You recognize it. It's a mix of joy, optimism, and excitement. You're sure when when you feel it, because you don't feel it often. Yet, it seemingly has no place in the corporate world because it's buried under goals, pride, and professionalism. What is it? It's love. 

While I'm no expert on all the squishy emotions mankind has been saddled to endure, I have become an expert on things that impact performance at work--through countless conversations, consultations, and global studies. I've sat across the table from numerous leaders struggling to understand why their employees don't care about their work. I've sat on countless phone conversations with people searching for work-love--confused by why they lost their zest for a job, or job-hopped in search for their career version of prince charming.

"I want a job I love," employees tell me. "I want people who are passionate and love their work," say the leaders. And to both of these I respond by saying, "Knock it off."
Call me calloused and unromantic. I tell people to stop searching because 'work-love' doesn't come from the perfect organization, or from the perfect resumes. It comes from creating value and opportunity by offering the best version of yourself to the world.

New research from Gartner proves my point. It shows the number of U.S. employees willing to go above and beyond the call of duty in the workplace has dropped by nearly 10 percentage points over the last three years. The report continues to say, "Nearly 40 percent of workers in the U.S. -- and globally -- ranked lack of future career opportunities as the most dissatisfying attribute at a previous job."

Where are you headed? Do you have a path to get there? These are pressing questions. But, if you believe you need to find another place to become your best, or that wooing employees with perks will make them passionate about their job, you're barking up the wrong trees. People--you, me, and anyone you hire--really want one simple thing. They want the opportunity to do something great. 

Want to fall in love with work again? Want to help your people fall in love with work? Here are five first-steps to creating 'work-love' for yourself or your teammates.

1. Do what you do best. 

There's a reason you chose to apply to your company. And you were probably excited about your future. Recall what excited you. What were you going to accomplish there? Why did you think you were the best fit? When you have clearly defined the role you wish you were playing, make it come true. Figure out how to produce great work.

2. Skip perfection, and embrace disruption. 

Meeting expectations is good, but boring. If you truly want to create opportunities of greatness, you must take risks and inspire others to take their own risks--to embrace becoming the absolute best version of their own brilliance. It's scary, but it's the only thing that separates good from great. 

3. Practice and promote ownership. 

Research shows that more than anything else, a job-well done (where you've made a positive difference in someone's life and they recognize you for it) is not only the most sought-after reward, but it's the one thing most likely to propel people to their next great achievement. Own your work, and give others ownership of theirs.

4. Look for fear and firsts. 

Doing the same thing time and again will produce the same results time and again. If you want to love your job again, or you want the people around you to love their jobs, you need to create fear and firsts--push outside of the comfort zone. You know you have the itch to bend the norm. Do it. 

5. Be an expert at recognizing greatness. 

None of us are alone on this journey. People around you have inspired you, and supported you to become who you are today. More will be there to help you become who you want to be tomorrow. Recognize those people. Pay attention to their passion. Learn from it. Emulate it. 

Learning to love your job again means you need to look beyond old frustrations, and dismiss any time you've spent 'settling.' But take this advice: if you don't learn to love your work, you will either leave it and resent yourself, or you'll lose it to somebody who loves it more.

Published on: Oct 3, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.