How to avoid job misery

Did you know … Gallup research tells us that only 36% of employees are actively engaged in the workplace.

The rest lie between disengaged and actively disengaged.

In effect what this means is that 64% of employees are (to a lesser or greater degree) miserable in their jobs.

The problem with job misery is that it’s contagious and very difficult to conceal from the customer. It’s also an amazing waste of human potential.

In my mid 20’s I had a job that put me in the 36%. I was actively engaged in work that I poured my heart and soul into.

I was a safari guide in one of the great wilderness areas of Southern Africa.

We were immersed in nature – protecting and conserving endangered animals.

This of course was fantastic. But there was more to it than that.

The work itself contained the essential elements that contributed to my high levels of engagement.

There was purpose.

I remember waking up every morning believing I had a purpose.

We were a voice for nature.

We were on a mission. We wanted people to be touched by nature. To have an encounter with wild places they would carry with them for the rest of their lives.

There was adventure and excitement.

The animals we tracked and encountered were wild and free.

This generated tremendous variety on a daily basis. It meant there was always something new and interesting to respond to.

We also had autonomy and responsibility.

The organisation I worked for wanted us to be empowered and to make our own decisions. They gave us the freedom and tools to do so.

It was a wonderful environment to work in. It brought to the fore my resourcefulness, initiative, and creativity.

  • Resourcefulness
  • Initiative
  • Creativity

The very things the organisation itself needed to be successful.

View the blogpost above

A few years later I had a very contrasting experience.

I worked for an organisation that put me squarely into the actively disengaged.

The environment was toxic and political. The toxicity itself coming from 2 (senior) people.

I remember wondering to myself why the executive management never did anything?

It was a mystery to me. A great puzzle.

Why they never acted against those 2 individuals?

Now I understand it better. Working with leaders and organisations I have deeper insight into the nature of work.

I now know that the hardest thing for senior managers to deal with is confronting bad behaviour in the workplace.

Most would rather do anything other than confront difficult issues. Especially those that involve bad behaviour. Despite the effect being so obvious and dispiriting on everyone else!

Sadly, I didn’t know this then.

Instead I left. To seek a happier and healthier place to work.

What’s the lesson?

  1. Resourcefulness, initiative and creativity are gifts that people give. They do so in response to the environment that leaders create.
  2. When there is purpose, autonomy and responsibility and people are known and valued for their contribution these gifts are available to help the organisation succeed.
  3. Job misery is a reality for far too many. Leaders make the difference. They do so by setting the behavioural standard and confronting deviations from that standard the moment it happens.

We love hearing from you … what makes the biggest difference to creating a great place to work?

If you’d like to be in touch please call me on +27 82 894 4288 or mail me on

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