Do You Want to Be Happier at Work?

Dr. Ryan Giffen

When talking about work, the first thoughts many people have probably aren’t excitement and joy. Instead, they associate their daily assignments and time spent in the workplace with stress, responsibilities, and anxiety. As a result, intrinsic motivation could diminish and affect enthusiasm to achieve great results. It’s no wonder more than one-half of all US workers are disengaged at work. That means that an alarming number of people lack passion or energy for their job roles. Perhaps the data doesn’t surprise you. You might feel unhappy in your workplace and miss the time when you were eager to go to the office, complete your tasks, and spend time with your coworkers. But somehow, that job satisfaction faded over time, and you struggle to reach it again. Because of that, you’re starting to loathe your job, boss, and even teammates.

The good thing is that this feeling doesn’t have to last until retirement. You can feel the zest for your job role again and experience the same enthusiasm as when you entered the workforce. The first step is to ask yourself: what does job satisfaction mean for you?

What Makes People Happy at Work?

Job satisfaction impacts every aspect of life, but it’s challenging to define or measure it. Employees typically want their work to feel purposeful as it reminds them they’re making a difference. According to Ipsos, 43 percent of people believe that having a meaningful job is their primary source of happiness. Although managers and supervisors play a significant role in ensuring each job role contributes to the bigger picture and company goals, workers should also strive to make their assignments more engaging. For instance, if you’re tired of menial tasks, you could think of novel solutions and alter how you go about everyday duties. Or, perhaps you could schedule a meeting with your manager and discuss ways to reduce tedious activities.

However, it could be that other factors influence your job satisfaction. Think about what it is you need to be happy at work and improve your performance. It might be that you require more flexibility than your workplace allows. The pandemic gave rise to telework, and many people feel uncomfortable with on-site work full-time. Moreover, 42 percent of Americans would switch jobs for a flexible environment. But if you wish you could work from home some days of the week, you could suggest that to your employer. People often hold the solution to the source of their unhappiness but fail to recognize the power they have. You might think you are unable to do anything about how you feel, but there are things you could do to increase your workplace happiness and reinforce the sense of meaning.

5 Things You Can Do Today to Be Happier at Work and With Your Job

1. Address the Issues that Bother You

Do you feel like sleepwalking through every day at work? If you lack motivation and find it challenging to complete your tasks, address the root of your unhappiness. Be honest with yourself and consider whether you could talk with someone who might help you find a solution. Perhaps you could reach out to your manager or HR department and let them know you’re struggling.

Avoid holding the problems to yourself, or they could fester and become harder to solve. Think about what’s causing your dissatisfaction and what you need to overcome it. Is it the type of assignment you have? – Maybe you could take on different tasks or participate in other projects. If you don’t use your skills or learn something new, it’s easy to lose motivation and feel anxious about work every day. However, if you talk about what’s bothering you and causing you to disengage from your job, you can identify efficient resolutions that bring back the enthusiasm.

2. Transform Your Mindset

Sometimes we don’t even notice it, but we start focusing on negative things only, regardless of how small they are. When that happens, it’s easy to become resentful over time and struggle to find joy in anything. Perhaps you found yourself stuck in a rut, falling in a limbo of obsessive thoughts and worries. Your daily assignments no longer feel exciting, and you don’t see the purpose of your work. As a result, you notice what’s wrong in your workplace but rarely pay attention to the good things. Moreover, you find it challenging to connect with your coworkers and stop showing interest in people around you.

Although it might be beyond challenging to admit that you’re feeding a negative mindset that affects your job satisfaction, it’s the first step towards change. Consider the novelties you could introduce to change unhealthy habits and break the routine. You could start getting up earlier as that gives you time to organize your day well and clear out your mind. Avoid running around and struggling to do everything because you went to sleep late and could wake up on time. Prepare for each day the night before and start your mornings with a healthy breakfast, exercise, or doing something that helps you set the right tone for the day.

3. Nurture a Work-Life Balance

It’s easy to lose yourself in all the deadlines, assignments, responsibilities, and expectations. You might be a perfectionist who aims to do everything and more. Yet, that’s typically a recipe for disaster. Regardless of how many tasks you have to do, never make your life about work only, or you’ll start hating your job. Nobody can maintain productivity without making the necessary breaks and recharging the energy. Yet, 52 percent of employees are experiencing burnout. The pandemic exacerbated an existing problem as many people have to work extra hours. Moreover, remote work might have various benefits, but it also seems that it never ends.

If you work from home, you may feel you never did enough because you’re in an environment you consider relaxed. Many employers also expect workers to be available at all times, causing them to work during weekends and when their shift finishes. A damaged work-life balance could be the source of feeling unhappy at work. It’s why you should ensure you have enough time for yourself, your hobbies, and your family. Otherwise, you may lose your motivation, affecting your performance, results, and well-being. Avoid working beyond your work hours and let your boss know if you’re on the brink of burnout due to the number of assignments you have.

4. Celebrate Your Progress

People tend to be harsh on themselves, setting high standards and not recognizing their achievements. That can result in continuous dissatisfaction and feeling like nothing is enough. If you continuously think you could do more and never acknowledge how much you improved, you will lose motivation. It’s essential to pay attention to the progress you and your team make, or you’ll put your confidence at risk. Although your manager might not recognize your accomplishments every time, you must do. What you think of yourself and your abilities is critical as that drives you to move further and reach better results.

Track your development and highlight what you learned with every project and assignment. Remember your achievements and leverage them to reinforce your intrinsic motivation and feel good about your work. Celebrating your progress is also essential for reminding you how your effort contributes to the bigger picture and helps the company reach its objectives.

5. Foster Professional Development

One of the most frequent sources of dissatisfaction at work is the feeling of not learning anything new or advancing. Humans have an innate need to seek progress. That is critical for feeling good about your job and the time you spend at the office. However, not every company provides employee learning programs. Understandably, that may affect your motivation.

If you don’t see how you could advance in your workplace, reach out to the HR department and inform yourself about available opportunities. Perhaps they exist but don’t get the necessary exposure, holding back employees from leveraging them. But if you talk with those in charge of career development, you might inspire them to raise awareness of these programs. That will remind you that you have the power to influence change and improve your workplace.

Focus on your professional progress and make use of available workshops, e-libraries, and training. Think about the ways to make the most of every project and assignment. Strive for enhancing your competencies every day and sharing knowledge with your coworkers. As a result, you’ll reinforce your sense of purpose and increase your job satisfaction.


Feeling unhappy with your work can decrease your motivation, productivity, and enthusiasm. If you notice that you dread going to work, think about what might be the root of your issues. What could help you find more meaning in your work and enjoy your assignments again? Consider reaching out to your supervisors and asking for help or looking for solutions together. Job satisfaction isn’t static, and you can turn things around if you determine what you need to feel happier in the workplace. It could be that you need more flexibility, different assignments, or a more positive mindset.

Whatever it is, you can regain the passion you had for your work by addressing the critical issues and introducing the necessary improvements.

About Dr. Ryan Giffen

With over 20 years of experience, Dr. Ryan Giffen is an expert in human relations and business culture. His career began in hospitality, leading operations and human resource departments for Fortune 500 companies and the like. Not long after, Ryan found his passion for teaching and consulting. He earned a Ph.D. in Hospitality Management with a Human Resources focus from Iowa State University and now works as an assistant professor at California State University, Long Beach. For over a decade, he continues to research and speak on organizational culture, relationship intelligence, and leadership effectiveness. Ryan is also the founder of Inospire, a company helping bosses and employees build stronger relationships with one another. Lastly, Dr. Giffen is producer and host of the Corporate Shadow Podcast, a show helping everyday employees build stronger relationships with their bosses and organizations.