In Pursuit of Vocational Happiness

February 5, 2014

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Some of you may remember that February is Psychology Month! is teaming up, once again, with the wonderful West Coast psychologists to promote the profession and all the different things psychologists do. (Nope, we’re not all head shrinkers!) Check out this week’s instalment by registered psychologist, Irene Barrett, about how to achieve happiness at work! 

Have you ever noticed the increase in career dissatisfaction being discussed at coffee shops, children’s birthday parties and in practically every other public domain lately? It would be easy to align with the Russian proverb “a fish stinks from its head” and look to our provincial leaders for all of the vocational woes we are experiencing and disliking; however, the reality rests that happiness and satisfaction is a dual responsibility where both parties must work at striving for the best that there is to be had in a working relationship.

To The Employer

Your leadership efficacy is measured by how you communicate with your least-liked employee. Different work environments are in need of different communication patterns and the litmus test to your efficacy rests in how you communicate with your least-liked employee.

Assess your communication network. There are two forms of communication networks: centralized and decentralized. The former is most effective in task-oriented work environments (i.e., factories and production lines) where there is one main communication sharer passing along information to all employees. The latter is most effective amongst teams of workers who have independent job duties (i.e., government offices, health clinics), where everyone on the team takes responsibility in sharing information to one another.

Your supervision style must match the needs of the employee. There is a necessity for managers to alter their supervisory styles to match with employee skill and career maturity.  If you work from a “one size fits all” philosophy, your methods will only be effective with approximately one-fourth of your employees which could be a reason for high employee turnover and/or employee dissatisfaction.

To The Employee

Learn the skill of establishing vocational co-existence. If you find yourself in a position where you and a co-worker are “locking horns,” it is essential to first determine the underlying reason why you can’t see eye to eye and determine strategies to disengage the power struggle and realign your interactions to focus on mutually working for the common vocational goal.

Consider your words. Social psychology determined that “misery likes miserable company,” where by nature two unhappy people will desire to be present with the other’s negative affect. This social reinforcement results in two people getting “stuck” in the misery rather than moving forward.  If you’re in this rut, support you and your colleagues to move forward.

Determine why you are unhappy.  It’s important to analyze why you’re unhappy order to address it. Do you like your job? Do you feel fulfilled with your job duties? Do you feel respected by your employer? Are there life events that are challenging your overall happiness or is it specific to your work life?  How do you feel about the organization of your workplace? The ticket to addressing these feelings are to make changes to the factors that you have control over and determine if this leads to an increase in happiness in your workplace. If change does not result in happiness, then it is time to explore your options.

Educate yourself on the true nature of workplace bullying. The concept of workplace bullying is commonly known; however, the true nature of workplace bullying has not been mastered entirely. For instance, did you know that speaking to one person in your office differently than everyone else falls within the workplace bullying domain? Addressing these unknowing behaviors is key-continuing with them once made aware of them should not be tolerated.

The common theme for both employees and employers alike in the pursuit for vocational happiness is to think critically about the manner in which you and those you work with interact with each other. Communication, self-awareness and openness for change are vital in building workplaces viable for employee happiness.

Irene Barrett is a Registered Psychologist and is the co-owner of Tuck In-a restaurant on Broadway. She is a feminist therapist and play therapy intern with a background in providing employee assistance supportive services. 

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc