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Liking vs. Loving Your Job: What Hospitality Leaders Should Know

A disturbing amount of research now points to the fact that people are unhappy with their jobs. A 2013 study from Gallup, for instance, found that only 13 percent of people worldwide actually enjoy going to work. This figure (169 million) represents about half of the U.S. population—a small sum compared to the 1.3 billion people who worked full-time that year globally. On top of this, nearly half of employees today are disengaged at work, with 20 percent admitting to being actively disengaged.

We’re currently in the middle of a massive career crisis. In a world where people should passionately love the work they do, they’re actively disengaging. Even if someone likes their job, research shows it’s usually for the wrong reasons. A person may be incentivized by money or special perks, but that individual will likely remain discontent at the end of the day.

Why? A recent article from Forbes sums it up nicely:

-Nonstop demands/pressures at work exhaust or depress them

-The outcomes they’re working on feel either meaningless or wrong

-They sense they’re made for something much better, more meaningful and more exciting

-They yearn to leverage their creativity/ingenuity, but don’t know how to do so (or at least not in a way that generates the income they need)

What we’re seeing as a result of these factors is perhaps the greatest wave of career hoppers in history. Consider countries like the UK: in 2015, an overwhelming 47 percent of workers said they wanted to change jobs, with more than 25 percent looking to career hop in the next 12 months. These people are trying to answer the same question: how do you get into a job you love? Or, how can you carve an existing job into something that is uniquely yours…something that matters to you?

As someone with over 30 years’ experience in hospitality, I can’t help but imagine how hoteliers can challenge themselves to do better for their associates. There’s so much opportunity to innovate and collaborate not only on better business outcomes, but improved personal experiences. So, to hospitality leaders I ask: how are you helping your associates to truly love the work they do? Your employees are yearning to utilize their top strengths and traits, and you have the power to help make a career out of them.

I recently stumbled upon a TEDx talk that similarly discusses the importance of passion-driven careers. The presentation, given by Shane Lopez, Ph.D. in 2015, promoted one simple message: happiness depends on the goodness of our jobs, and those good jobs are made, not found. In the presentation, he explains how entire careers can be built based on one talent or skill. For example, he tells the story of how his uncle established a successful, life-long career based on his talent as a “people soother.”

“These people really do exist; these people who love their jobs,” he says. “They hop out of bed in the morning, energized and ready to go. They come home at night still full of energy, ready to share it with their families.”

After interviewing hundreds of individuals who love the work they do (or, as Lopez describes it, “have a love affair with their job”), he has walked away with two key lessons:

1. People who love their jobs have great lives. As Lopez says, these people are “off the charts in well-being.” So, in many ways, happiness depends on the goodness of your job.

2. These people did not land the job they loved; they custom-build a reasonably good job into a job they loved. As Lopez says, “loveworthy jobs are made, not found.”

So, what does this mean for hospitality leaders worldwide? Above all, it is our responsibility to help our associates identify and capitalize on their innermost strengths and traits. We have an obligation beyond our basic managerial duties to help our associates build passion-driven careers that contribute to their health and well-being. We currently see hotel brands like the The Ritz-Carlton and Marriott, for example, doing a great job of this. These organizations and many others like them are helping associates along their career journeys (as a colleague once put it, your career should be treated as a marathon, not a sprint).

As I always say, “You make the job, the job does not make you.” Ask yourself how you as a manager can encourage this way of thinking among your associates. Consider how many of your associates have a love affair with their job. If the answers disappoint you, then it’s time to start making actionable changes. It’s time to get employees to stop just “liking” their jobs.

Meanwhile, to anyone looking to make a significant and meaningful career change: if you’re seeking a job in hospitality, check out this step-by-step guide for getting hired in hospitality today.

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