What does work mean to you? For many it is summed up by the Simpson’s episode where Homer decides to stay at the job he hates because it pays well and provides benefits for his family because of his newborn daughter Maggie.

Homer wanted to run a bowling alley, but it did not provide the income or the security he needed for his family. A lot of workers do this, they make a deal to do their job, no more and no less than what is required. At the end of everyday there is relief that they can go home and do and be what they truly are.

Then there are people who have good jobs but their heart is just not in it. The job is not demanding or difficult but it is not what they had planned for their life. In a sense the job reminds them of what they did not become, they look around at others doing jobs they love, at others doing the jobs they thought would be theirs, and there is bitterness and resentment. Again, these folks do not give more than is required in their jobs, often less. They are not exactly the most popular workers with co-workers or with clients. Sadly, because of the toxicity of this experience their home and relational life tends to be all too often unhappy as well.

Then there are those who enjoy their work, they enjoy people, but for whatever reason (health, stamina, distraction) they do not push themselves beyond the very minimal requirements of their work. These folks are happy people, often with rich social lives, their joy is contagious. The only downside is that these workers don’t understand why those around them do not value them highly for their work. These workers just can’t see why their “40 hours and not a minute more”, “sorry that is not my job”, “I’d like to help but my yoga appointment is fast approaching” irritates others. When they retire people are happy for their new adventure but not sad to see these workers go. These workers are confused by this reaction.

Then there are workers who like their job but frustrated that no one around them can see what they see. If they were in charge everything would work better, and the fact that their advice and suggestions are not acted on makes them very angry. These workers are highly valued for their skill and dedication but many tire of their endless rants about how things would be great if only everyone would listen to them. When they retire they are missed but not always.

Then there are the workers who love their work and can’t stop themselves from doing more. Some are needy for attention and affirmation but more mature versions are happy to work in this way without any praise. The work is their life and they want to make a difference where ever possible. Clients love them for their dedication, some co-workers enjoy working with them because of the joy they bring to the workplace and their reliability. But other co-workers tire of the judgement they receive, subtle or not subtle, when they beg off work for less than pressing reasons. These workers go all out and often find it difficult to understand why others workers are less committed and/or reliable. Clients miss these workers terribly but co-workers have mixed feelings when retirement comes, if it ever comes, for these hard driving employees.

None of us fit into any of these descriptions in a neat and tidy fashion. We are all combinations, a bit here and a little more over there. But chances are you work with people who sound like one of the paragraphs above. The more interesting question is…which one describes you? Letting this settle in as we reflect on our work and volunteer environment would do us all good. Self-awareness is a wonderful tonic for our workplace frustrations.