It’s Saturday morning and I’m where I am every Saturday morning, at the hockey arena. I’m trying to watch my stepson’s game while I also keep an eye on my toddler who is running around with his own mini hockey stick, but I’m distracted by a breakaway from the opposing team. I watch as the player and my stepson (the goalie) have a one on one showdown, which the goalie loses. “Good try, Lucas” I yell.
Turning back to Kyle I find him chewing on his hockey stick, fresh off the arena floor. “No,” I snap, “get that out of your mouth, the floor is dirty.” Startled, he does exactly that. Then, his eyes twinkle and before I know it he has thrown himself on the ground and is licking the floor. Licking. The. Floor.
Let’s leave him there for a while, and go back to where we started, praise. Shawn Achor, author of ‘The Happiness Advantage’ describes the most common formula for happiness and success as: If I work harder, I’ll be more successful; if I’m more successful, then I’ll be happier. But if happiness is always on the other side of success, your brain won’t get there because your definition of success will inevitably change. However, if you can raise your level of positivity in the present, then your brain experiences what he calls, the happiness advantage: your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, and your energy levels rise. Then we can reverse the formula: choose to be happy and success will follow.
These days we have so many tasks on the go, and a smartphone that constantly reminds us of them, whether we are at work or at home. This makes finding happiness even more difficult than it has in the past because our work and life overlap. Most of us have been striving for a ‘healthy work / life balance’, meaning we put in the effort at work so we can be happy in life. Similar to the common formula for success, this is incredibly challenging to achieve because happiness is on the other side of work. Instead, we should be striving for a ‘happy work/life blend’ meaning happy at home and happy at work.
If you are unhappy at work, or even if you are just content, the answer doesn’t have to be finding a new job, in fact, it probably isn’t. Happiness at work has less to do with the job itself and more to do with the way we are treated and valued. Unfortunately, we can’t just go out and ask for praise from our supervisors. Praise that is requested, has little value and won’t have the same positive effects as when it is received unexpectedly. What we can do though, is spread praise around. Start praising others and I can almost guarantee you two things will happen:
You will have a positive effect of someone’s day, and that in itself feels great and will make you happy.
The person you praise will pass it on, and so on, and so on, building a culture of positivity that will eventually come back around to you.
Make sure you acknowledge the effort though, not the outcome. The difference between “Great shot,” rather than “what a goal,” encourages the effort, whether they scored or not. If you are a manger, there are tons of opportunities to spread praise through the employees you oversee, but you can also do this no matter your role. Take a moment to tell a coworker you admired their patience while managing an upset customer or send a quick email to let them know how great you thought their idea was at the last meeting, even if nothing was actioned out of it. Even better, cc’ their supervisor on that virtual high five. The receiver of the praise will love having their efforts noticed, let alone publicly rewarded, they will feel happy, you will feel happy, you’ll both have more productive days, leading to more success and more reasons to start the cycle of praise all over again.
I should probably return to Kyle now, who when we left him was busy contracting the plague. Biting my tongue and ignoring my gut reaction (to correct his behavior) I turned my back on him and walked away. What felt like ten minutes passed (but was more likely 2) before I heard the familiar patter of little feet behind me. It turns out licking the floor isn’t very entertaining when your mom isn’t losing her shit.
Ignoring bad behavior is the best way to curb it while also keeping your sanity. If we focus our time too much on what is wrong, we will quickly return to overwhelmed and unhappy. I’m talking about mildly bad behavior, such as our kids whining and office gossiping. Focusing on the bad behavior may actually encourage it through negative attention. Instead, ignore it, block it out, don’t buy into it, and focus on the praise and the positive. Eventually, everyone should stop licking the floor, and if they don’t, it won’t matter so much because you’ll still have the advantage, the happiness advantage.
Sue Drummond is a Customer Success Manager at Harness, an app focused on helping contractors better manage their health and safety program. She is also a mom, blogger, and past roofing small business owner. www.harnessup.com.