Here’s a fact that will surprise no one who has ever worked in an office: Fifty percent of people are unhappy in their job. Yet the reason why we daydream of a better life while watching cat videos as we count down the seconds till clock-out isn’t because we’re lazy or because we don’t want to do work. It’s because most employers aren’t allowing us to focus on and utilize our strengths, and we feel devalued because of it.
“Workplaces are really good at inducing stress and anxiety and fear and worry,” says workplace well-being expert Michelle McQuaid. “They’re not so good in bringing out the best in people.”
That’s why she’s launching the global One-Week Strengths Habit Challenge starting Monday, August 17, to help individuals be more energized, confident and happy at work.
How exactly? Just follow these three steps and you’ll be on your way to seriously kicking butt at — and loving — your job.
Step 1: Identify your strengths
When asked to list their top five strengths, most people freeze. Turns out a lot of us have no idea what we’re good at — or even what our best qualities are.
Fortunately, there are lots of strengths-assessment tools that can help — and that you can find free online, such as the VIA Survey (www.viacharacter.org).
“It only takes 10 minutes, and it identifies your character strengths — so things like curiosity, humor, kindness, gratitude,” McQuaid says. “That’s great because while we don’t always have control over what we have to do in our jobs, we do generally have a fair amount approach what we have to do. That is often the easiest way to start.”
Step 2: Figure out how you already use your strengths at work
Once you nail down your top strengths, ask yourself how you’re already using them on the job.
“Think about the last time you were engaged and energized and enjoying your work,” advises McQuaid. “Those are the moments you’re using your strengths — that’s why we feel good about them.
“It might have been part of a big project you were working on, or it might have been a really small moment — a meeting or something where you walked out thinking, ‘Actually that wasn’t too bad,’” she explains. “But by looking at those moments you can start to identify, ‘So that’s how my curiosity is being used in this role,’ or, ‘That’s how I use kindness effectively at work.’ And as you start to spot those, it becomes possible to think about how you can do a little bit more of that each day.”
Step 3: Develop a habit
The final step: consciously using that strength. Every. Single. Day. McQuaid says that she’s very curious, so years ago, when she was beginning to feel restless in her role as a global brand director at PWC, she decided to utilize her hunger for information by reading one new thing a day when she first got into the office.
“It was just 10 minutes, but after a few days of doing that, I found I was looking forward to getting to work,” she says. “A good day for me is when I learn something new,” she continues, meaning that suddenly, because of her new habit, every day was a good day.
“Ten minutes is perfect to develop a positive habit, because it’s excuse-proof — it’s nothing. And you don’t need anyone’s permission — you don’t need to change your job description to do it. You just need to be willing to stick with it.”
Spending 10 minutes honing your own strengths at work will not only improve your attitude — it might land you a promotion. “Do more of what you do best each day, and the other people around you can see the potential of what you have to offer as you go about your job,” says McQuaid. “And in my experience that starts to open different opportunities for you as time goes by.”