Are you happy in your current job? And who is responsible for it? Teresa Amabile researches creativity, happiness and motivation at work. Her research shows everything from small wins to inner work life make a big difference in an individual's ability to be creative, happy and productive at work.
From Amabile's Marketplace Money report:
When my research team and I studied 26 teams of professionals in seven companies, we found that generally, the work environments of the team and the organization matched -- whether good or bad. But for six of those teams, their local environment was either much worse or much better than the organizational environment. Our analysis of day-by-day mood and motivation for those six teams found that the organizational context -- such as top management criticism -- was overshadowed by the local things, like a team leader's encouragement and coworkers' support.
Amabile, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, will join The Daily Circuit Tuesday to discuss workplace happiness. Cal Newport, assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University, will also join the discussion.
He wrote about career happiness and following your passion for The New York Times:
Growing up, we were told by guidance counselors, career advice books, the news media and others to "follow our passion." This advice assumes that we all have a pre-existing passion waiting to be discovered. If we have the courage to discover this calling and to match it to our livelihood, the thinking goes, we'll end up happy. If we lack this courage, we'll end up bored and unfulfilled -- or, worse, in law school...
If we're not careful, it tells us, we may end up missing our true calling. And even after we make a choice, we're still not free from its effects. Every time our work becomes hard, we are pushed toward an existential crisis, centered on what for many is an obnoxiously unanswerable question: "Is this what I'm really meant to be doing?" This constant doubt generates anxiety and chronic job-hopping.
VIDEO: Amabile on "crisis of disengagement" at work
Kerri interviewed Teresa Amabile, a professor of business at Harvard, and Cal Newport, a professor of computer science at Georgetown.
She studies how managers can ignite joy and engagement in employees. He wrote a popular New York Times article about finding passion in whatever work you do.
Kerri wants to know why you chose your career and whether you still feel fulfilled by your job.
From Cal Newport's article:
Today, I’m a computer science professor at Georgetown University, and I love my job. The most important lesson I can draw from my experience is that this love has nothing to do with figuring out at an early age that I was meant to be a professor. There’s nothing special about my choosing this particular path. What mattered is what I did once I made my choice.To other young people who constantly wonder if the grass might be greener on the other side of the occupational fence, I offer this advice: Passion is not something you follow. It’s something that will follow you as you put in the hard work to become valuable to the world.
Teresa Ambile on a study about what motivated creative people:
"While at Brandeis, I did a laboratory experiment with creative writers—people who spent a significant part of their time each week writing fiction, poetry, or drama. I wanted to see if their creativity would be temporarily affected by having them focus on extrinsic motivations for being a writer, such as getting rich and famous, versus intrinsic motivations such as enjoying the process of writing. After getting them to think about one or the other set of motives (or no motives for writing, in a control condition), I had them each write a brief poem that was later judged by experts who were also blind to the experimental conditions. I found that the creativity of the poems was significantly lower in the extrinsic motivation condition than in the other conditions."
Cal Newport has a new book So Good They Can't Ignore You.
Cal Newport thinks "follow your passion" is dangerous advice. Better to choose a path and then make yourself happy at your work.
Teresa Amabile says ask yourself:
What do I seem to be good at?
What do I care about?
How can I develop skills?
Strength in writing, speaking, mathematics, and science are a good base.
You sometimes need to take a long time to build skills says Cal Newport. Grad school wasn't fun for him but those years were important.
Read his blog." />
Cal Newport. Read his blog.
Follow her on Twitter." />
Teresa Amabile. Follow her on Twitter.
@KerriMPR This convo actually makes me feel a bit better, since I am not "passionate enough" about any one thing. I like lots of things!
I was working in the non-profit world after college, and my parents got divorced. I decided to choose a career where I could be financially independent, take care of my kids, and work part time.
I went back to medical school and became a family physician. I loved that work, but got burnt out on the schedule, even at part-time (I have 4 kids and am married).
I took 9 months to retrain in Medical Acupuncture, and am very happy there--still working as a doctor with a much less stressful daily schedule. Am happy to still be doing intellectually interesting work that helps people! Making less money these days, but time and peace are worth more to me than money.
In 1985 I quit my job as a financial analyst to become a full-time fiction writer.
I've never regretted it. I made the choice because I no longer had time to do both, and I thought that as I writer, I would have plenty of scope for using my financial skills as I managed my career, but as a corporate financial analyst, I wouldn't have nearly as much scope for writing about dragons. I was right.
I went into Engineering (degree in Mechanical Engineering). I choose my career out of high school knowing I had the chops for the math and science and that the pay was good. Now I'm 35 and dread going to work every day. I have a strong creative passion, which engineering doesn't fulfill. I want to be a photographer - though the unfortunate reality is that with a family and kids at home, it would be terribly difficult to make such a jump now.
Who decides what “passion for work” means? Does it mean enjoying what you do? Does it mean becoming so obsessed by your work that you neglect your social or spiritual life?
Passion for work seems to be another American myth propagated in movies and books, along with the rugged individualist, love at first sight that lasts forever, and the always-happy family Thanksgiving. It’s hard not to feel like something is wrong if your life isn’t following these strands.
From a blog post that Teresa co-wrote. The story of a person fulfilled at work:
We, too, have seen how meaning can make work that might seem dull or repetitive rich and rewarding. When one of us (Teresa) went to get an annual blood test, she noticed that the woman who was about to draw her blood was smiling broadly. Teresa remarked, "You certainly look happy today." The phlebotomist replied that she was happy, because there were lots of tubes lined up waiting to be filled with blood; that meant that she would be drawing lots of blood. No, she was not some kind of sadist. Rather, she went on to explain that the vast majority of illnesses are first detected by simple blood tests, and having lots of test tubes lined up meant that she had the opportunity to help lots of people.
I work with the National Marrow Donor Program. I chose this because helping people fills my life with absolute satisfaction. My cup runneth over.
@Chuck Great point and I concur 100% with Chuck!
ENGINEERING! Most versatile career.
Almost everyone (if they start their Math young-enough) should have a basis in technology; you can go almost anywhere w/basis in Engineering. Esp. good career for women; my ex-wife grad. Marquette Univ in '75, was top female engr in MN when retired last year as Pres. of her consulting firm! (we're both retired now).
So many opportunity for creativity: I've traveled the world w/several patents. I made several job-jumps; EVERY field needs engineers! YOU need to explore the various fields yourself to find your niche, or float around, "job-shopping", which several of my friends have done, for that variety! Engineers can then climb ladders w/MBA's or Master's in Engrng. Limitless Career! thank you.
I went into engineering as well, and I feel fortunate that the company I work for allows nearly free movement throughout a multitude of positions.
I am in product design currently but have options for management, research, marketing, manufacturing, human resources, etc. We are given all the opportunities to make what we want of our career. I also recommend for engineers that many large companies have rotational programs which allow you to explore areas that may interest you for 6-9 months at a time before settling on a path to start out on.
Read more about The Inner Work Life Effect.
Teresa Amabile says small wins or accomplishing something is what leads people to feel they had a good day. What does a "small win" mean to you?
Challenges test abilities or resources in a demanding but stimulating undertaking. A new project at work is a challenge, of course. A whole new challenge -- stopping what you are doing because you know it's not fulfilling and not waiting until you figure out what TO DO. It's a thrilling ride - scary and exhilarating and unbelievable ALIVE.
Life is short. Take a risk. I knew one thing when I left my comfortable job -- that I wanted the time to provide day care for my 5 month old nephew. Now, at 55, taking care of a baby -- that's thrilling. And starting my own business at the same time -- yikes. What fun life can be.
I love what Cal is saying. I'm flipping the process. I worked in nonprofits for 15 years. I'm burned out and really tired of making very little money. I'm assessing my skills and looking for work that pays a lot more. I don't need to love, I need to like it and feel useful and use my skills with an employer that offers some flexibility and autonomy.
@DailyCircuit the convo., live with intention, find the joy, follow your passion, and be thankful if you get paid also #MastersofEd student
@kerrimpr I agree with your guests: passion happens AFTER you've invested hard work and time. You work for passion!
@kerrimpr Creativity happens where management/administration encourages open-mindedness. Thankfully, I work in such a place!
I adore my job exactly because it allows me to be very creative, and to express my true passion. I develop and teach courses about the importance of music in our lives, and how it is so essential to our well-being.
Here's the deal: I got my PhD in educational psychology from the U of M, and the whole time I was in graduate school I knew my discipline fascinated me...but at heart I could tell it wasn't where my absolute passions lay. What I have always been most passionate about is music! I have been a recorder player since childhood, and after I finished grad school I earned an associate's diploma in recorder performance. But I knew I didn't want to be strictly a performer and/or recorder teacher...and, while I was working on my associate's, inspiration started to strike! In December 2007, Led Zeppelin played their much-celebrated reunion concert at London's O2 Arena: they have been my absolute all-time favorite band for many years, but seeing excerpts of this show on YouTube reminded me all over again how profoundly I love their music and how vital it is for making me feel great. (Seems especially relevant to mention that since the film about that concert comes out tomorrow and I am going to see it...can't wait!!)
Around the same time, I read Dan Levitin's This is Your Brain on Music and Oliver Sacks's Musicophilia, and was absolutely enthralled to learn about the brain science behind music's effects on people. So with all this in mind, I eventually hit on the idea of teaching people about why music affects us so powerfully, since I knew I'm not alone in experiencing this kind of thing.
I approached several community ed. programs and the U of MN Osher Lifelong Learning Institute with my course proposals three years ago...to make a long story not quite as long, I have been teaching my classes since early 2010 and could not be happier! It is a wonderful way to combine my backgrounds in psychology, teaching, and music, and it not only speaks directly to my passion for music, but my students are always telling me how meaningful and joy-making they find my courses. (My students are mostly over 50 -- best age group to teach!) I feel so very fortunate to be able to do this! Sorry for rambling so much, but that's my story.
@KerriMPR sometimes safety and bosses gets in the way of a work, specially bosses don't see employees as an asset but s a cost...
@KerriMPR With school debt and a passion for writing, I need to build two skill sets--one for my wonderful day job, the other for my novel
@KerriMPR I was worried I hadn't found my singular passion & would be unhappy forever. This convo is a revelation (but maybe shouldn't be).
Apply these ideas to another life choice - marriage/life partner Go with what/who you find attractive, satisfies your needs (emotional, lifestyle), then be prepared to work to maintain and rediscover the passion as it ebbs and flows. Don't shoot for perfection, but learn how to allow yourself to be happy with what you have. Career change/divorce is often not the solution to waning passion.
I'm enjoying listening to this program. After working in law enforcement for 8 years, I moved to the private sector for family reasons and was unfulfilled working in sales.
Finally at 40 years old, I decided to pursue my true dream, and began graduate school this fall in criminology, hoping to also enter academia as Cal and Theresa have done. Interestingly enough, a couple weeks ago, I learned of Cal by reading his time-management article for a class, then began enjoying his blog. (trying to call in unsuccessfully)
I have been so fortunate in my career. I pursued psychology straight out of high school based on a deep interest not knowing that it ended up to be the career path that I was meant to have. I've been practicing since 1996 and have plenty of *jobs* that haven't been really fulfilling all the time but the actual *work* that I do, which is helping people with a myriad of issues, is deeply fulfilling.
The skill building piece, including the business aspects of marketing, etc for a private practice, can be difficult,
Some people may never be happy with their job because they are constantly striving higher never satisfied with when and what they achieve not realising that it's the challenge itself that is their passion and they are not happy when not challenged.
(To add to my unfinished comment). The skill building piece, including the business aspects such as marketing a private practice, can be difficult and sometimes boring and even frustrating. For me, it seems important to pursue a career that IS intrinsically interesting because most of us have components of "getting there" that require something inside to keep us sustained on the way.
@KerriMPR As a professional dancer, progress can be so minute that it's hard to notice, easy to get discouraged. Performing keeps me going.
@kerrimpr I agree with your guests: passion happens AFTER you've invested hard work and time. You work for passion!
People don't need to be friends in order to work together. But people do need to respect each other to work together effectively. A boss needs to nip problems with interpersonal problems in the bud.
Read Solving Gen Y's Passion Problem by Cal Newport.
I am currently a social work doctoral student and am writing a paper on values of individuals working in social work professions. I have found that when the personal values of an individual align with their workplace values, they are more happy and motivated in their jobs.
I have worked in the same profession for over 40 years and have passion for the work. There is always something new and challenging to learn. However, I have been prevented from training on new or challenging areas despite asking to do so numerous times. After I turned 60, I have been stonewalled and new/younger employees are being trained.
We're talking about what makes a good boss now. (And a bad boss.)
Tom guest is Bob Sutton who wrote Good Boss, Bad Boss.
To be a good boss, you need humanity and an ability to organize the work, says Bob Sutton.
I look at my work with the same quality of attention I give my marriage. Both require committment, which to me is conviction in the rightness of my choice and ability to stand by the committment when the "passion" burns off. The love and committment I hold for both my partner and my work (not "job") endures. In my mind passion is to committment what a crush is to love.
I worked in a hotel for 17 years, and the job was OK, but we could never get anything done.
The boss would ask us what needed to happen to make us happier, and we told them we needed enough people so we could get the work done.
We would go to work and do our job and nerver see a change. Plus people were lazy and the brunt of the work fell on those that worked.
Some bosses are energizers. You interact with them and you feel full of ideas and commitment.
Some are de-energizers: you avoid them at all costs.
Another category is the boss who has your back versus the one who undermines or blames you.
What makes a good boss, If they ask the employes how to make things better, then they should try to acted on what the people said.
I just offer another perspective to the fulfilling work life experience, I wrote an article called the "Universal Purpose of the Nasty Boss" in the blog on my website angelsandemails.com....Basically it makes people think about the question, "Did your BOSS push you “out” – or were they the vehicle purposefully put in your life to help you move “on” from a toxic work environment.
Trying to not care about your job is really not the way to go, some of us tryed that and one gal ended up in the hospital for mental health because she couldn't do it. If you don't care about your job, you need someting outside of work to care about , cause if you don't you will go crazy.
One of the reason people think they have to LOVE their job, I think, is we see people on tv talking about how they love being a singer, or actor. That makes us feel like I am doing something wrong because I don't feel like that.
Bad boss story that ties into a recent show topic:
I used to work for a small business run by a pair of wacky brothers.
They had unpredictable and explosive personalities, were forever in tiffs with each other... and they would often carry handguns visibly tucked into the waistband of their pants.
They were crazy.
The reason I stayed?
I was FOLLOWING MY PASSION in my career as a photographer, and hung in there as long as I could to make that transition happen.
Worth it? I'm still deciding.
@KerriMPR Instead of the book to the bad boss, I gave a coworker a "how to survive a bad boss" as a parting gift
@KerriMPR Always wanted to (anon.) send a former horrible boss "how to not suck quite so much as a boss" books, but decided not to waste $
Thanks for joining in the chat today. I'm closing the conversation now but the archive will still be available to read.