Career & Work Life Matters, ISSN 2150-6299, Vol 6, no. 5
If you’re not happy at work, it’s easy to recognize. Most people have no problem telling a friend what’s wrong with their job. It’s easy to talk about what’s you’re not happy about.
But what about being happy at work?
What does that mean to you personally? Can you describe what your really need to be happy in your job? How would you reply if a friend asked you to describe your personal recipe for happiness at work?
In this article, we will focus on 3 research-based ideas about the elements of “good work” and why they might be important for you.
In a 2014 Harvard Business Review article, Annie McKee identifies 3 essential ingredients for workplace happiness. Based the work of different researchers, using different approaches, 3 critical elements are:
So what might this mean for you? To make a difference, you need to think about how to apply this to your personal situation. Use the three questions below as a starting point.
1. Do I have a vision for my career and work life?
In a 2013 Gallup poll, only about 4 in 10 employees reported that they felt they knew what their company stood for. Many companies struggle to clarify their vision and/or communicate it to their employees.
The ideal situation would be alignment between your personal career vision and the vision of the company you work for. But what can you do if this is not your current experience? You can create your personal career vision.
Greater clarity about your personal vision can guide you towards new opportunities, either within your current company or outside.
You may think that a vision is useless because things change so quickly. But your vision is not static. Think of it as a work-in-progress that evolves over time. A vision gives you the sense direction you need, not only to make better decisions, but also to develop the resilience you need to thrive despite uncertainty and change.
People who are happy at work have a vision. Now let’s consider the second ingredient — your impact.
2. How clear am I about the impact of my work?
We are happier at work when we feel we are doing something that makes a difference. This may seem obvious. We need to feel that we are making a contribution.
But it can be a challenge to see how your work fits in to the bigger picture, particularly if you’re part of a large organization. Maybe you work in a culture where the only feedback you get is when things go wrong.
If so, you may need to take the initiative yourself. Take some time to gather information. Start small, but create a new habit.
The easiest way to begin might be to show appreciation to colleagues who help you get your job done. Do this in a way that fits the culture and the individual preferences of the people you work with. Then begin to look for feedback. Ask team members. Talk to clients or customers.
Gathering information about how your work benefits others is important for how you feel at work. It may also benefit your health. Recent research finds that a sense of purpose is associated with better health. And of course, you are collecting evidence that you will help you when it’s time to ask for that promotion or find your next job.
Having a vision and understanding of the impact of your work both contribute to happiness at work. Next, let’s consider the third essential element — relationships.
3. How do I feel about the people that I work with?
Have you ever left a job because you had “a bad boss?” According to Gallup, in the US alone, the estimated annual cost of “managers from hell” is from $450 billion to $550 billion. Clearly companies should be concerned about this.
But what might this mean for you?
Places of work are complex. There will always be people with different agendas. But that doesn’t mean you can’t strengthen your relationships at work.
How intentional are you about managing relationships at work? It can be a challenge when you are juggling lots of demands on your time. But strong relationships are important not only for how you feel, but also for your career success.
In today’s world of insecure jobs, it’s important not to limit yourself to relationships that are internal to your company. Broaden your network and make building professional relationships a priority.
A Recipe for your Happiness at Work: Do you Have the Essential Ingredients?
When you’re unhappy at work, it can feel like any change is good. But how do you avoid jumping for the frying pan into the fire?
If the research on happiness in the workplace teaches us anything, it’s that searching for a single ingredient oversimplifies the issue. Use these three questions as a starting place to clarify the most important ingredients for your personal happiness at work. Begin with one small change to improve your work.
|Jennifer Bradley, PhD helps professionals lead their own careers, empowered with the information, tools, and resources that they need. She offers individual coaching and consulting, teaches classes, and publishes articles on career development and career transition.
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