Making Work Better

 How We Make Work Better

Why better? I once heard a story from a colleague who said a coworker of his always replied to the question, “How are you doing?” with “Better!” Initially this perplexed people. Had he not been well? Had he been struggling or unhappy in some way? When my colleague finally asked him about this, the coworker said that each day he thinks, “How can I make this one better?”  For him, choosing to focus on better made each day better than the one before.

The cynical among us probably just stopped reading. But if I still have your attention, and for everyone who feels inspired by this man’s outlook I ask, what does it mean to strive for better?

There are lots of ways to break this down. I like these two: growth mindset and resilience.

Choosing a Growth Mindset

When we adopt a growth mindset we believe that hard work and learning allow us to grow our capabilities. This makes us open to learning new ideas and information, and also new ways of seeing and doing at work.

In contrast, a fixed mindset limits our beliefs about ourselves because we see our talents, strengths, and weaknesses as being innate. In other words, “There’s nothing I can do about this, it’s just the way I am.”

By shifting to a growth mindset we assess, with some humility, our capabilities as well as our limitations and then set goals for, well, growth. We focus on what we can change to make ourselves and work experience better rather than what we cannot. (Hint: we cannot control others and often not the circumstances BUT we do have control of our own self.)

True Resilience, Not Just Dealing with It

Resilience has received a lot of attention these days and unfortunately there are some misunderstandings about it. Resilience is not “just dealing with” a difficult situation. Increasing your capacity to be resilient takes time and effort. It involves a lot of things—taking care of yourself, learning new ways to handle stress,  setting better boundaries, and increasing perseverance.

Resilience is a seed that does not grow without attention, and must be actively cultivated. What does this look like? Each person has to make this process their own, but here are some general ideas…

  • define & connect with a purpose in life
  • identify & tap into your strengths
  • keep difficulties in perspective
  • develop a practice of gratitude, every day!
  • seek authentic positivity in yourself & others
  • allow others to support you

Take a moment now and reflect on these elements of resilience. Are there any that stand out for you? Are any dormant? What might you do to increase any of these pieces of resiliency?

Growth Mindset + Resilience = Better

Back to the idea of being better each day. Whenever we want to make a change we have to start with our self. However, we often start with trying to change other people or circumstances outside of our control. This does not mean that if someone is treating you badly you need to learn how to tolerate it. On the contrary, adopting a growth mindset and flexing your resilience muscle may lead you to take bold action to disrupt the mistreatment. You may feel more empowered to confront the individual. You may report the behavior because you gained clarity about what you can do, and tapped into some inner resources to do it. Even if you do not have a bad situation to deal with, you can use this framework to build on personal or professional skills or qualities.

What Next?

By now you might be thinking, “This sounds great, but how do I do it?” Good news! You just took Step #1, awareness. Now, Step #2 is to take some time (on your commute, in the shower, walking the dog this does not have to be an extra “to do”) to decide what needs attention . Do you limit your beliefs about yourself (mindset)? Are there elements of resilience that need bolstering?

Put this into action with Step #3, commit to making one small change. A wise friend, counselor or therapist, personal coach, spiritual practice or adviser, mentor, as well as books and podcasts can all help you on this journey. Change does not happen on its own or in a vacuum, so actively seek opportunities and resources to help you make and sustain it.

Better vs. Good Enough

A final thought…do not confuse “bettering” with berating yourself. When I say “be better” I am talking about healthy and incremental growth that you define as making you and your life better. It is 180 degrees from running yourself down for not being good enough in some way. Thinking about how to be better actually builds on strengths and positivity. It is saying both, “This is pretty good, I wonder how I can make it better?” and “This isn’t so great, I wonder what I can do to make it better?” And if you think that right now, today, things are super and you would not make any changes, that is great too!


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Cultivating Happiness with Gratitude

Happiness…it’s more than a feeling. Happiness is not about what we have or what we do, but how we are. We can use happiness to measure the quality of life, “Does this make me happy?” We can also use it as a catalyst for making changes, “What can I do differently to be happier?” Happiness leads to greater overall health. It is a factor in decreased stress and increased resiliency. This means that happiness isn’t just a pleasant feeling, it is actually good for you!

How do you increase your capacity for happiness? Start with gratitude. Being grateful does not mean you ignore the difficulties, the challenges, or the deficiencies. Perhaps there are real and pressing struggles in your life, but if you only focus on them you will probably feel overwhelmed by them.  Are there blessings in your life? What are they? How do they impact your life, day-by-day and moment-by-moment?  When you start with gratitude you have a “place” to build upon. You can move forward from where you are. You cannot truly increase happiness if you start with a “lack of” mindset.

Gratitude is a practice, not a one-time activity. Try to weave it into your daily life. Contemplate the blessings in your life before getting up in the morning, before eating a meal, or when you arrive at work or home. It might be helpful to look for gratitude in the face of something that, on the surface, is benign or you usually take for granted. With regard to noticing the blessings all around us, Rick Hanson, PhD, says, “These gifts are freely offered; no one can possibly earn them. All we can do is be grateful for these gifts and do what we can in our own little corner of the world to use them well each day.” (from just one thing: developing a Buddha brain one simple practice at a time)

As you bring gratitude more into your life notice if your mindset changes. Do you see personal strengths or opportunities that you did not see before? Do you have more motivation to change something that has been dissatisfying? Do you find more joy or fulfillment in the “ordinary” things of life? Are you able to experience happiness more, and more fully? 

If this seems beyond your reach, if there are challenges that are overshadowing any glimmer of happiness, contact THRIVEeap. We can help you rekindle the light.  

Making Work Your Happy Place

Are you skeptical about “happiness” and “work” being in the same sentence? If so, give this article a chance to change your mind. If you already experience happiness at work, or at least believe in the possibility or value of it, keep reading too.

Happiness at work has gained a lot of attention in the past few years and there has been a surge of it recently. This may be due in part to the very popular book, written by Zappos former CEO Tony Hsieh, “Delivering Happiness” that chronicles how and why the company has made employee happiness the pillar of its business strategy. Hsieh presents a compelling argument for why happiness at work matters.

What is the case for happiness at work? Numerous studies have shown that when employees experience happiness (and feelings associated with happiness) they are more focused, more creative, and more innovative. Absenteeism goes down as do stress-related health problems.  All of these results translate to a more productive environment and ultimately a more successful (in whatever way your organization measures success) outcome. And, from a values perspective, if you are not striving to create a work environment conducive to happiness, what are you striving to create?

There is also the management and Human Resources case for endeavoring to foster happiness at work. Here are just a few of the potential outcomes from a happier workplace culture:

  • ​​Lower turnover
  • Fewer interpersonal conflicts
  • Increased efficiency with work and organizational mission/purpose alignment
  • Decreased time and money spent on recruitment due to high number of employee referrals for open positions

But what does happiness at work mean? Happiness at work is serious business. We are not talking balloon animals and jokes. We are talking about meaningful stuff…like employees feeling connected to the mission of the organization; making opportunities to get to know each other; inspiring employees to do and be their best; providing employees with challenges and nurturing their potential; and, among other things, making sure that policies and procedures are consistently implemented. Happiness at work is not about pasting on a smile, in fact, it is about the exact opposite because it is about authentic and genuine practices.

How do we foster happiness at work? First, while everyone is responsible for their own happiness there are certainly things that can be done to nurture this experience. Second, creating a culture that values happiness is the responsibility of everyone. Small gestures can create big changes. That being said, a guiding framework can help your organization begin to make changes and/or evaluate if decisions and practices are aligned with happiness. Happiness Works offers five characteristics of a happy workplace culture: Connect, Be Fair, Empower, Challenge, Inspire. Of course these overlap and interact with each other but let’s look at how we can bring some of these characteristic to life. I happen to like groups of three so here are the areas I suggest your organization focus on:

Connect: find and create opportunities for employees to build relationships with each other, demonstrate care and respect for the employees you supervise, foster team work and encouragement of each other.

  • Make the break room, kitchen, etc. inviting so employees want to congregate there on their breaks or lunch time
  • Start staff meetings with brief, fun, low-risk getting to know each other activities
  • Ask open-ended questions and LISTEN during supervision
  • Set a tone of respect and concern for everyone
  • Celebrate the hire of new employee and employee milestones, don’t wait for the good-bye party and annual employee recognition event

Challenge: trust that employees are capable and do not need a supervisor hovering over them (literally or figuratively), make sure employees have the tools and resources they need to be successful, solicit their input and really listen to them when they give it.

  • Share leadership of staff/department meetings
  • Let departments/teams solve problems using managers or department heads as consultants to the team not as the primary decision-makers
  • Ask teams/departments if they have the resources they need (time, materials, staffing, knowledge) to accomplish projects and tasks, strategize with them if they do not
  • Ask employees to set their own professional goals, check in with them periodically about progress, find out if they have the resources they need
  • Ask employees to sit on ad hoc committees or groups for things like policy review, wellbeing activity planning, and strategic planning

Inspire: make work interesting and engaging, connect employee’s individual roles and contributions to the greater mission/purpose of the organization, expect the best from every employee not just the ones considered the “rock stars” of the organization.

  • Develop a clear and purposeful mission statement for the organization and read it frequently
  • Ask employees why they chose your organization and what they want to gain from working there
  • Feature an employee in the organization’s internal and external publications and/or website
  • Provide paid time for employees to volunteer in the community and/or adopt a non-profit organization for the year
  • Create fun challenges to increase employee wellbeing

These suggestions just scratch the surface. Get creative. What ideas fit your organization? How might you begin, or further, nurturing happiness at work in your organization?