How to be Happier at Work

According to research from the Harvard Business School, doing meaningful work and making progress in it make people the happiest on the job.

For many of today’s employees, these two basic elements are missing, and that’s a problem, not only for employees, but for their companies. Unhappy employees are less productive and hurt the bottom line.

This was no small study, they collected nearly 12,000 electronic diary entries from 238 employees in seven different companies.

They found that one third of respondents were unhappy, unmotivated or both at work. Even worse, employees were often disgusted with their jobs.

The bad part they discovered, managers don’t recognize this as important.

The researchers believe that managers need to think more about supporting employees by removing obstacles, providing help, and acknowledging their efforts.

So the Harvard Business School shared their research that can help employees better understand what they need—and can ask of their bosses—to be happier.


1. Have clear goals. Your boss needs to give you meaningful goals. You should understand what you’re working towards and why. Goals should be short-term and attainable, not vague and pie in the sky. First, try to clarify your own goals with the information you have.

2. Work autonomously. People need some independence to attain these goals. If you are being micromanaged, you’re less likely to be creative and think on your own. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help when you need it.

3. Having resources, like materials and personnel. This is tough with all the cutbacks, but limited resources can lead to frustration and demoralization, not creativity. Sometimes, all that’s required is that your manager addresses some of your daily hassles. First, try to creatively find ways of making do with the resources you (and others in your team) have.

4. Have reasonable deadlines. "We found that in general, extreme time pressure is bad for creative productivity, but low-to-moderate time pressure is good," Amabile wrote.

If you have too many deadlines, discuss it with your boss. Otherwise, you’ll feel like you’re on a treadmill.

5. Learn from problems. This means your supervisor and co-workers will not ridicule you if you try something that doesn’t work out, but instead will look at it analytically and try to figure out what went wrong and why.