What Brings You Joy at Work?

Cornelia and I recently attended a rehearsal of the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. The first piece on the schedule was Korngold’s Violin Concerto with the very famous, Israeli-American violinist Gil Shaham as soloist. It is such fun to be at a rehearsal in the elegant Concert Hall and see the orchestra in jeans and the conductor in just pants and a shirt with a sweater thrown over his shoulders. He took off the sweater before picking up his baton!

Out came Mr. Shaham in jeans and polo shirt and the conductor told us he’d just gotten off a plane from Europe and had come directly to the Kennedy Center. This is all so different from seeing an actual concert when the men in the orchestra are in black tie and the women in long black dresses or dressy pants outfits!

The orchestra and the famous soloist played beautifully together throughout the piece. To me it sounded flawless! As the conductor was discussing his suggestions to the soloist and the orchestra, Cornelia asked me what word came to mind and I said, “Joy”. I saw it on the expressive face of Gil Shaham as he played a piece he is famous for and one he has probably played hundreds of times. It was so obvious that the notes and the majesty of the piece still brought joy. His face lit up as he played. He smiled and moved in a way that signified he was feeling the joy the music was sharing with him and that he was sharing with us. A recent review of his performance in the New York Times described him as “brilliant with flawless precision and gleeful command.” We certainly agree with that assessment!

Observing a talented musician so enjoying his work reminded me of how important it is for anyone to find joy in their work. I feel so sad when I hear people say “it’s just a job” or “I work for the pay”. Yes, work is work and we all work to get paid but how wonderful it is when we find a job that brings us joy!

I am not talking about having to love every second of every day at work because there isn’t a job anywhere that is perfect. Just today I observed a cashier in a busy restaurant finding joy in that repetitive job. She smiles at everyone and engages people in conversation. She makes you feel special because she greets you like a friend. For a while I thought it was just me that she did this with and then I observed her interacting positively with everyone who comes to her to pay their check. I know I would find it hard to find joy in doing her job, but to her credit, she has made it work for her and, she brings joy to others by showing them her smile and her wishing them a beautiful day!”

My wish for you is that you find joy in your work!

1 comment ()

1. Debbie Siday wrote:
Yesterday I had the pleasure of sharing a glass of wine and an afternoon with Barbara and our friends, Susan Deveraux and Margaret Lack. We relaxed, laughed and conversed about food, art, friendship and HR. When the conversation turned to HR and we talked about the new research and trends in organizational development Barbara's eyes lit up. You could see the joy she finds in her work. It occurred to me as we spoke that Barbara 's passion is based in the understanding that when you create a culture of respect, caring and empowerment for your employees that, like the cashier in this blog, your employees will create the "wow factor " for your customers. Yes, Barbara increases bottom line profitability for her clients but her real joy is derived from the positive impact she has on the quality of life for individual employees.

Barbara finds such joy in her work that I doubt that she will ever retire. In the meantime, I count myself lucky to share the occasional glass of wine and to exchange ideas and laughter with this amazing woman who gives so much to her clients and her profession.

June 22, 2014 @ 8:42 AM


Managing people is the most challenging part of any leader's day. And that job certainly is not getting any easier. The Big Book of HR will provide any HR professional, manager, or business owner of any size organization the information they need to get the most from their talent. It is filled with information on everything from the most strategic HR-related issues to the smallest tactical detail of how to manage people.