I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to a new year. 2012 has served up some significant challenges not only in regards to the news, the weather, and politics, but also challenges within the workplace. If there were ever a year to make some decent resolutions, to foster positive change and happiness, 2013 is it.
But where to start? There are many definitions of happiness; what triggers a smile for one person may be annoying for another. What’s seen as a deal-breaker for some may be a non-factor for others. Even once a definition has been solidified, there may be just as many paths to go about achieving that happiness. All the debate around what really makes someone happy, along with the overwhelming amount of possibilities and options available to gain that happiness, can be so tiring and convoluted that some may find it easier to stay on their current path. Perhaps another year comes and goes with a mundane comfort, or with little positive change.
So in the interest of time (after all, we’ve all got work to do, right?), let’s focus on one place to start. And for the sake of accountability, it’s best to begin with an area you can actually control. How can you make yourself happier about your job? The bottom line is this: you need to look back and fall forward. One of the critical keys to navigating the happiness path is not only recognizing mistakes, not just learning from them, but outright correcting them.
What could you have done better? There had to be a project that you worked on or a situation you were involved in that didn’t go as planned. Or maybe it did, but it could’ve been done better. What was it? How could you – you, personally (not your boss, not your coworkers, not your customers or vendors) – have improved it? If there’s something you can do tomorrow to change it, then do.
What annoyed you? Chances are, someone at some point did something that set you off complaining about that person over a lunch hour. That’s fine, it happens. But take care to ensure that the behavior or the action taken is not one that you yourself are guilty of emulating; think hard when you consider this. Perhaps you have behaviors you need to change, or should begin considering how to work through those issues with your coworkers. Venting can be healthy, but relentless complaining can be a complete productivity suck.
What do you regret NOT doing? It’s easy to look back on mistakes once they’ve been made and wish they hadn’t been. It’s a bit more difficult to consider changes that haven’t been made, and should be. If you wanted to learn more about another area of your company, examine what steps might be needed to get you there (Interviewing people? Taking classes?). If you have over half of your vacation time left over and it’s December 17, perhaps it would be a good idea to compile a vacation schedule early in the new year. Those are days you earn and deserve; put a plan together to take advantage of them.
Why were you unhappy with your boss? One of MEC’s senior leads recently wrote: “Be the leader you wished you had.” Most people complain about their bosses. But they also inadvertently learn how to manage from them. If you have/had a boss that you believe didn’t manage well, it’s up to you to make a concerted effort to manage differently. If you repeat “I’d NEVER do that,” then remember never to do it. On the flip side, learn from excellent managers; watch what they do, how they interact, and take those learnings with you as you manage others.
How can you help? As you determine why situations make you less than happy, you many find you’re blaming others for the downfalls. Your boss might not give you enough responsibility; your coworkers may screw things up and leave you to rectify errors. Instead of complaining about both, determine what you need to do to make things better. Show your boss your proactive plan of taking on more. Take the initiative to give your coworkers a training session on what they may not know. Don’t wait for others to identify solutions to your problems. Do something about it and help.
Not every job is perfect, hence the old adage “they wouldn’t call it work if it weren’t.” But if you’re unhappy in your job, change it. Start 2013 with a plan that includes simple changes and a refreshed perspective, and any other strategies needed to meet one over-arching goal: to be happy with your job.
Christine Stack joined the media agency MEC in 2011 as Senior Partner, Director-Talent Acquisition; in that role, she is responsible for the creation, development, and delivery of strategies to attract and retain senior-level talent at the agency across North America. She is also a key member of MEC’s Talent executive committee.
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