Steve Pogue, Marketing Operations Manager here at Workzone, recently mentioned to me that he’d gotten some less-than-satisfactory work done on his house. It got me thinking: man, where has taking pride in your work gone?
Taking pride in your work. Not an easy concept to wrap your head around. But let’s try.
Let’s talk about what it is and what it isn’t. Let’s talk about this nebulous concept and whether or not it can be taught. (Spoiler alert: we say yes.) Then let’s talk about how you can start feeling more pride in your work by the end of this week.
What Is Taking Pride In Your Work?
It’s a subtle mixture of humility and self-confidence: a delicate balance that says, “I must prove myself again and again through my work,”—yet at the same time, says, “I’m confident that I can prove myself again and again with my work.”
It’s the sort of job you do when no one’s looking. It’s striving for quality—not because your customer or your boss or your peers will judge you if you don’t, but because that’s just the standard you hold yourself to.
It’s responsibility, initiative, and enthusiasm. I think it’s the difference between the garbage man who’s a shining role model for a Texas 2-year-old and Peter from the movie Office Space, the poster child for the average, disenchanted office worker.
I think—no matter your salary or your educational background—it’s what dictates whether or not you love your job or hate it. And I think it usually correlates almost exactly with whether or not you see yourself as an active agent of change in your career or a passive, powerless spectator.
What Taking Pride In Your Work Isn’t
The professional who doesn’t take pride in his work is the one who moans about “the daily grind” and feels that life begins and ends on the weekends.
He’ll turn in lackluster work just because it’s due on his boss’s desk by the end of the day. Or worse—he’ll miss the deadline completely.
He may claim he’s “doing his best” but he won’t pay any mind to the goals or plans or stats about his work that would paint him a real picture.
The professional who doesn’t take pride in his work isn’t a wholesome influence on his colleagues, his peers, his spouse, or his kids.
He’s a real bummer. But I think we can turn him and his career around. I think we can teach him to take pride in his work.
Where Did Taking Pride in Your Work Go?
Here’s my theory: as technology advances—as more of our outputs are in digital form rather than physical; as we’re sucked into larger and larger corporations that are so big they’re easy to feel alienated from; as we earn salaries that largely depend not on our output but on the time we spend at the office each day—we forget what our work even looks like.
We can’t feel the tangibleness of our deliverables in our hands. We forget that our output even matters. So we can’t take pride in it because we’ve lost sight of what it is.
Google “lost art of taking pride in work” and you’ll find interesting articles including:
a study on Home Depot and the decline of craftsmanship; a narrative on a potential revival in letter writing; and post by a blogger who, just like me, thinks the root of the problem is having lost touch with the final product.
Maybe he’s right. Maybe—just like craftsmanship and letter writing—taking pride in your work is a lost art and technology is to blame. The Industrial Revolution, the assembly line, the age of the internet, our now now now culture are to blame.
But aren’t we to blame, too? I say so, and I say that—no matter who or what is to blame—we can take things into our own hands and revive the lost art of taking pride in your work.
Can Taking Pride In Your Work Be Taught?
Here’s why you might say no.
- You can’t teach taking pride in your work because it’s an innate trait. You either care…or you don’t.
- You can’t teach taking pride in your work because our digital age has left us too out of touch with our often abstract output.
- You can’t teach taking pride in your work because there’s no such thing—you either do your job or you don’t.
- You can’t teach taking pride in your work because it’s too cloudy a concept to put into actionable steps.
Here’s why we say yes.
- You can always learn to adopt better behaviors and a more productive mindset.
- Our digital age may make keeping in touch with the tangible good that results from your work a bit more difficult, but it doesn’t make it impossible.
- Tell that to Steve, Workzone’s marketing manager, whose hardwood floors may have been “done,” but weren’t done quite right.
- What kind of attitude is that? Even if there’s some truth to it, we’re damn well inclined to try.
What if our professional started making small changes to his work habits, changes that built up to huge differences over time?
What if he started—instead of leaving early when he “finished his work” for the day—stayed until 5, or even 5:15, to prepare for the next day? Check out this guide to leaving work on time after a super productive day.
What if—when his boss left for vacation—instead of breathing a sigh of relief, he saw it as an opportunity to prove he can work hard without direct supervision?
What if these changes, over time, made our professional realize he’s actually good at his job, and that he can take pride in his work?
We’d give him a pat on the back, indeed.
How to Take Pride in Your Work: 3 Building Blocks
Here’s what we won’t tell you: that taking pride in your work is only attainable by some feel-good not-so-actionable means that mostly requires “positive thinking” and “doing your best” and “doing it with a smile.”
Because that’s lame. And you can’t really do any of those today—right now, like as actual steps.
Here’s what we do suggest: starting with these 3 simple (but not always easy) actionable steps that all come down to putting yourself back in touch with the final product and your role in making it happen.
1. Start with Why
Inject meaning back into your work by really thinking about why you’re doing it. Realize that your customers, your boss, your family, all need you to do this task, and that the smooth flow of things at your company depend on it.
Example: Our professional might not love having a chat with one of his team members about being late to work every day, but he’s got to do it if he’s going to take pride in his work. Why? He realizes that:
- his supervisor has entrusted him with supervising others within the company and needs him to step up and be a strong leader;
- this employee needs him to give her a wake up call about her lateness and lackadaisical attitude towards work before she’s fired for it; and
- his family is counting on him to do a great job at work so he can continue to provide for them.
When in doubt, go back to the Why. Each task has a purpose—remind yourself of it.
Your actionable step for this week? Every time you’re dreading doing a task, stop for a moment and dig a bit deeper into why you’re doing it. Appreciate this small task as a part of the whole.
2. Wake Up Early
Here’s a more general tip about your attitude towards life and your life’s work: hitting the snooze button a million times and battling your body to get out of bed every morning is not the message you want to send to the Universe, God, the quantum field, or whatever else constitutes the whole shebang in your life.
Waking up early signals to your subconscious that you’re excited about life, excited about your work, and that you’re giving yourself plenty of time to live your purpose.
Example: When our professional wakes up early, he has time to take care of himself before he starts his work day. He meditates, he might pray; he works out and gets in a good breakfast; he might even get to say bye to the kids before he leaves. He’s treating himself well, which you better believe affects how well he’ll perform in the workplace.
Your actionable step for this week? Wake up early tomorrow. Try Apple’s built in wake up features, a regular alarm clock or Kiwake, a lovely alarm clock app that won’t make you want to throw your phone across the room.
And once you’ve conquered that? Start working on your perfect morning routine.
3. Take Responsibility
What does a Navy SEAL do when facing failure? He sure as hell doesn’t blame it on his team, a lack of information, or lack of resources.
He takes responsibility for his actions and bucks up. That’s what best-selling author—also retired Navy-SEAL—Jocko Willink talks about in his book Extreme Ownership.
Take responsibility for your team’s actions. Fail bravely. Because, I promise you: employers would much rather you take responsibility for your team and their shortcomings than point your finger in every other direction. Try it out and you’ll enjoy greater senses of maturity and personal growth because of it.
Your actionable step for this week? Listen to Tim Ferriss’s podcast interview of Jocko Willink and let his ideas on extreme ownership inspire you. Get comfy, because it’s a 2 and a half hour listen.
Still hungry? Good. Read his book next.
One Step at a Time
I do my New Years Resolutions a bit differently. I pick about 6 things to accomplish for the year and focus on only one of them at a time, 2 months at a time. Because I like staying sane.
You probably like staying sane, too, so don’t worry if you’re not conquering everything all at once by the end of this week. Focus on these 3 small tasks for now. Build on that, and you’ll enjoy a genuine pride in your work in no time.
So, are we nuts, or is this decline in people taking pride in their work a real thing? It’s not just us, right?