The Happiness Feedback Loop at Work


Last week you probably struggled more than usual to harness your happiness and find joy in the workplace. The TV and print media, blogs and Twitter were filled with the devastating news surrounding the Boston Marathon explosion and subsequent manhunt as well as the explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant. Both travesties left people injured, dead or unaccounted for.

Whether you found yourself distraught by the mayhem or grateful knowing your family and friends were safe, you probably weren’t your chipper self at the office. It so happens that as part of Greentarget’s regular company book club, the team was reading “The Happiness Advantage.” Author Shawn Achor discusses seven principles that encourage a person to harness the positive sides of life to fuel success and performance on the job.

Achor’s theory is that when we are happy and our mindset is positive, we work smarter and find greater success. Being happy is not always an easy task. Even during a week when the newspapers aren’t full of bad news, stress and unhappiness often go hand-in-hand.

A recent National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report included some fascinating statistics: one-fourth of employees view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives, and three-fourths of employees believe the average worker has more on-the-job stress than he or she would have had a generation ago.

As the world seems out of our control these days and the stress seems about to overwhelm us, one of Achor’s seven principles to focus on is the “Zorro Circle.” Limit your focus to small, manageable goals, he says. Then expand the circle as you accomplish each small goal. Don’t obsess on what the end result should be or try to do a bunch of activities in a half-hearted way to reach the finish line quickly. Instead, think of each component task as a small end in itself. That’s the better strategy.

Greentarget teaches its employees to follow a Client Engagement Process so that each project is tackled strategically. Employees are encouraged to walk through this process: Discover, Discern, Develop, Direct, Demonstrate and Deliver. The team is encouraged to create communications programs focused on achieving a company’s goals and business development over the long term.

The Zorro Circle strategy is intended to make us feel that we’re masters of our own fate, so we feel more control. Achor cites a study of 7,400 employees, which reveals that those who felt they had little control over deadlines imposed by other people had a 50 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease than their counterparts. He said researchers concluded that feeling a lack of control over pressure at work is as great a risk factor for heart disease and even high blood pressure.

If a project seems overwhelming and the deadlines seem out of our control, then we won’t achieve smart, long-term solutions. We’ll be too stressed out to think clearly. If we tackle an issue in steps or in small pieces, the total project seems more manageable and the joy of the process will be just as fulfilling as the end result.

And since many of us spend more time at the office than we do with our families, we might as well enjoy our work.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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