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The Secret To Job Happiness Might Be Who You Work With

If I were to ask you where job happiness comes from, how would you respond? Conventional wisdom says that your happiness at work comes from one of these four sources:
  • “follow your passion” (what)
  • “play to your strengths” (what again)
  • “do something with purpose” (why)
  • “live your values” (how)

It’s also true that 95% of career-success books follow one of these lines of advice – but what if they’re wrong?
What if your job happiness comes not from what you do, why you do it, or how you do it … but instead comes from the people around you? Your bosses, peers, and subordinates all can play a huge role in your job happiness. Let me give you a few examples that support this idea.

I know a talented MBA who works for a public-private partnership with a mission that would make any do-gooder proud. He is planning to quit that job because he feels the firm’s leadership disregards the human element of their work, bickers internally, and lacks integrity. I’m reminded of a well-researched fact I learned during graduate school: employees don’t quit jobs, they quit supervisors.
My firm once did a pro-bono project for the US Navy where I observed a grueling exercise routine. I asked one of the instructors why anyone would sign up for that – and honestly, I think I expected a response about patriotism. Instead, he explained that they join to be part of a camaraderie. It was a community where they had each other’s backs.
If the secret to job happiness is who you work with, then that means you should plan your career differently. Rather than meditate for too long on your passion and purpose, you could think about the kinds of people you really want to be around. Who do you want to be your customers? Who do you want to be your colleagues? What sorts of personalities?
Rather than sourcing job titles, you could be sourcing bosses and colleagues you want to work with. I recently told a young job-seeker, “Don’t just go find any old job in your industry. The most important thing you can do right now is to find the right boss – to hire your boss. Hire the best boss in your industry – someone who will teach you, invest in you, tell you the truth, give you real feedback, put energy into helping you discover your ideal path, and then help you achieve it.”
Once you land your new dream job, be mindful of the time you are spending with the people you want to work with. Don’t just track your goals and results, track the time you are spending working with the specific people in your company who you want to work with.

Dr. Geoff Smart is the chairman and founder of ghSMART, a leadership consulting firm that exists to help leaders amplify their positive impact on the world. Dr. Smart and his firm have published multiple New York Times best sellers. He stays active in his community and has advised many government officials.

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