Job satisfaction: How important are coworkers?
March 20, 2013 12:44 PM   Subscribe

Can a change in scenery - primarily coworkers - save an otherwise uninteresting job? Or if a job sucks, then the job sucks.

As I like to tell people, I work in a non-creative section of a generally creative industry. My job still has some cool parts - learning about new technologies, maybe a little problem solving, acting as subject matter expert here and there - but for the most part there isn't a ton of room for creativity, and I think I'm a fairly creative person. So it can get really tedious, frustrating, and soul-sucking.

That said, it's a stable gig and it has it's moments. But - I've grown SO dispassionate and unsatisfied about it lately, and I can't tell if it's the unglamorous work itself, or because I don't have any sort of working or personal relationship with my coworkers and the rest of my office. I don't have a ton of "work friends", I'm not included in meetings, I don't chat with anyone or have common interests, no one jokes with each-other - it's all very very hyper professional in my tiny department - work is delegated to me (usually by email), and that's about it: "Please do this." "Please have this to me by EOD." "Please revise these 3 reports." "Thanks."

Don't get me wrong, I don't need to be best friends with my coworkers and the last thing I want is to be that obnoxious guy when everyone else is just trying to be professional, do their job, and go home. But at my old office, I remember there being so much more laughing. People showing their personalities. Banter/rapport/joking between co-workers, bosses, and supervisors. It felt sort of like a family, in a way (even if it was sometimes a dysfunctional one).

So I really, really want to get out of here and have been trying for the past few months. But my two paths have been 1) Apply for/network for "dream" jobs, which will take a hell of a lot longer to acquire...or 2) Apply to jobs I'm qualified for, maybe be able to bump my pay, and most importantly, keep my fingers crossed I would be working in a more inclusive and warmer culture.

But my question is: Is that enough to bring back passion for an otherwise boring job? They say a great teacher can make any subject interesting - can awesome coworkers and supervisors make an otherwise monotonous job interesting?
posted by windbox to Work & Money (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The short version is "Yes." Doing awesome work in a crappy environment can easily average out to a "meh" job, and by the same token, doing "meh" work in a really awesome environment can feel great. Plus, when people really love working together and collaborating, the quality of their work often goes up simply by virtue of the fact that they enjoy the collaborative process, bounce ideas off each other more often, feed off one another's enthusiasm, etc.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:46 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

Based upon the Hawthorne Studies, it's your co-workers and them ALONE that predict your happiness at work.

So even if you were a shit-shoveller, you'd be a much happier one if the guy next to you cracked you up on a regular basis.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:47 PM on March 20, 2013 [22 favorites]

Unless the job is, like, working 100 hours a week in a salt mine, I think co-workers are the most important factor in how enjoyable a job is. I very fondly remember some totally menial jobs because of my friends there.
posted by phoenixy at 12:50 PM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]

Honestly, I've lasted a longer time in companies I hated doing work that was boring and sucked because I loved my coworkers than hating my coworkers but loving the work/company.

Leaving my retail job for an office job that paid literally twice as much was physically painful because I loved my coworkers at retail so much, even though the job sucked.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:51 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you can find a job with great people, it doesn't really matter what you're doing, what I like to say.
posted by sandmanwv at 12:55 PM on March 20, 2013

I figure I spend more time with my coworkers than I spend doing anything else except sleeping.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:58 PM on March 20, 2013

Parts of my job are deadly boring. Fortunately, my co-workers are mostly funny, interesting, smart people who seem to take pleasure in chatting about everything from specific work stuff to the best pairings of cheese and Scotch to bike gear to baseball and more. Makes a huge difference. I've had jobs where the work itself was pretty great but co-workers not so much and it was a recipe for misery.
posted by rtha at 1:12 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Coworkers really do make all the difference. I've had jobs where the coworkers I was friendly with left, and what had previously been a fair-to-middling job suddenly became misery inducing and soul sucking.
posted by MeghanC at 1:14 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

In my experience, coworkers do a LOT to make a job either crappy or awesome. Examples:

- I had a super-boring job where I spent literally about 30% of my time stuffing envelopes, but it was fun because my fellow envelope-stuffers were great conversationalists and made the day go by quickly.

- I had a job that, on paper, should have been amazing, and where the actual work was often very interesting. But my boss was so hellish that I was miserable and left as soon as I could find another job (and incidentally, my officemate became a good friend and was pretty much the only thing making that job bearable while I stayed).

I have had jobs with great coworkers where I was still unhappy, but that was, like in the example above, because of a bad boss. Remember that your boss is a coworker too!

Because of this experience, I pretty much think that, as long as a job meets certain baselines (pay, work you don't hate), your coworkers really make or break things.
posted by lunasol at 1:15 PM on March 20, 2013

I've always found there are three parts to work satisfaction, and you need two of them:

1. feeling like you're doing work that matters
2. the environment/people/culture (this includes subjectively feeling valued)
3. money

I've hit the trifecta once, and the missing link is usually #3. At one job though, #2 was awful #1 was only meh, so the decent salary wasn't enough to make up for it. I was there for maybe 3 months before hightailing it outta there.
posted by headnsouth at 1:15 PM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]

I was a barista and manager of a coffee shop for a number of years and still look back on those days very fondly, and it wasn't because of the work, hours, money, or customers.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 1:39 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are many days I regret leaving my last job, because I miss my "work family" so much. The people at my new job are nice and all, but I just don't click with them the same way. My last job was objectively a bad gig - I was underpaid, there were very few opportunities for development or advancement, and the managers were a bunch of pompous morons intent on running the company into the ground. I was really excited to move onto bigger and better things. But I totally underestimated how much of an impact that great coworkers have on my overall happiness and job satisfaction, not to mention my stress levels.
posted by keep it under cover at 2:17 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

One thing you might try right now is to reach out to your coworkers and see if you can be the one to inspire friendliness and a better work environment. I'd be willing to bet that all of the folks there aren't there because they love and are thrilled with a super-corporate, super-dispassionate work environment. They may be sitting back wondering why nobody's being as friendly, just like you are.

Certainly you can change jobs, but it might be worth a shot to take a step up and say, "Hey! Who'd like to hang out for lunch?"

You never know.
posted by xingcat at 2:36 PM on March 20, 2013

Nthing everyone else: coworkers make a huge difference. I wrote about this on mefi once before.
posted by smoke at 3:36 PM on March 20, 2013

One of the best jobs I ever had was theoretically awful, but I loved my coworkers so much that I didn't care. Both from a solidarity in all of us knowing how much it sucked, and them just being awesome.

And, as ruthless bunny joked, it was pretty much shit shoveling at times too when were shoveling putrid rotting meat trimmings into a dumpster. Didn't matter, still awesome.

Almost everyone I worked with still looks back on that job fondly too.

I feel like the work that matters/people/money thing needs a fourth one above though, hours.

A shitty job doing meaningless stuff with great people and decent hours for meh money can be fine. But the same job with constant expected overtime would be garbage.

How much time they expect out of you is important too.
posted by emptythought at 3:47 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

My beloved job was shovelling-meat trimmings too!! Maybe it just attracts a certain great quality of people to it.
posted by smoke at 3:57 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

You spend a lot of time with your co-workers, in some cases, more than your spouse or lover. Those long hours count.

I stayed for YEARS at a menial position all during college because it was fun working at the job. My co-workers were funny, quirky and most of the time, kind. My regret was thinking that job would be my only opportunity to have that kind of fun; it was not. So, weigh your options and remember that the most powerful word you can say is, "no", because there is a world of experiences and people waiting to know your and you know them.
posted by jadepearl at 4:50 PM on March 20, 2013

Yup, nthing everyone else. Having great co-workers makes such a big difference to your job satisfaction even if, on paper, your job is crap.

I used to work at a dysfunctional place, for very low pay, for a stereotypically horrible Pointy-Haired Boss. My colleagues were great - really funny, intelligent, nice people - and we had each other in stitches with our in-jokes and our united dislike of PHB. It made life so much easier knowing that others were in the same boat. I was reluctant to leave the job when the time came, because I had such a great work-family.

I love my colleagues at my current job, too, and it makes all the difference considering our company is in the doldrums and morale is low. It makes a big difference to have a personal connection with your colleagues at times like this.
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:59 AM on March 21, 2013

My coworkers and general work atmosphere are the main reasons I am happy with my job. I feel like these people genuinely care about me, and we constantly banter and joke and have a good time, while working hard. My boss respects me, asks my opinion and then listens.

This aspect alone has kept me from accepting job offers from other companies, with significant pay boosts on the line.
posted by rachaelfaith at 10:21 AM on March 21, 2013

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