This month, Geraldine challenged us to find someone who loves their job. I thought, ‘Now how could this be a challenge? Lots of people love their jobs!’ Then I started to look around my workplace and I realized that because we had just come back from a vacation, many of us were questioning whether or not we should be here.
‘Here’ is the United Arab Emirates, a small progressive Arab, Muslim, country in the Middle East, far away from our families and friends. For those of us who are expatriates and used our vacation to celebrate Christmas with our families, returning to work wasn’t easy. Yes, we have, for the most part, lovely places to live. My husband and I, for example, live on a golf course. We look over our back garden wall to the green and a long, beautiful, fairway. In the mornings, I walk our dog on the beach with a couple of other women and three more dogs. We tell stories, laugh and have a great time. It’s an amazing launch to my day.
We also have a reasonable work load and good pay. Expectations are clear and we are all aware of the joys and limitations of our work.
So what could possibly make us think about leaving? Well, every job has its ups and downs. As I read recently, most employees begin to question their commitment and disengage as a result of a ‘shocking or jarring event’ (Branham, 2005). This event is usually the ‘last straw’. While ‘vacation’ is not on Branham’s list, it is on mine. I have known many people who have made life changing decisions while on vacation. It seems that the change of pace opens our minds to new possibilities. So, as I looked at my recently returned colleagues, I couldn’t bring myself to ask if they love their jobs.
As it turns out, finding others who love their jobs was not difficult. I focused on my Emirati colleagues and students. Those who have strong roots in the country and are surrounded by their families!
I began with one of my students at the men’s college who recently began working for the military. He had mentioned that he was pleasantly surprised by the organizational culture of his workplace so I followed up with him. He credits his ‘boss’ with setting the tone.
His boss makes sure that everyone sits down to breakfast together and when they are having breakfast; there is no ‘rank’. Every person is equal and every person is encouraged to speak, not about work, usually, but about their interests and their families. If someone has to leave the breakfast, they don’t need to ask permission, they just leave. My student loves this time with his colleagues and his boss. He has learned much about interacting with others and about life.
If my student is caught up on his work, his boss will stop by and tell him to take the next day off. No questions asked. When someone does have time off, whether a day or the weekend, his boss tells them to turn off their mobile, forget about work and focus on their family and friends!
My student says that when it comes to mistakes, the boss is very forgiving; he takes time to help the employees understand what needs to change and ensures that they have the training they need.
So how does my student respond to this treatment? He stays late to complete his work, he is eager to learn and he often tells his boss how much he appreciates him. He applies the concepts he is learning in the Human Resource Management program at the college, that is, he takes his learning to work. He feels important and appreciated and he reciprocates.
The second person who loves her job works in Continuing Education at the college where I work. She too credited her boss with making the difference. She says her manager is really encouraging, and provides her with challenging projects. Recently her manager was promoted and the woman I interviewed is now wondering if she too will be promoted. But, for the time being, she is focusing on her studies as she works to complete her Bachelors. That is another benefit she appreciates, she can schedule her paid leave so she can study for exams.
She tells me that one of the best parts of her job is working with people in the community, helping them return to the college or enroll in training programs. She meets up with people she knew years ago and is able to see catch up with them, learning about their families (six children!) and their other successes. It is a small, tightly knit community and she really enjoys being a part of it.
It seems that my colleague is entirely suited to this work as she loves learning and enjoys meeting and working with others to help them achieve their educational goals.
So, there you have it! A very small sample size, but I have found some similarities. The role of the leader is so important! Something that I’m sure doesn’t surprise anyone. Giving people leeway to do what they want to do – whether it is to study or to be with their families and ensuring that they really take time off when they are not at work. The idea of being engaged with the job 24/7 isn’t important to these leaders and seems to make these two employees love their work even more. And, needless to say, they give their all when they are ‘on the job’.
Branham, L. (2005). The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act Before It’s Too Late. AMACOM, New York.