Searching For Happiness In The Workplace

When it comes to work and enjoyment, there are two polar opposites. And they’re summarized beautifully in 2 quotes. The first, “Do what you love and you never have to work a day in your life (Confucius)” and the other, “You’re not supposed to enjoy it. That’s why it’s called work (multiple sources)”. Let’s agree to disagree and move on.

At the risk of sounding childish, I have to ask you if happiness in the workplace is important to you? To me, happiness in the workplace – or contentment of where you are at in your career ladder – is essential to keep at your job for the long term.

If you are a job hopper, one day you will either end up with no place left to hop to, or no energy to do anymore hopping. We all have to settle eventually, or flat out retire, though most of us who can afford to, wouldn’t, and those who do want to retire couldn’t afford to.

In trying to reach retirement age in one piece, I leave you with a simple guide on how to find happiness in the workplace. It is put together from advice I have received from many people I have worked for, and worked with. I’m just the messenger; may you feel the wisdom in what they have to share with you when it comes to finding happiness in the workplace.

Make happiness essential

If you have ever heard yourself saying, “I left my previous job because I wasn’t happy” then you should make it clear that you want to find happiness in your next one. Fact is, many people will list remuneration, benefits, perks, status, and even career goals as main factors in deciding which job to apply for.

It is only when they are in the job that they discover that happiness is also a prime factor, one which is severely overlooked in the midst of their job search. (I am also guilty of this. Well, was.)

Make it clear that you place happiness high up in your list of priorities, not only to your future employers, but also to yourself. It isn’t silly or naïve to want to go to work in a cheerful place; it is productive and rewarding.

Make it clear that you place happiness high up in your list of priorities.

In fact, your workplace can be a highly competitive environment, filled with ambitious goals and it is still possible for you to leave the office at the end of the day with a genuine smile on your face, as long as you know that what you want to achieve there can make you happy.

Work with people you look up to

Some people come to the workplace and light up the space with his or her presence. They make everyone full of optimism, and every word that come out of their mouth fills you with confidence to brave the office another day, knowing that you have this person backing you up in case something bad happens.

This person is also the person you can always talk to: their door is always open, everything can be brought up for discussion, and you can be sure that whatever requires resolution, you will find the solution in that person’s office or wisdom vault.

Some would call them ‘mentors’, when in fact they could exist as your manager, team leader, and sometimes, if you are ever so lucky, your boss.

If you have goals and ambition, respect will be a magnet to you. Work with people who are respected or admired by many, including yourself, and perhaps you will be able to find that utopia you can spend your 9-to-5’s in.

Work with people who have your back

It is hard to take instructions from someone you deem weaker than you when it comes to a voice of authority, but in the long run, it is more important to work with someone you know will have your back. It isn’t enough to expect people you can categorize as your “friend” to watch out for you. You should be able to depend on members of your team, or even your team leader as well.

To have that kind of safety net ready to catch your fall is a great stress reliever, and will contribute greatly to your well-being in the office. The trick, of course, is to find these people in the environments you have placed yourself in.

For that, there is no shortcut. What you may need is to take the time to spread some goodwill, pay attention, and perhaps some luck.

Granted some workplaces are cutthroat hell-holes, but if you are already in one, it’s probably best that you throw your happiness search out the window altogether. Alternatively, you can quit and find a job that would actually make you happier.

Work in a place where emotions are not deemed a weakness

I have never been a fan of the professional workplace, where people are asked to sideline their emotions, positive or negative, for the “benefit of the office”. If they ask you to calm yourself down after being victimized by a new policy – “be cool, be professional about this, this is how things work here” – understand that in many workplaces, the need to steel yourself against human emotions is not a necessity.

Just ask anyone who is genuinely passionate about work.

You cannot talk about passion in the workplace if you want everyone to stay professional and ignore their emotions all the time. Penting up anger and suppressing frustration, opting instead to adhere to a state of professionalism will only leave you tensed, and uptight, and will probably leave a mark on your health.

We are humans after all – we emote, whether we like it or not. But instead of hiding our emotions, why not choose to be in control of it? Channel it into something positive rather than suppress it, and you might be surprised where you end up.

The allure of comparing lives

This one I got from a job recruiter whom I interviewed for a job-seeker’s article. If you have ever found yourself comparing where you are now with a former classmate or current friend, know that in about every circumstance, you are comparing apples and oranges. In some cases it’s apples and basketballs – they aren’t even in the same category to begin with.

Some companies pay high salaries but expect you to give up a lot of your personal time to stay in employment. Others pay less, but don’t get you in trouble with your spouse or partner by calling you up during your family holidays. There are also those who sort out problems in your life so you can deal with the company’s problem and the traditional type of offices that disallow you mixing business with home affairs.

Whatever their policies are like, at the end of the day, remember that you are in their employment to achieve their goals, not vice versa. And everyone has their own set of troubles they have to deal and cope with.

“A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” – Muhammad Ali

Don’t add to the stress by deeming yourself less worthy when comparing your life with someone else’s. But if you really have to compare yourself with anyone, compare yourself, with yourself. To clarify, compare the current you with the you 5 years down the road, or 5 years ago. What do you have now that is deemed an improvement from what you had back then? What do you hope to achieve 5 years from now?

Don’t leave your job for something good, leave for something great

I had handed in my resignation letter to one of my first jobs early in my career and the newly appointed manager had called me into her office to talk to me about the matter.

Although on the surface, it looked as though I was leaving because I disagreed with their company policy, deep down inside, my confidence was shaky at best, as I had no plans to fall back on once my notice of termination is up.

It was then when she told me, in a tone that was less managerial than it was motherly, to “never leave your current job for something ‘good’, leave for something ‘great’.”

If it was an attempt to make me stay, it didn’t really work because instead, it helped me steel my nerves, making me more determined than at the start of the discussion, to take my leave and venture out into the world because at that moment, I knew that I was going to settle for nothing less than great. (Whether I succeed or not shall be left a mystery at this point. Life is an adventure, after all.)


If all of this sounds like it belongs in the “easier said than done” category, this time I beg to differ with you. You might have noticed that in many jobseeking articles, advice columns or motivational materials, we are rarely encouraged – or allowed – to associate the workplace with happiness.

At best it is “rewarding” or “conducive” or some other buzzword that is close to what you think constitutes happiness, but in reality, does squat to help you in the happiness department.

For something so important to the well-being of your personal relationships, career and life, don’t you think it is time you start making the search for happiness in the workplace a priority?