Satisfaction at work, for most people, is plummeting. We seem to be becoming a society of disgruntled people. And in the fact of this, there is much that people can do to be able to really have a successful and satisfying work life and avoid burnout.


Employees can’t keep living in hope that their work will provide them with the satisfaction and fulfillment that they want. Being at work really does provide an extraordinary opportunity to have a life that you love. Here are the keys to having both a profitable and enjoyable life at work:

1. Be clear about your vision for your work.

2. Be sure to have your work be about service to others.

3. Create an empowering culture for you and all those around you to work in.

4. Make a priority your relationships with the people you work with and for.

5. Maintain your integrity.


“My joy was boundless. I had learnt the true practice of law. I had learnt to find out the better side of human nature and to enter men’s hearts. I realized that the true function of a lawyer was to unite parties riven asunder. The lesson was so indelibly burnt into me that a large part of my time during the twenty years of my practice as a lawyer was occupied in bringing about private compromises of hundreds of cases. I lost nothing thereby — not even money, certainly not my soul.”
M. K. Gandhi

Only 6% of American workers say they love their jobs. And significant numbers say they hate their jobs. A Gallup poll conducted in 2005 reported that only 11% of workers said they were strongly engaged at work. 76% said they were moderately engaged. Only 49% of senior executives reported that they were strongly engaged at work and 9% said they were actively disengaged.

It is my humble opinion that it is not only unnecessary but absolutely crazy living your life not loving what you do. Life is just too precious and short. I sometimes feel that employees think that this life is a dress rehearsal for the real life. It isn’t! This is it. We can’t keep living in hope that it will eventually turn out. It’s turned out, and this is what it looks like. And the truth of the matter is that virtually every field of endeavor really does provide an extraordinary opportunity to have a life that you love. But it is going to take something on your part to have it be that way. Here are the keys to being able to love your life at work.

1. Be clear about your vision for your work

The first key is to be clear about your vision for your work. Essential to any successful individual or organization is a powerful vision for their future. A powerful vision serves as a source of inspiration for you as well as for the employees of your company, unleashing everyone’s creativity, productivity and effectiveness. Without an inspiring vision, work quickly becomes exactly that, work, sapping people of their natural vitality and motivation and leaving them feeling disempowered and resigned. No individual and no organization can be effective under such circumstances.

History gives us many examples of what a powerful vision did for individuals. Abraham Lincoln was defeated for public office no less than 8 times from 1832 through 1858, but he never gave up and was elected president of the United States in 1860. There are many stories about how Thomas Edison failed to invent the electric light bulb over 10,000 times, but his vision was so strong he never gave up. He never looked at an unsuccessful attempt as a failure, it was just one more possibility he no longer needed to pursue.

A classic example of what a powerful vision did for an organization was what President Kennedy’s vision of landing a man on the moon did for NASA. The circumstances for NASA in the early sixties were certainly no better than those facing today’s law firms. At the time of Kennedy’s famous pronouncement, NASA did not have the money, the rocketry, the materials, the computer technology, the manpower, or anything else needed to accomplish his stated objective. Yet, his vision was so powerful and so compelling that it mobilized thousands of people into action, and on July 20, 1969, the mission was accomplished.

After 10 years of talking to thousands of employees and teaching 2 semesters of law school, I am convinced that the absence of a powerful vision for their future is the single biggest reason for the high degree of employee dissatisfaction. Far too many individuals go into their profession because it looks like a good way to make a living, or to achieve some prestige, power or status, or simply because they don’t know what else to do with their lives. And while this isn’t bad or wrong, it does have deadening consequences.

So if you fall into this category, get to work creating a vision for yourself. Get the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and any other history books you can find and read these documents until your inspired. Then, write a vision statement for yourself and read it every day. Seen in the context of your vision, the day to day challenges of your job will look entirely different.

2. Be sure to have your work be about service

The second key is to have your work be about service. There are just too many employees who simply don’t care enough about their customers or clients. There are too many employees who focus on putting in their hours rather than providing meaningful customer service. Customers are searching desperately for personalized attention from employees who are concerned about them — employees with good reputations who are honest, who will listen to them and understand their problems, and are reasonably competent and efficient.

Although it doesn’t address the issue directly, Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People contains one of the best discussions of service available. Carnegie says that the average, self-interested person has mastered the art of being “interesting.” These are the individuals at any party or social function who busy themselves trying to impress others with their intelligence, status, or good looks. Their motives are selfish and their attention is wholly on themselves. Unfortunately, everyone else knows this too. Likewise, your customers recognize any self-absorption on your part when it is demonstrated by you or your company, and again, that demonstration need be only a matter of “where you’re coming from.”

Like all individuals, your customers desire your genuine interest in them, in their needs, and in their concerns. As Carnegie says, it is imperative that employees master the art of being “interested” in others. But the interest must be genuine. A facade of concern, promoted by a procedural TQM program, cannot mask self-interest beneath it; this is one of the primary failures of most TQM programs. To succeed, companies and their employees must become seriously interested in serving other people and learn to care authentically about the needs and concerns of their customers.

3. Create an empowering culture for you and all those around you to work in

The next key is to be committed to creating an empowering culture for you and all those around you to work in. Whereas the vision sets forth the fundamental purpose of a company, the culture provides “the rules of the road.” Every organization has a culture, but unfortunately, it is usually not one that is consciously and thoughtfully designed. In most companies, the culture permits idle gossiping, complaining, competition, a short term focus, and many other behaviors that disempower by pitting individuals against each other. If an organization is to survive, it is going to have to develop and implement a culture designed to inspire people and to forge people into a cohesive group. Everyone in the organization must be aligned on a common future and must operate according to the rules of the team. The culture must empower people to build relationships and promote communication.

As we move through these challenging economic times, those with the greatest commitment to quality and excellence are the ones that will have the greatest chance of survival. Essential to success will be a culture designed to promote this. An environment that eliminates gossip and complaints, resolves competitive tension, focuses individual achievement on the success of the entire company, and provides customers with more than they expect, will be absolutely imperative.

4. Make a priority your relationships with the people you work with and for

After the above has been established, the next key is to have your number one priority be your relationships with the people you work with and for. There is no amount of prestige, power and status that can make up for not having quality relationships with the people with whom you work. The 1980′s have been aptly called the decade of greed. Monetary goals became the guiding principles for many companies and employees whose attention was riveted on the bottom line rather than on the quality of life for the participants in the company. Now we are paying a price for this emphasis. Relationships — meaningful interactions with others — is a critical factor to the experience of satisfaction in any law practice.

A primary barrier to nurturing, effective relationships is the fact that employees operate at arms length with others. For the most part, employees in this adversarial environment are completely disinterested in relationships. They are interested in themselves; they are interested in winning; they are interested in making money; they are interested in their own success; they are interested in their own survival; but they are not interested in relationships.

As a result, many people are not or do not appear to be very caring, very compassionate, or very friendly. Employees like this are typically arrogant and cynical. They love winning and beating their opponents, but they are disliked and are very much alone and isolated. Unfortunately, this approach does work to some extent. Many of these same employees are very effective at making a lot of money. Yet, does their apparent success provide them, their staffs, their associates, and their friends and families with joy, satisfaction, and a zest for living?

What makes all of this particularly disastrous is that relationship is the foundation for accomplishment, satisfaction, and positive results in life. Very little in life is done alone. Whenever individuals work together, in the background is the depth and quality of their relationship. Any accomplishment is a direct function of that depth and quality. Most do not understand or appreciate the importance of working on relationships with customers, associates, staff, friends, or family.

What people must come to realize is that the existing paradigm of operating at work is bankrupt. Any continuance of the existing model will necessarily produce the same unsatisfactory, unfulfilling results as are currently produced. Only in abandoning the existing paradigm can the situation be rehabilitated.

Sound, nurturing relationships do not happen by accident. They require real commitment to others and a willingness to do the work of effective communication. Employees are going to have to reorient the focus of their work, emphasizing others, and retrain themselves, associates, staffs and customers in the skills of effective speaking and listening. And while empowering relationships will not solve all the problems we face at work, having satisfied customers who actively refer their friends will go a long way to resolving employees dissatisfaction. Building an efficient and productive office environment, and achieving the financial and personal success and satisfaction all workers desire will not occur without highly effective personal relationships.

5. Maintain your integrity

The final key to being able to love your life at work is to maintain your integrity. There are two parts to this. The first part is that far too many employees have misinterpreted the obligation to zealously advocate their company’s products or services as justification to do anything — whatever it takes to win — regardless of whether it is right, fair or in pursuit of justice. What doesn’t get noticed when employees stretch the rules is that they lose respect for themselves and the system. This begins to eat away at their self respect. Eventually they become skeptical and finally cynical, losing respect for everyone and everything. The price in dissatisfaction is far too high to pay.

The other part is simply to honor your word. Far too many employees are willing to justify their lack of integrity on their busy schedule. It doesn’t work. Do what you say you will do by when you say you will do it, keep your promises, return all phone calls, etc. Many businesses now see customer satisfaction as the competitive advantage.


It really is your choice. You can either serve out your sentence, be in it for a buck or have a life you love, and you must choose. If you haven’t done it consciously, look at your life and you will see your choice. If you are not satisfied with your present choice, choose again.

Author's Bio: 

Scott Hunter, author, speaker and industry leader, helps people GET UNSTUCK.
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