Workplace happiness: it’s such a simple thing, yet it’s so difficult to find.
Companies are spending millions of dollars trying to achieve it, and people are hopping from job to job in search of it.
And yet we can’t find it.
The problem? Like many things in life, people are looking in all the wrong places. The truth is, workplace happiness doesn’t magically appear once ping pong tables are installed, or flex work schedules are rolled out. The reality is, workplace happiness is the result of something much greater – yet something so simple. The answer?
It may seem cheesy (perhaps even downright naive) to think that love is all you need in the workplace. If nothing else, it surely violates some kind of HR policy, right?
While love is often equated with its physical expressions, its definition is actually much broader than that. “Love” is made up of five components: respect, generosity, gratitude, honesty and empathy – elements that definitely belong in the workplace, and are frequently in short supply. And all of them are hugging-optional, of course.
This goes both ways – both up and down the ladder – and must be earned. That’s not to say it’s ever okay to be disrespectful, only that automatically expecting respect without earning it is just as bad. We all learned long ago that the best way to behave respectfully is to treat others as we’d like to be treated. If we simply follow this one simple rule, we’re all better off. This also includes respecting yourself – valuing your time and talent without being arrogant or self-effacing. Treating yourself well sets the example for how you will treat others.
Being generous means giving without expectation of reward or reciprocation. Whether it’s time, money or effort, generosity is always appreciated. The most important part of being generous is knowing how much you have to give, and giving accordingly. While you don’t want to be overly limiting or miserly, you also don’t want the unscrupulous to take advantage of your generosity.
Be grateful for everything – yes, even criticism! Gratitude is all about understanding the value of other people and of experiences. Without the people you’ve known and the experiences you’ve had, you wouldn’t be who you are today. Provided you like who you’ve become as a result of this input, why not be grateful? At work, this means thanking people for their efforts, even if they’re ‘only’ doing their jobs.
Being honest isn’t just about not lying, it’s about communicating well. As a famous song tells us, “No one can fill those of your needs that you won’t let show.” Not only is it integral to be upfront, but it’s just as vital to speak plainly, and to tell others what you need. Ask questions. Ask for help when you need it. We know that dishonesty creates drama because almost any movie or TV show episode hinges at least part of its plot on something secret, false, or misunderstood. Choose your words carefully, then tell it like it is.
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Whereas respect is about seeing yourself in others, empathy is about trying to see from another’s perspective. While it’s not possible to truly put yourself into someone else’s shoes, making the effort is what matters here. At first glance, someone’s behavior might seem entirely unacceptable, but upon learning more about his or her situation, you can come to understand why s/he is behaving that way. That might not make the behavior any more acceptable, but can provide the starting point for a dialog that helps modify (or eliminate) that behavior.
Next to sleep, working takes up more of our lives than any other activity – in fact, it’s estimated that the average person will spend roughly 90,000 hours at work in his or her lifetime. It’s important to make that portion of our lives as happy, fulfilling and stress-free as possible. Even with sweeping policy change from the top, it starts (and ends) with you! Be the change you’d like to see, and don’t worry about other people. Studies have shown that positive behavior rubs off on those around us.
Bring your best self every day, and others are bound to follow.