You’re Miserable at Work :: This Fable Will Tell You Why

miserable at work feature

If you are miserable at work, you are not alone.

Over HALF of the American workforce admits to feeling disengaged at work.

Over half.


51% of people who go to work in the U.S. do not love their jobs. They do not enjoy their teams. They do not actively contribute, or when they do, they feel like they get the blind-eye or even a stiff-arm. They certainly do not try to make their organization better.

They are just there. Going through the motions.

{The stat gets even more dismal from a global perspective.}

Do you know why we are not engaged?

It’s because more often than not, we are trying to swim, when we were designed to fly.

Animals get it, but we miss it.

StrengthsFinder Bring Need Tool

Animals are not Miserable at Work

Aesop was onto something.

Consider the Tortoise and the Hare. How much more clearly memorable are the values of patience and persistence and the foibles in haughtiness and pride than when told through the race with an unlikely hero?

Don Clifton, the father of Strengths based psychology, certainly understood this very early on. In his original book on Strengths based development, he started with a fable.

Two years ago at the Gallup Summit, I got choked up when I heard it read aloud for the first time.

I now read it regularly to my kids. They love it, and you know what, they seem to get it better than most adults I know.

His story follows a rabbit at school. In my fable, it is a robin. {And I give Don Clifton all the credit for his fantastic imagination and clarity of vision}.

A Fable of the Robin and the Whale

Robin and Whale are colleagues. They are on the same team. They are not best friends but they enjoy working together for the most part.

Recently, their manager brought Robin in for her annual review.

“Robin,” he said, “you’re doing great in your flying. We need quality flying to get the job done. Thank you for that.”

Robin feels great. She loves flying. When she is flying, she comes alive. Time speeds by and she feels like she could fly all day for the sake of her company. She is so encouraged to hear that something she loves to do is what the company needs.

Then, her manager, continues. “In swimming, however, you have significant room for improvement. In fact, you are one of our bottom performers as a swimmer.”

Robin’s beaky smile fades and her head begins to drop.

“Because you already excel at flying but need some help in swimming, I’d like to pair you up with Whale so that he can show you what he does to be a good swimmer.”

Robin’s eyes glaze over a bit, and her stomach sinks.

She can’t quite imagine spending another moment in the water. It is petrifying. She doesn’t mind flitting around on the surface and even enjoys a drink or two, but to swim next to Whale…she just knows she’ll never make the mark.

She feels defeated already.

robin image

The last time she tried to swim, she almost drowned. Whale had to scoop her up with his tale. The rest of her colleagues looked at her with stifled smirks. They had never seen a robin so out of breath or so absolutely petrified.

Swimming made her feel miserable at work. It was what she looked forward to the least.

Robin’s manager is still talking, “…and so to make room for that, why don’t you tell me what time you can carve out of your flying, and we’ll see how those times match up with Whale’s schedule. Regular time with him is sure to help you.”

“Ugh,” thinks, Robin. “Now I have to give up some flying time, too.”

As her manager continues on about the initiatives for the next year, Robin’s mind can’t help but wander. She starts thinking about her schedule and how she’ll have to adjust. She already dreads coming back to work tomorrow.

“How does all that sound?” her manager interrupts her thoughts.

Robin responds, “Oh, yeah, ok, that sounds good. I’ll, um, talk to Whale.”

As she walks out, she fears the worst. Next year at this time, she is sure she will lose her job. She thinks, “I better start dusting off my resume and putting my feelers out for something else.”

SF + SS life fullest

You see why you are Miserable at Work?

When we are at work, we miss it. Perhaps since we are infinitely more complicated than Robin and Whale, we miss the fact that we are made for something that we can uniquely do.

Don Clifton said,

“There is something you do better than ten thousand other people, and we just need to find what it is.”

You want to get past being miserable at work? Do whatever it takes to figure out how you fly.

Set up your environment so you can do more of that, and not only will you feel excited about going to work, you will be helping your organization succeed.

Final Note on this Fable

While finding and flying in your Strengths is the easiest path to success for you AND your company, the ethos of our society is so strongly fixated on weakness, that your manager might not buy in right away.

That’s ok. Keep flying.

{And in the meantime, if you’re looking for meaningful, real data about how effective the Strengths perspective is and the impact that it can have on an organization (to help that manager of Robin’s see that swimming is not going to be what helps the organization the most), check out this Technical Report from Gallup about the StrengthsFinder. And for a fantastic podcast about this very thing, check out my friend Lisa Cummings’ Cat and Fish.}



Links & Resources from today

StrengthsFinder + Strengths Startup
Bring It | Need It FREE Tool
From Below Average to Brilliant: A Strengths Career Story
The Expected and Unexpected Takeaways from the Gallup CliftonStrengths Summit 2016
StrengthsFinder is Life Changing | Show Up with What You Bring {Step 6 of 9}
Soar With your Strengths by Don Clifton
Lisa Cummings | Cat & Fish
Gallup Technical Report


The Strengths-perspective can impact your marriage, your parenting, and your work!

If you’re into it or you’re just not so sure about it all, reach out, and let’s connect about it. You can catch me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, all at @isogostrong, by this handy contact form, or in our Energy Up Frustration Down facebook group.

Enjoy your day, and {be strong}!

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