Though small, unscientific and totally without academic merit, there are still a few things to learn from this mini-survey, and any managers reading this could stand to take a look at the answers. Here are some of my conclusions.
What makes people unhappy at work
- “hypocritical & authoritarian leadership”
- “passive-agressive bosses”
- “my manager tells me what I do that upsets him, but never what I do that makes his job easier”
- “I express my ideas regarding my own work and end up being labeled confrontational”
- “No consistency/perseverance by the management”
Yep, bad bosses are hands down the most important reason why employees are unhappy at work.
Office politics/red tape
- “Over-engineered processes that seem to be aimed at stopping people doing things rather than doing them”
- “Small decisions / purchases requiring more time and money to get passed than they’d cost”
- “The politics (’nuff said)”.
Red tape and office politics are silly, unfair and keep us from doing our job efficiently.
- “having something to do, that I view as nonsense/useless”
- “Pointless, repetitive work”
- “Being at work when there’s nothing to do (but I still have to “work??? full time)”
We want to do good work. Not pointless, repetitive make-work.
Bad information flow
- “People not sharing useful information because they think it’s job security”
- “Managers who don’t understand that information should flow two ways”
- “Getting essentially all assignments through email. It would really help if I could have a discourse to understand better. email strips away a *LOT*!”.
We want to know what’s going on. It makes our jobs a leeeeetle easier :o)
What makes people happy at work
Here’s what makes many of us happy at work, in order of popularity:
- “Noticing how my proposals produce positive change once implemented”
- “Fixing problems and helping people”
- “When I find a best-of-both solution to solve a problem between two stakeholders”.
By far the most common thing on the “happy” list. So to all the managers who think that happy people don’t work hard: You’ve got it exactly backwards. Most people are only happy, when they do good work and get great results.
- “receiving thanks for the job I’m doing”
- “Recognition of my contributions to the organization”
- “Sincere appreciation”
- “Unconditional love” :o)
Appreciation is such a simple thing. It takes no time and costs no money, and yet many, many managers and workplaces neglect it.
Nice people and a good team
- “good team members to work with, who really care about what we make”
- “Funny colleagues”
- “A smile in the morning”
- “Working with good people (think pair programming) – working alone too long bums me out”
- “Random acts of thoughtfulness no matter how minor”.
No surprises there :o)
- “Being left alone to make things better than they are.”
- “Having control of my time”
- “The trust and respect of management and co-workers”.
- “if just a moderate amount of freedom is at work; then I stay and happy employee”
You mean the best person to decide for me, is me? What a novel concept.
- “completing a task involving a new skill”
- “Always finding a way to learn or challenge myself”
People love learning and to use what they’ve learned to to even better work.
There are three general things I saw in the resposes: First of all: What makes people happy or unhappy varies wildly. Some people want co-workers around them, others want peace and quiet. Some people want clear guidelines, others want more freedom.
Secondly, people typically thought of more negatives than positives. It’s easier to come up with ten things you don’t like about your job than then things you like. Also, the negatives tend to be more specific (referring to specific situations), where the positives were more general. This gels perfectly with psychological research that shows that we have an easier time remembering past negative experiences.
And lastly: It’s not rocket surgery. The things it takes to make people happy at work can be introduced to just about any workplace anywhere.
Stay tuned for a follow-up question coming real soon.