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When You Need Extra Support to Be Happy at Work

After the last couple of posts, some of you have commented that you like the idea of increasing your own happiness as well as raising the general level of happiness in your organizations, but that you’re not sure — or, in some cases, you can’t see at all — how to go about it.

It’s true that there are mechanics you can put into practice, as well as myriad sources for material you can use, for increasing your level of personal happiness. For example, see Sonja Lyubomirsky, Tal Ben Shahar, or Gretchen Rubin.

Happiness is Structural

Having more happy people around — or at least some people who are getting happier — can certainly make for a happier organization. But it’s not just about the individuals and how they feel. In the workplace, you can increase general happiness by removing barriers to productivity and progress, and by reducing or eliminating the negative impacts of poor organizational structure and infrastructure.

Most people probably don’t want to be told that they’re not happy enough, and may not want to hear that you feel like you’re not happy enough, either. But they usually like it when they see improvements in the standard things that go wrong at work; create discomfort; or impede efficiency, productivity, and success. These are the same kind of changes that help to establish a healthy, profitable, resilient business, including:

  • Finding the systems and procedures that are broken or inefficient or the information flows that are incomplete or insufficient;
  • Gently starting to break down silos and improve communication;
  • Eliminating blaming and finger-pointing inside and across work groups;
  • Shining a bright light on dishonesty and bullying; and
  • Ensuring that the right people are in the right jobs, so they can use their talents in ways that feel good to them and make good for the business.

Look for Opportunities

Enlightened executives and leaders at all levels need to share what they know, kindly, about which things are working and not working — even if it’s the managers themselves. Emerging leaders and visionaries in every possible role and corner of the organization need to speak out about what they see — along the lines of the New York City subway system catchphrase: “If you see something, say something.”

But workplace issues are never about a single person, not even the most senior leader, so it’s rarely enough for one person to read one book and make a difference. Plus, it can be hard to find enough time to make changes, and to keep the focus on what needs to be changed.

When you’re deep inside the situation and immersed in how things have been, it can be difficult to see what’s really happening and how much better — how much more effective and efficient — things could be. That’s when a little bit of outside help can be useful.

Want Some Outside Assistance?

This is what I’ve seen in company after company: When an experienced, neutral party comes on the scene, and starts to ask about context and consequences, the fish begin to recognize and adapt to the bowl and the water they’re swimming in. In other words, sometimes the right consultant can provide exactly the kind of extra support you need to knock down those barriers, do better work, and help you feel happier, too — a nice side benefit!

If you’d like some extra support thinking through the right approach for you or your organization, I’d love to hear from you. We can have a cup of coffee! You know how much I believe coffee improves happiness and productivity (See 5 Steps to Recovering Your Equilibrium), and the science seems to agree. Check out Happiness at work on Wikipedia!

Onward and upward,


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