Happy at Work

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.

Photo: background image the​guardian​.com