12 Most Clever Ways to Be Happy At Work

12 Most Clever Ways to Be Happy At Work

Research indicates that job satisfaction is at record lows around the world. This is a tragedy given how much of our lives we actually spend at work.

While everyone wants to work for a perfect company and a perfect boss, those items are largely outside of your control. Instead, you should focus on what you can do to increase your own happiness and engagement at work. Here are some tips.

1. Choose to be happy

This is a hard one for many people to believe, but while you can’t always control your circumstances, you can choose your attitude. You can decide to complain about the problem or focus on the solution. You can complain about your bad boss or decide it’s a gift that will strengthen your patience.

2. Remember that your emotions affect others

Psychologists call it the “crossover effect.” Your emotions at work don’t just spill over to your personal life, they actually cross over to those around you. Come home grumpy and soon your spouse will match your grumpiness. If workplace stress causes you to snap at your kids, they’ll internalize it and be more likely to act out at school or exhibit their own behavior problems at home. You owe it to your family to be happy at work.

3. Understand what drives happiness at work

Based on surveys of 10 million workers in 150 countries, and on my own experience as a “Best Place to Work” award winner, happiness and engagement at work comes from four things: Communication, Growth, Recognition and Trust.

4. Be grateful for what your company already does

It’s easy to focus on the shortcomings of an organization or manager, while ignoring the many positive things that are provided. Take time to jot down an inventory of all the great things about your company and boss. Do you appreciate any of these things: pay, short commute, flexible hours, good benefits, casual dress code, opportunities to learn, recognition, friendly colleagues, other?

5. Take responsibility for communication at work

Communication is one of the four major drivers of happiness at work. If you think communication is poor in your workplace, approach your manager in a professional way and ask for some time to discuss it. What would have to change in order for you to feel that communication was good? Are you looking for more frequent one-on-one meetings, or perhaps a regular team meeting, or more transparency in overall company goals? Be specific and you might be surprised at the response you get.

6. Take responsibility for growth at work

If you feel you aren’t learning or developing fast enough, let your boss know that you’d like to discuss your career path. Review your 3-5 year goals and ask if she thinks they are realistic. What experiences, relationships and knowledge do you need to accomplish your goals? What can you do to attain them?

7. Take responsibility for recognition at work

We all need to feel appreciated by our boss and peers for our good work and accomplishments. The best way to create a culture of appreciation is to actually be the one to activate it yourself. The more you take the time to catch people doing good things — and to thank them for it — the more likely they will mirror your behavior and begin to notice and appreciate your work, too.

8. Take responsibility for future confidence at work

You can glide through short-term setbacks as long as you have confidence in achieving long-term goals. Make sure you know your company’s goals and the highlights of the strategic plan. If you work in a big company, these can be found in the annual report or investor documents; if you work in a small company, just ask your CEO if it isn’t readily accessible. Think about how your own efforts and goals align with the organizational objectives, and realize the role you play in the larger plan.

9. Don’t put up with Debbie/David Downer

“Debbie Downer” was a famous Saturday Night Live character who would bring everyone down around her by constantly talking about all the horrible things that were going on in her life. Complainers and whiners at work can infect you with negativity if you let them. It’s ok to listen to them, but make sure you don’t agree with their blanket negativity; help them to focus on positive points as well as negative ones, and get them focusing on solutions not problems.

10. Don’t be Debbie/David Downer

Also, don’t be a “Debbie” or “David Downer” yourself. It’s ok to notice areas for improvement as long as the critique is constructive. Realize that no growing organization is going to be perfect — making mistakes is a natural part of learning, growth and innovation. Focus on what is going well and realize that there will always be room for improvement.

11. Stay healthy

It’s tough to be mentally happy when we are feeling sick, tired, or in pain. Take care to get enough sleep and burn off stress through daily exercise.

12. Practice daily mindfulness

Just by being aware of your level of happiness and engagement at work, you can improve it. Pause once or twice each day and think about how happy you are at work. Think about ways you may have grown or learned, felt appreciated, and remember how your own efforts support the goals of the organization.

Life is too short to be unhappy at work, and your family needs you to come home happy and energized, not stressed and grumpy. You need to be mindful of your state of happiness, shed off any victim mentality, and take ownership of the things that truly matter.

Excerpted from Employee Engagement for Everyone: 4 Keys to Happiness and Fulfillment at Work, by Kevin Kruse. See MyEngagementStyle.com for other resources.

Featured image courtesy of amorphes ding licensed via Creative Commons.

Kevin Kruse


Kevin Kruse is a successful entrepreneur and co-author of the NY Times bestseller, We: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement. You can contact Kevin or catch him at his blog.

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Great points, Kevin (and I love how Debbie Downer now has a male counterpart!!). Rightly or wrongly, my "gold standard" for "you could have it worse" is the military. As in: I am frustrated that I had to send five emails to clarify a simple point but some people are in 110 degree weather, haven't slept in 23 hours, and have supervisors they didn't choose who may or may not have decent managerial skills. That said, I think there comes a time when it just isn't going to work, for a combination or reasons -- and maybe doing #12 (mindfulness) will help us be in touch with that when and if the time comes.