Four Secrets to Liking Your Work: You May Not Need to Quit to Get the Job You Want

Four Secrets to Liking Your Work: You May Not Need to Quit to Get the Job You Want

by Edward G. Muzio, Deborah J. Fisher PhD, Erv Thomas PE

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This is the eBook version of the printed book.

“I wish I had this book when I started teaching! It’s a must-read for anybody who works. The simple, organized, and realistic exercises gave me new perspective about who I am, and helped me learn to better enjoy what I do.”

–Krystal Wood, Elementary School Educator

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This is the eBook version of the printed book.

“I wish I had this book when I started teaching! It’s a must-read for anybody who works. The simple, organized, and realistic exercises gave me new perspective about who I am, and helped me learn to better enjoy what I do.”

–Krystal Wood, Elementary School Educator

“Proactive and empowering! How I wish I had Four Secrets to Liking Your Work during the times my work as a Pastor was not only frustrating, but also depleting me emotionally and spiritually! The book is full of practical tools and approaches that help reverse the downward spiral that we face when we’re unhappy at work. It puts the control back in our own hands, and helps us to create work lives that are happier and even emotionally and spiritually enriching. I strongly recommend Four Secrets to Liking Your Work to anyone who is experiencing difficulty in his or her work life.”

–The Rev. Dr. Paul Debenport, Senior Pastor, and Head of Staff, First Presbyterian Church of Albuquerque

“A must read! With a hands-on approach and actual homework activities, it will change your whole outlook and give you the fresh start you need. The light at the end of the tunnel is no longer a train, but the bright future of a renewed and refreshed perspective.”

–Robert H. Mallory, Accredited Green Building Professional, Southwest Noise Control,


“There are many guides to finding the right job out there, but few others teach us to make the most of our current situation. The understanding of self and others taught in this book will help people to be at their most constructive, whether they are working at home or in a more traditional environment.”

–Anne Laird, Homemaker & Small Business Owner

“Helped me understand what drives me and, more importantly, what drives the people I love and work with. This book will help anyone communicate more effectively, improve relationships, and reduce the pain they feel at work.”

–Joseph Rodman, Director of Training and Education, Jaynes Construction

“Working with others is unavoidable; this book gives you a deeper understanding of what makes them tick. It’s a concise, easy read that will improve your personal and professional life.”

–Dr. Donald E. Conklin, Vice President, United Corporate Services, Inc., and Adjunct Professor, Dominican College MBA Program

“Life is too short to not enjoy what you do! This book is a gem, filled with practical, simple, and direct advice for of untangling the twisted nets of communication failures. It is as valuable to an employer trying to maintain high-functioning teams as it is to an employee who is feeling dissatisfied.”

–R.A. Bobbi Hayes, CPA, Partner, Accounting & Consulting Group, LLP

“By internalizing the mind-expanding principles presented in Four Secrets to Liking Your Work, I am now enjoying my work on a much deeper level. Many times when I thought my coworkers simply ‘weren’t getting it,’ it was actually I who wasn’t getting it! There is no empty feel-good rhetoric here–this book distinguishes itself from pop self-improvement books by focusing on breaking through barriers with disciplined action instead of just giving you a pep talk. It provides the missing tools everybody needs.”

–Jim Foster, Vice President, Staffing and Human Capital

“Liking your work is one of the greatest blessings in life, and these authors know all about how to find or create that blessing. Those who follow this book’s advice will see lights turn on wherever they are in the world of work. Leaders, listen up! This book is not just about you, but about everyone you work with. HR, listen up! This book will help with on-boarding AND with retention.”

–William R. Daniels, CEO, American Consulting & Training, and Author, Breakthrough Performance and Change-Able Organization

“In a globalized world, this book provides analytical tools and approaches for honoring differences in the workplace.”

–Ron Sacchi, Director of Organizational Learning and Development, VeriSign, Inc., and Author, Design/Build Your Business

“A gem of a book for anyone who works or manages others. Provides insights and exercises that reveal the secrets you need to enjoy your work and your successes.”

–Dion McInnis, University Administrator, and Author, Listen to Life, Wisdom in Life’s Stories

“I have known just one or two of the Four Secrets to Liking Your Work, when used individually, to enable leaders to maximize productivity, and to make a huge difference in how teams operate. In combination, the Secrets have the potential to be one of the most powerful team building and organizational assessment tools I have ever seen.”

–Steve Overcashier, OD and Training Manager, COPART Inc., (#140 of the FORBES 200 Best Small Companies)

“The logical next step to the Strengths Finder, and an enjoyable read.”

–Lisa Baker, Vice President of Marketing, Hewlett-Packard

“Provides pragmatic ways of developing self-awareness and using it to take your career in powerful new directions. Anyone can use the four Secrets to find career happiness and ongoing success.”

–Gail Hurt, CEO, Living Authentically Career & Life Mentoring, Certified Career Practitioner

“A no-nonsense, practical guide to dispassionately evaluate job dissatisfaction and an invaluable framework for evaluating human interactions far beyond the workplace. Clear and relevant, with analogies, examples, and a tinge of humor. An accessible and exceedingly useful tool. Dissatisfied employees who are wondering whether they should leave their jobs owe it to themselves to read this book and move toward a better future at work–whether they choose to leave or stay.”

–Janet Williams, Site Strategy Manager, Atomic Weapons Establishment (England)

“An inspiration and a relief! I’ve seen many tools, but none that approach things as effectively as this book does. It will do a lot of good for a lot of people.”

–Peggy Robinson, Education and Training Supervisor, 3M (Retired)

“Because we aren’t taught about office relationships in law school, our actual experiences can be so negative as to drive us away from our hard-earned careers. This book is the needed prescription for dealing with a sour and enervating workplace, teaching us what our formal educations ignored, and putting us on the road to a more rewarding experience in our workplaces.”

–Dr. Denise D. Fort, Professor of Law

“Taken together, the four Secrets create a powerful environment for change. Although the book is written at higher level than others, it does a great job explaining and simplifying complex concepts.”

–Lynne H. Schluter, Manager, Lockheed

“An easy read, different from what I have read in the past. Provides tools for in-depth understanding which allow the reader to make better choices at work.”

–Gerald Lipka, Corporate Project Manager, Sandia National Laboratories

“Wow! What a great book! It connects so many career and life lessons like puzzle pieces, and makes them all fit together at work.”

–Denise Schultze, Central NM President, National Membership Chair, Society of Women Engineers

“The ideas in this book really opened my eyes and taught me the skills I needed to discover my own needs and desires for a satisfying job experience.”

–Ellen Phifer, Technical Team Lead, SURVICE Engineering

“Packed with practical, useful information. Like reading a book about people I know.”

–Laura Oliphant, PhD, Senior Investment Manager, Intel Capital

“Presents concepts that are both useful and thought-provoking. A reference manual and a very useful tool.”

–Dave Berry, Senior Systems Engineer, Harris County

“Truly enjoyable! The most fun I’ve had with a career tool ever! Information presented in a new and very usable way; skills everyone should know and use. I’d give a copy to everyone on my team!”

–Bernice Brody, PMP, Executive Project Manager, IBM

Stop dreading Monday morning! Wherever you work, whatever you do, you can make your work life more fulfilling, more joyful...and it starts right here, right now, with this book. You’re holding the first practical, start-to-finish program for transforming your work life: all the tools, tricks, ideas, examples, and proven research you need to make it happen!

Dive in, and discover how to improve all your interactions with colleagues…what really motivates you, and to find the positive feedback and work experiences you desperately need...what you can learn today to become happier and more effective in your current job...when to quit, and how to find the work you’re meant to do. One day, one small step at a time, start building the work life you’ve always dreamt about...passionate, fun, and enormously successful!

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Pearson Education
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ProloguePrologueMonday Morning Dread

The alarm broke the peaceful silence of the bedroom with an ugly metallic buzz, the dial glowing sallow green numerals of an obscene hour. Brian rubbed his eyes; consciousness came slowly. Soon, that old feeling of "work dread" began to smother his spirit. The day ahead of him drifted into focus, and his all too familiar feeling of dismay was close behind: It's time to go to work.

Like many, Brian lost his "will to work" years ago. The thought of a whole week at "that place" made him want to go back to sleep or to vanish and never return. The conflict, the oppression, the sadness, and the boredom were unbearable. Yet he could find no alternative. Bills needed to be paid, and he had become fond of eating.

Old habits die hard. Brian had dreaded his job for so long, it was the first thing he thought of as he awoke. But then he remembered something else. Six months ago, he had been given a book, one that claimed he could like his job again. It explained different ways of looking at work, through filters or lenses that could help to identify some of the dread and replace it with action. "One kind of Genius," the authors claimed, "is the ability to see the same situation from multiple perspectives."1 Changed understanding can produce changed action; changed action produces changed results. He was utterly skeptical, but he had no better option. He read his new book and waited for failure.

To his surprise, it helped. It wasn't long before he felt a small shift. This made him just a little less skeptical. The more he used the book, the better it worked. His job became first more tolerable, then more enjoyable. When he had started reading, he had been intent upon quitting his job as soon as possible. Now, he wasn't sure. Maybe it wasn't so bad if he approached it the right way. This was a novel thought for Brian.

As he awakened that Monday morning, Brian felt the familiar dread and then remembered his new strategy. "What am I dreading," he wondered? He recalled that often it is a single, fixable problem that overshadows everything else. Several difficult things were going to happen that day, but which one was causing the dread? One by one, he tried the different perspectives taught by the book, isolating each possible source of his pain.

He found it. He would have to work with a particularly troublesome person that afternoon, someone he would otherwise avoid. In his mind's eye, he looked again at that interaction with his new perspective. He considered what would probably happen and planned his responses accordingly. He knew things wouldn't be perfect, but he decided he could at least make a slight improvement.

He checked, and his feeling of dread had vanished.

Welcome to Brian's book.

Why Do We Work?

Besides the obvious answer, "to survive," there are deeper, more meaningful reasons to work. The idea of applying our energy to create a positive result is fundamental to both our culture and our belief systems.

The ideal of "the value of hard work" is culturally pervasive, from the children's story of "The Little Engine That Could"2 to the iconic account of a person of modest background who works hard and "makes good." One need not be from the United States. Otherwise privileged students at the People's University of China, for example, work in service-oriented jobs for educational credit. Why? To learn the value of working hard and efficiently, a value espoused by Chinese President Hu Jintao.3

This value runs deeper, to our spiritual beliefs. A large number of creation accounts have existed, from ancient times to present, describing a creator working to construct the world as we know it.4 From the Japanese account of gods Izanagi and Izanami5 fashioning the world from chaos, to the Iroquois (Native American) account of animal spirits creating terra firma with mud from the bottom of the sea,6 to the Judeo-Christian account of God creating the world in six days and stating "it is good7," faith traditions abound that discreetly reinforce the link between work and positive outcome at the highest level.

Work at Its Best

Whether it is a spiritual account of a creator at work in the heavens, an iconic literary figure turning gumption to payoff, or an employee spending energy to produce a result and receive a paycheck, work is the application of effort to add value to the world. We have no shortage of problems; opportunities abound for us to contribute however we can. Through work, we become "part of the solution" rather than "part of the problem." Whether you are working on the cure for cancer, grilling burgers for hungry customers, or laboring at home to raise your children, you are contributing positive results to the world.

Work validates our own sense of value and contribution and gives us a sense of identity. For many, work is where we spend most of our time; it becomes the backdrop against which we define ourselves—so much so, in fact, that many of us don't want to leave. There are more than 4.5 million members of the workforce today who retired and then began working again because they "wanted to." This group's motivation was not financial; instead, they listed reasons such as health, energy, and fun for returning to the workplace.8 Work adds value to us even as we add value to the world.

As we grow and develop in the context of work, it forces us to look inward and understand who we really are: our gifts, talents, weaknesses, and passions. Work can support us at multiple levels of development, from building physiological safety and security to learning self-esteem. Over the years, it becomes the canvas on which we self-actualize.9 So many of us have individual accounts of how we learned and grew individually from experiences at work.

At its best, work can help us learn patience, understanding, humility, empathy, constructive confrontation, honesty, and integrity. The lessons and skills that make us more effective at work can also make us more effective in life. Ideally our work should bring us joy.

Work at Its Worst

The reality is often the opposite. Work can produce negative results. It can be used to cheat, to lie and to hurt other people. Much "work" was done within World War II and the holocaust, for example. Work can tear down others, even those we love. It can hinder the progress of others simply to make someone look better, and working energy can be spent to cover up wrongdoing. We can even work hard at pretending to work!

Work can build us up, but it can also tear us down. It can involve long hours over an extended period and physical and emotional stress. Many of us have experienced negative workplaces that demean employees, either accidentally or intentionally. This has a tremendous impact on self-esteem, productivity, and morale. Many people come to feel devalued, insecure, and discouraged because of the environment in which they work. They get no feeling of pride, accomplishment, or value from working.

Some of this is not directly in our control; we can't "stop" an environment from being difficult. On the other hand, downtrodden employees often have more capability, resources, and options at hand than they realize. We cannot choose the actions of others, but we are always free to choose how we interpret and process them. In those choices lie chances to grow.

What Work Offers

You might simply feel as if you have to work to survive, and all you want to do is experience less dread and misery. If so, this book can help you achieve that goal. If you've been suffering for a long time, "less dread" in itself may seem to be an ideal or unreachable goal.

We hope that you will consider another goal for work. Work teaches us much about ourselves. Some of the most useful pieces of information are the reasons behind our satisfaction or misery. Viewed carefully, those reasons act like mirrors, showing us hidden facets of our strengths and preferences. How carefully we gather that knowledge and what we do with it is entirely up to us. This book isn't only about "suffering less." It's also about "learning more"—that is, learning more about ourselves, more about those around us, and more about how to find or create the environment we need to thrive. We can build on our knowledge and let it direct our paths into the future.

There is, of course, a risk. With knowledge of our strengths comes knowledge of our weaknesses. As we learn, we must use the knowledge we gather for ourselves, not against ourselves. Rather than being proud of our abilities, it is easy to become depressed about what we lack. But if we focus on our weaknesses and ignore our strengths, our greatest gifts lie dormant and undeveloped, and we become weaker still.10 The goal—of this book and at work—is not to harp on weaknesses, but to find a way to play to our strengths as often as possible.11

How Far Could You Go if You Loved Your Job?

Imagine a work life so compelling that winning the lottery would change your bank account balance but not your daily routine.

How would this type of joy and balance affect your life? How far could you go? How much money could you make? How much could you learn? How well could you support your loved ones? What could you contribute to the world? What could you contribute to yourself?

Imagine living and working like this for 10 years. How about 20, 30, 40 years? Now imagine looking back on all of this productive, joyful work. What will you have accomplished?

This book is not a stop-whining-fast program inflicted on you by someone else. It is about you doing what you can to make your work life better. Imagine for a minute that you looked forward to Monday morning. Imagine work that was fun, engaging, and felt more like recreation and less like...well, work! Imagine thinking, "I can't believe I get paid for this."

It's hard to believe that a conscientious worker would not also be a successful one in such a situation.12 It might sound like a naïve and impossible goal if you're in the majority, dissatisfied with your job and feeling trapped, but it is possible to achieve this kind of satisfaction. And like any object of pursuit, your odds of success increase tremendously when you understand what "it" is and what "it" looks like.

So let's begin...

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