Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Misery Loves Company?

January 19th, 2010 | Bob Rosner

Image: Bob RosnerI’ll cut right to the chase—I’m very happy these days. No, that’s not really accurate, these are the best days of my life. I know what you’re thinking, that I must be an idiot. Who could possibly be happy today? That’s the point of this blog, why real happiness is so hard to find these days, especially at work

Keeping up with the Joneses, planned obsolescence and conspicuous consumption aren’t just concepts today, they’re lifestyles. In fact, if the famous philosopher Descartes were to ply his trade today, he’d probably say, “I consume therefore I am.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against you clicking on every ad that surrounds this page. Consumption is a good thing, until it creates a yearning in each of us that literally can’t be satisfied.

I’ve been doing a little experiment. I tell people that I’m happy. Really happy. Probably the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.

So how do people respond when someone says they are really happy? Well, dear reader, I’ve done the experiment and these are my findings. The most popular response? A faint smile. Second most common, the other person says that they are happy for me. A close third, a blank stare.

Which makes me think of the all-black outfits favored by Johnny Cash, hotel W staff and assorted urban hipsters. I’m starting to think that wearing black as a hip fashion statement doesn’t just apply to the outside of these people. Most people today seem to think that intense cynicism is the only intelligent stance that a thinking person can adopt.

I’ve personally responded to over 50,000 emails from bosses and employees. So you don’t have to convince me that there are challenges out there. The workplace is lean and mean, and getting meaner every day.

So the next time that someone says they are happy at work, let me make a small suggestion. Don’t kill the messenger. Don’t try to drag them into the hole that you are in. Don’t blow them off.

Rather, hear them out. See if you can get a contact high—you know if some of their happiness can rub off on you. Count your own blessings. Think about what is going right in your life. Okay, at most workplaces you might have to dig deep to find, but it’s there. Look for acts of kindness and appreciate them. And if your workplace is lacking in basic kindness and decency, start acting on your own.

There is a lot of cynicism out there. But if we band together we can make a dent.

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

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