WE spend about one-third of a working day in the office or at our workplace and life is too short to be unhappy at work.
However, how often do we find smart and hardworking people being disengaged, unfilled and miserable at work?
How many of us are tired of our workplace politics and cynical about how the company solves problems? How often do we complain about top-management’s disengagement from the day-to-day operation, bad decisions, lack of vision and poor strategy?
Too many of us fall into destructive mind-sets at work that keep us stuck, unhappy, and ultimately less productive. There are three common causes of unhappiness at work – the ambition factor, the “should” factor and the overwork factor.
The ambition factor – The drive to achieve goals and further our careers pushes us to do our best. There is nothing wrong to work hard and have a high goal.
However, when ambition is coupled with competitiveness and a single-minded focus on winning, we get into trouble.
We become blind to the impact of our actions on others and ourselves. As a result, relationships are damaged and collaboration suffers. We start chasing goals for the sake of hitting targets and work begins to lose its meaning.
The “should” factor – Doing what we should do rather than what we want to do is a trap that all of us risk falling into at some point of our working lives.
Too many of our workplace norms force us to deny who we are and to make choices that hinder our potential and stifle our dreams. For example, to be successful in some companies, people have to obey what they should do regarding how to dress, how to talk and whom to associate with.
Such unspoken norms are not only unfounded, they also take a personal toll when we feel we must hide who we are or pretend to be someone we are not. People would tend to hide anything that makes them look weak because they feel they should be strong all the times.
The overwork factor – Many people have the notion that in order to be successful they have to overwork. As a result, they don’t have time for friends, family, exercise or sleep. They don’t stay at home when they are sick.
They don’t take time to get to know other people at work. Overwork sucks us into a negative spiral. More work causes more stress.
Increased stress compromises our emotional intelligence, creativity, interpersonal skills and our ability to get things done.
How do we break free from those unhappy traps at work? The first step is to recognize that you deserve happiness at work. You have to give up the misbelief that work is not meant to be a source of fulfilment and happiness.
Work can be a source of real happiness. We can turn around the unhappiness at work by finding meaning and purpose in our work, foster hope in others and ourselves and build friendships at work.
Find meaning and purpose in work – We find fulfilment and work better when we see our work as meaningful and purposeful. It is easy to lose sight of what we value and ignore the aspects of work that matter to us, especially if we struggle with dysfunctional organizations, bad bosses and stress. Purpose is a powerful driver of workplace happiness.
Each of us find meaning and purpose in work differently, but all of us want to fight for a cause we care about. We want to create and innovate, to fix problems and be part of the solutions to the company, or to learn and grow.
We need to discover those aspects of our job that are truly fulfilling or soul destroying, so that we can choose how to spend our time and what to pursue in our career.
Foster hope – If you have faced adversity, a crisis or a loss, you know that hope is what kept you going. It makes us want to get up early and keep trying, even when the going is tough.
Hope makes it possible for us to navigate complexity, handle stress and frustration and understand the hectic working life. Like having a purpose, hope positively affects our emotion and motivation to work. It helps us to feel optimistic, calms us down and naturally makes us to be happier at work.
Build friendships – If you work with people you like and respect, and if they like and respect you in return, you will enjoy going to work.
However, if you are in a job where you feel constantly on guard, disdained, or excluded, you will probably not enjoy your work. We all need friends at work. Good relationships are the backbone of successful organizations.
Mutual respect motivates us to resolve conflicts so that everyone wins. When we believe that we are accepted for who we are, that we have important roles to play, and that we are part of a team, we are more committed to collective goals.
Warm, positive relationships are important at work. We want people to care about us and we need to do the same for others. Today’s organizations are our families. We want to work in a company that makes us proud and inspires us to give our best efforts.
What we need at work is care, concern for one another and comradeship. Such friendships generate trust and generosity, a source of delight, and make work fun.
Too many people believe that if they are successful, they will be happy. In fact, the reverse is true. Happiness arouses positive emotion and motivation that help workers to feel engaged, and make smarter decisions. Happy people perform better than their unhappy peers.