Eric Westermann started his career as an archival photographer. Little did he know that one day he’d be dismantling clandestine drug labs, cleaning clumps of scalp from ceilings and removing teeth and bone fragments from walls. The 27-year-old works for Crime and Trauma Scene Cleaners, Inc. and his job often has him cleaning up after a brutal and bloody murder.
Whether or not your job is this demanding—or even gruesome—you needn’t suffer for a regular paycheque! Here’s how to reduce stress, improve your business relationships and change how you view your work—even if you’re a crime scene cleaner.
Play games with your co-workers.
Arlene Hirsch, career counsellor and author of How to Be Happy at Work, describes how a dignified, middle-aged university professor improved her work relationships through friendly (yet competitive) games of ping pong. She initiated weekly matches with her students. “Ping pong changed the nature of her relationship with them,” says Hirsch. “Her students began to see the fun-loving side of her personality, and realized that she was more skilled than they realized. Ping pong also created a healthy competitive attitude that carried over into the research lab where she and they worked together.”
Point your finger in a different direction.
Maybe your colleagues, clients or customers have you pulling your hair out. Or, maybe you’re the one who gets under their skin (let’s face it, we’re all annoying sometimes). “Working well with others goes far beyond likeability,” writes Julie Morgenstern in Making Work Work. “It’s about creating a pleasant, cooperative, energetic environment that ensures everyone gets the work done.” Time for a reality check: do you work well with others? According to Morgenstern, this means being available, reliable, adaptable, respectful, clear, and fair.
See beyond the “nasties.”
Westermann describes how he survives unpleasant assignments, such as cleaning up after a three week old human decomposition in downtown Toronto. “The sights are bad, but it depends on your interpretation,” he says. “It’s a matter of what you extrapolate from the craziness.” The tiny, drab, filthy apartment belonged to a chronic intravenous drug user. The only clean items were the school photos of her son and the window ledge where she fed peanuts to the squirrels. Westermann says, “This troubled and lonely woman, despite being forgotten by her son, never forgot him. And even though she had nothing in her fridge, she still shared what she had. There’s a lesson in that, I think, and every job has one.”
“Research shows that it’s your relationship with your boss – not how much you’re making, what you’re doing, or who you’re working with – that has the largest impact on your workplace happiness,” says Lawler Kang, author of Passion at Work. “And, always remember that you, not your boss, are in control of your feelings – both proactive and reactive. When your boss does something you don’t like, simply let it go.” To let go, Kang says, picture yourself standing sideways, letting negativity, criticism, and difficulties whoosh right on by.
Take control when you can.
Vancouver career coach Joni Rose helps people determine whether job dissatisfaction is in or out of their control. “One of my clients realized that she loved working as an event planner, but the company was a poor fit – and so she quit,” says Rose. “Another realized he needed to change his career direction entirely. Parental pressure had pushed him into accounting. He didn’t like it, nor did the job fit his talents and skills. After three months of coaching, he leapt into the career of his choice: film production.” To take control of your career, Rose advises determining the source of your job dissatisfaction. Then, seek solutions such as career coaching, professional development seminars or resume-building tools.
Heed the Goddess of Happiness.
“Like any relationship – no job is perfect. The trick to being happy is finding at least one thing you love about your work,” says Debbie Gisonni, author of The Goddess of Happiness: A Down-to-Earth Guide for Heavenly Balance and Bliss. “Maybe it’s the people, maybe it’s the pay, maybe it’s the short commute.” She encourages people to savor the perks of work, no matter how small. Then, she says, you’ll find pockets of bliss in your day – even if you’re cleaning up crime scenes.