[Tweaking your job to suit your personality]

Google had a problem. While the software engineers were happy with their creative jobs, other employees in jobs like sales or admin were less than happy. What could be done about this?

Organisational Psychologists hypothesised this was i) because people saw their job as something ‘fixed’ and ii) because they felt their job did not allow them to really be themselves. So they ran a workshop during which they encouraged employees to try to see their job as something flexible: was there something they could change perhaps? Or something extra they could do? The idea was to find ways to align their job with their own preferences or talents. People were prompted to explore various possibilities, and they did:

  • …an artistic salesperson designed a new logo;
  • …a financial analyst who preferred face-to-face interaction, decided to send his clients short videos instead of emails;
  • …a sociable marketing executive redesigned her job to include event planning – although this was not part of her job description.

So, was the workshop a success? To check this, the researchers measured the participants’ levels of happiness and performance before and after the intervention. Six weeks later, there was a clear increase in both metrics compared to a control group.

Buoyed up by this success, the researchers ran another workshop. This time they encouraged participants to think of both their job and their skills as malleable. Again, they noticed the same spike in both productivity and well-being. In addition, participants were 70% more likely to get a promotion! (A. Grant ‘Originals’ – p. 25) The moral here is that we often tend to see our professional reality as set in stone, when in fact it need not be.

So what about us then? Having talked with countless colleagues in ELT, I know that many of us are not as happy as we could be at work. Well, why not try tweaking our jobs a little? For instance…

  • …if you are an IT geek, you could volunteer to help design the schools LMS;
  • …if you feel constrained by the coursebook, you could try introducing more fun elements in your lessons (e.g. short ads to go with the topics of the units);
  • …if you feel you are always pressed for time during the lessons, you could set up a class on Edmodo or a special group on Facebook and encourage your students to share interesting stuff in their free time.

Your job is more ‘craftable’ than you think it is; if your reality is not what you would like it to be, change it.

The Moral: Your job is not set in stone; sculpt it to suit who you are.