Pursuit Of Happiness At Work

career after mba‘I have been expecting a salary hike for last one and a half years’- said one of my close friends. ‘I am not happy with the way things work in my office.I need a job change’. It was a college reunion party; we were catching up on the progress in each other’s career and life.

The next moment the entire room had to share similar kind of thoughts. There were some who said, ‘I do not care about the kind of work I do as long as they pay me well’ while there were others who mentioned ‘I need to work for a company who has a bigger brand name’.  The entire room reverberated with the grim words –“we are not happy”.

In retrospection, ‘not being happy at work’ is fast becoming a very common phenomenon. It will be incorrect to generalize that everyone is not happy at work, but it will not be wrong to state that a vast number people who are in the middle of their professional careers are increasingly becoming aware of the fact that they need to do something more meaningful in their professional lives.

Money, Meaning and Mastery are the three main factors that dictates happiness levels at work and at home.

A friend of mine worked for a major oil drilling company in one of the gulf countries. Last year when we met, he mentioned that his pay is very good and not everyone has the skillsets or mastery to do the kind of work. But his biggest challenge was that he has to stay off the shore (off the coastline) for weeks without his family.  He told me that he is a person who is very connected to his family and wants to look for a more meaningful personal life.  I could understand his sentiments – work life balance is different for different persons and it has to be maintained at any cost. The latest update from him this year was that he changed his job. Though he gets a lesser pay than his previous job, he is very happy because his new job does not require him to travel much and he still gets to use the same skillsets, which he mastered over the years. ‘I am a very happy person’- he messaged.

In any work that we pursue there has to be the correct balance of money, mastery and meaning for us to enjoy that work. All the three factors are required togather. The absence of any one of them will prove to be reason of unhappiness within a certain period of time.

During my consulting days, I came across a lot of colleagues who were always unsatisfied with their work. There used to be complains of staying up late in office, about the way in which appraisals are handled, their colleagues being promoted, opportunities being given to underserving candidates and what not. There was a time when yours truly have also indulged in such discussions. Now that it has been sometime I have come out of the environment and I am totally on my own, I have realized that there is no meaning in being unhappy with such things. The reason is quite simple. No place can be perfect. Every office will have its pros and cons. If we choose to be judgmental about it by seeing its cons, then we will land up being depressed or unsatisfied on a perpetual basis. Rather, we should keep ourselves off from such discussions and work towards our own happiness. Once, we start working on a positive note, things definitely change for better and we start seeing the good things in our environment. So choose to stay away from negative discussions and stop being judgmental about people and other’s work.

Business School

As students, we always hated when we were being compared in school or in college. Now, we unknowingly land up doing the same thing with ourselves. We compare ourselves with our colleagues and friends. We tend to compare our achievements- both professionally and personally.  But more shockingly, many people define their benchmark of success and achievement based on others success. I still remember one of my colleagues stating – “My friend from college has become the senior manager of the company he works for. I am still in the middle management level. The worst part is that we share the same educational background and started our careers together. I feel bad for myself. I need to do something to boost my career and reach the same level as my friend”.  His statement did not shock me because it was not the first time that I came across such a situation. I have met many people who have compared their lives with others and have seen them becoming desperate and depressed in the process. Not that they hate their friends or colleagues but they have chosen to be unhappy with their own work life. They have forgotten the fact that they are all unique human beings – with different skillsets, intelligence, mindset and goals. We lose self-esteem by comparing ourselves with others. We should try to define our own parameters of success and learn to cherish it when we get it. It goes a long way in building happiness in our lives.

A good manager or boss has a great part in contributing to happiness at work. I have seen colleagues excel at work when lead by a competent manager. At the same time, in some rare cases people quittheir jobs due to bad managers. To an extent I agree that having an incompetent person, as your manager can be very damaging to your work and personal life. One’s motivation levels and efficiency comes down when we have to work with a manager who does not understand our individual skill sets. No matter how bad your manager is, it is important to understand that we cannot let our lives be effected due to someone else’s faults or incompetence. We should not take our anger to our personal lives. Rather we should find out ways to deal with it instead of living with it.

Human Resource (HR) professionals will always advice that you should have a word with your manager if you are having any troubles with him. If it does not work then there is always a means to file an issue with the HR.

However, one should always devise their own ways to deal with managers because in your corporate career you will always find both kinds of managers and you cannot always keep on complaining to the HR. It is important to learn to manage the manager. First of all one should not be judgmental about one’s boss by being a part of office gossips. Before starting any work under a new manager it is important to have a word with him regarding your role and work expectations. It is also your responsibility to build a rapport with your manager and understand his problems. Learn to work under minimum supervision and to update your manager before he seeks a report from you. These kind of small changes helps in building the rapport and you may find that with time the same ‘bad’ manager will turn out to be a ‘good’ friend of yours.

I conclude this post by mentioning the quote: ‘ Happiness is a state of mind’. We can truly be happy only if we choose to be. Let happiness be a part of your journey rather than it becoming a destination.

Contributed by Sanjit Das ( Class of 2005, IBS HYDERABAD )

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