Some companies are inspirational playgrounds filled with motivated people pursuing projects about which they are passionate. Some companies are dreary, and filled with people who are looking for ways out of work so that they can sit at stare blankly at their computer screen. If you are in the latter company, it is easy to have your spunk sucked out by the still silence of unproductivity. It breeds I-don't-give-a-fuck-itus and will turn you into a work zombie who only lives outside of the office.
Being a work zombie sucks. It's depressing because you are wasting time, and because you never really accomplish anything worthwhile. And if you have an engineering or science degree, you have a set of skills that you can actually apply to make something better!
So here are my suggestions for how to keep yourself alive in an undead work environment :
1) Remind yourself of your passions. If you go in caring about the work you do, don't let other people's negative attitudes change that. If you don't like the work you do, look for ways to use this job to do what you want.
2) Say at least one nice thing to somebody you work with every day. By making the effort to make other people's days a little bit better, you'll help chip away at the dreary environment. Being proactive about changing your environment also helps make you feel like you are doing your best, and will help you maintain your own positivity.
3) Try to work closely with your client, vendors, or whoever else you encounter on a daily basis. Sometimes, these groups have a better work philosophy, and it can be a breath of fresh air from the daily grind. Plus, it opens up possible opportunities with other organizations!
4) Join a positive organization outside of work. I typically like to do volunteer work, but you can try hackers organizations, book clubs, geocaching, and any type of well organized activity where you interact with inspired and happy people. It helps you maintain good work habits by reinforcing them outside of work, and gives you a solid example of what is important in your work environment. I take a lot of the positive management tricks I see from outside of work, and apply them in my office.
5) Remember that your coworkers and your work environment do not define you. This seems obvious, but it can be the hardest to put into practice. Even in a large corporation, as an engineer you are your own brand, and you will build a reputation for your own skills and work ethic. And if you continue to do amazing work, it will not go unnoticed forever.
With these tips, and a determination to make your office a little less apocalyptic, I hope you'll fend off I-Don't-Give-A-Fuck-Itus at least long enough to get yourself into a better position. Good luck!
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