Updated: Jan 23
The labor force participation rate (LFPR) in the U.S. is at 62% (November 2022). This is the percentage of the people who are eligible to work, who are working. To give you some perspective, the LFPR was 59% in 1965 and gradually increased to a peak of 67.5% in the mid-1990’s. This increase was primarily due to women entering the professional workforce. The LFPR dropped sharply to 62.5% after the housing crash in 2008 and has remained at this low level ever since.
I know that most who read this blog post are not number geeks like I am. However, the difference between 67.5% and 62% is substantial. For some reason, we Americans have lost our desire to work. Yes, we need money to pay our bills, buy a house, a car, and all of the other things that money can buy. However, work is much more than just a money source. It’s a blessing!
My first jobs paid less than minimum wage. I grew up in an agricultural community, and the only work was low-paying harvesting work that broke teenagers and illegal immigrants would do. I didn’t like the work; but I do remember liking the fact that I had my own spending money. As I grew older, I got fast-food jobs, janitorial jobs, and pizza delivery jobs. Eventually, I got professional positions after graduating college that paid well.
While each of these jobs paid differently, I experienced the same thing. I didn’t want to do the work; I felt proud of the work I had done. This pride came from a paycheck, no matter how meager or great, that demonstrated that someone else thought my work was worthwhile. The pride came from reflecting on the results of the work I had completed and why it was worthwhile. The pride came from knowing I had the ability to earn a living for myself and my family.
Those who make this connection of the notion that work is hard but worthwhile create what we know as work ethic. Work ethic is showing up on time, doing the work you’re being paid to do, and caring about the quality of the work product that you produce for customers. People who have a good work ethic understand the win/win opportunity that is inherent in job opportunities.
What if your job sucks?
This simple picture of work ethic that I’ve painted doesn’t ring true for some. Some of you have a job that you despise. You have a boss that’s a jerk. You have co-workers who are lazy. My coaching question for you is, “How true are these statements?”
“I hate my job!”: Work is not meant to be pleasant. That’s why others pay you to work. If your job is pleasant, it’s entertainment. You pay for entertainment. I hear the statement, “if you enjoy what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” This is a well-meaning platitude. However, it has turned many away from work when they experience difficulty. Yes, there are people who are content with their work. Why? Because, they’ve made the ”work ethic” connection I discussed above. If you only focus on the difficulty of work, you’ll never be happy with work regardless of the job you perform.
“I have a jerk boss!”: Bosses are people. As such, they will have good and bad days. Bosses have good and bad habits when it comes to managing others. Just like your job, you can focus on the negative or appreciate the positive. Ultimately, your appreciation of your work will come from you, not your boss. If you have a lenient boss who gives you praise when you don’t deserve it, you may love that boss. If you have a strict boss who criticizes you no matter what you do, you may hate that boss. Your work product is what gives you satisfaction. If your happiness relies on your boss’s opinion, your work contentment is under the control of others. Is that really what you want?
“My co-workers are lazy!”: You many have great co-workers who help you whenever they can, and always make sure you get the credit for the work you do. You may have co-workers who never contribute leaving you to do all of their work. You may have co-workers who do very little and take credit for the work you do. If you believe that “work is a blessing”, and you tend to do most of the work in your group of co-workers, who is gaining the greatest blessing? You are! I’ve been in some deadbeat groups. It’s not great when the group gets credit for work you’ve done on your own However, it is helpful when you understand that “experience” is what employers value. If you gain experience while your co-workers don’t, you will be more valuable. It really doesn’t matter what opinions your boss or co-workers have on one project.
Your job may not pay well, or you want a better job. That’s perfectly natural. The key is to be diligent in your current job as you seek out a better job opportunity. If you show up with a terrible attitude feeling that it is justified because you have a terrible job, you will either get fired; or ruin future job opportunities with a poor reference.
ATTITUDE is EVERYTHING
As a core energy coach, I focus on my client’s energy. Energy is synonymous with attitude. I will illustrate what level of energy or attitude workers possess. If you identify with one of these levels, it will help you if you can pick a level that works best for you.
Level 1: Victim: Victim workers believe they’re being used. They feel stuck in a sucky job and no skills to get a better job. They believe work is necessary to pay mounting bills and would quit in an instant if they somehow won the lottery.
Level 2: Conflict: Conflict workers find fault with their job. They focus on what’s wrong, and the difficulties of work. They strive to get higher pay or better jobs and are angry at employers who don’t recognize their superior value. These folks are the most likely to become “back stabbers” in the business world.
Level 3: Acceptance: Acceptance workers are in a routine of showing up to work on time and leaving on time. They do their part with little complaint. You will experience very little drama from acceptance-minded people because they avoid any sort of trouble. Acceptance workers hate change.
Level 4: Compassion: In a dog-eat-dog world, compassionate workers are the opposite. They enjoy serving others and get excited when someone else gets a promotion or a pay raise that they helped. The worse thing you can do with a compassion-minded person is give them a job that isolates them from others.
Level 5: Opportunity: These are the entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs look for win/win opportunity in their job. They embrace work ethic because they understand how you must invest to reap rewards. Even when opportunists face difficulties in their jobs, they see such difficulties as opportunities instead of obstacles.
Level 6: Synergy: Synergistic people are often leaders. They not only see the benefit of their job, they see bigger pictures of how many people working together help the world. Synergistic people rarely lose heart with difficulty.
Level 7: Total Awareness: At this high energy level people seem disengaged from their work. Don’t be fooled. They are highly intuitive and engaged workers. They are visionaries who understand the challenges being experienced by the people who work for them. They are masters at using their knowledge and intuition to accomplish great things.
Pick the best energy level and attitude that fits your work situation; and you will find the blessing in work.
How can you be blessed by work?
I’ve waxed poetic about how work is a blessing in this blog post. Here are some of the highlights:
Work is difficult
Work is rewarding
Attitude and perspective matter
If your job sucks, review #3
Regardless of whether you’re a janitor, an engineer, a doctor, a dishwasher, or a plumber… your job matters. Regardless of whether or not you have a good or bad boss, your work is a blessing. If you appreciate your work as a blessing, you enjoy work. If you don’t, you'll be miserable… and work has little blessing to offer you.
About me. I have been actively engaged in the energy efficiency, renewable energy, and energy conservation industry all my professional career from 1987 until now. I was a licensed Professional Engineering in six states and a Certified Energy Manager (CEM). I worked as a sales executive, energy engineer, sales manager, and entrepreneur. I started, grew, and sold my own Energy Service Company (ESCo) called Ennovate Corporation (1997 to 2013). I am now a certified professional business coach for business owners, engineers, and business development executives.