Two keys to leading your workplace out of misery

Related image“If play is in your job title, it’s not a job.”

“If it’s fun, it’s not work.”

“Of course I hate my job, that’s why they have to pay me.”

“What do you mean enjoy my job? It’s a job, you’re not supposed to enjoy it. That’s why they call it work.”

These are the many kinds of unfortunate things people say about work and their workplaces. And what gets me is the feeling that somehow the workplace needs to be miserable or work doesn’t get done. Well, here’s a secret – WORK DOESN’T HAVE TO BE MISERABLE FOR THE WORK TO GET DONE.

Of course, I can now hear people saying, “Oh no, he’s going to tell me we have to get a pool table and have happy hour on Friday. And he’s going to go on and on about nap rooms, day care, unicorns and Candyland, etc., etc.”

Well, fear not. I am not going to talk about any of those, although a unicorn in the office would be pretty cool you have to admit. No, what I am going to talk about it is a few simple things you can do to make your workplace more of a place where people want to work, a place where people don’t drag in on Mondays and run out of on Fridays. I am going to look at two things to help you make your workplace better – contribution and belonging.


People like to know that what they do matters and that some of the ideas and decisions that need to be made come from them. People like to know whether their work is good, bad, or indifferent. Put simply, they need to feel that they are contributing something to the business and that it is valued.

So what can we do?

If you are a manager, ask people what they think about things. Ask them what ideas they have. Ask them what they think could be better and how they would fix it. Then, take some of those good ideas and implement them. Let your people go and make some of their ideas happen. Measure the results s and collaborate to tweak things if necessary. Let them take some ownership because what they own, they are more likely to work hard for. And never forget to praise all of those things that go right. Tell them they’re making a difference. Tell them you appreciate their efforts. Make them feel great.

If you’re not a manager, talk to the people around you and ask their opinion on things. Ask them what they think about some idea of yours. Ask them to help you flesh out a new process you’ve been thinking about. And then tell them when they do something great. Praise your coworkers and thank them for what they do to help you and/or help the company. Make those around feel great about their work.


People want to feel like they belong and are part of a tribe, family, or organization. No one wants to feel unwelcome or that they don’t matter. Being a part of something is a basic need that has evolved over millions of years. We know we aren’t the biggest, fastest, or strongest and that survival depends on being part of the group. In caveman times, you would almost surely die if you got ostracized, rejected, or excluded. Staying alive mandated being part of a group.

We haven’t changed much. We all feel this need. We all know at a deep level that we need others to succeed and we want to be welcome and safe within the group. But many of our workplaces don’t try or care about making people feel any sense of belonging. In fact, many workplaces almost work against it. How many times have you heard someone say that it’s not a good idea to have friends at work? How many times have you heard someone describe someone at work and they do everything in their power to never say anything about friendship? Why? Why no friends at work? We spend the majority of our lives at work. Doesn’t it seem logical to have some people in our workplaces that we consider friends?

So what can we do?

Whether you are a manager or not, everyone can help people to feel they belong. Occasionally, ask a coworker what they like to do outside of work. Ask how their family is. Have a conversation. At minimum, learn and use everyone’s names.

If someone is visibly struggling, ask them if there’s something you can do. Just let those around you know you care. I sometimes tell people you have to have GAS – you have to Give A Sweat. (Ha, you thought I was going to say something else but this is a family-friendly blog post.) I use the word sweat for two reasons, one is because it is a bit more polite, and two is because caring, compassion, and concern take effort, it is work that should make you sweat. But caring about those around you will yield rewards I cannot even begin to list.

Making the workplace better is everyone’s responsibility. And although it helps tremendously to have leaders drive it, it doesn’t have to be that way. Every employee has the ability to get it going. Every employee can start the virus and the to-do list isn’t that huge.

  • Ask people what they think
  • Implement the best of their ideas
  • Let people own their work whenever possible
  • Praise and thank people for their contributions
  • Get to know those around you
  • Show care, compassion, and concern

Make this year one where your workplace gets transformed. “Give A Sweat” and show those around you that they matter and are valuable. Work doesn’t have to be miserable to get the work done.

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