Finding Happiness in the Workplace

By Robyn Undieme | October 15, 2015

Some of you may know I have a background in Psychology and Business, so it should come as no surprise that I am devoting today's topic to Positive Psychology in the workplace.

One of our International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Fellows recently attended the ICMA conference and told me about a great keynote speaker, Shawn Achor, who spoke about positivity in the workplace. As it turns out, the keynote speaker also has a TedTalk video on the same topic, so I thought I'd share it with you  here. I encourage you to watch the video; it's only 12 minutes in length and Achor is very comedic.

For those of you who are "stubborn" and decide not to click on the above link, allow me to tantalize you with some of his highlights from the video.

Takeaway #1: Research has found that productivity rises with happiness. In fact, employees are better at securing/keeping jobs, producing higher productivity, maintaining resiliency, suffering less burnout and less turnover, and driving higher sales when they are happy in the workplace.

What may surprise you is that most people have the formula to happiness backwards. Logic leads us to think that working harder will lead to more success and more success will lead to greater happiness. The problem with this formula is that once we've met one goal, be it a fancy new title or a higher salary, we create another goal that's higher. We fail to relish and appreciate what we have in the present.

Takeaway #2: Your perspective is your reality. Do you view obstacles as a problem or as achallenge? If you said problem, then it's likely felt as a burden and isn't necessarily viewed as being solvable; if it's a challenge, then it's usually perceived as solvable and can sometimes even be seen as a fun challenge to beat. 

Where is your focus? As Achor humorously points out, put less attention on the weaknesses and more attention on the strengths of the organization, yourself, or even the task at hand and you'll find yourself not only happier, but more productive at work.

Takeaway #3: There is a secret to rewiring your brain towards happiness. No, I'm not telling you the secret. I've tantalized you enough. You'll have to watch the video to find out the "how to" portion of this talk. This part is interesting and I felt challenged enough to start trying it. I hope you will too, so please email me if you find that it works for you.

My hope is that one-by-one we begin to realize we alone are responsible for our own happiness. External environments can and will impact us, but to what extent is ultimately up to us. We decide how we are going to accept, maneuver, or adapt for the sake of our wellbeing. Happiness shouldn't be as elusive as we make it out to be.