Joy on the Job

This week a family connection resulted in me landing tickets to see Michael Bublé’s sold-old concert.

The big band/jazz/pop crooner, often compared to Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, put on a magnificent show. His music literally had people dancing in the aisles. He was funny, irreverent, and surprisingly authentic….kind of made you proud that he was Canadian. 

Of mostly Italian heritage, Bublé was born in British Columbia and grew up listening to his grandfather’s collection of jazz records. In listening to the romantic and meaningful lyrics of those songs, it became clear to him that he wanted to be a singer who would sing that same kind of music. 

Watching him on stage made it apparent he was doing exactly what he was put on earth to do. Absolutely in his element, Bublé exuded a palpable energy that filled the entire arena and drew everyone in to the music.

His child-like sense of glee in combination with his more adult and sincere appreciation for the thousands of people who had paid to see him perform made him absolutely irresistible.

It struck me that what we were witnessing was pure and unadulterated joy.

It also occurred to me that while it’s probably rare to have that kind of love for your job, the odds of success must surely increase where there is such a match. 

For certain Bublé’s passion, energy and fun has led to success as a juno-winning and grammy-nominated international artist. Additionally his sense of joy was contagious, spreading not only to the audience but also to his musicians and to the performers in his opening act who also joined him in one of his final songs.

I’m guessing that those who have found this match of joy and job know it and are grateful. But what do you do if you don’t like your job and can’t, for whatever reasons, make a move? Is there a way to bring joy, even in small doses to your job?

In asking that question, I am reminded of an administrative assistant I once worked with who made it a priority to create ambiance in her office.

She had returned to the workforce as her children got older, vowing to make sure she wouldn’t lose sight of that which brought her joy. As a result, she bought and displayed a fresh bonquet of flowers on her desk every single week.  Another colleague of mine, managed to turn her cubbyhole of an office into a sanctuary with numerous plants and even a small water fountain.

When I find joy on the job elusive, I’ve found it important to get outside. Going for a walk always seems to help if I’m bored, antsy, or low-spirited. Something about fresh air, a change of scenery, and the exercise seems to open up new connections to joy.

I’ve also learned that joy is much more likely when you get more sleep. Going to bed even an hour earlier seems to increase the possibilities of waking up with a brighter outlook.

Another workplace friend told me that she has managed to maintain a positive outlook in a challenging government environment by signing up for a number of listservs. One of them sends her an inspirational quote each day, another shares best practices from among her colleagues across the country.

A woman I work with now has her own, and encourages her staff to start, what she calls a sunshine file. In the file she keeps letters, notes, emails and testimonials from clients and colleagues that have thanked her or acknowledged her work in some way. Whenever she needs a dose of joy, she flips through her file.

Sharing good news is also a strategy that can bring joy. I once had a boss who kept us focused on the difference we were making working with challenging kids by starting each staff meeting with everyone playing “new or good”. Each of us would offer our own stories of what had happened over the past week that was new or good.

I took this same learning into my classroom when I was teaching by inviting students to share their good news at the beginning of the class each week. I once had a student who kept her news of winning a trip to Florida to herself for five days in order to be able to share it in that class for the first time.

Contributing to a student’s or young employee’s career can also help you find unexpected joy. While we typically think of mentoring as building someone else’s future, there are surprising benefits young people contribute in terms of fresh outlooks and enthusiasm.

While it’s likely each of us can find joy in small doses, it doesn’t mean we should stop planning for the big changes that will lead us to the job we love.

Although it wasn’t clear to me at the time, I now realize that all the extra work I did on weekends and evenings over the years, was in fact the work I love. It was that investment of time and energy that has led me to a place where I too I’m experiencing joy on the job. 

Posted on 01-20-08


As I get older, I find it harder to process negative feedback. It’s a constant struggle to maintain positive attitudes.

You can’t ignore bad news when it happens. But you certainly can determine how to react to it.

It’s one of the most important lessons we can learn in life (and one to pass on too).

•Posted by michael  on  10/27/13  at  03:31 PM

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