3 ways to be happier at work

Turning that frown upside down is a lot easier than you may think. All it takes is a little perspective.

At the end of 2012, CareerBliss released its third annual ranking of the 50 happiest companies in America. That was at a time when Gallup reported 71 percent of workers hated their jobs, and The Conference Board pegged employee engagement at 47 percent—down from 61 percent in 1986.

According to CareerBliss (and reported by Fast Company), multiple factors affect work happiness, including: “work-life balance, one’s relationship with his/her boss and co-workers, work environment, job resources, compensation, growth opportunities, company culture, company reputation, daily tasks and job control over work performed on a daily basis.”

Workplace happiness, like most things, is a two-way street. Employees want freedom, support and appreciation. Employers want accountability, hard work and results.

The media has focused its attention on advice for employers, but there’s been less coverage about what individuals can do to make work more rewarding. Here are three tips that keep me upbeat:

1. Decide to be happy.

This may sound glib, but scientists who study happiness point out that we can foster satisfaction by overriding negative default reactions prompted by insecurity and fear. As Seth Godin notes, every worker tells him-/herself a story. The story may be limiting (e.g. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t aim too high.) Or worse, it might be self-destructive (e.g., I’m a fraud. I’m destined to fail. I’m afraid of being caught.)

We can teach ourselves to listen and rethink messages that hold us back. When was the last time you paid attention to the story you tell yourself? I remind myself all the time to edit mine.

2. Step back and look at the big picture.

When we see events from only one vantage point (i.e. our own), we risk over-personalizing workplace events. Challenge yourself to see the bigger picture. Try to see the business rationale behind a new policy or procedure. Ask questions rather than make knee-jerk assumptions.

As Derek Irvine writes in his post “4 ways to a happier and more engaged workforce,” happy employees “step outside [themselves] and [their] own priorities.” When we focus on others (our customers, co-workers, organizations), we gain perspective and reduce negative emotions.

3. See yourself as a problem solver.

You will feel happier and earn more respect from co-workers if you see yourself as a problem solver rather than a passive participant. Even the best organizations experience challenges.

Happy employees are proactive. They search for solutions and, in the process, earn greater accountability, recognition and autonomy.

What keeps you happy and motivated at work?

Meg Wildrick is managing director at Bliss Integrated Communication. A version of this article originally appeared on the Bliss Integrated Communication blog.


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