Happiness and the 9-5

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Does your job make you happy ? Perhaps it’s just something you do because, well, it’s better than going hungry ? How closely is your identity, your self-esteem, your happiness , tied to your job ?

Maintaining happiness takes a lot of work, is there a correlation between the amount of work we do to maintain happiness and the job we do to support ourselves ? The question is of course rhetorical, our jobs are typically a very large part of our lives so if the level of unhappiness we experience in our jobs surpasses our overall level of happiness our lives become out of balance and unfulfilling.

I have a very unique perspective on happiness as it relates to the workplace because I am both an employee and an employer, if you have ever wondered what it feels like on the other side of the fence (to be an employer) from a happiness perspective you might be surprised to know that at least for me I find more happiness on the employee side of things ! Employers are constantly under pressure, payroll , overhead, difficult and often unpopular decisions that need to be made, the inability to share every detail of every decision, frankly it can get really hard to have to be the “evil boss” and maintain happiness. Being a boss is somewhat like being a parent, you’re going to make mistakes, sometimes you’re the hero , sometimes you’re the villain but it’s all for the good of the family. As an employer the happiness of those that work for me is paramount, an unhappy employee will spread unhappiness, a happy employee spreads happiness ! Happy employees do a better job, have a sense of team and loyalty and are far more likely to have the company’s interest at heart.

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Back to the employee side, what can we do to make sure we are in the best position to set ourselves up for happiness in our jobs ?

1. Workplace Culture: When applying for jobs take a really close look at the culture of the workplace, some employers have very unique cultures that might be a good fit based on your qualifications but might be a place you will be miserable working ! Work place culture is an often overlooked but super important factor in how happy you will be. A workplace culture that you enjoy will bring you happiness

2. Changing of the guard : Anytime there is a change of Management on up to being bought out by another company, it will serve you well to pay attention to the transition, is a different management style on the horizon ? How much of the culture we talked about earlier is subject to change in ways you may or may not like ? This can be a very scary, very unsure time for you as the employee, especially if the new work styles change is drastic or you find yourself in a position of a new person to report to on a pretty regular basis as your employer tries to find the right fit ! Building a relationship with a new boss and figuring out their management style can sometimes be more work than the job you’re tasked to do !

What can you do to make this a happier situation ? The first thing is to reign in your fears and figure out the things you can do. Once again examine the work place culture , is this heading in a direction that will make you unhappy ? Take stock of your skills and make a mental note of options that might be available to you, dust off that resume, don’t be afraid to look around ! The point isn’t necessarily that you’re even looking for another job, the point is you are empowering yourself by examining your options . Regardless of if you stay or go from the current employer you will be happier, be more productive and make better decisions because you know your options.. Options will make you happy !

3. Change of Duties/ Additional Duties: There should be some elements of your job that bring you satisfaction and some level of happiness , it’s when the things we do well, the things that make us feel like we are doing a good job get out balance with the tasks that we don’t really enjoy that unhappiness can creep in. Often times this can come in the form of new duties, unfortunately and ironically if you are really good at what you do and the new task is even remotely close to your skill set you will likely be approached about taking on these additional duties… Here is the thing though , 3 things needs to be considered before you take , on additional duties

A. Is your plate already full ? If by taking on these additional duties the rest of your job performance suffers, especially in the areas you really enjoy and get satisfaction from , then likely this is a situation that won’t bring you happiness and will bring down your overall performance!

B. Is this something you will enjoy doing ? We all have elements of our job we like less than others but does this duty tip the scales towards job satisfaction and happiness or against. Don’t be afraid to talk about these things with your employer, perhaps one of the other tasks you don’t like as much can be shifted to somebody else. Dialogue of this nature puts everybody on the same page and shows you’re invested in doing the best job possible. This also can give you a reading of workplace culture changes, if the conversation is largely a cold or a one way only situation then that’s unfortunately a pretty big indicator that a shift is or has already come and likely your level of happiness will suffer.

C. One of the big things employers often confuse is Trainable Skills , Aptitude and Talent. A trainable skill is a skill that isn’t commonly known but can acquired by training , trainable skills can be taught and lost if not used. Aptitude is inborn potential to do certain kinds of work, Aptitude can’t be taught or learned, Aptitude however can be developed ! Aptitude is present whether we use it or not , its second nature. Talent is outstanding or highly developed Aptitude. Probably needless to say but Talent can’t be taught or learned, just refined. It is my opinion that a good deal of unhappiness from both the employer and the employee perspective is the misconception that all employees are interchangeable, Talent isn’t something that can be taught any more than Aptitude can be learned… How this relates to your happiness is 2 fold , first if you don’t have an Aptitude for something ,or better a talent, then you won’t do well at tasks that involve that skill, you wont be happy !Secondly if in fact your employer feels like a task that is really a skill is easy or achievable and you don’t have at least an aptitude for it then neither the employee nor the employer will be happy. Once again don’t be afraid to voice your concerns, your employer should want you to be able to do your job well !

Excepting that change is inevitable will make you happy ! Realizing that sometimes change has little, if anything to do with you will make you happy !

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Of course there are all kinds of other ways that a workplace can make you less than happy , in some cases you may just have to learn to find happiness in other parts of your life to compensate, a harsh reality but reality just the same ! You may recall my blog post on banking happiness  “The happiness bank – Be a happiness Ninja” and the concept of the happiness ratio , 3 good things to every one bad ? The point is you may have to find some supplemental happiness to keep you on the right track ! The good news is often we can find happiness in the workplace that isn’t directly related to your duties !

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Some examples of workplace happiness that isn’t directly related to job duties might include..

1. Maybe you have some awesome coworkers( I hope you do , makes all the difference), great coworkers can be a life saver for a source of some happiness, especially if they happen to be upbeat fun people ! Avoid the negative ones, at least long enough to get your happiness back on track !

2. Bring snacks and so forth to work, don’t forget the golden rule though,bring enough for everybody , double happiness ! Snacks and sharing snacks !

3. Most workplace have organized, non work related activities that might bring happiness

4. Carve out some time during the day for yourself, perhaps a small portion of your lunch hour, find ways to do a quick happiness boost ! Maybe take a short walk, a quick chat with an upbeat friend, read a few paragraphs of your favorite book , listen to some of your favorite music, meditate, pray, it doesn’t matter so much exactly what you do as long as its something that’s meaningful to you and banks some happiness !

5. If you typically go out for lunch perhaps something just a bit more special than usual , maybe try a new place ! If you typically bring your lunch maybe bring something creative and special to spike your endorphins.

6. Bring some comfort from home, one of your favorite coffee cups , maybe a few pieces of extra silverware (eating with a plastic fork is a downer for me), a bowl or a plate you like… Little things from home can be soothing.

Here is the big one though, and if you’ve read more than a couple of my blog entries you knew it was coming… Perspective ! Perspective and balance will go a long way to alleviate workplace angst. Figure out what aspects of your job makes you happy, there almost certainly has to be something, figure out what makes you unhappy. Weigh your options, look around , sometimes that’s all the perspective you need ! A job is certainly in most cases necessary but keep in mind your identity , your life is defined by so much more than just a job !

Find your Happiness – Share your Happiness !

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