Hate your Job? TODAY is #InternationalQuitYourCrappyJobDay

Too many people hate their jobs but still stay in them for years. This is what we know. This is clearly a recipe for disaster for everyone who feels stuck in an unhappy work situation.

We want to change that, so we’ve declared today, March 31, to be International Quit Your Crappy Job Day and have created a web site to match at www.internationalquityourcrappyjobday.com.

On the site you can take a test to see if it might be time to quit and you can read a number of articles about quitting.

There are also a ton of stories from people who found the courage to quit bad jobs. This one is my favorite.

We want more people to quit, but more than that we want many more people to realize that they have that option. Because if you hate your job, but believe that you are not free to quit and get away, the situation gets much, much worse.

Happiness tip: Start your next meeting with something positive

Psychological experiments can be very devious, and this one was certainly no exception. The focus was meetings and the format was simple: Groups of people were asked to discuss and reach consensus on a contentious topic.

Here’s the devious bit: Unbeknownst to the other participants one member of the group was an actor hired by the researchers. The actor was told to speak first in the discussions. In half the experiments he would say something positive while in the other half he would start by saying something critical. After that he simply participated in the discussion like the other group members.

The experiment showed that when the first thing said in the meeting was positive, the discussion turned out more constructive, people listened more and were more likely to reach consensus. When the first statement was critical the mood became more hostile, people were more argumentative and consensus became less likely.

The researchers concluded that the way a meeting starts has a large impact on the tone of the discussion and on whether or not the group will eventually reach consensus.

Ah – meetings. The most energizing, creative and fun activity in the workplace. What’s that you say? They’re not? Well they can be. In fact they should be. Here’s a happiness tip that we’ve introduce with many of our clients that tends to work really well: Start your next meeting with something positive.

Many groups, projects or departments open their meetings with a round where each participant can say what he or she is working on, and quite often this ends up as a litany of complaints and problems. But as the experiment cited above shows, this is likely to affect the whole meeting.

So do this instead: Open meetings with a round where each person answers a question such as:

  • Name one thing you’ve accomplished since the last meeting that you’ve been proud of?
  • Name a person who has helped you since the last meeting.
  • Mention one thing you’re looking forward to in the coming week/month?
  • What’s the funniest thing someone has told you in the last week?
  • Mention something interesting you’ve learned since the last meeting

Pick a new question for each meeting and make some up yourself – as long as they focus on something positive.

Don’t spend a lot of time on this, just give each participant 20-30 seconds to share something positive. As the experiment mentioned above shows, a meeting becomes much more productive when you start with something positive instead of with a round of collective and individual moans.

One reader of this blog actually tried it and here’s what he told me afterwards:

Hi Alexander,

I have been reading your work for a few days now, and I cannot get enough.

We have 4 analysts on our team, who touch many if not all groups in our company, and the insight you provide in your articles is invaluable. Our role often means our view is black and white in order to deliver results, which is often received in a bad light.

So, I immediately utilized item 1 of your five weird tips for great meetings. It was like the Jedi mind trick for convincing others to lobby for our interests!

My Sr Analyst was struggling to keep her jaw from dropping. No more than a simple ask of what is the funniest thing your kids have said to you lately. Everyone had a story, and we all laughed for a quick 2 minutes before getting to the agenda.

Just wanted to say, “Thank you,”

All the best,
-Grant

Related posts

Positive feedback is much better than fault-based feedback

This is a fascinating experiment in how different types of feedback affect people’s persistence and success in a creative task.

Unsurprisingly, positive feedback that doesn’t punish mistakes is much more effective. People who lost points for wrong attempts and were given negative messages gave up sooner and succeeded much less often.

I’m convinced that the exact same thing goes on in many workplaces. We need to change that and encourage much more positive feedback.

Here are some tips on how:

Happiness tip: Find and use your strengths at work

Do you know what you’re really good at in your job? Where you shine? Do you have a good sense of your contributions to the workplace?

This week’s happiness tip is to take the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire and find what your top 5 personal strengths are out of a total of 24 potential personal strengths.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Go take the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire. You’ll be asked to register as a user first but it is free.
  2. Take the test. It has 240 questions so this can take a while :)
  3. Make a list of your top 5 strengths.
  4. For each of your top 5 signature strengths, try to write down some situations at work where you used those strengths.
  5. Take a look at your list. What strengths do you get to use often at work? These represent your main contribution to the workplace.
  6. What strengths do you rarely or never use at work? These represent untapped potential for you and your workplace. Is there any way you could get to use them more often?
  7. If you like, come back to this post and write your top 5 strengths in a comment so we can get to know each other a little better. I already wrote my top strengths in a comment :o)

This is a great exercise because it helps you discover your personal contribution to the workplace and also to find out of you have strengths that you are not currently using at work. Using your strengths daily is an important factor in becoming happy at work and in life. It will also make you more successful at work.

Finally, a strengths-based approach where you look at your personal strengths and how you can use them more at work is a lot more effective and a lot more fun than looking at your shortcomings and problems.

Hate your job? March 31 2017 is International Quit Your Crappy Job Day

Too many people hate their jobs but still stay in them for years. This is what we know:

  • Around 20-40% of employees are unhappy at work
  • Hating your job can severely damage your career, your health, your relationships and your private life
  • Many people are reluctant to quit and stay for too long in bad jobs

This is clearly a recipe for disaster for everyone who feels stuck in an unhappy work situation.

We want to change that, so we’ve declared March 31 to be International Quit Your Crappy Job Day and have created a web site to match at www.internationalquityourcrappyjobday.com.

Here’s our announcement:

On the site you can take a test to see if it might be time to quit and you can read a number of articles about quitting.

There are also a ton of stories from people who found the courage to quit bad jobs. This one is my favorite.

So if you are not happy at work, take a look at the site. Or if someone you know and love is stuck in a crappy job, consider sharing the site with them.

We want more people to quit, but more than that we want many more people to realize that they have that option. Because if you hate your job, but believe that you are not free to quit and get away, the situation gets much, much worse.

11 government policies that promote happiness at work to give a country a competitive advantage

Discussing public policy in Dubai

Given that happy companies have significant competitive advantages, governments have a strong interest in enacting public policies that promote happiness at work in their country.

But what exactly could a government do to achieve this?

At the World Government Summit in Dubai earlier this month I was part of a panel that discussed how public policy could promote workplace happiness.

We had  a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion and came up with many cool ideas. Some of these may seem radical or weird but many of them are already in place in countries around the world.

Here are 11 ideas I would suggest:

1: Regulate and inspect psychological workplace safety

Pretty much every country has a government agency that sets requirements for physical workplace safety and sends out inspectors to visit e.g. factories and construction sites to make sure that the correct safety equipment is being used and that workers are following safety regulations.

So why not do the same for psychological workplace safety?

In the Scandinavian countries, this is actually in place. The Working Environment Authorities conduct inspections in cases where they suspect that working conditions are psychologically unsafe. They inspect things like:

  • Amount of work and time pressure
  • High emotional costs of labor
  • Bullying and sexual harassment
  • Contradictory or unclear work requirements

If they find that the workplace is psychologically unsafe they can issue orders that the company must follow. In serious cases they can even issue fines.

Breaking a leg because you trip over something at work is painful and can take a long time to heal. But make no mistake about it: being bullied by your boss or working under constant stress can affect your mental and physical health just as severely.

Therefore it makes perfect sense to mandate standards for psychological workplace safety and inspect workplaces to make sure they’re followed.

2: Regulate against permanent overwork

In Denmark, we have laws protecting employees from permanent overwork. The result is that Danes tend to leave work at a reasonable hour most days, and they also get five to six weeks of vacation per year, several national holidays and up to a year of paid maternity/paternity leave. While the average American works 1,790 hours per year, the average Dane only works 1,450.

Even Japan where the culture of overwork is so rampant that they have a word called karoshi that means death from overwork, is trying to enact similar laws:

The law, introduced as a response to the social problem that has been serious since the late 1980s, makes it the state’s responsibility to take steps to prevent death from overwork. It calls on the government to study the situation of heavy workloads that impair the health of company workers and lead them to take their own life.

Protecting employees from permanent overwork makes them happier and more productive.

3: Mandate employee representation on board of directors

Here’s another idea from Scandinavia – give employees representation on the board of directors:

Employees in Danish companies employing 35 employees or more, are entitled to elect a number of representatives to the board of directors. The number elected by employees should correspond to half the number elected by those who own the company at the general meeting, and should be at least two.

Crucially these employee representatives are not mere observers – they have all the same powers and responsibilities as the “regular” board members.

This means that employees are informed about and have influence on major strategic decisions.

4: Make government workplaces role models

I would love to see governments take a leading role by making public sector workplaces among the best in the country.

Sadly, the public sector usually has a bit of an inferiority complex. Since they usually can’t offer the same salaries, perks and incentives as private sector workplaces, they feel that they can’t be as good workplaces.

However, it turns out that those factors matter very little for workplace happiness, as long as they’re fair. However, public sector workplaces have a huge potential for being happy because they can offer something that many private workplaces struggle to give their employees: Meaningful work.

Public organizations almost by definition work for an important purpose. Schools educate children, hospitals heal the sick, city planners create better and more liveable cities - even the garbage men play a huge role in making people’s lives easier and better.

By contrast, let’s say  you work in an ad agency. The end result of your hard work might be that some company somewhere sells a fraction more detergent. Is that really meaningful to you?

If public sector workplaces would take the lead on offering their employees things like meaningful work, great leadership, good working conditions, work/life balance, professional development and employee empowerment they could serve as role models for all workplaces.

5: Promote lifelong learning

When a government makes education available cheap or free to its citizens, there is a much bigger chance that they get to realize their full potential and become happy at work.

And this should not be limited to young people. Lifelong learning should make it easy and affordable for anyone to upgrade their skills so they can get different or more interesting work.

6: Require companies to measure and report on employee happiness

Pretty much all countries require strict financial reporting from companies.

So why not require companies to measure and report on employee happiness?

7: Require all government suppliers to be certified happy workplaces

The government of any nation buys huge amounts of goods and services from private sector companies.

No government should knowingly buy from a company that used slave labor or child labor or polluted the environment.

So why not require that all government suppliers be good workplaces?

8: Don’t hobble trade unions

Trade unions have a somewhat mixed reputation and can fall victim to corruption or cronyism.

However, on the whole it is clear from the research that collective bargaining is a powerful tool to improve working conditions not just for union members but for all workers in many areas including compensation, vacation time, maternity/paternity leave and workplace safety.

Employers and lobbyists in some countries are trying to restrict unions, making it easier for employers to keep costs low. If a government protects workers’ rights to organize, the result is better working conditions and happier workplaces.

9: Celebrate the best workplaces

Several private companies conduct surveys to find the best workplaces in different countries, but these rankings are always limited to those workplaces that pay to be included. This limits their usefulness.

So why not let the state publish a ranking of the best workplaces in the country?

10: Make unemployment benefits widely available and liveable

When unemployment benefits are too low to live on or too hard to obtain, employees are locked in to their jobs, because leaving a bad workplace could have disastrous financial consequences.

However, when unemployment benefits support a decent standard of living and are available also to people who quit a job, getting away from a toxic workplace is much easier.

11: Make bad workplaces and managers legally responsible for the harm they cause

If a workplace is run in a way that systematically harms its employees mental health, causing stress and depression, it should be possible to hold the leadership of that company legally accountable.

We already do this for workplaces that don’t live up to physical workplace safety regulations – serious violations can lead to fines or even jail time for the managers responsible.

I think it makes perfect sense to do the same for companies or managers that harm their employees mental health.

The point

Any government has an interest in enacting public policies that strengthen the competitive advantage of companies in that country.

However, this is often done by cutting corporate taxes, deregulation or corporate subsidies – none of which have much of a track record of success.

If a government is truly serious about giving companies a sustained, strong competitive advantage, they should really focus on policies that create happier workplaces.

This would not only be good for the companies and the employees, it would also be good for the national economy, as it would boost national productivity and reduce absenteeism, stress and related healthcare costs.

Shouldn’t your country have a happiness minister?


The UAE’s minister for happiness opens the conference.

I am back from Dubai where I spent 3 days at the World Government Summit along with 4,000 other delegates.

One theme running through the entire event was how government policies can further the happiness of citizens. I was invited to participate as an expert in happiness at work.

And the event was REALLY fascinating. They had many of the biggest names in the field come and speak, including Ed Diener, Sir Richard Layard, Jeffrey Sachs and the prime minister of Bhutan where they have been focusing the country’s development on happiness for the last 15-20 years.

Here I am with Sir Richard Layard:

The closing speakers were the economist Joseph Stiglitz and Elon Musk.

I am hugely impressed with the scope of the event and also with the consistent focus on how governments can focus on the wellbeing of their citizens, rather than just on economic growth. I think this is a fascinating vision for the future of public policy making.

And the two are not the same. It is entirely possible to create economic growth in a way that does not make people any happier. Here is a graph showing how GDP per capita grew consistently over a 30-year period in the UK while life satisfaction stayed flat:

So shouldn’t your country have a happiness minister? I wish mine did!