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.