Category Archives: Happy At Work

How to be happy at work

How to get out of an unhappy job


I just got this amazing email from “Lauren” who’s been stuck in an unhappy job:

Just wanted to send a note to say THANK YOU for your team’s wonderful work. It has inspired me greatly over the years, and last week I finally did something about my crappy job, with the goal of having it settled before International Quit Your Crappy Job Day!

I have the usual range of excuses for keeping the job way too long: “It’s not THAT bad, is it? Maybe I’m just oversensitive.” “It’s stable for the most part, and this economy is crappy. Really, who needs passion or purpose when there’s stability?” “I’m afraid it will wreck my career if I deliberately leave a management position.” “The pay is pretty good.” “I love my coworkers too much to ditch them.” “I should be able to tough it out! I am a warrior, descended from Celts and Vikings! I have lived through far worse than this! Weakness is not an option! RAAA!!” Blah blah blah.

To add to that list: my job, despite all of its down sides, has offered a great deal of schedule flexibility and I get to work from home often. This is pretty powerful; I have a young family, and I have been very grateful for the ability to stay close and cultivate a beautiful home life for so long while still working. Because of this, I was more than willing to keep shouldering a lot of responsibility and work hard at odd hours, and I kept that balance pretty successfully for several years.

But things took a big turn downhill a couple of years ago in the job. In a nutshell, there are bad ethics going on in the levels above me, and I am not able to make peace with that. I’ve also got a seriously passive-aggressive boss who finds it easy to disregard people who don’t agree with him. There is simply nowhere for this job to go but backward, no matter how hard I work. It’s all been tearing me apart for too long, and straddling two worlds — one gorgeous, one awful — has exhausted me beyond my limit at last.

My partner told me a few weeks ago that he doesn’t want me to cry at dinner anymore when we chat about our work days. (I hadn’t even realized I was doing it.) He’s been so patient and so awesome through all of my angst; it finally opened my eyes to the fact that no matter how well I think I’m hiding it, my stress DOES affect my family (duh!), and it is not fair to them. That did the trick.

I told my boss last week that I want to step down from management and join the team I’ve been leading, and asked for conditions that are yet MORE flexible and amount to fewer hours. Negotiations are still under way, but it looks like this will go through, because I have many skills that are unique in the organization. There will be less money, but I’ll be able to stay close to my family, and I’ll still earn a paycheck and get back to building my creative portfolio. I’ll also have more bandwidth to look for my next job, if the new arrangement doesn’t work out better for me. (I had been looking lightly for a while, but just couldn’t drum up enough energy to do it for real, along with being a good manager and a good mom and a good partner and everything else… it contributed to the feeling that I was trapped in this dead-end work situation.)

Now I am navigating “stages of grief” as I prepare to step down after many years at this company. There’s a lot of relief, but there’s also fear of what will happen to the people I’ve been looking out for. I’m also feeling that the bulk of my efforts — not to mention my ethics — have been unappreciated all this time, and that I sorely overestimated what this job could really be. Naturally, I feel a bit foolish, even though I thought I had good reasons for investing as much as I did for so long. Anyway: all of these things confirm that it’s absolutely time to make this move, and I’m having no second thoughts, but in some ways it’s still a little more painful than I thought it would be.

Anyway — thank you again. Things are going to get better. Spring is here, and there are so many adventures ahead.

If any part of my tale of woe might help inspire others, you are very welcome to share it; I ask that you stick a fake name on it, if you don’t mind. I would be delighted if some of my coworkers read your website, but would rather not be found out personally :)

Thank you again!

Kudos to Lauren on having the guts to get out of an unhappy work situation!


3 Things Your Workplace Can Learn from Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation - Season 7

The TV show Parks and Recreation recently ended and while I was sad to see it go, the final episodes were awesome and very satisfying.

I have admired the show for a while not just for being very funny and moving but also for how much the cast and crew obviously loved their work.

Here are 3 lessons any workplace could stand to learn from the cast of Parks and Rec.

3: Have someone nice at the top

In this clip Chris Pratt talks about the positive atmosphere they had on the set and how that started with their biggest star (#1 on the call sheet) Amy Poehler.

2: Give people freedom to screw up

Here the cast talk about the freedom they have to improvise lines because the set is “a super-safe environment” as Jim O’Heir who plays Garry/Jerry/Larry/Terry on the show puts it.

I love that – it reminds me of an article I wrote previously about Why You Should Celebrate Mistakes at Work.

1: Praise each other

Here are two clips from a late night show where the cast plays a game in which they have to toast each other in 20 seconds.

Could your team do something like this?

I think we all know that the world of movies and TV is not necessarily very happy. Just for contrast, here’s a list of movie co-stars who hated each other’s guts.

So to see a group of people who clearly love each other  working together to create something amazing is all the more encouraging and I think there are some lessons here for workplaces all around the world.

What makes you unhappy at work? Participate in our survey.

Normally our work is focused very much on the positive when we help our clients become happier workplaces. But it is equally important to know what makes us unhappy at work and do our best to eliminate these frustrations.

So we’ve set up a survey and want to know how often you have bad days at work and what makes them bad. The survey has 12 quick questions and should take 4-5 minutes to fill out.

We look forward to seeing and sharing the results.

The Parks and Rec cast on improvising lines

In this clip the cast of Parks and Recreation talk about improvising some of their lines and how the funniest line ever spoken on the show was improvised by Chris Pratt.

I really like that they get to do that and I love Jim O’Heir’s comment at the end about how they can do that because the studio is a safe environment where they feel free to take a chance and make mistakes.

Every workplace could learn from that.

The Woohoo Partner Program is now OPEN


Yesterday we pushed the big red “LAUNCH” button and invited the first 15 partners from around the world onto our new Partner Program. We currently have partners in Denmark, Norway, Australia, UK, USA, Turkey, Argentina and South Africa.

The Partner Program teaches you everything we know about creating happier workplaces. It’s aimed at external consultants who want to sell their services and internal consultants (e.g. HR) who can use the tools internally in their workplace.

There’s an insane amount of material in there, including 13,5 hours of video – with more coming.

Want to joins us? Read all about it here.

The CEO who made pancakes

From the workshop

A few weeks ago I did a workshop for a pharmaceutical company in Iceland called Medis as part of their 30 year anniversary and strategy kick-off. As you can see, they kinda liked it :) The guy in the front row in the blue suit is their CEO Valur Ragnarsson.

Now, as we all know a workshop itself changes nothing so we always work with our clients to come up with a plan that will actually make a difference in the workplace. As part of that plan, I challenged Valur to come up with something he could do that would be fun, easy and visible – just to show people that he is committed to creating a happy workplace.

And a few days later he sent me these pics where he’s making fresh waffles and pancakes for his employees:

medis 1

medis 3medis 2What an awesome idea :)

I asked Valur how he liked the experience and here’s what he said:

I thoroughly enjoyed it – the biggest joy I actually got out of observing the reaction of the colleagues !

FYI we did not announce anything but simply showed up in the corridor without notice and took people pleasantly bysurprise….. now it will boil down to a plan and team supporting this (which we have in place already btw).

The only problem was that the smoke alarm kept going off, so they had to temporarily disable it :)

medis 4

Well done, Valur!

Just to be clear: We’re not saying that you can turn an unhappy workplace into a happy one, by having the CEO make pancakes :)

What we’re saying is that upper management can support the process of creating a happy workplace by doing something fun and unexpected that shows employees that they are committed to the goal and willing to go a little bit outside of their comfort zone.