The “Happy to Have a Job” Philosophy

You absolutely have heard this line before “…just be happy to have a job.” I’ve never heard it in a positive context. It’s usually when someone is trying to look at the bright side of a dim situation. You don’t hear Oprah saying “I’m just happy to have job.” As a human resource professional of course I understand the importance of having a job versus not having a job.  A job is validation. It represents independence and self-worth.

Not only are jobs important they are hard to come by lately. Coincidently this phrase “happy to have a job” is tossed around more and more.  Let’s go deeper into the psychology and philosophy of the phrase from an organizational stand point. As illustrated earlier, mostly when someone utters the phrase it’s designed to make someone feel better about an employment situation or opportunity. This reminds me of an old saying I used to hear from some older ladies in my life, they would say “It’s better to have a piece of a man, than no man at all.”

I always thought you can do bad all by yourself, but that’s a different article. The underline relationship between both phrases is the despair and helplessness. Words have power and influence.

When employees say they are happy just to have a job, and when they believe that, then they begin to feel angry and frightened.  Angry about not having the happy gainful employment they truly desire, and frightened that they are stuck in this situation. It’s cliché-ish but true Anger leads to fear, fear leads to hate and hate leads to the dark side.Yoda said that in Star Wars. I’ve seen this play out IRL (in real life). I‘ve seen employees crying at their desks and when you ask what’s wrong they tell you, tearfully, that they hate their jobs, but “I’m happy to have a job.” I shouldn’t have to tell you have that anger and fear destroys morale and productivity.

I’ve heard Directors, Managers and Supervisors say they don’t want to invest more money into their employees or the workplace environment and they (employees) ought to be happy to have a job.

If you use that phrase and believe those words then your organization will rot. Any organization powered by a philosophy of fear and hopelessness is destined to drain the life out of the employees. A lifeless workforce produces lifeless products and services which results in ultimate destruction of the organization. As a leader you never want to say those words to anyone. You’re the leader, you set the tone.


20 thoughts on “The “Happy to Have a Job” Philosophy

    1. Omg! We have a plant manager that
      Says this exact phrase to employees and this company doesn’t invest in it’s people at all….So glad I found this article! My boyfriend just landed a great job with another company after the manager told him those exact words on the day he left that company….too true!

  1. The “Happy to Have a Job” tag for me is loosely translated as “you are lucky to be working here”, or “you should feel happy that you havent been let go”. I agree that its a phrase that doesnt inspire good employee/employer relations. Consequently, it has a way of furthering the divide between the two.

    When used in a work related environment, it can be interpreted as threatening. I’d discourage its use among employers, more specifically managers, supervisors, and section leads. Especially in situations where the employer feels compelled to express their dissatisfaction with an employee’s performance or behavior on the work site. You should be able to deliver your point without the injection of such a snide and offensive phrase.

  2. I don’t like when leaders say that there employees should be happy that they have a job. Leaders should realize that the employees are the ones that contributes to a big chunk of the company growth. No employees=no company…. Unless the leaders have some type of magical powers and can run a whole entire company on his/her own!!

  3. This is both an economic and cultural phenomenon. With 20+mm people unemployed, there is truth to the statement that we are “lucky” however if one behaves as though they are “lucky” they better work hard to make themselves indispensable to the company, or their luck may run out. If this leads to apathy or a further decline of their attitude, then they are in trouble. Many people are in jobs that they hate and therefore are not “engaged.” If this is true of you, then find a new job where you can ignite your Achievement Drive and feel passionate about what you do. Life is too short to dread going to work!

    1. Drue, thanks for reading and commenting. “Lucky” and “Happy” is a fine line, but depending how either is said can be a demoralizer. Some folks are lucky to have a job and some are happy. But when your leader says “You are lucky/happy to have job” not a ringing endorsement.

      Rock on

  4. I have been on both sides of this coin. The crazy thing is, it has all been with my current employer of past 12 years. I decided to take control of my happiness and never compromise it again. Happiness comes from within. No one else should control your happiness. It’s my ball now, check it up! I think that “just happy to have job” folks should take calculated risk to remove themselves from their current situation if unhappy. Jumping out of job before you have solid back up plan to make a living is not wise. Placing a goal and timeline to get out of current role or company is a must. Then take action…generate baby! It is CRAZY how a new supervisor, manager or director can change your whole mindset at work. Sometimes it could be as simple as more responsibility or just a ittle recognition can change the tide.

    Good article Master Fields

  5. A nicely written article. The truth of the matter is that when you work from a place of inspiration and from your passion the idea that you have a job ceases to have meaning as it is no longer work but play. No matter what job you do connecting to the part of it that is in tune with your values and recognises your contribution is a way to be truly happy with what is.And I totally agree that this approach should be modelled by the leadership team as well.

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