Who Is Responsible For Making You Happy At Work?

Written by Carol Sachowski. Posted in Carol Sachowski, Storyboard

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I recently posed this question to two groups of learners at Camosun College and was surprised by the diversity of answers across and within the three generations represented. Is it the responsibility of your employer? The HR department? Your managers or colleagues? Or how about yourself?

What’s your story? Who do you think should be responsible for your happiness at work?

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Carol Sachowski

Carol Sachowski has over 25 years’ experience helping individuals and groups realize their personal and professional goals without sacrificing their truths. carol@storycoaching.com

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  • Kristy

    What an interesting question Carol. I’ve never even thought about this before, I guess because I think it’s my responsibility to create my own happiness within the confines of the workplace – or to walk!

    I think every organization should create a workplace culture that best suits their needs, goals, vision, and that each of us should be able to choose which of these workplaces “fits us” the best.

  • CarolSachowski

    Kristy, thank you for your post!

    Here’s the video I shared with both classes: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=3486473n

    Workplace culture and what ‘fits us’ can definitely be a challenge – and I think many of us forget that it’s a moving target. Everybody experiences change and that includes the organizations we work in. Regular re-evaluation of ‘fit’ can help us determine if we are still in the right place. There’s a great line from a Dr. John song, “I been in the right place but it must have been the wrong time”. How do we know when it’s time to move on?

  • Julia M.

    The company. Hands down. I confess that I am a Millennial, and will allow you to draw whatever conclusions you’d like about that, but I believe organizations need to cater to their employees – especially the employees they are looking to attract. They need to dust off their “business as usual” ideas and create a workplace that fits with employees’ priorities. Once companies are committed to this kind of thinking, I bet they’d be surprised that the work still gets done – maybe even gets done better or faster – and that employees feel more engaged, when they allow things like flex time, thoughtful hiring and performance management, a relaxed dress code, wellness benefits, etc.

    • CarolSachowski

      Thanks for your comment, Julia! As someone that has feet in both Boomer and Gen X, depending on which source you subscribe to, I know I feel a certain push-pull from both sides on this one. The book Sex in the Snow by Michael Adams helps me to make sense of this seeming contradiction by discussing the generations in terms of ‘tribes’ contained within each that are similar in values. Noticing your reference to what I’d call wellness programming, I’m curious if that truly leads to healthy organizations?

  • Anne

    I am a firm believer in being responsible for my own happiness at work and in all areas of life. If something isn’t “working” at work, then take responsibility for changing it and for creating the culture, the responsibility, career path or anything else you want or need to be fully happy at work. If it is completely impossible to create the change you want in your current workplace, and if you are truly miserable at work, then it’s probably time to find something new….

    • CarolSachowski

      Well said, Anne! What I love about posts like this is the strength of
      voice and choice – our greatest point of personal clarity from which to
      make sound decisions on next steps in life. Looking back on my own life, I wonder how often any one of us finds
      ourselves in such a place of conviction?

  • http://www.hospitalityperformancesolutions.com/ Milton Almeida

    Thanks Carol for asking such a provocative question! Answering your question sent me down an interesting rabbit hole that began with the question: How do we obtain happiness?
    Martin (2008) offers: “To get happiness forget about it; then, with any luck, happiness will come as a by-product in pursuing meaningful activities and relationships”. What I take this to mean is that happiness ensues when my relationships and activities are an expression of my values and beliefs. Gaining greater clarity around my values and beliefs is a crucial first step to happiness (and what coaches help with!). This would indicate that in the workplace the responsibility for my happiness lies with the individual. If I work in a place that does not provide for the expression of my values and beliefs then the solution would be to either change the environment or failing that, leave. However, I believe that positive organizational
    leaders have the responsibility to create environments that are founded on social relationships that are compassionate, trustworthy, wise, honest, and offer a high level of positive energy.
    In this way organizational members can create relationships and activities that are more meaningful. Having experienced such a work environment I can say first hand that I
    look back on the experience as the best of my corporate working life!

    Martin, M. (2008). Paradoxes of Happiness. Journal of Happiness
    Studies (9) 171-184.

    • CarolSachowski

      Milton, what a great phrase – “happiness ensues” – and it sounds as though it lives on through your career, as a defining memory of where it worked well in one’s history. What an opportunity your experience provides you to draw upon when working with others struggling with this very question. It causes me to curiously wonder, what comes as a result of happiness, in a workplace context?

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