A workbook for workplace happiness

Find joy in the place you spend much of your life

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Not too long ago, when I was doing executive coaching in Milwaukee, I often met with clients on one of the top floors of the tallest building in town.

Many of my appointments were early in the morning, so I shared an elevator with people just reporting to work. It was amazing how many faces went through a transformation as we neared their destinations. They would get in the elevator all jovial, trading stories about the weekend or last night’s game. On the trip up, their faces gradually lost the smiles, lost the focus on other people, and assumed serious, even stern looks, especially as the doors opened and they stepped into their respective workplaces. It seemed they put on masks—and not happy looking ones, either.

The change I observed aroused my curiosity and still does. I don’t know if I was seeing unhappy, disgruntled employees. There could be many explanations. But my experience there spiked my interest in the subject of happiness in the workplace.

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The topic is important because we spend so much of our time at work, and the amount of time we spend on the job is increasing. Globalization is shrinking the world and growing the amount of stress in the workplace. Employees feeling undue pressure are more likely to have health problems, are less productive and can drag down morale in the organization.

Cover,-Happiness-at-Work,-correctedThere is hope! Many psychologists and business gurus have been studying and writing about happiness in the workplace. I’m drawn to Dr. Srikumar Rao (www.theraoinstitute.com), whose latest book is “Happiness at Work: Be Resilient, Motivated, and Successful—No Matter What.” Rao teaches at Columbia Business School, London Business School and elsewhere. His celebrated MBA course, “Creativity and Personal Mastery,” has its own alumni association!

Dr. Rao’s book is more of a workbook than something to read through in an hour. He strongly encourages readers to take it a couple of chapters at a time and do all the included exercises. It is aimed at the individual rather than the organization, though he recognizes that when individual employees do the inner work he recommends, they will be happier as a byproduct and can lift the atmosphere in the organization. (This is especially likely when the leaders practice the exercises and transform how they view the world.)

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I like that he eschews positive thinking and time management in favor of deeper concepts more likely to work—for a lifetime. Some of these (reduced to sound bites) are:

  • Practice extreme resilience.
  • Let go (as babies do).
  • Invest in the process—not the outcome.
  • How big is your pile of stuff?
  • What to do when fear strikes.

There are many more, and each is presented with exercises that, with committed practice, will provide you with a new model of the world.

Here is why Dr. Rao believes the topic of workplace happiness is so important: “I believe that if you don’t derive a deep sense of purpose from what you do, if you don’t come radiantly alive several times a day, if you don’t feel deeply grateful at the tremendous good fortune that has been bestowed on you, then you are wasting your life. And life is too short to waste.”

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Moments of joy are nutritious and delicious. Go after your share. I believe you will not strike out.

Cover,-Happiness-at-Work,-corrected-Jo Gorissen is a certified transition coach and a former Milwaukee area resident. She can be reached at jgorissen1@gmail.com.

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