How to Deal With a Difficult Coworker

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No matter how hard you try — or how much of a people person you are — there is one coworker with whom you simply don’t gel. As the word “coworker” implies, you work with this person, so it’s hard to avoid him or her in meetings, on e-mail chains or even at the water cooler. Unfortunately, you can’t spend your entire workday planning how to avoid this person, either.

So, what’re you to do? Dealing with a difficult coworker takes patience and finesse, but we’ve made all of that a bit easier with the following five tips. If you need an added incentive, friendly office relations are one of the easiest ways to make yourself happier at work, too.

In other words, it’s time to get to work — at least, on smoothing things over with your least favorite colleague.

Figure out Your Move First

No matter how nice and amenable you are, your coworker has done something to ruffle your feathers. It might be tempting to lay all of your feelings out right away in order to get them off your chest, but workplace wisdom says to slow down.

Give yourself a few hours or days to compose yourself and gather your thoughts on the situation that has caused you so much stress. Observe your coworker with others and try to figure out who this person is — and why. What is it about the two of you that isn’t working? With a bit of perspective, you might be able to better understand him or her.

Do Something, Though

So much workplace angst devolves into passive aggression, which is hardly ever a solution to your problem. You’re going to have to take some sort of action in order to deal with your problem, though there’s never a one-size-fits-all solution.

Consider both personalities involved, and you’ll have a better idea of how your problem will reach a solution. You might want to involve a boss or another coworker to mediate a discussion, or perhaps you could suggest a coffee session in which you both try to smooth things over. No matter what you choose, make sure you actually do it. The post-conversation relief and positive relations will be worth the pre-conversation stress.

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Look for the Positives

It might be hard to see past your office enemy’s, well, enemy exterior. But, dig deep: Is there anything you can appreciate about him or her? Perhaps she does work hard, or he can put together a killer PowerPoint presentation. You can even look for the positives while you discuss your problems, as prescribed above. A good and true point could help you see your coworker’s side, thus improving relations between you.

This is also a good tactic if the mediation techniques above don’t work or if it’s too soon in the game to sit down and talk about your issues with someone. See the good and — try to, at least — forget the bad. Maybe a great sales record will speak louder than your colleague chews in the break room.

Keep It to Yourself

You probably have other friends at work, and it has to be so tempting to fill them in on all of the reasons why someone is your least favorite colleague. There are good and bad things about venting — permanent damage to relationships falls into the latter category.

In the heat of the moment, you might not care whether or not you remain cordial with your colleague, so you could feel inclined to vent away. Beware that your words can get back to the person about whom you’re talking, and everyone in the conversation — including your work friends who are listening to your story second-hand — could be looped into the drama and discomfort.

Make a Move

Finally, if you’ve made the above efforts and more and still can’t get along with your coworker, it might be time to do something a bit more permanent. Talk to your boss about opportunities within other departments or even in other branches. You might even be able to scoop up a job within your same department without as much communication or contact with the person causing you so much grief.

You spend at least 40 hours a week at work — it’s time to make it a more pleasant experience. By rising above it all, talking it out and hopefully smoothing things over with your coworker, you’ll feel that much better about being at the office. Now, to work on speeding up the clock to make Friday come faster…

About the Author

Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping others find happiness and success in their careers. Follow her for more inspiring tips at @SarahLandrum

How to Keep Employees Happy and Motivated

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Six months after I started my first job out of college as a software engineer, I was “invited” to my first ever performance review. My boss told me it was an opportunity to get 360 feedback from him and a few colleagues about my strengths and the areas of my performance I could improve. As I sat down in the meeting room with members of my team, I was nervous to say the least.

Verbatim, here is what they said: I was “a positive person that brightened their days,” “diligent and hardworking,” and a “valued member of the team.” I was given a 4 out of 5 for performance. One colleague said that I sometimes “talked too loud on the phone in the open office,” and my boss said I needed to “review the code I wrote more carefully before submitting because I left out two semicolons in the last draft.” (Oh my!)

If my son–who is now only two years old–gets a review like this at his first job, I’ll be a proud mom taking him out to dinner to celebrate! Unfortunately, for myself, my brain had the all-too-common response. I ignored the positive and focused squarely on the negative, feeling discouraged. Why did I only get a 4??

Now as a positive psychology researcher, I better understand the brain response that lead to this reaction. Our brain’s negativity bias is so strong that negative thoughts significantly outweigh the positive. A number of studies have found that negative thoughts are three times more powerful than positive ones. So, if you find yourself ruminating on something negative someone said or did, know that you’re very normal. But this brain response harms performance.

Common wisdom seems to suggest that the best path to success is to identify all that is broken and fix it. We are now seeing there is a significantly stronger path that is better at fueling performance and business outcomes. Identify what’s working and leverage those strengths and skills to create greater success. The reason is that when we consciously focus on successes and solutions, we prime the brain to be in a positive state. Studies show when our brain is optimistic, it fuels business outcomes including increasing sales by 37%, productive energy by 31%, and chances of promotion by 40%. At no point do I advocate ignoring the negative, but a concerted effort to reorient the brain to the good often pays dividends in business and beyond.

This research has implications far beyond the performance review. My research colleague (and husband) Shawn Achor and I have now worked with more than half of the Fortune 100 companies, as well as schools and other organizations building positive organizations. In our research, the teams that experience high levels of success are also those that consistently focus on strengths, successes and solutions, big and small.

And the impact is measurable: A manager began focusing his team on all that they were doing right by praising one new person each day in a small way, and this practice increased the entire team’s productivity by 31% in three weeks. Celebrating success breeds success.

Whether you’re a manager or in an entry level position, focusing other people’s attention on the meaning embedded in the work, the things you’re grateful for, and the ways people have been good to you does good for those around you.

The Positive Ripple Effect

Research shows positive information spreads further and faster. In an outstanding research study, Jonah Berger, professor of marketing at Wharton School of Business, and Katherine Milkman from the University of Pennsylvania used a computer program that scanned 7,000 articles from The New York Times over a three-month period to distill what characteristics led to certain articles being included in the “most-emailed” list on the newspaper’s website.

The researchers controlled the study for variables including article placement, author gender and popularity, and the length and complexity of pieces, and found that the articles that evoked emotion were shared more often than those that evoked none—but even more importantly, the arousing, activating positive pieces were more viral than anything else.

They found that the ones that were most shared were stories that made you feel high levels of positivity, including emotions such as happiness, joy, elation, and awe.

What that means is that if we start talking about the positive, in a way that makes others feel good, that can tip the culture at work from negative to positive in a meaningful and lasting way.

Get Others Involved in the Practice

One of the best examples I know is the story of a judge from Nebraska, who said
her colleagues were disconnected and grumpy. They were always complaining about the work and each other. She secretly posted a gratitude board at the office and provided markers and Post-it notes.

Later, she told me she watched as colleagues stood in front of the board, sipped their
coffees, and talked about the gratitudes that had been posted. She secretly snapped some pictures of people bonding in front of the wall and posted them on the board the next day with a note that simply said, “The bonding I see all around me today is my gratitude.”

The story of the gratitude board spread to other government buildings, and three additional departments made them too.

Beyond a gratitude board, there are lots of ways to operationalize gratitude to create an active cycle of positive behavior and reinforcement. Here are some examples:

  1. Ask people to post their gratitudes on the board.
  2. Have them snap pictures of themselves holding index cards with their gratitudes written on them.
  3. Encourage them to post the photos on social media.
  4. Have a different employee each day share his or her gratitude with the team during the morning meeting.
  5. Showcase some of the “praise” gratitudes during team meetings.
  6. Have a volunteer from the design team create an infographic, with the organization’s logo, that focuses on the scientific value of practicing gratitude to share with the company.
  7. Tweet out one gratitude from the wall each day to the wider network.
  8. Make a video to share the story of the creation of the gratitude wall and its impact to present at an organization-wide gathering.
  9. Ask a few marketing associates to record reactions on camera from people after seeing their names and contributions mentioned on the gratitude board. Put together a short video to share.
  10. Feature the story of the gratitude board in the company newsletter.
  11. Start each month with a fresh board and a new theme, such as “my coworkers” or “the difference we make together.”

By taking even just a handful of steps like these, you have the power to shift the culture at your office to more optimistic, empowered territory. You could change the board’s theme from time to time. For instance, next month it could feature “how your colleagues have made your workday easier recently” for people to share those stories.

As for performance reviews, based on the research, a number of our clients, including Facebook, got rid of these annual traditions, and instead focused on creating a more steady stream of feedback–anchored in positive, meaningful information. This helps fuel employee performance, instead of leaving them stuck at “4” (whatever that means!), and lessens the detrimental impact of inevitable negative information. It’s the kind of work environment I hope for my son, when he is old enough (and off the family payroll!)

For more research and ideas to start your day off on a positive note, Shawn and I invite you to join us for our Wake Up & Inspire Happiness Video Workshop, based on our new PBS program INSPIRE HAPPINESS airing nationwide.

About the Author

Michelle Gielan, national CBS News anchor turned positive psychology researcher, is the best-selling author of Broadcasting Happiness. She is the Founder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research and is partnered with Arianna Huffington to study how transformative stories fuel success. She holds a Master of Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and is an Executive Producer of “The Happiness Advantage” Special on PBS and a featured professor in Oprah’s Happiness course.

How to Avoid Mid-Career Doldrums: Rediscover the Joy of Learning

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If you’re an experienced professional, once-exciting work can start to feel like a daily grind. You know your job inside and out, few things about it engage you, and fewer yet offer inspiration to perform at your best.

This slump can be especially dispiriting if you love your organization and are invested in its success. Jumping ship—possibly the quickest way to shake things up—isn’t really an appealing option.

We spend so much time at the office or working after hours, that job unhappiness can easily affect our non-work lives, too. If you don’t think you need to make a change for yourself, consider doing it for your loved ones.

From professional development to personal growth

What if I told you that going back to school for even a couple of days could give you just the boost you need? I am not talking about college or an advanced degree—you probably have those already—but simply attending a professional development course can provide you with the ideas, tools, and techniques that can help you rediscover your passions and purpose and ways to achieve them.

Some professions require continuing education for its members to keep in good standing skills-wise and legally. Medical doctors, school teachers, architects, and even hairstylists, among others, all take a number of classes a year to maintain their licenses. Sure, these classes tend to be more skills-focused and cater to highly specific professions, but they also provide less tangible benefits like staying connected to a professional community, learning from experts in the field, and keeping abreast with the latest advances and best practices in the profession.

Making a time investment in yourself

In fields where licensure is not required, professional development is often an afterthought or a “nice to have,” and, if unaddressed, can lead to deepening job dissatisfaction. Business is one of those fields. As a mid-career executive or senior manager, you are probably thinking that you can’t afford the luxury of time to invest in your own professional growth. You may go to industry conferences or networking events when you can or when you have to, but these activities are not designed to re-ignite your passion for your work or equip you with enhanced tools and techniques to be more effective.

Executive education, on the other hand, is a way to cultivate the skills and the mindset you need as a mid-career professional to continue to do the job and the work you love.

Course content can range from general management subjects to more specific topics like law or digital marketing or international trade. The course material is developed and presented by knowledgeable faculty who give you the latest insights into your field.

Your fellow learners are people who bring the same level of experience to the conversation, giving you the opportunity to learn from peers in other industries. And last but not least, being out of the office for a couple days and away from distractions, can be incredibly refreshing.

Rediscovering your purpose

As the associate dean of Executive Education at MIT Sloan School of Management, I am in the fortunate position to be exposed to all the great learning and ideas in our executive education programs. We have over forty to choose from, but it’s impossible for me to attend anonymously. Yet, getting fresh ideas and new perspectives are important to me, so I also look further afield to find that inspiration.

This is why I find attending conferences and workshops like FRED Forum fulfilling, rewarding, and highly inspiring. FRED Forum is an annual event that brings together leading innovators and senior executives responsible for developing leaders from the business, education, social and government sectors. I make a point of attending it every year, and each time I leave with a lot of new ideas and the energy to implement them as soon as I get back to my office.

Last year’s theme was Purpose. On the first day of the conference, Richard Leider, a renowned executive life-coach and author, guided us through a workshop on how to identify and articulate our individual purpose in life. An interesting experiment in self-reflection, it was no small task by any measure. While each person’s purpose is a deeply personal matter, Leider pointed us in a general direction of leading a meaningful life by growing and giving, as people and as leaders in our fields. Of course, having a clear purpose does not guarantee that you will succeed, but striving in the right direction will get you closer to leading a fulfilling life. Leider returned to FRED this year, along with an array of equally impressive speakers and facilitators, and the amazing community of leadership development professionals and business leaders.

Choosing what’s right for you

Just like picking the best college to attend, finding educational experiences later in life that are meaningful and effective for you personally is key. Granted, events like FRED Forum or TED conference tend to be about big, inspirational ideas, and if that’s not your thing, there are many more practical options out there. Executive education could mean anything from classes at your local business school or university up to travelling to one of the top schools that you wouldn’t have thought to attend—but now, with executive education, you can! And if you’re lucky enough to have one of these schools right in your city—don’t wait, check out their calendar and sign up.

Some people have found such an oasis in MIT Sloan and keep coming back year after year, either taking classes or working toward an Executive Certificate—a popular option for professionals who are committed to lifelong learning. Others we know like to sample across a whole range of offerings. (Of course, they always tell us that ours is the best!) Whichever route you take, continuing your professional growth through education will always keep your thinking fresh, make your day-to-day more exciting, and make you a nicer person to be around.

Peter Hirst leads the team of professionals who partner with clients and faculty at the MIT Sloan School of Management to develop, design and deliver innovative executive education programs for individuals and companies. Here are 7 books that the faculty at MIT Sloan recommend.  

Unhappy at Work? How to Tell Your Boss

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I had it all — a great company, terrific coworkers and a short commute. The only problem was I really didn’t like my job. I spent most of my day alone, crunching numbers for data research. There was no creativity and little human interaction. I wasn’t happy, but I labored on, dejected and frustrated.

One day, everything changed. I had stopped by my boss’s office to answer a question. Instead, I faced one: “Is something wrong?” Instead of brushing it off, I told him I wasn’t happy. It was more than a bad day, I needed something more in my job.

My boss sat back, stunned. Trying to backpedal, I added, “I like the office and everyone here. I’m just not satisfied in this role anymore. I need a change of pace, a challenge, something.”

That was all it took. My brilliant boss saw a good worker in distress and took action. I still crunch numbers, but I can deal with it because I also get to lead a new team. It’s not easy, but I love the challenge, interaction and creativity it brings.

A friend of mine had a similar experience. He was really good in sales, but, at the end of the day, he wasn’t fulfilled. He was more proactive than I and took the matter to his supervisor. I’m pleased to report that he’s now a satisfied — and effective — client manager.

If you’re discontent at work, you don’t have to suffer in silence or change jobs. Don’t wait to have an outburst like I did, either. There’s another option. Get some help by going to your boss and asking for help. Not sure how to do that? Here are some ideas:

1. Get a Grip on What’s Bothering You

Do you know why you’re dissatisfied? I felt unhappy for weeks, but I never took time to pinpoint the problem. Don’t make that mistake. For a week, write down everything that bugs you about your job, no matter how insignificant. When that’s done, you have data. Time for analysis.

Read through your list looking for commonalities, patterns and repetitions. Then you’ll be able to name your issues, such as too many assignments, interrupting coworkers or lack of a challenge. When you approach your boss, you can be specific. Even great bosses can’t read minds.

2. Scrutinize Scrupulously

While you’re considering what makes you unhappy, look at your life outside work as well. Sometimes people are sad and disinterested all the time, but it’s more obvious at work because of expectations and pressure. If you constantly feel helpless, tired, negative, irritable or worthless, these are all signs of a bigger problem. You may be one of the 14.8 million adults affected by a depressive disorder. In this case, a doctor will be more help than your boss, at least initially.

3. Prepare a Plan

Now that you’ve identified your problems, you may see ways to fix them. Since you’re in the middle of it all, you might be the best person to suggest some changes — or not. Either way, you’ll probably be asked for solutions, and you can either make proposals or honestly admit you’re flummoxed.

Think about what it is that would make you happier in your job and list out some things that can help you get it – maybe it’s taking on an additional project or getting to work from home once per month to get done the writing you’re too unfocused to do in your cubicle. Sure, it may mean asking for more work but if it’s fulfilling work it could be the answer to your troubles.

4. Try Talking

OK, you have a handle on what’s bugging you, and you may even have some changes to propose. Time to set a meeting with your boss. Just don’t approach this as a doom and gloom scenario, or your boss’s schedule may suddenly be full for the next two months. When you request the appointment, keep your attitude positive. You really do want things to get better, and this meeting is another step along the way.

5. Set the Stage

You hope the meeting will send you on a path toward a happier workplace, so show it. Have a productive mindset. Go in calm, cool and collected. You’ll be more efficient — and you won’t make your boss uncomfortable or annoyed at having to deal with shouting, sobbing, whining or whimpering. Be positive about the process, and your boss will be, too.

6. Sit in the Spotlight

Remember, this isn’t a gripe session about the rest of the staff. It’s about you. Tell your boss you want to be more engaged in your work. Make the case for becoming a better employee. You’re more likely to get assistance if it improves the bottom line.

7. Paint the Picture

Be upfront with your unhappiness, and use your data to back you up. Feeling overwhelmed? It’s no wonder — you had to start five new projects in the last week. Constrained? Because of the chain of command, you’ve wasted time seeking approval for little decisions you’re capable of making. Unappreciated? You put in way more than 40 hours last week but saw no additional compensation through overtime or comp time.

Don’t be accusatory or negative. In a professional manner, state your facts.

8. Recommend Resolutions

This is the time to pull out your list of suggestions — if you were able to generate it. Your boss will appreciate knowing what you think will solve the problem. They’re not a mind reader, remember? You won’t necessarily get everything you want, but it’s a good starting place. If not all your ideas are feasible, go on to step nine.

9. Solicit Suggestions

Request advice and make sure to take notes. This not only helps your recall, but it also shows the boss you’re serious. If an answer seems vague or incomplete, ask for details. You’re here for help, so it’s up to you to get it.

10. Take Action

By the end of the meeting, you should have a plan of action, so it’s time to get busy. If it’s a long list, don’t become overwhelmed and give up. Take it one step at a time. If the going gets tough, remember: This is about you being happier at work. Your boss will also notice — and appreciate — that you followed through.

Get out of your rut at work. You may not have put yourself there, but, with help from your boss, you can crawl your way back out.

Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping others find happiness and success in their careers. Follow her for more inspiring tips at @SarahLandrum

How to Help Your Employees Feel Happier at Work

Office Conversation

Leading someone to do what you want them to do and getting them to actually enjoy doing it isn’t easy. I’ve always been a hard person to lead. I like to do things my way. A lot of people like to do things their way or at least feel like it.

Are you difficult to lead as well?

Most people are.

This is the key to leading your people.

Happiness

Happiness is based on perception. Some employees love complete autonomy while others prefer a more structured day. You need to help them create the type of workday that makes them happy, productive and delivering great results.

It’s how they perceive their ability to make choices that truly matter to them. If they have control over the kind of projects that they like to work on for a large portion of their day they will be happy. They need have the freedom to execute their ideas. It’s giving them the space to grow and expand.

When people own their choices they feel responsible to deliver on their promises. As a leader in your organization, think about who you enjoy delivering great work to, it could be a co-worker, boss, or customer. Why do you think you work harder to deliver these results for them? You’ll understand the importance of emotions in your workday as well as your people’s emotions.

My Mistakes

A few years ago I was assigned to lead to an event that my company was hosting. I had to bring in speakers (inside and outside the organization), set up the conference room in a hotel, create a program, gather materials, promote conference and the list went on.

I was blindly assigning people to jobs without asking for their input. After terrible results in the first few weeks I stopped to take a breather. I gathered everyone for a meeting and I listened to feedback. Their feedback shocked me. I had a lot of improvement to make as a leader.

True Leadership

So you want an atmosphere that encourages great work? Don’t we all. Most bosses and managers talk a good game, but they don’t create a plan to make it happen.

Almost every CEO I worked for always talked about the importance of their people, but their actions did not coincide with their words. They were always more worried about their own issues.

I know how important it is to make money, improve profit margins, keep stock holders happy, but if the employees aren’t happy then the bottom line will suffer.

Ownership

Let people create their own plan, improving their ability to understand the choices they do have (perceived freedom) and execute on their ideas then encourage them to improve their mistakes. The problem lies in helping them execute so they have the best chance at success.

As a leader of people you need to remove obstacles and encourage happiness in every facet of your business. I’ve created 10 techniques that will help your company be happy and successful.

  1. Be happy yourself.
  2. Know your people.
  3. Make time for your people.
  4. Create more autonomy.
  5. Help them find meaning in their work.
  6. Stop letting jerks dictate the company culture.
  7. Encourage friendships.
  8. Recognize hard work.
  9. Let people know that they have options.
  10. Find out why people leave.

These are concepts that are easy to understand, but may be hard to apply to your company’s culture. Let’s start with little baby steps.

Once you’ve been able to bring a little more happiness into your own life and career, which isn’t easy, but should be daily exercise. You can move on to making your employees happy.

The best way to do this is the 4-step employee happiness process:

  1. Ask them, on a scale of 0 to 10 (0 being you would rather lose a foot than continue working here and 10 being happier than a baby giggling) how happy are you?
  2. Ask them, how can I make you happier? (What projects are you struggling with and what projects would you like to do more of? Let’s say they say on the scale of happiness they are a 4 then I like you to say how can I help you get to a 5 or 6. Make it feel attainable and meet their expectations.)
  3. Listen to their responses and be honest about where you could probably help them and where it might not be possible at this time.
  4. Ask them if they can create a plan with 2 projects that they would like to work on (no more than 500 words) that would help them feel happier as well as help the company improve. Give them a date of when you would like the plan buy. Make sure they give you a step-by-step of how they would implement the projects (timeframe, resources, and breakdown of tasks) and what they think the results would be after the project is complete.

That’s it.

You will have to review the plan, pick the best project (give them guidelines to create a better project for them and the company), but if they did their due diligence your job is just to review plan, make mutual adjustments, and have them implement their idea.

The best part is it’s a win-win. You have happier employees and you get better results.

What is one great idea you’ve seen from your boss that helped you feel happier at work?

What to Do When You Hate Your Job

Smiling at work

Hating your job isn’t particularly uncommon. In fact, a Gallup study found that around 70% of workers find themselves “disengaged” from their job. Doing the same things day after day, while feeling you’re hardly making a difference in the world, can certainly contribute to a feeling of disengagement in the workplace.

I was once that disengaged employee who hated my job. I dreaded getting up in the morning, and every minute spent at work felt like the clock was ticking by – way too slowly – until I could finally clock out and head home. Sometimes I’d hide in the bathroom for a few minutes, just to get away from my desk.

I was miserable. Lucky for me, I wasn’t trapped. That dreadful job was just for the summer, and I was lucky enough to go back to school at the end of the season.

Unfortunately, many of those who don’t enjoy their job can’t simply get up and leave. Many factors — from a steady paycheck to a feeling of security — make it nonsensical for workers to leave, at least in the present. So what can you do when you hate your job but can’t leave?

Do you want do work you truly care about? You have to start by building a resume that draws people to you.  Click here to check out the Unlock Your Career Happiness guide. You’ll find out the 7 most important steps to doing work you love.

There are several options:

1. Pursue Passions on the Side

When I worked that sales job, it was becoming quickly apparent that it wasn’t the job for me. I had no clue what to do at the time, as I needed to pay rent. So I started doing something I enjoyed in my spare time: writing. I had always enjoyed writing and soon realized there were places online that paid for quality work. I began working for a copywriting business in my spare time. Eventually, when the time was right to leave my sales job, I had already built experience and connections within an industry that made me happier and more properly utilized my strengths — thanks to pursuing my passion on the side while working days.

Whether you have an hour or several of free time after work, it’s recommend to keep your passions intact while working at a job you hate. It could be something artistic like writing or graphic design, or maybe it’s an idea — like starting your own PR company or inventing. Regardless, a dull job shouldn’t keep you from pursuing your passions and things you’re good at.

2. Use Your Job to Identify Weaknesses

Your job right now may be boring, but you can still use it to your advantage as a device to identify which things you wouldn’t possibly want to do at your next job. For example, I found the constant phone calls in sales to be annoying, which helped me narrow down my future options and resulted in deciding on something like writing — where phone calls aren’t nearly as non-stop.

While working at your current job, write down a list of things about it you don’t enjoy, along with things you do enjoy — if any. This will help you discover the best industry for you when the time is right to leave. Making a list with two columns — “too much” and “not enough” — should make your next career move a lot clearer when the time is right.

3. Identify Lifelong Goals

It’s natural for humans to live day-by-day. It’s difficult to brainstorm about where you want to be in 20 years when rent is due and you’re worrying about affording groceries. Still, when your job isn’t the right fit, it’s a great idea to keep in mind your lifelong goals so as to better associate yourself with businesses that share similar values.

I may not have worked my sales job for long, but it was long enough to know that I needed more to strive for. Now that I’ve had that experience, I can appreciate my current position all the more. Still, some days are harder to get through. That’s where goals come in. On the days you don’t feel like working, or you feel as though you have nothing to work for, having a goal can be like having a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s your out, your way to a better job, to happiness.

Take learning as a goal, for example. Since millennials are the most educated generation in history, many businesses are beginning to adopt lifelong learning values, such as opportunities for continued education and training. If this is important to you, keep it in mind as you plot your next move. Make it a lifelong goal to work for a company that shares that value.

The second part to that goal is to work towards it in the short run, too. If you lack the experience or training to make the move to a job you want, make it a goal to start learning anything and everything you can to get to where you want to be. I make it a goal to read at least two books a month that can help me grow – both as an individual and as a professional. You’ll develop the skills you need to make the move, and that dream company of yours – the one that values learning – will take this as a sign that you’re a good fit. Now you’re not stuck anymore.

Your current job is also useful in this sense, since you can look at your current employer’s general philosophy and workplace and identify areas you don’t enjoy, such as an over-emphasis on profits over community or a lack of communication from managers. Add these aspects to either the “too much” or “not enough” columns as well.

4. Consider Staying, but With Adjustments

If for whatever reason you absolutely cannot leave your job in the near future, it may be better to hunker down and try to maximize your situation there the best you can. For example, if your job leaves you feeling unstimulated, speak with your employer about handling greater responsibilities. Not only will it make time go by quicker, but the more substantial responsibilities are a good look that can result in a pay raise down the line. Also, ask about your current employer’s educational benefits or volunteer opportunities, as both provide a way to hone your talents while working at a job that does not properly use them.

This is also a good strategy when you love the company, but hate your job. Most bosses want to retain employees and are open to horizontal movements within the company. If you’re feeling unsatisfied but aren’t interesting in leaving behind the company (or the benefits), switching to a new position within the company can sometimes be the answer.

While being at a boring job is less than desirable, these tips can either help you tolerate your current situation or move onto a new one when the time is right. Whatever you do, remember that you’re never stuck.

Sarah Landrum, the author of this post, is the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping others find happiness and success in their careers. Follow her for more inspiring tips at @SarahLandrum

How to Build Habits that Make You Happier

push-ups-habits-stick

To often we bully ourselves to get things done or to do things that need to get done.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever created a crazy to do list in the past month and got less than half done.

You are setting yourself up for failure.

You must strive, yes, but not wear yourself out, no. Heavy doses of stress will destroy your health.

You do good work. Your productive and get things done, only to look at your list and wonder why you didn’t get more done.

You can alway get more done.

The thing is that you’ve got to be sensible about habits.

Define your habit, understand why you want to build it, and what would be the best way to go about doing it.

Do you want do work you truly care about? You have to start by building a resume that draws people to you.  Click here to check out the Unlock Your Career Happiness guide. You’ll find out the 7 most important steps to doing work you love.

Essential Habit Building

You’ve got to hack your habits, so they are more likely to stick.

Not just picking a habit to add to your life, but a habit that will make you happier and healthier. Or more productive and more focused. Or patient and smarter.

You can’t just pick a habit like eating healthy and just see what sticks.

The smartest people, who have strong self discipline, know that they have to create a habit that meets their needs on multiple levels.

Essential habit building is vital to actually adding habits that help you vs adding habits because it sounds good.

You probably have 5 habits that you would like to improve.

My 5 habits I would like to improve:

  1. Daily meditation.
  2. Stop work earlier to relax at night.
  3. Practice Yoga for longer periods of time.
  4. Be more present when I play with my kids.
  5. Be a better listener.

Focus On One Habit at a Time

If I try to do them all at once I’ll fail. It’s just too hard. So instead I focus on the most important one to me right now and create a 1, 3 or 6 month plan. If I can improve 4 of my habits each year then that’s a great year. Some habits like drinking more water in the morning don’t require 6 months of practice.

It was easy for me to fill up a glass of water first thing in the morning and drink it.

You have to ask yourself:

What is most important to you?

Then decide to turn this into a habit. I suggest scheduling it. You can make a game out of it too. I want to bring more calm and deeper breathing into my life, so I schedule meditation every single day. If I don’t do it in the morning then I do it at night, after the kids go to bed, and before I watch my favorite shows.

I wake up thinking about about meditation. And now it’s become a part of my life that if I don’t do I miss it. When you miss something you know it’s become a habit.

If you can build a habit that will improve your career and your health you will have a strong motivation to make sure it sticks with you. Now go and try it out.

How Being Creative at Home Makes You Happier at Work

coloring

Every night on my drive home from work, I make a mental list of things to do. Feed the dogs, make dinner, take a shower, make lunch for tomorrow. Once my work clothes are off and my pajamas on, I shoot through my nightly chores at a lightning pace. The quicker I complete my housework, the more time I have to spend coloring.

Yes, you read that right — coloring.

I, like many others, have jumped with both feet into the adult coloring craze.

When I was a teenager, I would spend hours at my kitchen table with watercolors and paper, working on some new masterpiece. Unfortunately, as I grew older, work got in the way. I found that art isn’t something you can just stop for months and then start up again without missing a beat. The longer I spent away from the drawing board, the further my ability to create from scratch deteriorated.

As I sit here writing this, I am almost certain that I may have lost it forever. Nonetheless, I still find joy in other types of creativity — namely frittering away the hours with my coloring book, filling in the intricate mandalas with bold, bright hues.

I make it a point to tell anyone who will listen to take time out of their busy schedules to do something soothing and creative each day like I do. Why? Because it makes me better at my job.

Do you want do work you truly care about? You have to start by building a resume that draws people to you.  Click here to check out the Unlock Your Career Happiness guide. You’ll find out the 7 most important steps to doing work you love.

Creativity Impacts Your Work Life

Recent research from San Francisco State University found that creative activities (knitting, painting, photography, gardening, etc) can have a positive influence on work performance.

“Creative pursuits away from work seem to have a direct effect on factors such as creative problem solving and helping others while on the job,” says Kevin Eschleman, an assistant professor of psychology.

The findings showed that those who spent time on a creative hobby performed between 15 to 30 percent better at work than those who did not. There are a multitude of reasons why this might be the case.

  • Taking time to enjoy a favorite creative pursuit can help a person recharge before heading back to work.
  • Creative activities serve as a means to learn more about individual strengths and weaknesses, knowledge that can be used professionally.
  • Those who engage in a hobby often report greater feelings of mastery and control.
  • Creative hobbies relieve stress — and less stress leads to higher productivity.

Furthermore, creativity often spawns insight. Some of your best business ideas might pop up when you’re in a totally different frame of mind while exercising your creative muscles.

Make More Time to Be Creative

According to a study from Adobe, 75% of Americans value their own creativity in resolving personal and professional problems — but only 25% feel they live up to their creative potential. If you count yourself among the second group, start making changes in your everyday life to fit in more time to be creative.

Start by reserving a space for being creative. Since boundaries are both physical and psychological, under no circumstances should you bring work into this space — that would defeat the stress relieving purposes of creativity entirely.

“If you work at work, and work at home, you may find yourself feeling like you have no personal time, which will increase your stress load and decrease your job satisfaction.” — Paralegaledu.org

By setting aside an actual physical space for creativity, we train ourselves to know when it is time to work and when it isn’t. Having a dedicated space is helpful for shutting out distractions as well. Shut doors, turn off phones, let your friends and family know that you don’t want to be disturbed.

Map out your creative process, by determining what time of day, or in what setting, you are most creative. If you’re inundated with ideas during your morning shower, a good time to set aside time for being creative would be right after it.

Your assignment this week is to schedule a block of time devoted entirely to being creative. Whether it’s writing, drawing, or refinishing furniture — the impact it can have on your work life might surprise you.

Liz Greene hails from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. She’s a lover of all things geek and is happiest when cuddling with her dogs and catching up on the latest Marvel movies. You can follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene or delve deeper into her internal musings at InstantLo

Image courtesy of Chris Guillebeau

10 Ways to Find Career Happiness

Career haze

Even on good days your career can seem a bit hazy. You’re not sure what your next step will be.

That’s natural.

It’s happened to all of us. We start a career with the best of intentions, planning to give it our all and to find fulfillment. Then, for one reason or another, it doesn’t happen. When your career is lacking in the meaning department, you’ll likely start to lose your sense of purpose and your drive to give it all you can. In the end, nothing positive can come from this situation.

I’ve been there. I went to a great college — Penn State — enjoyed my time there and did my best. After graduation, I moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to pursue my career. I landed — what I thought — was a great job and couldn’t wait to get started. This was the type of position that would look great on a résumé and would really help me move forward in life. Then, reality hit.

A few months into the job I realized that I was “just getting by.” I was punching the time clock and doing what was required of me, but I was starting to feel limited in my position, hampered by my cubicle. I needed something new. I chose a better opportunity and path in marketing and started a side gig as a freelance writer. I found my passion in these areas, starting a blog — Punched Clocks — to share my advice with others who are navigating the work world while trying to achieve happiness and success in life and in their careers.

For me, finding career meaning meant switching jobs and taking control of my career. For you, it might be a different avenue. Try one of the 10 ways to find career meaning where you wouldn’t think to look if you’re feeling stuck in the same rut I was:

Do you want do work you truly care about? You have to start by building a resume that draws people to you.  Click here to check out the Unlock Your Career Happiness guide. You’ll find out the 7 most important steps to doing work you love.

1. Practice Gratefulness

Here’s the thing. Even if your job isn’t what you hoped, or if you’re struggling to find meaning, there’s still a silver lining: You have a job. 8.3 million Americans are currently unemployed and actively searching for work. 2.1 million of these individuals have been searching for over 27 weeks — that’s almost 7 months. Sometimes, finding meaning is as simple as examining the world around you and being grateful for what you have. It might not be ideal. It might not be what you’re looking for long term, but it’s paying the bills. Remind yourself of this next time you’re ready to turn in your notice on a whim.

2. Identify the Real Problem

What’s driving your perceived lack of meaning? If you cannot identify this issue, you’ll likely to fall into the same rut regardless of what career or position you find yourself in. So many times we hear — and maybe say — “I’m not happy at work,” or “I have no purpose in my job,” but what’s underneath that discontent?

Ask yourself honest questions to find the real problem. Could your discontent be related to:

  • A sense of dissatisfaction with your actual role?
  • The fact that you’re working in a field that doesn’t match your passion?
  • The idea that you find yourself longing to set your own schedule and to be your own boss?
  • Finding yourself thinking of a different passion while you should be focusing on your job?
  • Feeling undervalued for the job you’re doing?

These are deeper issues than feeling as though you should be paid more or a simple sense of frustration. If you can’t identify the real problem, you’ll have a hard time finding meaning, no matter what you do.

3. Build Relationships

If you find yourself punching in at 9 and out at 5, sitting in your cubicle and performing the tasks that are required of you without going above and beyond in any way, you’re likely missing out on an important part of your workday: relationships.

Many employees list relationships with co-workers and managers as two of the top ten contributing factors for career satisfaction. What do you know about Peg in the cubicle across from yours, other than what she eats for lunch daily? Maybe finding meaning in your career means looking outside of yourself to those around you. When we’re stuck in a place where we are our only focus, it’s likely to get lonely. Put time into getting to know those around you to brighten each day and to give a little more meaning to what you do.

4. Work Together to Make a Difference

Once you’ve established a few solid working relationships, maybe it’s time to work together to make a difference. When you invest in the lives of others in a tangible way, you’re likely to feel more fulfilled yourself.

Look around for local charities. Start a clothing drive at work. Sign up for a 5k that benefits a special cause and make team shirts, or find another way to get involved in your community. Work together to brighten someone else’s day.

5. Enhance Your Personal Abilities

Maybe you just feel stuck. You feel like you could be achieving more, but you lack the training or skill set to make it happen. Perhaps, like me, your real passion lies somewhere else — in another field altogether. In this case, it’s time to enhance your personal abilities. Sign up for a few online continuing education courses. Consider going back to school to pick up a different degree, or look for seminars offered by local professional organizations. Maybe to find meaning, you just need a little extra training.

6. Stop Depending on Your Job for Meaning

Too many people find themselves in a place where their sense of meaning is linked solely with their job. There should be meaning there, but it should also lie elsewhere. What you do outside of work is just as important. To find meaning elsewhere, consider:

  • Investing in your family. How could you work to make your spouse or children happier?
  • Setting new goals outside of work, starting a fitness regimen or taking a cooking class to find pride elsewhere.
  • Joining a community organization and finding ways to contribute.

Or, try something else altogether. When you feel more fulfilled outside of work, the feeling will likely carry over to working hours.

7. Improve Upon What You Do

Here’s the thing: If you’re doing only the bare minimum to get by, you’re probably under-achieving. How could you improve upon your current role?

Sit down with your manager to discuss options for improvement. Perhaps changing a few processes, changing a few responsibilities or improving on how certain tasks are completed could improve your attitude and your actual position. This type of initiative could even lead to promotions down the road.

8. Track Your Progress

If you feel as though you’re just getting by and just punching the clock, perhaps you’ve lost track of what you actually accomplish each day. Start a portfolio to remind yourself. Not only will this help you track your progress, but it may help in future job searches.

Collect pieces you’ve worked on. Gather metrics from campaigns in which you’ve played a part. Print out screen shots, and do whatever else it takes to prove your value. Keep a journal that helps you reflect on the good and what you can improve about your career. When you see how far you’ve come, and what you’ve actually done to make a difference, you may start to find more career meaning than ever before.

9. Take On New Responsibilities

While this goes along with improving upon what you do — see # 7 — it also takes it to the next level. If you’re the type of employee who regularly avoids speaking up at staff meetings, volunteering for task forces and taking on new projects, you might be stuck in a rut.

To find meaning, consider challenging yourself by committing to new responsibilities on the job. This effort could help you improve upon working relationships while helping you find something new to be passionate about. What responsibilities have you been avoiding that could help you take your career to the next level? If you’re not sure where to start, ask your manager for ways to take on new responsibilities. Pay attention in your next meaning, and read company-wide emails looking for individuals to commit to various projects. You might just surprise yourself in the meantime.

10. Look Elsewhere

If all else fails, maybe you’ll find yourself in the same place I was — somewhere that cannot be improved and where you’ve done all you can to find meaning. If you’re here, there’s no reason to stick around. You owe it to yourself to find something different. Remember to identify what the problem was in your old role and to look for positions that will give you the opportunity to improve. That way, you’ll avoid falling into the same rut once again.

Your career is a part of who you are. It’s what helps you live a fulfilling life and where you spend a large number of your waking hours — 18.5% over a lifetime according to one study. Are you wasting your time due to a lack of fulfillment and a lack of meaning? Start with the ideas listed above to make a difference. You deserve to lead a fulfilling career, and the time to act is now.

Your Turn

What have you done or seen at work that has helped people build career happiness?

Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping others find happiness and success in their careers. Follow her for more inspiring tips at @SarahLandrum

Take 11 Deep Breaths Before Work

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Every day my anxiety would start early. It wouldn’t start until I began to get ready for work. Usually when I brushed my teeth. I could feel the muscles between my shoulder blades tighten just a bit.

Then on the commute to work I would try to tune out my thoughts with NPR, sports radio, or light hearted pop music. Anything to stay a little more relaxed. When I would pull into my parking space my anxiety would go up a notch. I really didn’t want to go in. It’s the reason I started to meditated at the end of my last corporate job. I needed to be able to relax before I dealt with my boss and co-workers.

Your breath is the most important part of your day. 

When you take shallow breaths you are signaling to yourself to be in a state of worry.

“Fear is just excitement without taking a breath.” – Danielle LaPorte

I was so worried about what others thought and I couldn’t let go of these tense emotions.

So I instituted the 11 breaths before work routine and it worked beautifully. It allowed me to stop letting my mind go into a frenzy and helped me remember to breathe at work. I added a 11 breaths bathroom break in the early afternoon to help me reconnect with my relaxed state.

So let’s look at the basics of creating your own 11 Breaths breathing routine, so you can bring more calmness to your work day.

How:

Stop whatever you are doing and just take 11 deep breaths and let go of everything else going on in your life.

Focus on:

Your breath.

When:

You feel like you are about to freak out. The last person you talked with treated you badly. When you leave work and you need to let all your stress wash away.

What I like:

The simple act of breathing and letting go it the single best habit to cultivate within oneself. Doing this every single day for 30 days changed my life around. I felt less depressed and enjoyed the end of each day.

I’m working on the Work Happy Now Emergency Kit. A personal version, team building version, team games version will eventually be a part of it. This is one from the personal version. Would you like more ideas like this one help you work happier?