OPINION

Dickson: Why does it seem like there’s less happiness at work?

Sep 5, 2023, 1:53 PM | Updated: Jan 11, 2024, 11:31 am

Fidelity Investment's office building is pictured in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 16, 2023. Fidel...

Fidelity Investment's office building is pictured in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 16, 2023. Fidelity Investments’ Digital& Technology workforce is expanding with nearly 300 new jobs.(Laura Seitz/Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz/Deseret News)

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

SALT LAKE CITY — We celebrated Labor Day this week. Honor and happiness at work are something I have felt in my bones from my earliest days, even when I was 13 and lied about my age to get a job at Orange Julius.

Just last week, I read that happiness at work in the United States is eroding at a record pace. The rate of decline in 2023 is 10 times faster than the three previous years.

Why is everyone so unhappy at work?

I’ve heard the theory that it’s because the pandemic showed us what is truly important in life — health and family — and we just can’t get excited about putting in the hours anymore.

Of course, this ignores the fundamental truth for most of us — that in order to have health and family — we need to earn a living. We cannot care for our health or our family without an income… so work will remain a constant.

What is never a constant is satisfaction. My hypothesis is that satisfaction is a one-man job. It is something you either feel or you don’t, regardless of outside circumstances. Your boss may be cruel and unappreciative, your pay may be subpar, your commute may be long and difficult, and none of that will ultimately decide if you have joy in your work.

That is entirely up to you.

I have stayed at the same job (with one brief hiatus) for almost 34 years. I have had different levels of joy in my work over these decades, but I have always had a modicum of joy.

How? In my way of thinking, it comes down to three things.

Listening and happiness at work

I am a talker. (Many of you likely know that.) I have been thinking all kinds of thoughts and sharing them on the radio for the majority of my nearly 60 years. What I realized somewhere along the line, though, is that talking does not make me happy.

Listening does.

The most important three words I ever say is a variation on “Tell me more.” I have a coworker who seems down. Old me may have just assumed they were mad at me and developed an attitude about it. New me asks, “Anything going on you want to talk about?”

Old me felt like I needed to get my two cents in, stand up for myself and challenge everyone’s thinking. New me has enough self-esteem that I don’t need to assert myself in every situation, or really any situation. I see every encounter as a chance to listen.

Learning and happiness at work

One of the many things I love about my job at KSL is that I learn every day. I learn something about people, politics, the economy and sports. I learn what makes people laugh, what makes them angry, and where there is joy. I learn how truly loving and compassionate people can be, and I learn how frustration leads to angry words.

The constant, though, is I learn something every day. That learning has given me more joy than I can describe. It has made me seek out more understanding, from people, books, podcasts and anything else I can get my hands on. All that learning has taught me how to…

Love

Love is a word not often used in the office. I suppose it might seem inappropriate to some. We have to keep a “professional distance” from each other, or so we’ve been told.

I’ve never been good at that — at not loving. If I know you at all, it’s likely that I love you, although I love plenty of people I have never met. It just feels like the natural state of being for me, not something that should be reserved only for your mother. (Although you better love her best!)

Love is just the way we care about each other. If your coworker experiences a great loss, do you not feel it? If he experiences great joy, do you not feel that, also? Isn’t that kind of compassion what love is? I think so.

My two cents

So, my unsolicited advice for anyone who is not feeling joy at work is to stop waiting to be appreciated. Stop insisting your boss or coworker or supervisor change — and start listening, learning and loving every day.

After a while, you’ll forget what you used to stew about. You’ll be too busy enjoying your job, and your life.

Amanda Dickson is the co-host of Utah’s Morning News and A Woman’s View.

We want to hear from you.

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Dickson: Why does it seem like there’s less happiness at work?