Happiness in the workplace: is that really possible?

Daniela Pittman Happiness in the Workplace IE University

A Social psychology analysis of emotion checked words in 59 million twitter messages and found that the days between Friday to Sunday are the week’s happiest (Golder & Macy, 2011). Are we running away from our workplace?

Do we “live to work or work to live”? Most people (80%) work in order to pay their bills. They do not enjoy their Jobs but continue with the torture so as to “someday start their own business”, or to “someday become financially happy.” If you actually enjoy your job, please pat yourself on the back, because studies show that you form part of the 20% of the world’s working population that is passionate about what they do.

If you find yourself currently in the 80%, start your journey towards the 20% by taking control and responsibility of your happiness before it’s too late. Quitting may be a luxury, but you can also stay and learn to make peace with it.


Fortunately, happiness is a skill that can be learned: a variable and not a static state. Happiness researchers prefer the term subjective well-being; even the happiest people go through dark moods at times. As Martin Seligman the founder of Positive Psychology— likes to point out, happy people experience high levels of positive emotions most of the time. So to increase your emotional wellbeing you should try experiencing as many high levels of positive emotions as is feasible.


But is this possible at work? At the “Happiness in Yourself and in the Workplace” seminar that we teach at IE University, Leticia Ponce and I cover issues such as empathy, gratitude, engagement, and finding purpose and meaning. We teach our students to cultivate close friendships, to share positive experiences and to pursue passions. We focus on leadership and cooperation and improving performance and harmony at work. When we feel better about ourselves, we perform better everywhere.


Yet the great truth is this: becoming happier lies not beyond you but within you. Most people do not understand this concept and they unconsciously become pleasure seekers. For example, trying to earn more money that, unfortunately, is never quite enough. They get trapped in a cycle of false hope and false pleasure, forever chasing the next temporary high.


There are ways to stop this predicament. To begin with, don’t deprive yourself of pleasure, just accept its impermanence. Hold on to an internal degree of happiness rather than an external one that you can’t ever control. Base your well being on absolute conditions (you are alive, your are conscious, your are healthy) rather than on relative conditions. I ask our students to keep a “gratitude journal” to write down their blessings.


Another technique is to stop rumination (negative thoughts that sometimes involuntarily run through our minds) by practicing mindfulness, and we teach our students to meditate. By practicing mindfulness, you become more present, focusing on today’s happiness rather than on tomorrow’s. As the saying goes: “Don’t sacrifice the journey for the destination.”


Author: Daniela Pittman

First published in: IDEAS, IE alumni magazine, Spring 2017

Write a comment

Comments: 0