How to Take Back Control of Your Career

Man Stretching Arms at Work

“But nothing will change,” he told the group.

The hair on the back of my neck stood up.

How could he think that?

It’s like he’s throwing in the white flag and wants to be miserable until he leaves his job.

I didn’t understand.

How could anyone feel so powerless?

Then I thought back to my own career and I felt the same way. It’s why I started Work Happy Now. I wanted to take back my career. I wanted control.

How soon I forget.

The problem is control is all perception. If we feel like we have no control then there is no point in trying. We can just give up and try to stop caring, but the reality is that this is just an excuse. An excuse to coast.

I then went on a rant to the group.

No one should ever feel powerless. Ever!

When you do you stop trying to make things better for yourself and other people, you stop growing. It’s this growth that helps you see progress professionally and personally.

If you are feeling powerless at work then try these ideas.

Believe change is possible

You can’t go into work believing nothing will change if you do then you’ll experience stress like never before. If you can accept that then you are also accepting that you are shortening your life expectancy as well. Then by all means stop reading this article and give up all hope.

I’m writing this article for people who refuse to give up because they believe they can help affect change at work and in their own lives.

The most important aspect of believing that change is possible is that you’ll understand the only thing to do is take action. There is a study in 2002 with 3,000 people that gives insight into this feeling. It showed that people who felt like they were in control of their careers had lower levels of stress, work-family conflict, and job turnover. They also showed that when we stop believing our actions matter we stop taking action.

You need to take action to make improvements at work. Even if that action is to bring in cookies for everyone on your team to show them that you appreciate them. The idea is to start small and build up your confidence. Once you get your mindset back on track that’s when you can take big action to make a big improvements in your career.

Let’s look at some ways you can take back control of your career.

1. Give people a lift

The best way to stop feeling helpless is to help someone else because if you are feeling helpless so are they. This works on several levels.

When you lift someone else’s spirits you are not only making yourself happier you are also making the person you help happier, which also has a ripple effect. This will ripple out into the people they come in contact with.

You can do something as simple as bringing a coworker a chocolate bar or writing then a thank you note. It doesn’t take some elaborate gift to make them happy. Usually showing recognition for someone’s hard work is the most appreciated thing you can do for someone at work.

When you lift other people’s mood you lift your own and help bring back energy to start growing your career again.

2. Take smart breaks

I made a lot of mistakes in my past by ignoring my stress level indicators. I kept powering through, making my muscles more tense.

I went to the doctor because I was having dizzy spells. It was due to increased muscle tension in my neck. Popping Advil wasn’t my best option, so I started by taking more time to monitor the tension in my body.

When I ask people in a Work Happy Now workshop to take a deep breath in they usually breath into their chest.

Chest breathing activates your fight or flight response. Belly breathing is when you are in a relaxed state.

Its when I did a lot of internal complaining that I felt drained at the end of the day. By taking a smart break you’ll be more aware of how you are feeling and how to adjust so you are more relaxed and making better decisions. It all starts with your breath then the next step is bringing more gratitude into your life at work.

When I brought gratitude to a situation I began to bring a more of a positive and resilient attitude to work. It’s this attitude that has helped me feel more relaxed even during a stressful meeting.

At the end of a day try listing 3 things that you are grateful for in a journal.

Here is a sample from last year:

  • I’m lucky to work with so many great people. There are a few wankers, but most are caring and supportive.
  • I’m grateful that I had a nice lunch with my coworkers.
  • I like that my new project is forcing me to improve my research skills.

Give it a try and see how much it helps boost your mood.

3. Rely on your network at work

When you are feeling like your career is falling apart you can go off and hide or you can lean on your fellow coworkers.

The people in the financial industry who leaned on each other after the market crash were able to weather the storm while people who hid from their peers struggled with depression and getting back on track.

You have a network at work that can help you when you are struggling. Utilize their help as much as you can and you’ll be surprised by how much it reduces your stress and helps you get your career back on track.

After stressful meetings are over or whatever stressful event I was in at work I try to talk it through with a coworker.

This simple act of talking about a shared experience helps process the event.

Too many people retreat after a stressful event. They want to hide and try to process everything. When they do this the negative emotions usually take over and this can cause more harm to you than good.

So next time you feel overwhelmed try talking it through with a coworker. Remember to focus on being grateful and not feeding each other negative feelings, bringing both of you down. Using the time to learn from the challenging experience and grow from it will help both of you.

It can be as simple as asking a co-worker to lunch or setting up a short meeting to discuss possible solutions. Whatever you do just remember that they have had similar feelings and can help you feel supported.

It’s these relationships that you build now that can also help you find a new career when you are ready to make the leap.

4. Build your skills

You have an opportunity to get paid to learn. That’s an very important aspect of a career. It’s one I forget to utilize on a regular basis.

I forget because it can feel uncomfortable. I hate to fail at things and it’s held me back from growing. It’s challenging to learn new skills and apply them at work.

A lot of people don’t like change. If you can be more accepting of it and take on new challenges it will help build your resume and make you more valuable at work.

I’ve been able to improve my writing because of this blog. It forced me to focus on writing with clarity and earn people’s attention. Without this skill my career wouldn’t be half as successful without this daily practice.

You can build skills like this at work or in your own. I suggest using both to help you expand out your skill set.

Expanding your skills will help whether you quit or get fired from a job. You’ll be more valuable at work and you’ll be adding skills to make resume stand out.

5. Quit your job

This last option is one I would not suggest unless you have a back up plan. A new job lined up or starting your own business. I was let go at my job in 2011. I had built up a lot of presentation skills at work and website optimization on my own, so I decided to start my own business. A recruiter found me on LinkedIn and this now have a contract with a large fortune 500 company to help them with their user experience on their website and app.

I give Work Happy Now workshops around the country and I consult with companies on their websites. It’s been a very interesting career that I enjoy every single day.

I was preparing myself for my next career adventure, so when I was let go I was already off and running.

You can do the same right now, so when you are ready for your next career move you have skills that make you valuable to other businesses.

Sometimes just the idea of quitting and looking for another job can help give you a more positive perspective. When you see what other jobs are out there you might realize that your job isn’t so bad. You might find pieces of joy in your present job that weren’t there until you thought about leaving.

It’s important to know what options you have to find a better career. The truth is you might be bored and need a new challenge. You just need to be prepared.

An often overlooked positive of leaving your career if you left your job is that it could open the door to bring someone in that would be more fulfilled by your role at work. It’s a win for you because you can find more challenging work and a win for your company because they find someone who is excited by the challenge.

Win-win-win.

That’s the beauty of leaving your job when you are ready. You grow your career and open a spot for someone to come in and infuse some fresh energy into the company.

Your Turn

These are just a few ideas to take back control of your career. I love hearing about other ways that you’ve grown your career.

How have you turned around your career when you were struggling with it?

Going Deeper into Your Work

I sat in the crowded room.

So many smart people all trying to improve the company’s website.

I chuckled.

I felt lucky to be here.

Tom stood up and said, “We are looking at the problem all wrong. We’re too focused on our perspective. We need to look at it from the customer’s perspective.”

He was right. We were so worried about gaining new members we forgot to make sure our current customers were happy.

I’ve been working with a big client over the past year. It’s taking up a lot of my time.

I miss my smaller clients, but there is a lot of positive when working with a big client.

When you work with a lot of smart people you get to learn directly from them. You see how their mind works and how they see things that you don’t.

You probably get to work with some talented people as well. The more you learn from them the more it helps your career.

It’s taking his time to go a little deeper into studying the people around you that will really help you grow. Let’s look at a few ways you can improve your career by just watching the habits of the talented people around you.

1. How do they prepare?

When you work with talented and caring people you’ll notice a common theme. They all prepare well, so they can can kick butt at work.

Next time they have a big presentation watch what they do.

  1. How do they research their presentation?
  2. Who do they talk to get feedback?
  3. What rituals do they do to get in the right mindset?

The last one is very important because it helps sets the tone for the presentation. Before a big presentation they might have a routine where they make a cup of tea, wear a certain shirt, play a certain song, or read a energizing article and allow them to feel confident. It’s routine that helps them get in the zone.

You’ll start to notice a common theme when dealing with smart, talented and caring people. They understand what they want to accomplish and they make sure they are prepared to do their best. Even when they fall short they are still proud of their work because they gave it their all.

2. What do they care the most about?

Understanding what makes people tick is key to learning from them. I like ask people straight out why they care about their jobs.

I ask…

What’s the favorite part of your job?

If they talk with passion and/or go into great detail then I can see that they truly care about their work. This fascinates me because I haven’t always been this way. The older I get the more I realize that they work at this. No one loves everything about their job, but he ones that grow their career focus on the stuff that they care about.

The question usually reveals a lot about the person. I had a boss who loved Design. He loved reading user experience articles and sharing them with us. It dictated how he went about his job every single day. He lived and breathed his work.

People also show you how they care through their actions. If they go the extra mile they love the work. If they are a good coach they love helping others. If they ask you if they can help then they care about you.

You can learn so much by watching people and how they converse with others. I started complimenting people more because I had a coworker who did it so well. He would compliment your work and explain why he appreciated your effort. It made me feel good about myself and want to help him even more. That’s they type of person I wanted to be at work.

3. What makes them special?

Some people just have certain gifts that they rely on, but what makes most people special is how willing they are to go deep into their work.

They push through when most people give up. It’s this tenacity/focus that helps them succeed.

Next time a coworker hits a stumbling block see how they react. Do they go a little deeper and try a little harder?

I had a boss that took notes at every meeting. He didn’t want to miss a thing. I’m still working on this habit, but his habit sticks with me. I always have a notepad or my phone, so I can jot down notes so I will remember to follow up or remember to take action after the meeting is over.

Your Turn

What is one thing you see someone else do that you can incorporate into your skill set?

Look around at the people that you work with try talking to the people that you see bring special talents to the table. Find out why they enjoy their work. Ask them if they have any routines.

You have an opportunity to go deeper into your work, improving your career, just by getting advice from the people you work with.

If you don’t have anyone that you admire then go outside of your company. LinkedIn is perfect for this. Connect with someone and see if they will answer a few questions.

Remember people are busy so don’t take it personal if they don’t respond back right away if at all. It’s important that you don’t give up. If you want to take your skills to a new level then you are going to learn from other talented people. Keep reaching out to other people until someone responds back.

Books and podcasts are always a great resource, but if you can learn a skill from someone you admire at work then that’s one of the best ways to build a relationship and grow your skills

10 Warning Signs You’re in The Wrong Job

Warning sign

I started off just like most of the people that surround my environment. Good family and friends, always had what I strictly needed, and life seemed perfect, up until some point. There were the college and the university, and finally the long-awaited job. I always loved working with people, so I went on with this path.

After I finished university, it was not long till I managed to land a good job as a personnel assistant in a smaller corporate organization. As the months went by, I continuously felt a certain push. It wasn’t a physical one. It was just like something was burning inside me, and my subconscious was constantly trying to fight me.

To be honest, even though I could say that I love what I do, the place in which I worked and the job duties that were put into my responsible hands were too boring. For me, boredom leads to procrastination, anxiety, and depression.
So I took a moment by myself and closely examined my deepest feelings. I still have that paper, and I’m going to let you see it:

  • I feel anxious because I feel like I’m wasting my energy and youth doing a futile job
  • I feel angry because my boss doesn’t understand my point of view that might just revolutionize the company
  • I feel extremely bored with the duties they give me
  • I feel stupid because I am still working here

And after the last sentence, I remember how it suddenly stroked me. I said no more, I’m going to quit. Of course, the next morning I was back to my “comfy” job that was putting food on my table.

The breakthrough was when I figured out that I had to work double to get myself out of the position that I’ve solely put myself in. I figured out that the best way to get off this “job trap” is to start looking for another company to work for. Then, I could continue on by starting a company, and the path will lead me.

So for several months I stayed at home after work, looked out for open vacancies, learned new skills, and tested new things. Once I got a job offer from a well-known company, I quit my job and that’s it. Simple. That’s the end of my sorrow.

Now I’m living a happily ever after story, even though I’m not rich or overly successful. I’m living the dream because I do what I enjoy, and no one will ever make me do something that I don’t like doing.

Not that you should follow my lead or become as me, but you can learn from my mistakes. During today’s article, we’ll talk about 10 warning signs that prove that you’re in the wrong job. If you happen to figure out that you’re clearly in a wrong job situation, there’s no need to despair.

John Newman is a very fulfilled HR Generalist at Careers Booster, and also a friend of mine. I asked him for a simple advice that I could give to all the people that hate their jobs and start to become aware and panic. Here’s his message:

Lots of people are in your situation. What you can do now is slowly make your way out towards something better. Life’s not about material things – if you spend it not doing what you enjoy, you’ll definitely have regrets later on when you’re no longer able to do what you could do…now.

Now according to both John’s and my personal experience, here are the 10 warning signs that might suggest that you’re in the wrong job:

1. You’re Feeling Bored

As in my case, feeling bored is a true sign that you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do. The feeling of boredom comes whenever we’re not interested in the topics presented to us. The duties might be boring, so our efficiency will never shine.

2. Nothing’s Natural to You

If all of your tasks are putting you into a weird stance and position, you might just have a problem. Whenever you’re good at something, and you enjoy doing that thing, you’ll be able to perform naturally. Your creative mind makes it very easy for you to come up with solutions.

Moreover, your strengths should always advantage you in your job. If on the contrary, you’re feeling that nothing seems natural with your job, you’re in the wrong place!

3. You Don’t Fit In

After you spend several weeks or months at a workplace, you should already figure out whether you fit with the company’s culture and members. In case your colleagues are not really your type, you’ll probably never forge strong connections with them. This is a major issue, so I’d consider a change.

4. No Desire to Do More

If nothing motivates you to do more than required, you’re most likely to have a problem. You see, a productive and engaged employee is always looking for opportunities to do better. Your lack of interest in over delivering value might be a clear sign that you’re not supposed to work where you work now.

5. You’re There for The Money

If money’s the only thing that motivates you, then you haven’t picked your job pretty well. As John has suggested, life’s not about materialistic stuff. You can reach happiness by pursuing all sorts of different things, all while you’re doing something enjoyable during your work hours.

6. You Receive Bad Feedback on a Consistent Basis

Bad feedback isn’t necessarily bad. But if you’re receiving it on a constant basis, it means that you’re doing something wrong. Perceive bad feedback not as small remarks that are constantly being thrown at you by your mean boss, but the see the important clues that let you know whether you’re doing things right or wrong.

In case you’re doing it wrong all the time, why’d you keep staying there?

7. You’re Feeling Embarrassed that You Work There

In case you’re feeling any sort of embarrassment because of your job, you’re definitely in the wrong spot my friend. Solve the problem or quit immediately. Living with embarrassment is the worst, especially when the feeling sparks whenever you have to speak out your job position.

8. You’re Not Growing as a Professional

Life’s all about learning new thing and growing our physical and mental abilities. Nevertheless, many jobs are actually limiting the people that perform them. If you feel that your opportunities are slim and your growing rhythm has slowed down, start assessing your situation.

Found out that it’s clearly slowing your professional growth? Well, it’s not the right job!

9. You Just Can’t Be You

If you can’t be you, why even bother? Spend 8 hours pretending that you’re someone else? That sounds insane. Yet, many people do it, and they do it because they’re afraid of change. No one’s going to get you out of these types of situations other than yourself.

10. You’re Only Living on the Weekends

In case you’re waiting for Friday like kids wait for Santa each year, this is a very strong sign that you’re unfulfilled with your job. There are many individuals that only enjoy two and a half days of their lives per week because whenever they have to work, life’s not that pink for them. Apathy, boredom, and sadness…these are all feelings that are screaming for a change!
Conclusion

Being in the wrong job is a serious problem. Work represents half of our lives, so I’d suggest paying a lot of attention when choosing it. If you’re recognizing a few or more of these 10 “symptoms” in your present life, you definitely need to change your job. It takes courage, will, commitment, and action.

Once you manage to replace your job with something more fulfilling, life will no longer be miserable, and you’ll be able to enjoy way more aspects of your life. But remember…this will only happen…once you make the change.

Eva Wislow is a career coach at Resumes Planet and HR expert from Pittsburgh. She is focusing on helping people break down their limits, find a dream job and achieve career success. Eva finds her inspiration in writing. Follow her on Twitter.

How to Deal With a Difficult Coworker

How_to_deal_with_a_difficult_coworker

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.

difficult_coworker_coffee

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

jumping with joy

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 Expand Employee Happiness

Do you feel engaged at work? If you don’t, you are not alone. Around the world only 13% of employees say that they feel completely engaged at work. Half of employees are actively thinking about working somewhere else.

What is so great about engagement anyway? If you aren’t already craving more engagement at work or want to convince your boss that this is important, here are some reasons to focus on engagement. Engaged employees are less likely to leave their jobs and are more likely to display excellent performance.

How do we become more engaged at work? Some of the answers lie with your boss. A boss that you feel comfortable asking questions of contributes to engagement.   

Strengths also contribute to more engagement at work. If your boss focuses on your strengths, you are more likely to be engaged at work. But, if YOU focus on your strengths Ayers notes that you are ‘6 times more likely to be engaged at work’.

I think we can all agree that we would prefer a positive workplace, but is there hard evidence that supports this preference? Absolutely. Positive workplace morale means people stay home less, they are more likely to put in extra hours and productivity improves. It also inspires teamwork and is the precursor to a thriving organisation.

Ayers, tells us more about, ‘How happy employees can lead to a happy company’, in the infographic below:

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If you want to learn more about bringing more passion and happiness to your career, check out our ebook and audio program called Proven Path. It helps you start and complete a project that will help boost your career.

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

Why Curiosity is so Important in Your Career

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The legend has it that when humans discovered the potato plant, many died because of it. They have eaten the fruits and leafs of the plant which turned out to be poisonous. Sad and angry, they gather all the potato plants (fruits, leaves, roots) they could find and set them on fire to wreck this malefic organism. When the roots started to cook on the fire, the smell made everyone wonder what could that astonishing aroma can be.

Most people put more hay on the fire to make sure the plant will die, but a few curious ones took the roots out of the fire and tasted the wonderful smelling oval shaped object. They didn’t die, and now, all of us can enjoy the potato.

Did you know that latest medical research has found that eating carrots can help smokers improve lung health, but taking beta-carotene supplements increases their risk of lung cancer?

Did you know that there is a city in this world that is illegal not to smile at all times except funerals and visits to the hospital?

Curiosity can cost you, sometimes a bit more than you can chew. However, being curious about the right things is opening many, many doors for you.

Why should you be curious and how to use your curiosity?

1. Seek Personal Growth

Being curious makes you listen. Not just hearing what people have to say, but actually, listen. Listen to learn something new, opposite to hearing only to confirm what you already know.

Developing your listening skills is not only enriching your knowledge but also increases others desire to have you around, and it is improving your relationships of all kind.

You are entering a conversation with an open mind because no matter how knowledgeable you are, you have always something more to learn, you can benefit from any and every human interaction.

Curiosity also is spicing things up in your life because it is a pleasant feeling and the rewards are instant.

When you approach a person or situation with curiosity, your mind gets free of judgment towards that person or situation. Therefore, you are more likely to find solutions and ways to move forward. In a sense, curiosity is a great tool to get unstuck, right?

We are searching for ways to keep our brain young and sane, and curiosity is one of those ways because curiosity is giving a job to many neurons that otherwise would die for lack of activity.

When you find yourself in a difficult situation, your curiosity could be just the needed medicine to overcome that situation instead of lingering in despair.

  • How did others past that situation?
  • What was missing to do better? What can you do better?
  • What others way can you try to solve the situation?
  • Who are the people that can help?
  • What else is there to know about [the situation]?

Get curious about who you are, what you stand for, you present and future. Being curious about all these things are giving you the best chance to keep your self-esteem on positive levels.

Being curious is promoting your motivation and drive feelings. Plus, it helps you to keep your focus on your purpose.

When you are curious about how well you can do something, your curiosity is overpowering any self-doubt or low confidence feelings you might have.

2. Present what you want without sounding too pushy

Did you notice how children are asking indirectly for what they want? “What is that? What do you have there? Is that [naming what you have with enthusiasm]?” Can you help yourself not to offer some of [that]?!

We are not children anymore, and we have many other ways to ask for what we want. However, formulating your request as a curiosity about what you want sounds so innocent. Doesn’t it? And with some people is the only way you will get what you want.

3. Find Connections

Behind everything and everyone there is a story. You may not care too much about something until you hear its story. And every story is captivating and entertaining. Your neurons, otherwise engaged, are euphoric to follow a story, a curiosity.

Do you know who Mark Rothko is? If you don’t, do you care? What if I tell you that one of his paintings (“Rockefeller Rothko”) was sold by $14,160.000(approx)? Still nothing? The painting is not an extraordinary piece of art in the eye of an ordinary person, but the story behind it is. It’s not the virtues of the painting that made it so expensive but the fact that it was housed in the Rockefeller building for many, many years.

Allowing your curiosity to fly, will take you to beautiful and amazing stories, to new discoveries about yourself and others.

4. Make others feel important and valued

Is there a better way to demonstrate you care about somebody other than showing yourself curious about their well-being, interests, achievements, and skills?

People love to feel important. When you make them feel that, you become important to them; you become valuable.

People don’t judge you by how smart, beautiful or wealthy you are; people are judging you by the way they feel about themselves because of you.

Curiosity is a fertile ground for collaboration.

Have fun, explore what you like, show off what you know, improve what you can do, build long-lasting relationships using your curiosity.

Carmen Jacob believes that us, people are good by nature and giving the knowledge, the chance and the opportunity, they will prove to themselves and to others how extraordinary and capable every person can be.

Why You Should Take The Time to Appreciate Your Progress at Work

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“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” Benjamin Franklin

It makes sense.

You chip away at progress.

It isn’t just a sprinkle of magic that leads to a finished project.

It can feel like a little luck had something to do with it, but it’s always due to hard work that added up to achieve your goal.

It’s this progress that you see that helps you define your hard work. You can point to all the hours that you put in and understand why you did it.

Feeling productive is a human trait that is in 99% of us. We want to feel like we aren’t stuck in a loop doing the same crap every single day. We want progress.

Something from Nothing

So that means working on projects that are just an idea and seeing them come to life. Passion projects that light us up inside.

I remember when I worked on a project for six months to help us reach more young customers. Management kept stalling. We would meet and go back to the drawing board.

It wasn’t going to be a cheap campaign, but it done right we could really see a lot of growth over the next 2 – 4 years.

Most of the senior leaders wanted results in 6 – 9 months. We didn’t want to promise these results because it was our first time marketing to such a young group.

They eventually pulled the plug on the project and we kept on doing the same marketing we did the year before and the year before that.

I felt like I wasted 6 months of my life.

The Process

There was a lot of personal growth in that situation, but I didn’t see it for years after.

I stopped working as hard and coasted along.

I felt much more lethargic because I felt my progress at work had stalled.

I wished I worked somewhere else.

Some of the happiest people in the world are janitors. They are happy because their goal is clear. They walk into a dirty room, clean it and walk out happy.

Simple.

Right?

Not as simple as you might believe.

There are a lot of janitors that are unhappy because they might feel like they want to do different kind of work. If they don’t believe that their time is well spent they will probably hate their work.

The janitors that are happy find it easier to be happy if they take the time to notice the progress that they make at work.

Focus on Outcomes

Many of you who work at large organizations don’t get to see the end results of your hard work. You hand it off to another department and you get to work on the next project. Sometimes you get an update, but it’s hard when you are busy with the next project.

That’s why it’s important to focus on the outcome of your hard work.

Great questions to ask yourself are:

  1. How has my work made a difference in other people’s lives? (Your company, the customers, other employees, etc.)
  2. How has my work contributed to my success?
  3. What could I have done better to improve on my next project?

Keeping track of your hard work and the outcomes will help you appreciate your progress as well as find things you could do to improve. It always comes back to finding ways to be a little more grateful to help improve your mindset. Click here to get the 5 Tools Top Professionals Use now to help grow your career.

I like to keep a journal to help me review what I’ve done over the day, week, month and year. The end of year review is my favorite because it’s my bird eye view to my progress.

Your Turn

Look at how you can keep track of your progress. Do you follow up with other departments asking for updates on the project you handed off? Do you keep a journal? Do you ask your boss for feedback on your work?

It’s up to you, but appreciating your progress is one of the quickest way to bring happiness into your career. The best part in tracking your progress is that you can put the project on your resume.

How Can You Live with a Little More Passion?

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I’m drawn to write about something very important.

A friend of mine recently died.

He wasn’t a close friend. We briefly chatted at WDS, but I knew he was powerful the moment we chatted.

He had a honest confidence that I can’t put into complete words.

We talked at WDS (World Domination Summit) in Portland a few years ago. I asked him about his site and he asked me what I did. He listened intently. After a couple minutes his group took off and I stayed with mine.

That was the extent of your exchange.

His name was Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend.

I wanted to interview him for Work Happy Now, but I never did. This I will regret. Scott seized his moments as often as he could and it’s a lesson I’ve learned from him. We have to grab every opportunity that life has to offer.

He was a passionate and purposeful person. He was a little over halfway through his around the world sabbatical when a terrible accident happened.

Loose rocks fell on him while he was hiking up Mount Kilimanjaro.

I hope he didn’t suffer.

His site has changed thousands of lives. He’s taught people to live a life of passion and purpose. To think of every choice as a chance to live a fuller life.

He’s grown his community all over the world. It’s his inspiration that has helped me understand my mission more clearly at Work Happy Now.

At first I focused on helping companies create a happier work environment, but the reality is that it’s personal for everyone. A company can’t make an employee happy. They can create a fun and inspiring work environment that encourages open feedback and ownership, but they can’t make them happy.

I want to do a better job of focusing on helping people with growing their strengths, improving their focus, and living their purpose. The first one is where most people who are unhappy should start. Growing their strengths helps you create more leverage in your career. This starts at work and at home. A side project is a great way to build strengths and confidence.

I called the strengths, focus, and purpose all together, a superpower. I’ve gotten away from this because it’s tough for people to think of themselves as super when they don’t enjoy their careers. So I’ve focused on all three individually. Lately I’ve focused the most on purpose because it’s this driving force that will encourage you to improve your focus and strengths.

You’ve probably noticed that my content has focused on helping people understand, so they can do work that they love.

I created the Happiness Map to help you understand the importance of utilizing how you feel at work and how to do more of the work you love to grow you career. This is the 3rd email people receive when they sign-up for the e-course.

Scott’s work was amazing. I love how he talked about living your legend. He knew that projects and tasks helps us add to our legend. From consistency to creativity, each person has their own purpose. Teachers who stay late to CEOs that start a happiness at work program to the solo entrepreneur.

I see Scott’s life and the risks he took. The community he built and to be honest I felt a little jealous, but over time this faded and I admired him. I admired his passion and willingness to take risks.

I know I need to take more risks. More risks with my writing. More risks with reaching out to make new friends. More risks to grow this community. More risks with partnering with people like Tim Brownson of Coach the Life Coach.

Scott’s death is a reminder to everyone. We only have this life right now. What we do with it matters. Scott lived 3 lives in the short time he was with us.

So my question to you is what could you do tomorrow to bring a little more passion to your life? Be creative and let us know in the comment section.

RIP Scott and I know you are someplace special.

Karl Staib

P.S. I don’t want you to quit your job tomorrow. I want you to build skills that will build your confidence and help you create more leverage to make the leap to the next thing that you truly want to do. Start with a small project and see where it takes you.