Category Archives: Happy At Work

How to be happy at work

Positive thinking doesn’t work (and makes us unhappy)

I recently wrote an article called 5 Ways Positive Thinking Makes Us Miserable At Work. Among other things I argue that faking happiness and positivity is stressful and contributes to quelling dissent and problem-solving.

And now I can add a 6th reason: positive thinking doesn’t work. From the article:

across dozens of peer-reviewed studies examining the effects of positive visions of the future on people pursuing various kinds of wishes — from health-related, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, or recovering quickly from surgery, to the improvement of professional or academic performance (for example, mid-level managers wishing to reduce job-related stress, graduate students looking for a job, or school children seeking to get good grades) — we’ve consistently found that people who positively fantasize make either the same or less progress in achieving attainable wishes than those who don’t.

So while happiness at work is a fantastic thing that we should all strive for, positive thinking is not the way to do it.


CHO Academy is happening. Tell us how.

As we previously announced, we’re creating a training program for other potential Chief Happiness Officers.

Just to recap:
It will be a 4 or 5-day training some time in the first half of 2015. Possibly in Copenhagen (where we are), possibly in London or New York. Space will be limited to approx. 25 people. We’re still working on pricing and exact timing.

The academy is for:

  • Consultants/speakers who want to build a business creating happier workplaces.
  • Managers and HR people who want to become internal CHOs inside their organization.

Danish leaders visit Innocent Drinks

But we have some questions for you. Please write a comment and give us your opinion on the following.

WHERE would you prefer we have it? You get to choose from Copenhagen, London and New York.

Approximately WHEN would work best for you? Pick a month in the first half of 2015.

WHICH TOPICS would you like to see covered? This is what we’re thinking of including:

  • The theory and science of happiness at work. Everything we do is based on research from psychology, neurology, sociology, management science, etc. We will give you an overview of the most relevant findings from these fields and how they apply in the workplace.
  • The practice of happiness at work. We will share all of our favorite tools and interventions, so that you can then use them yourselves.
  • Presenting happiness. We will work on your presentation skills, specifically aimed at giving you tips and tricks on how to present on happiness at work.
  • Measuring happiness at work. How do you measure happiness at work, so that you can document progress from your work.
  • How to sell this to others. How do you sell the idea of happiness at work – either inside your own organization or to potential clients.
  • Pitfalls and traps. What can go wrong? What must you avoid? How and why do happiness interventions fail?

WHAT would make this the best and most valuable training you’ve ever attended?

Please write a comment below and share your thoughts on these questions or anything else about the CHO Academy.

And if you haven’t already, you can sign up to stay informed about the training here:

Yes, I want to be a Chief Happiness Officer

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Announcing a new newsletter: Leading With Happiness


Next week we’re launching a new free newsletter. Our original newsletter is for everyone and has 3,500 people who get tips ideas and ideas on how to become happier at work.

Our brand new newsletter is called “Leading With Happiness” and is for any leader or HR professional who wants inspiration and tools to create a happier and more productive workplace.

Sign up right here:

Subscribe to “Leading With Happiness”

Some team members resist happiness. What would you do?


I received the following email from a manager who reads my blog and I got his permission to post it here, to get input from all of you. What would you do?

Here’s the email:

I have a team of 10 people doing admin based work. The job can be busy but mundane and this can lower the “fun” factor within the team. I have introduced some nice changes to help their day go better as like you, my philosophy is enjoy coming to work and never be stressed about it.

However, like everyone else I can get stressed but its not the workload, it’s the team that bring me down.

Some ideas, I have introduced are:

  • Listening to music while they work
  • Be flexible with the shifts that they do
  • Let them have their moment where they need to walk away from an issue to calm down without any repercussions.

I could go on and we do the team lunches and have events, but there will still be the people that I can’t make happy.

The big issue I have is motivating all of the team. Some of my team are motivated and up for some fun or keen to get on board with a project but there will be a few that will put up the objection obstacles and flatly refuse to get involved, this can bring others down and ultimately put me down which really affects me.

At times it makes me want to move jobs and try again with a new team.

What would you do, as a manager in this situation? Please write a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

3 questions to ask yourself for more happiness at work

questionWe gain much of our happiness at work (and in life) by appreciating the good things we have and do.

Sure, you should also make sure to improve your circumstances and address any problems but it is just as important to be able to appreciate the things that work.

This is hard. Negativity bias is one of the most well-established psychological phenomena and it means quite simply that our minds devote more mental focus and cognition to the bad than the good.

Simply put, our thoughts automatically go to problems, annoyances, threats and fears but remembering and appreciating the good in our lives takes effort and focus.

With that in mind, here are 3 questions you can ask yourself to help focus on the positive in your work life.

1: What have you done recently that you’re proud of?
This can be deadlines met and goals achieved or maybe a time where you helped a coworker or customer.

Research shows that one of the main drivers of happiness at work is measurable, meaningful progress.

2: What have you learned recently?
How have you grown professionally or personally? What new knowledge have you gathered? What can you do better or faster today compared to previously?

3: Who has helped you?
Who has been there for you? How have your coworkers or your boss helped you out and been there for you?

I suggest making it a ritual to answer these questions at the end of every month.


5 things businesses should NEVER copy from sports – and 3 they should

Many companies look to sports for cues on motivations and performance and star athletes and coaches and make big bucks as corporate speakers. There is this unquestioned assumption that if you’re successful in sports, you can teach workplaces something that will make them more effective.

I’d like to challenge that assumption :)

In fact, I believe there are so many fundamental differences between running a business and (say) coaching a football team that it becomes almost impossible to transfer any principles or practices.

Here are 5 things businesses should definitely not copy from sports:

5: Abrasive coaches

It seems like sports team coaches are given license to be complete jerks. They can throw tantrums, yell at referees, badmouth opposing players (or even their own players) in public – and be celebrated for all of this because it shows “passion”.

Nobody wants that kind of behavior from their manager at work. Steve Ballmer tried this sort of thing as CEO of Microsoft and has been deservedly ridiculed for it.

4: Adulation for star players
Sports teams have a few stars and many supporting players. In a workplace you need everyone to perform at their best.

3: Intense competition
It’s a common belief that competition makes people perform better, but research shows that it’s actually the other way around – competition makes people achieve worse results.

2: Rewards for results
Athletes are almost always rewarded for results – win that tournament and there’s prize money. Again, research shows that bonuses in the workplace make people less productive on any task that requires creativity and independent thinking.

1: Focus only on the next game
In sports, the focus is often only on the next game. In business, you need to be able to think long-term and create success not just for this week but for years in the future.

Each of those 5 practices are very common in sports but just don’t work in business.  That being said, there are a few practices in sports that businesses should absolutely emulate. Here are three:

3: Make time for training
Athletes spend many more hours training for matches than actually in matches. This gives them a chance to improve their skills and a risk-free environment where they can try out new approaches and plays and see how they work.

In the workplace however, there is rarely a chance to try out new ideas without risking failure. Employees are always playing for points and never playing to learn.

2: Celebrate success
Athletes are very good at celebrating wins. They even celebrate partial progress towards a win when they score a goal or similar.

In many workplaces, success is met with a shrug and wins are rarely celebrated.

1: Include restitution
Every successful athlete know that you get stronger by training and THEN RESTING. Without restitution, you’re actually just continually weakening yourself.

Workplaces on the other hand consistently underestimate the need for restitution. Employees are worked hard constantly and breaks and time off work are seen as a necessary evil. In fact, employees are implicitly told that they can show “commitment” by giving up weekends and vacations and working more hours.

There is no reason why we should try to follow the lead of athletes and coaches in our efforts to create better and more successful workplaces. Many of the practices from sports just won’t work in a workplace – you could even argue that many of them don’t even work that well in sports.

And don’t even get me started on copying practices from the military :)

Your take

Has your company ever had a star coach or an athlete come in and speak? What did they say, that you found useful? What do you think workplaces should or shouldn’t copy from sports? Write a comment and let me know your take.

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