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11 ways to be a happy employee

By Ravindra Prasad
October 29, 2008 10:41 IST
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Can you recollect a day where you woke up at 5:00 am, got ready quickly and waited to do something exciting? Was it your college annual day function? Or a competitive exam? Or maybe a first date? Maybe it was your wedding day. Is it Monday morning to work? If the answer is the last, surely you are a happy employee.

Though the above occasions may not have a lot in common, excitement and motivation can be attributed to almost all of them. However, at the workplace, it is almost impossible to find both or any one of these attributes daily. But, being happy or unhappy is always in our hands. That's the choice we make and we are the creators of the outcome by our actions. Let's look at what might make an employee unhappy.

  • Unfair rewards and recognition
  • Office politics
  • Un-cooperative team
  • Unreasonable boss
  • Insufficient compensation
  • Constant threat to job security
  • Lack of responsibility in the current job
  • No clear career path
  • Seating location
  • Lack of basic facilities at workplace

And the list goes on and on. Some of these things may not really propel an employee to quit, but it might lead to negative energy which leads to low productivity. When an employee is under-productive he or she will be the first target when companies look for opportunities to give pink slips.

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As mentioned earlier, being happy is always in your hands. A happy employee is more productive and gives more than an unhappy employee. So let's look at some ways to up the happiness factor.

1. Plan your week on Sunday night
Look at your work calendar and plan your week on Sunday night or Monday morning. This would include important meetings, deliverables, a brief summary of things that are pending from last week and any tasks to be achieved during the week. Though this might look like a time management tip, at the end of the week, on Friday night when you re-visit what you have achieved over the last five days, the satisfaction is immense.

2. Undertake activities that you are passionate about even though it might not be in your job profile
Start an initiative that you would love to do irrespective of whether it is required for you to do or not.

  • Send a daily newsletter to your team on the topics that most of them will be interested. 
  • Do a presentation on the topic that you are passionate about.
  • Organise a small sports event for your team.
  • Call everyone in your team for a team coffee, breakfast or lunch break
  • Appreciate colleagues in your team or in a cross-functional team who did a great job
  • Write a poem on your team's achievements
  • Arrange a potluck lunch

3. Do not indulge in the blame game
If something goes wrong do not blame others blindly. If you commit a mistake, do not hesitate to accept it. As Gauthama Buddha said, there are three things we can't hide for long: the sun, earth and the truth. Accepting your mistake gracefully will only make you look like a true professional and also give you the satisfaction of not cheating.

4. Communicate more often in person
Utilise all the opportunities where you can speak to an individual in person rather than e-mail or phone. But be aware of the other person's time and availability. Listening to a positive answer from a person will give you more happiness than if it is done over the phone or via e-mail.

5. Know what is happening at your workplace
Will this make a person happy? Truly, yes! Imagine a cricket team that doesn't know how many runs to score to win a match? More than losing the game, the player will never be interested or motivated to play well.

Attend all meetings that are addressed by the CEO to your immediate manager to know what is going to happen around you. It could be the company's growth plan or your department's next big project. Jack Welch mentions in his book Winning "every employee, not just the senior people, should know how a company is doing."

You will also get an extra edge if you are in a position to answer queries raised by your peers or juniors. This is not just for the good reasons, but bad reasons as well. You do not want to be the last employee to know if your company is laying off employees (in the worst case, if you are the one who is on that list).

6. Participate in organisation-level activities
This could be as simple as spending one weekend for a corporate social responsibility activity or attending a recruitment drive to help your HR team or arranging a technical/sports event at the organisational level. Most of these events will be successful as people do come on their own to contribute.

7. Have a hobby that keeps you busy and happy
Many people say their hobby is watching TV or listening to music or reading the newspaper. These aren't hobbies, they are just ways of passing the time. Some hobbies are evergreen and will keep you evergreen as well: dancing, painting, writing short stories, poems, blogs and sharing your experiences.

8. Take up a sport
While choosing a sport make sure that there is physical activity. There is the danger of becoming addicted to sports where there is less physical activity (like computer games, chess, cards etc). Physical activity keeps a person healthy and happy. If you pick up one sport well, you can represent your organisation in corporate sports event too.

9. Keep yourself away from office politics
Politics, as a practice, whatever its profession, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds. -- Henry Brooks Adams

Politics is everywhere and the office is no exception. Playing politics might be beneficial but only for the short term. So the best thing to do is play fair.

10. Wish and smile
More often than not, there are fair chances that the other person will smile back. This could be your security guard at the gate, your receptionist, your office boy, your CEO or your manager -- never forget to wish them and smile.

11. Volunteer for some activity

"The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving." – Albert Einstein

Do at least one activity without expecting anything in return. There is no set frequency for this. This could be once in a day or once in a week or thrice in a week. It could be as simple as making tea at the office for your colleague, helping a colleague who is working in another department by using your skills, dropping your colleague at his door step in your car, going to your manager or colleague to ask if there is any help you can extend, contributing to technical or knowledge management communities in your organisation etc.

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Ravindra Prasad