Happy at Work

background image source: theguardian.com

background image source: theguardian.com

Clap along if you feel that happiness is the truth

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you know what happiness is to you.

– Pharrell Williams, “Happy”

Thanks, Pharrell.  As a Grammy-winning, big hat-wearing, record-producing singer songwriter, you probably do know “what happiness is to you,” and we’re happy for you.  But happiness at work is more elusive for the rest of us.  Whether you’re in your dream job or just working for the paycheck until you can snag something better, there are factors other than the specific content of your work (I’m talking to you, first co-op) that can make happiness your truth.

The happiest employees are those who have certain core needs met: physical comfort, including regular breaks; appreciation for their contributions; flexibility in how to approach their work; and an environment that allows them to focus on their tasks. It’s a great idea to try to find out how a company rates in these areas before accepting a job, but it’s not always easy.  And what do you do if you’re already in a job that doesn’t put a smile on your face?

Bottom line, your happiness at work is largely up to you.  I say largely, because obviously the conditions of your workplace and the people around you have an enormous influence. But you can choose to be an equally enormous influence on your own experience; you can choose to see your situation at work as one that you can change if you don’t like it.

The first step is to define for yourself what makes you happy or unhappy at work, then appropriately share this with others. Happiness at work does not require a perfect situation; I doubt that exists.  It does require minimizing or changing the bad and amplifying the good.

Are you frustrated with a lack of communication?  Ask for more feedback and stay on top of the company’s social media. Do you think you’re stuck in your position?  Seek out opportunities to learn new skills and volunteer for projects and committees.  Feeling overwhelmed? Commit to only the amount you can reasonably do, asking your boss to help you prioritize if need be.

Give your happiness project time and change will happen.  But if it doesn’t, resolve to move on, then turn to your network (and a career counselor) to support and strategize your next move with you.  Clap along!

Author Susan Loffredo began counseling NU students well before the iPhone was invented and owns socks that are older than the class of 2013. Email her at s.loffredo@neu.edu.