I recently gave notice at the job I have held for the last eleven months. I place special emphasis on the word “job” because the actual day-to-day work in no way resembles the type of work that I would call a career and certainly not a calling. I would like to talk about this job because even though I feel I have suffered through eleven months of droning misery, I suddenly find myself savoring every moment with my coworkers, who, in a matter of weeks, will suddenly be out of my life for what is likely to be forever. It is as though every overburdening task and each inconsideration has been swiped away. I search my soul; I find nothing but the good memories: the laughter, the accomplishments, the camaraderie.
This leaves me in an awkward position. From the moment when I told my supervisor about my departure and was shocked by his sincere excitement for me, to the moment when my other supervisor called me in to her office to tell me what an asset I have been and proceeded to shower me with applause…I have been resisting the urge to just throw up my hands and say, “You win! I’ll stay! You guys are so great, how could I possibly leave?” I fight to remind myself, “This is not normal.” These may be the people, but these are not the conditions I have been working with for eleven months. So what’s happening here? Why have I suddenly forgotten all the drudgery up to this point?
I suspect it is due to a multitude of factors: most especially gratitude, appreciation, love, loyalty, and forgiveness, to name a few. I find I am suddenly overwhelmed with these positive emotions, and now, eleven months of unhappiness has been made happy in numerous ways. Just as Barbara Fredrickson predicted, my senses have been broadened beyond the prosaic and often frustrating responsibilities of daily office life to the realization that I have developed complex and rewarding relationships with these people. We have memories, good and bad, but now all blended together and bittersweet. Just a day ago, I was cursing the moments to my last day, and now I am savoring them.
There may be some lessons here. First, I do not want to focus on these moments as being solely personal; I am trying to be mindful to consider them as a scientist as well. How can we extract the essence of this experience and harness it into work-life on a more regular basis? Is there really any way to acknowledge workers without falling into the trap of the hedonic treadmill? How can we keep the thrill of feeling appreciated new and exciting without over- or under-using this tool? Is it even wise to use appreciation as a “tool?” And second, no matter how well versed we are in positive emotion we are sometimes caught off guard when it happens to us in real life. I fully intend to spend the next four weeks absorbing the minute details about this place that I have long found so dreary. Already, my cubicle with the dim lighting somehow seems “homey,” the constant phone calls from disgruntled subjects are opportunities to talk with some of my favorite people, and the formerly insurmountable stack of work piled on my desk seems my departing accomplishment waiting to happen.
Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218-226.
Thank you at work courtesy of Joseph Nicolia
After reading my article I realize if anyone I work with ever read this, they might be hurt to know the degree to which I dislike my job. The people I work with and for, every one of them, have been wonderful. They are truly the reason each moment is bittersweet. Just wanted to clarify 🙂
Amanda – I got totally caught up in your story, feeling like I’m living in the moment alongside you. I wonder if you’re also creating for yourself a good ending as some sort of mature defense as Vaillant may describe it – so that’s neat if that’s the case. I wonder if you’re geting a good end in there in order to have good memories to later remember everything well, like increasing the end part of the peak-end rule.
Amanda – I thoroughly enjoyed reading your piece — it read like a novel, but it was real life – YOURS! What occurred to me is that maybe you had Meaning AT work, but not necessarily IN the work itself. And the part about your co-workers being “out of your life forever” — that may not necessarily be so. I still maintain friendships with at least one, sometimes two people, at my former places of employment. By the time you hit my age, you have “collected” friends all along the way. If your relationship with one or more people at work was strong, the friendship will transcend the work. Lastly, it sounds like your supervisors rarely used recognition/encouragement/appreciation — only when you announced that you were leaving. Dana and I found in our Capstone research that managers who regularly recognized an employee’s’ performance had higher project performance AND higher employee engagement — it really does matter. Of course, the recognition must be genuine and specific, otherwise it will feel like the manager is just using another management “tool”. I’m glad you’re taking some time to reflect on your experience, rather than jumping into something else. Warm regards, Margaret
Congratulations on finding such meaning in your final four weeks at work. It’s great that you are experiencing such a good end to a challenging time. While I know you are looking forward to the next chapter in your career, I love that you are savoring the best of what you have now.
To some of your last questions regarding appreciating others, I think it would be fun for you to try recognizing the good things in other people as you see them over the next few weeks. Recognize your peers and your supervisors. Let it be a case study of recognition. When do people appreciate it? Why do they appreciate it? And if it doesn’t go over well, ask them why? You have nothing to lose; you’re already leaving. Have fun!
Keep us posted on what’s next!
Master-Reality.ru website has reprinted this article in Russian.
Here it is: