not for the money), a fascinating book by psychologist Barry Schwartz. He quotes a 2013 Gallup poll, which gathered information from 230,000 full-time and part-time workers in 142 countries.

bored-worker“Overall, Gallup found that only 13 percent of workers feel engaged by their jobs. These people feel a sense of passion for their work and they spend their days helping to move their organizations forward. The vast majority of us, some 63 percent, are not engaged. We are checked out, sleepwalking through our days, putting little energy into our work. And the rest of us are actively disengaged, actually hating our jobs. In other words, work is more often a source of frustration than one of fulfillment for nearly 90 percent of the world’s workers. Think of the social, emotional, and perhaps even economic waste that this statistic represents. Ninety percent of adults spend half their waking lives doing things they would rather not be doing at places they would rather not be.”

This breaks my heart. What a tragic waste of human time, energy, and potential.

And it must frustrate employers too. Where is the fun in trying to goad, bribe, or otherwise coerce disenchanted employees to do their work? Wouldn’t it be far more effective if they could find a way to align individual objectives with corporate objectives so that staff are highly motivated to do their best, because what is best for their company is best for them too?

When I look back at my own clock-watching past, during most of the 11 years that I was a management consultant, I can imagine how my working life could have been so very different. I think I’ve proved in the years since I quit the City that I have not inconsiderable amounts of determination, creativity, initiative, resourcefulness, motivation, and commitment. But did any of my managers have any inkling that these qualities lay untapped within me? No. (Of course, neither did I. ) But what if they had been able to direct that huge reserve of energy toward a corporate goal? It could have been amazing! Sadly, we will never know. But of course it’s not all bad – if I’d have been just a bit better at my job I may never have left and ended up rowing oceans.

So how do employers take people like me, and unleash all that untapped potential? That is the question I will be exploring over the course of the next few weeks.


What about you? Do you love your job? If so, why? If not, why not? What would make it better?





  • Great topic for your new series, Roz! This is such a prevalent issue in our society, and something needs to be done. More and more people are choosing to go on business on their own, but we will always need people in corporate jobs, and the more satisfied they are, the better outcome for them, their employees, and society.

    • I quite agree. And if most of the talented, self-starting people feel they have to start their own businesses, that is going to leave the big companies struggling to find good people.

  • Thanks for another insightful glance into your views on achieving the life you want! Here is a brief update since you and I last met up, as well as thoughts on jobs.

    I liked my job as Yale’s recycling coordinator but, following my lay off (along with 1/3 of my managerial colleagues) I have landed another job that is in many ways better. As recycling coordinator for the City of Waterbury I am given greater rein to run the outreach and educational efforts. In addition to personal contact, social media, and video I am also using magic…really. I not only perform recycling magic programs at the public schools but also at events and while I am door knocking and reaching out to those waiting for appointments at the neighboring Health and Education departments. Magic catches the eye, lightens the heart and opens up individuals to the power they have to change the world by turning old…into new via recycling. I feel very fortunate to have transitioned to what provides nearly a perfect mix of satisfaction for my devotion to sustainability and love for magic.

    To your point about changing jobs OR changing attitudes of co-workers at a current job, I hope to do both. I have changed my job and, by instilling a sense of wonder, magic and even “fun” in our recycling efforts, hope to change attitudes. One “trick” that works well so far: be nice. Seriously. Respect co-workers, understand their problems and thank them for their work. I send wizardly thank you cards to folks who help us with big projects. A custodian rarely receives thanks or respect for his or her work. Sending the custodian who helped us with a big event a thank you card gave him a different sense of his work and of me as a co-worker. This is a bit of magic we can all do to make our work more enjoyable as well as more productive.

    Keep the magic going!

    • I absolutely LOVE the idea of sending thank you cards to people to thank them for work well done. A LinkedIn endorsement or recommendation is also nice, although the card definitely has the more personal touch. Let’s see if we can’t wave a magic wand and make the world of work a more human place to be!

  • Great topic and I thoroughly agree. I feel big companies like the NHS for example, could really benefit from taking this idea on board.
    Thank you for giving me more to think about it.

    • From what I’ve heard about the NHS, I totally agree! I heard about a doctor who hadn’t been told his shifts for the next 6 months with just 2 weeks to go. So he couldn’t even plan a vacation with his family. That just comes down to basic human respect.

  • In my experience it is poor management by individual middle managers. I find companies want to get it right but the managers don’t have the skills or desire to get it right. I don’t find it difficult to do but then I’ve had 30 years experience of managing people. Instead of promoting people who are good at their technical skills companies need to look at their management abilities a bit more.

    • Yes, middle managers have a tough time. They get it in the neck from both below and above. And stressed-out people tend to struggle with the soft skills that are so important. So these changes need to be made throughout the company to allow everyone the space to work effectively rather than efficiently.

  • Thank you for writing such a important issue.Here are some of my tactics:

    1-We (as employees) are gathering with family members) in every opportunity.(eating dinner,Going concerts ,)

    2-We are supporting each other ,we see each other as a teammate

    3-We are very aware of what would happen if we would not do these.

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