What’s On

#sowhoknew: Are you making yourself unhappy at work?

According to a recent Gallup poll, up to 18 per cent of us are unhappy with our jobs. And given that psychologists know that unhappiness leads to serious health issues, maybe we should do something about it? Particularly when, according to Dr Travis Bradbury, most of the fault lies not with your job but with yourself…

Now, the more cynical amongst you might be thinking that the simple solution to contentedness is all down to one thing. Money. That’s the reason why we work in the first place right? But actually it seems that cash isn’t the key determinant to contentment. Research from the University of Illinois states that people who earn more moolah are only marginally happier than their less fortunate compatriots. And that even includes the uber wealthy who earn more than USD 10 million per annum.

So what does determine whether you are joyful? Well, another study conducted by the University of California indicates that a complex mix of life circumstances and genetics accounts for about 50 per cent of a person’s happiness. The remaining half? Apparently that is entirely up to you.

Now there is relatively little you can do about life circumstances and absolutely nothing you can do about genetics. But you can change your outlook on life and in a Forbes article by Margie Warrell, she delves into that very subject. She postulates that you have the capacity to change three things:

• Change what you do (e.g. if your job makes you miserable then do your best to find another one in a company or industry that you prefer)
• Change how you do it – adopt new habits, ways of doing things and try to pursue a more positive frame of mind
• Change nothing – continue to be a miserable old bugger and continue complaining about how life has dealt you a bad hand

As you might expect neither Margie, Dr B, nor I recommend the final option.

It may not be realistic to change ‘what’ you do right now. It may be that you cant simply switch companies or (even more problematic) switch to an entirely different one. We all have bills to pay so maybe the more pragmatic option (in the short term at least) is to change ‘how’ you do your job in a more positive (maybe even realistic) manner.

Thankfully, Dr Travis offers up some practical ways of doing just that and I have listed (and cheekily renamed) my seven favourites below:

The Future Fibber – how many times has the annoying inner voice told you that everything is going to be just fine when… ‘I get a promotion’ or ‘I get a pay rise’ or ‘my boss gets hit by a bus’ etc. ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Come on are only fooling yourself. None of these things is going to make you happy. Well they might do for a short while but that initial buzz of Bob being flattened by a double decker will be short lived. Then you feel remorse and the dawning realisation that you now have his job to do as well as your own. Anyway the point is that you need to focus on what makes you happy in the ‘here and now’ not on something that may (or may not) happen in the future.

The Materialist – this is a remnant of the Boomer and Gen X generations who have always been obsessed with acquiring material possessions. Bigger house, better car, new kitchen, expensive watch etc. There are 2 points to make here. Firstly, there is a mountain of research that proves beyond doubt that chasing possessions is ultimately unrewarding. Actually they can add to your unhappiness because when you finally attain them you get that cold hard realisation that it didn’t make you as happy as you expected and that in turn makes you feel unhappier. Millennials thankfully have an entirely different outlook. They crave ‘experiences’ instead of ‘things’ – activities and passions that they can share with family and friends, which in turn makes them significantly happier.

The Victim Mentality – “it’s not my fault and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it” – we all know people who operate from this default position that someone up there just doesn’t like them. Dr Bradbury says that the key flaw with standpoint is that it…
“fosters a feeling of helplessness, and people who feel helpless aren’t likely to take action to make things better. While everyone is certainly entitled to feel down every once in a while, it’s important to recognise when you’re letting this affect your outlook on life”

Bad things happen to good people all the time but the reality is that everyone has at least a modicum of control on how they control their lives for the future as long as the individual is at least willing to try and take action.

The Eternal Pessimist – the self-fulfilling prophecy of pessimism. Basically if you expect things to go badly, chances are that they will. Not only that, but people avoid pessimists. Frankly they are just not that much fun to be around are they? I used to work with a colleague whose glass was never even half empty. His always contained the dregs. Even when we won a huge piece of new business and we were cracking open the Veuve Cliquot he was bemoaning the fact that we were going to be hugely busy because we didn’t have enough resource to service the business. Seriously, get a grip. Things are rarely ever as bad as they may seem.

The Constant Complainer– complaining is a closely linked companion to it’s buddy pessimism. Often seen together curmudgeonly discussing how bad things are and by doing so simply reaffirming all those negative beliefs. Although talking about what bothers you can be cathartic you need to strike a balance between it being therapeutic and adding more fuel to your unhappy fire.

The Rug Sweeper – when you take responsibility for your actions you will be a far happier soul. Miserable people though are threatened by the mistakes they make and consequently try to bury them away. These ‘skeletons in the closet’ rarely disappear, they lay lurking in the shadows waiting to jump out and scare the living daylights out of you when you least expect it

The Green Eyed Monster – if you find yourself constantly comparing yourself with others, then it’s time to start appreciating what you have and stop coveting. Cutting down on your Facebook time might help a little…

So there you have it, if you are feeling fed up at work give these handy tips a try. And, go on, give us a smile 🙂

Steve Blakeman

Steve Blakeman is the Global Media Lead - Nestlé at Mindshare. Previously, he was the Managing Director - Global Accounts, OMD Europe. Previously, he was the CEO, Asia Pacific – OMD. Prior to that, he was Global Chief Integration Strategy Officer (Asia Pacific) for IPG Mediabrands (Initiative & Universal McCann). He has also had stints as worked as Managing Partner at Omnicom Media Group owned media agency, PHD where he successfully launched their second office in the UK. He began his career at JWT and has over two decades of experience in advertising, media and marketing communications.