Are you happy with your job? (and what about your partner, friend or mother in law :-)

The holidays are a perfect time to reflect on your current job. Having the time to think about this is great but sometimes you need some extra input to make up your mind. When I ask people what makes them happy or what makes them unhappy with their job they often mention the following 10 factors: Meeting

What makes people happy with their job? (in order of importance)

  1. Friendly co-workers/good atmosphere
  2. Enjoyable tasks
  3. Good management
  4. Good balance between your work life and personal life
  5. Variety of work
  6. Feeling that your work is worthwhile
  7. Feeling that your contribution truly makes a difference
  8. Being part of a successful team
  9. Recognition of your achievements
  10. Good pay

 What makes people unhappy with their job? (in order of importance)

  1. Insufficient communication on the part of the management
  2. Wages too low
  3. Little or no recognition for achievements
  4. Poor management
  5. Not enough freedom for personal development
  6. No attention paid to new ideas
  7. Too few opportunities for high performers
  8. Lack of fringe benefits
  9. Work is no fun
  10. Feeling that your contribution doesn’t really matter

Perhaps if you take a closer look at these 10 happy and 10 unhappy factors it is already clear to you. For those of you who need (or want) more we made a little questionnaire. This can help you to assess whether your current job or potential future jobs are compatible with you. For each point, award a score of between 1 and 10 (1 = negative, 10 = positive). Naturally, for questions 1 and 2, a score of 0 is also possible. (For more information on this questionnaire take a look at chapter 5 of our book on Happiness at Work).

 Questionnaire: Are you happy with your job?

1. Read through the list of factors that contribute to a happy working environment (see above). How many of these ten factors are applicable?
2. Read through the list of factors that contribute to an unhappy working environment (see above). How many of these ten factors are not applicable?
3. The organization and function suits my personality. See this test for your personality.
4. I can make optimum use of my talents.
5. My values and goals are compatible with the vision and mission of the organization.
6. I get along well with my co-workers.
7. I have a lot of faith in my manager’s ability.


Add up your scores for the seven questions and write down your total score. Read the descrip­tion that corresponds to your score:

54-70: A great result! The chances are high that your work brings out the best in you. If you have completed this test for a potential new job, then seize the opportunity with both hands!

41-53: If this is your current job, then it might be an idea to see what improvements can be made. If this is a potential new job, then it is worth taking the time to think everything through. Are there any alternative jobs that could give you greater satisfaction?

26-40: If this is your current job, then it might be advisable to investigate whether any new opportunities are available to you on the job market. This score suggests that you are greatly in need of change. If this is a possible new job, then you should only take the job if you are in urgent need of work and there are no better opportunities on offer.

5-25: If this is your current job, then it is certainly time to look for new possibilities. If it is a potential new job that you can afford to turn down, then you should do exactly that.

Photo credits: Assistant on CabarEng assignment

How to create more flow in your work?

When I find my flow, I notice that time seems to go faster, or sometimes it even goes slower. I’m less aware of myself and my surroundings, and I am fully focused. Paradoxically, this is the worst moment to stop and think about whether you’re happy or not. However, for me personally, when I look back on these moments, they are always the happiest moments in my working life. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi creating flow in your life is one of the secrets to happiness. Lets take a closer look at flow and find out what it is (and what it isn’t). 

Two surfers

Two surfers (by Marcos André)

 Flow is characterized by the following experi­ences:

  • Your sense of time changes (time seems to go faster or slower).
  • You forget yourself.
  •  You forget your surroundings.
  •  You have no worries.
  •  You are fully focused.
  •  You feel inspired.
  • You feel like you are surpassing yourself.
  • Often, flow also results in exceptional achievements.

What do we mean with flow?

Flow is not like daydreaming. It therefore does not mean that you are losing yourself in random thoughts, such as when you have been driving for a while and you realize that you have covered a great distance without even noticing it. When you are daydreaming, you are not pushing yourself. You are simply on automatic pilot because what you are doing is entirely routine. When you find your flow, you immerse yourself in an activity that consumes your at­tention in its entirety. You need all of your skills and qualities to ensure that everything keeps running smoothly, and you have no time to stop and think about how you feel. It is a state of intense enthusiasm that completely takes over your being.

For flow you need balance

To generate flow, you need to be challenged just enough, and it is a delicate balance. If the challenge is too great, then you can risk overstretching yourself. At first, you get excited, but once your energy is too low to banish the insecurity, then apprehension and anxiety take over. In the long run, this reduces your level of happiness and decreases productivity, and can even result in excessive stress and burn-out. If you are challenged too little, then after a while, the feeling of safety and secu­rity turns into boredom and apathy. Paradoxically, it can also result in stress. In the long-term, ‘understretching’ yourself can result in a phenomenon known as bore-out: reduced productivity and danger of staff outflow due to extreme boredom.

What can you do to get more flow?

The trick is to get yourself into a position where you are challenged just enough. You are the only one person who can tell when you are in full flow or if your level of challenge is too high or too low. You are the captain of your flow. Flow also results in optimal de­velopment and boosts happiness at work, so it is a good indicator of how happy you are in your work. Do you want to know more about flow? Take a look at this interesting Ted talk by Csiksentmihalyi on Flow. You can also take a look at chapter 3 of our book. Both will provide you with the inspiration and practical assignments to improve the amount of flow you can experience in your work. Enjoy!

Why following your passion is a bad idea!

Who does not know them? People who quit their jobs to do what they really want. They begin a “bed and breakfast” in Spain, take a sabbatical or become a personal coach. It sounds like a good idea. What could go possibly wrong when you follow your passion? To be honest I see it going wrong all the time. The choice for the passion often seems more a flight from reality than a truly sustainable way to become happier. Cal Newport told a fascinating story about this at the World Domination Summit.

Cal also wrote an interesting book on this subject. Both have inspired me to start thinking differently about passion. Passion without combining it with what you’re good at is pointless. And being good at something requires a lot of time, effort and endless practice. I wonder what you think of his story! Do you agree with him or not? Please let me know! Below or via email!

3 reasons why happiness at work is the new trend (and is there to stay)

1. Employees want happiness at work

The current crisis has changed the priorities of employees. The world is changing so fast and the only thing you can be sure of is yourself. So people want to know who they are and what they want. People are less interested in money, a great company car or a fancy office. Finding pleasure, fulfilment and meaning at work is getting more and more important. Happiness at work focuses on all those three aspects (see figure 1). Employees are looking for organizations who understand and support their own happiness at work. If you want to attract or keep your talented people happiness is where you should start.

2. Employees perform better when they are happier at work!

Research shows that people who experience positive feelings find it easier to think. On the other hand. Strong negative feelings (unhappiness) leads to narrow mindedness, dogmatism, unhealthy competition and distrust. Research (by the United Nations in 2013) shows  that happy employees are more productive, creative and innovative. They are more co-operative and increase the likelihood of sales and profits throughout the organization. Happiness protects against stress at the workplace and decreases the level of absenteeism. Happiness at work is not only attractive for the individual but makes sense from an organizational perspective.

World Happiness Report 2013 aanrader happiness@work

figure 1. (Excerpt Table 4-1 – Page 56)  Income Productivity Organizational Behavior

3. Happiness at work is different (and better) than job satisfaction

Job satisfaction has been an important variable over the last 20 years. But it is becoming less so. On the other hand happiness at work is becoming a fast growing trend. Why is that? There seems to be no relationship between satisfaction and productivity at work. Research shows that there is a strong relationship between happiness at work and productivity. Satisfaction is passive. With satisfaction you are fulfilled (by others). You don’t want anything any more. When you talk about happiness at work you talk about being full of energy, engaged and committed. All important factors for productivity. More and more organizations realize this and stop measuring job satisfaction and start measuring (and facilitating) happiness at work.

This article is an updated version of an article,  originally publication in Dutch on on August 10, 2007

Changing perspective on stress from reorganizations


image by Bottled Void on flickr

In 1999 I started giving weekly leadership training to employees and managers from different organizations. If, in a group of 12 participants, one or two participants were working for a company in reorganization it would have been quite remarkable. Nowadays it is the other way around.

Organizations not in reorganization are the exception. Our company now confirms this rule. For the first time since the founding of Van Harte & Lingsma  we have to say farewell to a number of highly respected colleagues.

Healthy reorganization

What is a healthy way of dealing with such a reorganization? I notice that it often produces extra levels of stress. The first question arising is whether you are allowed to stay. Soon after you find out you’ve survived another question arises, “How do we proceed?” Fewer people are left, but often with the same amount or even more work. You have to do more with fewer people. It is a familiar theme, perhaps you recognize it in your own organization?

Coping with increased stress

How do you deal with such the new situation after reorganization? Are you stressed because of the extra work and increased uncertainty? It is common sense that too much stress is unhealthy but how much can we take? The psychologist Kelly McGonical has done some work on the subject. Maybe we’re you are ready for another perspective on stress?

Research by McGonical shows: stress is not unhealthy in itself. Even when stress gets very intense, you are able to minimize its negative impact. What is important is how we deal with stress. According to her three things can help with to cope better and more healthily with stress.

Create meaning. During reorganizations actions are taken that often seem nonsensical and strengthen a sense of futility. By focusing too much on what you cannot influence, your attention only enhances these feelings of futility. Try to create meaning (once more) in your work, wherever possible. Why did you start to do this work in the first place? What were your motivations? See if you can strengthen a sense of meaning in your work.

Increase your sense of influence. The feeling of powerlessness is, according to McGonical, the sickening part of stress. Her research shows that vasoconstriction occurs only with people who feel stress is bad for them. People who do not have such an idea, aren’t bothered by the physical effects. Try to find whatever helps you to have a sense of influence on your own stress. For one person, this means doing yoga, another might be a strong believer in breathing exercises, practicing mindfulness or exercising regularly in the gym.

So try to let go of the idea that stress is inherently bad for you. It appears to be, that this specific belief is the main cause for harmful effects.

 Concern for others

It might sound strange, because you already have enough on your plate during a reorganization. However, caring for others in stressful situations proves, specifically for the ones that do care, to have a strong protective effect. Research shows that in major stressful situations – such as financial problems or a family crisis – the risk of dying goes up by 30 percent. The striking thing about McGonical’s research, is that the negative effect of stress is completely absent for people who actively provide care to others.


One of the best ways to be healthier in dealing with stress from reorganizations is to help others. In that way, you’re doing something useful. You only need to shift your beliefs for a moment and forget that stress is bad for you. Perhaps this story helped? Have a look at the inspiring TED story shared by Kelly McGonical herself. And enjoy it!

How did this story help you? Or do you have other ideas on how to deal with stress during reorganizations? Feel free to share your ideas below.

This article was originally published in Dutch on on 20 sep 2013

Why happiness at work is more effective than being satisfied at work

Job satisfaction is a phrase from the past

How do you take good care of your employees without losing sight of the results and profitability of the business? To answer this question researchers have been investigating the connection between satisfaction and productivity for ages. Often it is hard to find a correlation. Sometimes you find one but the connection is really weak. Traditionally many organizations keep focusing on job satisfaction. The classical stance is that the organization (or the unions) should take care of your job satisfaction. This fits very well with the old world. Everybody has his or her own fixed position within the organization. The world is moving slowly and is mainly static and organized bottom down. Why happiness at work is more effective than being satisfied at work - onno hamburger

Source image via lululemonathletica

Happiness at work for the modern world

The dynamics of the current situation require a very different perspective. Change is the only constant. So this means continuing adaptation from both employees and the organization. This also fits a different way of looking at work. Employees will become more responsible and need to lead themselves much more. So a new range of competences is needed. People need to know and direct themselves much more. Skills that are not always learned at college or university. This change also creates different needs with employees. They want to know themselves much better. Be aware of their strengths and passions. So they can direct themselves much better. That is one of the reasons why organizations focus more on employee happiness. Why should they do that? Research shows that happy employees differ a lot from their unhappy colleagues.

  • Happy employees are more:
  • Creative and innovative
  • Better at working together
  • Productive
  • Better at selling
  • Cognitively flexible
  • Highly motivated
  • Healthier (they take less sick leave)

The difference between happiness at work and job satisfaction

When you look at the differences between happy and unhappy employees it is very important to shift your attention as an organization from job satisfaction to happiness at work. An important question is of course what is the difference between those two? Let’s take a look at some differences:

  • Happiness at work is all about taking initiative. With job satisfaction the organization or the boss is often held responsible. With happiness at work the employees own responsibility is the starting point. The organization can facilitate this by supporting pro activity and self leadership.
  • Happiness at work is more about personality and the personal. General changes within the organizational structure or culture are important but this is always seen from the perspective of the individual employee. E.g. some employees really thrive on lots of freedom while others prefer much more direction and steering.
  • Research shows that happiness at work has a clear positive correlation with productivity. This is not (or less) present with job satisfaction. Happiness at work is also a concept where there is a consistent progressive correlation with productivity (the happier you are at work the more productive you are).

What happiness at work isn’t

Some people associate happiness at work with positive thinking, always smiling and everything should be fun. This is absolutely not the case. To put it more strongly. Research by Fredrickson shows that forced positivity (think about the ever smiling stewards on airlines) can lead to a strong increase in stress and unhappiness at work. Happiness at work is (mostly) an internal job. Its about how you feel and how you evaluate your own happiness (at work). Hard work, helping others, using your talents to the max and trying something difficult are all activities they might increase your happiness at work but certainly not always bring about a smile or generate laughter.

How to start working with happiness at work in your organisation?

One of the first things to do is to start talking about happiness at work with your colleagues, managers or employees. Does the idea of “happiness at work” relates to their way of thinking and does it fit with their interests and needs? When this first step has been taken you are ready to dive a little deeper. How happy are they at work? A quick happiness at work scan can facilitate this. Sometimes it is advisable to start 1 to 1 conversations to introduce the subject to staff. Talking about happiness at work is different from talking than talking about performance, commitment or sick leave. People should feel free and safe to talk about happiness at work. And you can’t force people get involved with their happiness at work. But if the other is willing to take a look at this subject the impact on the individual, the team and organisation can be immense (is my experience). People taking up their own leadership concerning happiness at work and an organisation facilitating this can become a positive spiral which generates a lot of positive energy. Enjoy the journey!


This article was originally published in Dutch on on 1 feb 2009