Workplace Unhappiness 2: Nip Those Bad Feelings in the Bud, Boost Your Subjective Well Being

Dr. Purushothaman
December 5, 2013

Workplace Unhappiness 2: Nip Those Bad Feelings in the Bud, Boost Your Subjective Well Being

by David B. Bohl

In a recent discussion on my REFLECTIONS blog, we explored the concept of SWB or Subjective Well Being - your current evaluation of your unhappiness in the workplace.

We determined that while many outside factors are often to blame for that "defeated" feeling that so many people experience at their jobs... the real solution is to change yourself and your attitude. You must do this before you can begin to impact your coworkers and the general workplace dynamic.

Below you'll find a sampling of FIVE of the Top Ten Factors That Make Us Unhappy At Work as published by the UK's Chiumento in 2007's Happiness at Work index. For many of us, the practice of assigning blame to one, five, or even all ten of these Workplace Unhappiness Factors, is a familiar and comforting ritual. We might even think to ourselves,

"Yes! I can relate to what others are thinking and feeling about their jobs. Commisserating in this manner makes me feel good - like I'm not alone in my unhappiness."

However, if you want to commit to real change and improvement, you must move beyond simple identification of the problem and into the realm of "What things can I do to change what I don't like about what's going on?" Let's explore five of the Top Ten Workplace Unhappiness Factors from a place of personal responsibility, accountability and a proactive, problem-solving approach.

Workplace Unhappiness Factor 1: Lack of communication from the top.

If water cooler whisperings are the only way to find out what Corporate is up to at your firm, it's safe to say that your company has reached a fairly dismal and dysfunctional state of affairs. Without sufficient communication from the company leaders, there IS no one driving the organization.

Do you hold a somewhat influential position at your job? Then you might begin to view your department as a "company" in and of itself. Stop waiting for direction from above, and boost leadership efforts within your own sphere of influence. If your position holds no authority, then you can wait it out while continuing to perform to the best of your ability. However, if you're fairly certain that Corporate has no plans to remedy the situation, you may want to jump this sinking ship before she takes you down with her.

Workplace Unhappiness Factor 2: Uncompetitive salary.

When you feel as though you aren't being adequately compensated for your talent, skills and effort, it can really hurt your productivity. Of all the items in this list, this is probably the most serious and least "fixable". Unless you're Company CEO or on the Board of Directors, you likely have no influence at all on budgetary decisions.

The obvious solution is to start looking elsewhere. You may want to believe that your loyalty to the firm will one day bring you the recognition you deserve, with the paycheck to match. But the reality is that times are changing. Companies are no longer offering the type of security that would turn you into a "lifer." So keep your eyes and ears open for new opportunities. You will know when the time is right to begin moving in a new direction.

Workplace Unhappiness Factor 3: No recognition for achievements.

There's nothing worse than learning that the hard work you put in has gone unnoticed, the extra hours you worked go uncompensated, and the credit for your ideas was snatched by someone else. And it's easy to throw up one's hands and say, "Well I tried last time and it got me nowhere, so next time I'm not going to bother." The key here is to lobby on your own behalf. It's a skill that's critical for moving up the ladder at your job, and yet one that no company will teach you - you have to learn it on your own.

If you can, retrace your steps and document all areas in the recent past where you put forth your best effort. Going forward, keep a running list of all ideas of yours that are used, all projects that you manage successfully, every extra responsibilities that you take on, and all the ways you help others reach their goals faster. When review time comes, pull out your list, and without accusing anyone else, make yourself heard and known.

If review time is past and you feel like you missed the opportunity, ask to arrange a meeting with the department head. You may also wish to inform and/or include Human Resources in the meeting, to be sure that the accounts of your performance go on record for the future.

Workplace Unhappiness Factor 4: Poor boss.

Many people view this as a "hopeless" situation at work. "I have a rotten boss and this is the person who I report to directly. Hence I'm trapped into abiding by his or her rules - wrong, self-serving, or unreasonable though those rules may be."

Remember that if you're seeing certain incompetencies or weaknesses in your boss, other people are, too. If your boss is the kind who micro-manages and/or assigns unwarranted blame to the people who report to him or her, then in all likelihood he does it with other members of the department as well.

Many forward-thinking companies now offer what is known as the "360-degree performance review" - where employees get to review their bosses as well as other members of their immediate department. This is your chance to air grievances in a constructive way. You want to open up a dialogue on how the situation can be improved, without looking like the bad guy who is "out to get the boss." If your company does not offer such a review, you can volunteer a self-created one, again, sharing this information with higher-ups and key people in HR. Tread carefully though - the squeaky wheel does get the grease, but timing is everything.

Workplace Unhappiness Factor 5: Little personal development.

Larger corporations usually find ways to supplement the employee skillset with new knowledge and personal development. They may offer workplace training sessions, off-site motivational seminars and extra-curricular activities. Some are even willing to foot part or all of your education bill. Smaller companies, however, typically do not have staff members or committees to manage such "perks," and so they get bumped to the bottom of the priority list.

If you feel like you've fallen into a rut at work, then be proactive and do something about it. Maybe the technology that's used by your company is fairly archaic and in need of an overhaul. Perhaps you've heard about a new skill that could enhance your performance at work. Or, maybe you just need a little extra motivation. Maybe you want to develop great leadership skills for a future management position.

Go online and seek out those opportunities that you think would enhance your performance. Approach your boss and ask if you can attend the next training course or seminar. Most companies view this as "taking the initiative" and are willing to pick up the tab in such cases. If yours does not, you may want to take your internet search a step further. Start looking for work at another company!

As I mentioned earlier, the real secret to happiness in the workplace starts with your own attitude. No matter what caused the attitude, only YOU have the power to turn things around. For more tips on achieving work-life balance and happiness, visit the articles section of my website.

Read Related Recent Articles